An oracle against Aram (Zech 9:1-9:2)

“An oracle.

The word of Yahweh is

Against the land of Hadrach.

It will rest upon Damascus.

The capital of Aram,

With Hamath

That borders on Damascus,

As do all the tribes of Israel,

Belong to Yahweh.”

This second part of this book of Zechariah is a series of oracles that presume something like the conquest of Alexander the Great in 333 BCE.  Apparently, Yahweh was on the side of the Greeks in their conquest.  Thus, Yahweh was against Aram, present day Syria, as well as the cities of Hadrach, Hamath, and Damascus, the capital of Aram.  All of these places belonged to Yahweh, just as all the tribes of Israel also belonged to Yahweh.

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Do not be too confident (Am 6:1-6:3)

“Woe to those

Who are at ease

In Zion!

Woe to those

Who feel secure

On Mount Samaria!

Woe to

The notable men

Of the first

Of the nations,

To whom the house of Israel

Resorts!

Pass over to Calneh!

See!

Go to Hamath the great!

Go down to Gath

Of the Philistines!

Are they better

Than these kingdoms?

Or is your territory

Greater than their territory?

O you!

You put far away

The evil day!

Do you not bring near

A reign of violence?”

Yahweh, via Amos, warned the Israelites in Zion and Samaria not to be at ease, feeling secure, and over confident. They should be aware of the important people that they have had contact with in other countries. They should look at the great commercial centers in Calneh and Hamath in Syria. They should see the Philistine city of Gath. All these kingdoms have more territory and were better off than they were. The Israelites thought that they could put off the evil day, but the reign of violence was getting closer.

The northern border (Ezek 47:15-47:17)

“This shall be the boundary

Of the land.

On the north side,

From the Great Sea

By way of Hethlon

To Lebo-hamath

of Hamath,

On to Zedad,

Berothah,

Sibraim.

Sibraim lies between

The border of Damascus

With Hamath.

It shall go as far

As Hazer-hatticon,

That is on the border

Of Hauran.

So,

The boundary shall run

From the sea

To Hazar-enon,

That is north of the border

Of Damascus,

With the border of Hamath

To the north.

This shall be the north side.”

Ezekiel started with a longer description of the northern border than what was found in Numbers, chapter 34. Obviously, this northern border started with the sea, the Mediterranean Sea on the northwest side. However, it extends further north into Syria on the north side of Damascus. There was no indication where the Sea and the land met in the north, just the listing of a series of towns like Hethlon, Lebo-hamath, Zedad, Berothah, and Sibraim that are difficult to determine exactly where they are. The northeastern border was Hazar-enon, as in Numbers. Hamath was the capital of upper Syria, while Damascus as the capital of lower Syria. Thus, this northern Israelite boundary was between these 2 Syrian cities.

The capture and killing of the Judean leaders (Jer 52:25-52:27)

“From the city,

Nebuzaradan

Took an officer,

Who had been in command

Of the soldiers.

He took

Seven men

Of the king’s council

Who were found in the city.

He took the secretary,

Of the commander of the army,

Who mustered the people

Of the land.

He also took sixty men

Of the people

Of the land

Who were found

Inside the city.

Then Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Brought them

To the king of Babylon

At Riblah.

The king of Babylon

Struck them down.

He put them

To death

At Riblah

In the land of Hamath.”

This section is practically word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 25. Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian captain of the guard, took the commander of the army, the men of the king’s council, the secretary of the army, and anyone still left in Jerusalem. Here it is 7 men, while in 2 Kings, it was only 5 men. He brought them to Riblah, a city in Syria, in the land of Hamath, that was on the border with Palestine on the main route from Syria. There the king of Babylon killed them.

The flight and capture of King Zedekiah (Jer 52:8-25:9)

“But the army

Of the Chaldeans

Pursued the king.

They overtook

King Zedekiah

In the plains

Of Jericho.

All his army

Was scattered.

They had deserted him.

Then they captured

The king.

They brought him up

To the king of Babylon,

At Riblah,

In the land of Hamath.

He passed sentence on him.”

This is pretty much the same as in 2 Kings, chapter 25. The Chaldeans caught them in the plains of Jericho, about 5 miles from Jerusalem. In 2 Kings, chapter 25, the Judean troops scattered and deserted the king as here, but in the earlier Jeremiah story, there was no mention of that. They then brought the king to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who was at Riblah in Hamath, north of Jerusalem, almost on the Syrian border. The Babylonian king then passed sentence on him.

Against Damascus (Jer 49:23-49:27)

“Concerning Damascus.

‘Hamath is confounded.

Arpad is confounded.

They have heard bad news.

They melt in fear.

They are troubled

Like the sea

That cannot be quiet.

Damascus has become feeble.

She turned to flee.

Panic seized her.

Anguish has taken hold of her.

Sorrows have taken hold of her,

As a woman in labor.

How the famous city is forsaken!

The joyful town!

Therefore her young men

Shall fall

In her squares.

All her soldiers

Shall be destroyed,

On that day.’

Says Yahweh of hosts!

‘I will kindle a fire

At the wall of Damascus.

It shall devour

The strongholds of Ben-hadad.’”

Damascus had been under the control of the Assyrians since around 740 BCE, before the fall of the northern Israelites to Assyria in 724 BCE. Now the Babylonians were taking over for the Assyrians. The two other cities mentioned with Damascus, were Hamath and Arpad. Hamath was in upper Syria with Arpad nearly a 100 miles further north. These northern towns were upset and troubled over the news about southern Damascus. They felt like they were on troubled waters and could not be quiet. Damascus itself was weak and in panic. This former joyful town saw people fleeing with panic. Once again they had become weak like women in labor. Their young men were dying in the squares since the soldiers had been killed. The soldiers also died. There was a huge fire that destroyed the walls and royal buildings of Ben-hadad. King Ben-hadad was a 9th century BCE king of Damascus who had some battles with King Asa of Judah and King Omri of Israel, in 1 Kings, chapter 20. However, there were 2 other kings with the same name, so that it clearly referred to the royal palaces or fortresses in Damascus. Once again there is no mention of a restoration for Damascus.

The flight and capture of King Zedekiah (Jer 39:4-39:5)

“When King Zedekiah

Of Judah,

With all the soldiers

Saw the Babylonians,

They fled.

They went out of the city

At night

By way of the king’s garden

Through the gate

Between the two walls.

They went toward the Arabah.

But the army of the Chaldeans

Pursued them.

They overtook King Zedekiah

In the plains of Jericho.

When they had taken him,

They brought him up

To King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon,

At Riblah,

In the land of Hamath.

He passed sentence on him.”

This is pretty much the same as in 2 Kings, chapter 25. The king and his army escaped through a hole in the wall via the king’s garden. They were headed for Arabah, the Jordan River valley, but the Chaldeans caught them in the plains of Jericho, about 5 miles from Jerusalem. In 2 Kings, chapter 24, the Judean troops scattered and deserted the king, but there is no mention of that here.  They then brought the king and his army officials to King Nebuchadnezzar, who was at Riblah in Hamath, north of Jerusalem, almost on the Syrian border.