ha-za'-el, ha'-za-el, haz'-a-el (chaza'-el and chazah'-el; Hazael; Assyrian haza'ilu):
1. In Biblical History:
Comes first into Biblical history as a high officer in the service of Ben-hadad II, king of Syria (2 Kings 8:7; compare 1 Kings 19:15). He had been sent by his sick sovereign to inquire of the prophet Elisha, who was then in Damascus, whether he should recover of his sickness or not. He took with him a present "even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels' burden," and stood before the man of God with his master's question of life or death. To it Elisha made the oracular response, "Go, say unto him, Thou shalt surely recover; howbeit Yahweh hath showed me that he shall surely die." Elisha looked steadfastly at Hazael and wept, explaining to the incredulous officer that he was to be the perpetrator of horrible cruelties against the children of Israel:
"Their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their women with child" (2 Kings 8:12). Hazael protested against the very thought of such things, but Elisha assured him that Yahweh had shown him that he was to be king of Syria. No sooner had Hazael delivered to his master the answer of the man of God than the treacherous purpose took shape in his heart to hasten Ben-hadad's end, and "He took the coverlet, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead" (2 Kings 8:15). The reign which opened under such sinister auspices proved long and successful, and brought the kingdom of Syria to the zenith of its power. Hazael soon found occasion to invade Israel. It was at Ramoth-gilead, which had already been the scene of a fierce conflict between Israel and Syria when Ahab met his death, that Hazael encountered Joram, the king of Israel, with whom his kinsman, Ahaziah, king of Judah, had joined forces to retain that important fortress which had been recovered from the Syrians (2 Kings 9:14,15). The final issue of the battle is not recorded, but Joram received wounds which obliged him to return across the Jordan to Jezreel, leaving the forces of Israel in command of Jehu, whose anointing by Elisha's deputy at Ramoth-gilead, usurpation of the throne of Israel, slaughter of Joram, Ahaziah and Jezebel, and vengeance upon the whole house of Ahab are told in rapid and tragic succession by the sacred historian (2 Kings 9; 10).
Whatever was the issue of this attack upon Ramoth-gilead, it was not long before Hazael laid waste the whole country East of the Jordan--"all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan" (2 Kings 10:33; compare Amos 1:3). Nor did Judah escape the heavy hand of the Syrian oppressor. Marching southward through the plain of Esdraelon, and following a route along the maritime plain taken by many conquerors before and since, Hazael fought against Gath and took it, and then "set his face to go up to Jerus" (2 Kings 12:17). As other kings of Judah had to do with other conquerors, Jehoash, who was now on the throne, bought off the invader with the gold and the treasures of temple and palace, and Hazael withdrew his forces from Jerusalem.
Israel, however, still suffered at the hands of Hazael and Ben-hadad, his son, and the sacred historian mentions that Hazael oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu. So grievous was the oppression of the Syrians that Hazael "left not to Jehoahaz, of the people save fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Syria destroyed them, and made them like the dust in threshing" (2 Kings 13:1-7). Forty or fifty years later Amos, in the opening of his prophecy, recalled those Syrian campaigns against Israel when he predicted vengeance that was to come upon Damascus. "Thus saith Yahweh .... I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, and it shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad" (Amos 1:3,4).
2. In the Monuments:
Already, however, the power of Syria had passed its meridian and had begun to decline. Events of which there is no express record in the Biblical narrative were proceeding which, ere long, made it possible for the son of Jehoahaz, Joash or Jehoash, to retrieve the honor of Israel and recover the cities that had been lost (2 Kings 13:25). For the full record of these events we must turn to the Assyrian annals preserved in the monuments. We do read in the sacred history that Yahweh gave Israel "a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians" (2 Kings 13:5). The annals of the Assyrian kings give us clearly and distinctly the interpretation of this enigmatic saying. The relief that came to Israel was due to the crippling of the power of Syria by the aggression of Assyria upon the lands of the West. From the Black Obelisk in the British Museum, on which Shalmaneser II (860-825 BC) has inscribed the story of the campaign he carried on during his long reign, there are instructive notices of this period of Israelite history. In the 18th year of his reign (842 BC), Shalmaneser made war against Hazael. On the Obelisk the record is short, but a longer account is given on one of the pavement slabs from Nimroud, the ancient Kalab. It is as follows:
"In the 18th year of my reign for the 16th time I crossed the Euphrates. Hazael of Damascus trusted to the strength of his armies and mustered his troops in full force. Senir (Hermon), a mountain summit which is in front of Lebanon, he made his stronghold. I fought with him; his defeat I accomplished; 600 of his soldiers with weapons I laid low; 1,121 of his chariots, 470 of his horses, with his camp I took from him. To save his life, he retreated; I pursued him; in Damascus, his royal city, I shut him up. His plantations I cut down. As far as the mountains of the Hauran I marched. Cities without number I wrecked, razed, and burnt with fire. Their spoil beyond count I carried away. As far as the mountains of Baal-Rosh, which is a headland of the sea (at the mouth of the Nahr el-Kelb, Dog River), I marched; my royal likeness I there set up. At that time I received the tribute of the Syrians and Sidonians and of Yahua (Jehu) the son of Khumri (Omri)" (Ball, Light from the East, 166; Schrader, COT, 200 f). From this inscription we gather that Shalmaneser did not succeed in the capture of Damascus. But it still remained an object of ambition to Assyria, and Ramman-nirari III, the grandson of Shalmaneser, succeeded in capturing it, and reduced it to subjection. It was this monarch who was "the saviour" whom God raised up to deliver Israel from the hand of Syria. Then it became possible for Israel under Jehoash to recover the cities he had lost, but by this time Hazael had died and Ben-hadad, his son, Ben-hadad III, called Mari on the monuments, had become king in his stead (2 Kings 13:24,25).
Schrader, COT, 197-208; McCurdy, HPM, I, 282.
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