1 Kings 19:9-18 The LORD appears to Elijah on the top of Mt Sinai - at the same spot where God had met with Moses nearly six hundred years earlier in c.1452BC (see Exodus 20:1-26). God appears not in a strong wind, not in an earthquake or a fire; but speaks to Elijah in a quiet, gentle voice. Elijah is told to return to Damascus where he stirs up opposition to King Ben-Haddad of Aram and the godless King Ahab of Israel (see 13 on Map 58).
In c.867BC, Elijah tells the King of Aram’s servant Hazael that he will succeed his master as king, and he anoints Jehu with oil to show that he will become King of Israel. He also anoints Elisha of Abel Meholah who is to succeed him as the LORD’s prophet.
The Citadel Wall at Damascus (Steven Damron)
Damascus is reputed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Excavations at Tell Ramad show that the city was first settled before 5000 BC. The city was already in existence when Abraham passed nearby in c.1833 BC when rescuing his nephew Lot from the four kings who had attacked Sodom (see Genesis 14:15). It only became important, however, when Aramaean settlers arrived from Mesopotamia. The Biblical ‘Table of Nations’ classifies the inhabitants of Aram (modern-day Syria) as Semitic descendents of Noah’s son Shem (see Genesis 10:22).
During the time of the ‘Judges’, Israel was under Aramaean rule for eight years until Othniel (c.1397- c.1344 BC) defeated Cushan-Rishathaim, the King of Aram-Naharaim (see Judges 3:7-11). King David subjugated the Aramaeans of Damascus in c.998BC, and forced them to pay a tribute to Israel (see 2 Samuel 8:5-6).
The Kingdom of Aram (Damascus) is mentioned many times in the 8th century BC during the time of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was sent to Damascus in c.867BC to prophesy against King Ben-Haddad of Damascus and to anoint Jehu as King of Israel (see 1 Kings 19:9-18). In 848BC, when Israel and Aram were at war, Elisha used a supernatural gift of knowledge to warn King Joram of Israel of Ben-Hadad’s movements. The King of Aram sent troops to capture Elisha at Dothan, but the soldiers were struck blind (see 2 Kings 6:8-23).
For much of King Jehoahaz’s reign (813-797 BC), Israel was under the lordship of King Hazael of Aram. But in 802BC, Pharaoh Shoshenk I of Egypt pushed the Arameans back during a campaign ranging across Gilead to the Jezreel Valley and the Plain of Sharon (see 2 Kings13:1-7).
The Kingdom of Aram (Syria) continued to pose a major threat to the northern kingdom of Israel until King Tiglath-Pilesar of Assyria captured Damascus and killed King Rezin of Syria in 731BC (see 2 Kings16:7-9). Damascus was conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 572BC, and later became the capital of the Persian province of Syria. It became a Hellenic (Greek) city after its capture by Alexander the Great in 332BC.
Today, Damascus is the capital of modern-day Syria. The remains of ancient Arameaen Damascus lie beneath the old city, enclosed by its 15th century Ottoman city walls.
Inside the Citadel at Damascus (Mewes)
1 Kings 19:19-21 Elijah returns home and calls Elisha to be his assistant.
1 Kings 20:1-22 Ten years later, in 857BC, King Ben-Hadad III of Aram (Damascus) lays siege to Samaria. He is driven back by the Israelites.
1 Kings 20:23-43 The next spring he attacks the Israelites on the northern coastal plain near Aphek, but is defeated again. King Ahab agrees a peace treaty with Ben-Hadad and lets him go free in exchange for lands on the border that had been captured by the Arameans during the reign of Omri. Ahab is condemned for setting Ben-Hadad free by one of the prophets of Israel.