Hama, Syria = Hamath of the Bible

The city of Hama has been in the news quite a bit lately as the unrest of the citizens has been put down by the Syrian government. This is not something new to that city.

In 1982 Hama was the scene of the bloodiest episode of Syria’s modern history. (Footprint Syria & Lebanon Handbook 215).

At that time the protest was against the father of current president Bashar al-Asad. Estimates of the number killed range from 10,000 to 25,000.

Perhaps many Bible students read or see/hear the news about Syria today and fail to realize that this city is the site of an important city in the history of Israel. Hama is at the site of Biblical Hamath  (2 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 8:4).

He [Jeroboam] restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. (2 Kings 14:25 ESV)

Our photo shows the tell or mound of Hamath situated on the left bank of the Orontes River as we approach from the north.

Citadel Mound of Hamath on the left bank of the Orontes River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Citadel Mound of Hamath on the left bank of the Orontes River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The work of Danish archaeologists at Hamath between 1931 and 1938 revealed occupation from the 6th millennium B.C. to the Middle Ages (Marie-Louise Buhl, Anchor Bible Dictionary). German archaeologists have been working in Hama recently, but I do not know whether it involves the tell.

The next photo shows a small portion of the tell with the Orontes River below. It was raining when we visited Hama in 2002.

Hamath on the Orontes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hamath on the Orontes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

King Toi of Hamath is mentioned twice in the Bible (2 Samuel 8:9-10; 1 Chronicles 18:9-10). One scholar recently equated biblical King Toi with a King Tatais whose name is known from inscriptions. See here.

Current news becomes much more interesting and meaningful once we know the history of a place.

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