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Hamath, Hamah

ha'-math (anger; heat; a wall, fortress, a defense, citadel)
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Riblah, Syria
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Easton's Bible Dictionary

fortress, The capital of one of the kingdoms of Upper Syria of the same name, on the Orontes, in the valley of Lebanon, at the northern boundary of Palestine ( Numbers 13:21 ; 34:8 ), at the foot of Hermon ( Joshua 13:5 ) towards Damascus ( Zechariah 9:2 ; Jeremiah 49:23 ). It is called "Hamath the great" in Amos 6:2 , and "Hamath-zobah" in 2 Chronicles 8:3.

Hamath, now Hamah, had an Aramaean population, but Hittite monuments discovered there show that it must have been at one time occupied by the Hittites. It was among the conquests of the Pharaoh Thothmes III. Its king, Tou or Toi, made alliance with David ( 2 Samuel 8:10 ), and in B.C. 740 Azariah formed a league with it against Assyria. It was, however, conquered by the Assyrians, and its nineteen districts placed under Assyrian governors. In B.C. 720 it revolted under a certain Yahu-bihdi, whose name, compounded with that of the God of Israel (Yahu), perhaps shows that he was of Jewish origin. But the revolt was suppressed, and the people of Hamath were transported to Samaria ( 2 Kings 17:24 , 17:30 ), where they continued to worship their god Ashima. Hamah is beautifully situated on the Orontes, 32 miles north of Emesa, and 36 south of the ruins of Assamea.

The kingdom of Hamath comprehended the great plain lying on both banks of the Orontes from the fountain near Riblah to Assamea on the north, and from Lebanon on the west to the desert on the east. The "entrance of Hamath" ( Numbers 34:8 ), which was the north boundary of Palestine, led from the west between the north end of Lebanon and the Nusairiyeh mountains.


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Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names

anger; heat; a wall

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Smith's Bible Dictionary

(fortress) The principal city of upper Syria, was situated in the valley of the Orontes, which it commanded from the low screen of hills which forms the water-shed between the source of the Orontes and Antioch. The Hamathites were a Hamitic race, and are included among the descendants of Canaan. ( Genesis 10:18 ) Nothing appears of the power of Hamath until the time of David. ( 2 Samuel 8:9 ) Hamath seems clearly to have been included in the dominions of Solomon. ( 1 Kings 4:21 - 24 ) The "store-cities" which Solomon "built in Hamath," ( 2 Chronicles 8:4 ) were perhaps staples for trade. In the Assyrian inscriptions of the time of Ahab (B.C. 900) Hamath appears as a separate power, in alliance with the Syrians of Damascus, the Hittites and the Phoenicians. About three-quarters of a century later Jeroboam the Second "recovered Hamath." ( 2 Kings 14:28 ) Soon afterwards the Assyrians took it, ( 2 Kings 18:34 ; 19:13 ) etc., and from this time it ceased to be a place of much importance. Antiochus Epiphanes changed its name to Epiphaneia. The natives, however, called it Hamath even in St. Jeromes time, and its present name, Hamah, is but slightly altered from the ancient form.

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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

ha'-math (chamath; Hemath, Haimath; Swete also has Hemath):

The word signifies a defense or citadel, and such designation was very suitable for this chief royal city of the Hittites, situated between their northern and southern capitals, Carchemish and Kadesh, on a gigantic mound beside the Orontes. In Amos 6:2 it is named Great Hamath, but not necessarily to distinguish it from other places of the same name.


1. Early History:

The Hamathite is mentioned in Genesis 10:18 among the sons of Canaan, but in historic times the population, as the personal names testify, seems to have been for the most part Semitic. The ideal boundary of Israel reached the territory, but not the city of Hamath (Numbers 34:8 ; Joshua 13:5 ; Ezekiel 47:13 - 21). David entered into friendly relations with Toi, its king (2 Samuel 8:9), and Solomon erected store cities in the land of Hamath (2 Chronicles 8:4). In the days of Ahab we meet with it on the cuneiform inscriptions, under the name mat hamatti, and its king Irhuleni was a party to the alliance of the Hittites with Ben-hadad of Damascus and Ahab of Israel against Shalmaneser II; but this was broken up by the battle of Qarqar in 854 BC, and Hamath became subject to Assyria. Jeroboam II attacked, partially destroyed, and held it for a short time (2 Kings 14:28 ; Amos 6:2). In 730 BC, its king Eniilu paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser, but he divided its lands among his generals, and transported 1,223 of its inhabitants to Sura on the Tigris. In 720, Sargon "rooted out the land of Hamath and dyed the skin of Ilubi'idi (or Jau-bi'idi) its king, like wool" and colonized the country with 4,300 Assyrians, among whom was Deioces the Mede. A few years later Sennacherib also claims to have taken it (2 Kings 18:34 ; 19:13). In Isaiah 11:11, mention is made of Israelites in captivity at Hamath, and Hamathites were among the colonists settled in Samaria (2 Kings 17:24) by Esarhaddon in 675 BC. Their special object of worship was Ashima, which, notwithstanding various conjectures, has not been identified.

2. Later History:

The Hamathite country is mentioned in 1 Macc 12:25 in connection with the movements of Demetrius and Jonathan. The Seleucids renamed it Epiphaneia (Josephus, Ant, I, vi, 2), and by this name it was known to the Greeks and the Romans, even appearing as Paphunya in Midrash Ber Rab chapter 37. Locally, however, the ancient name never disappeared, and since the Moslem conquest it has been known as Hama. Saladin's family ruled it for a century and a half, but after the death of Abul-fida in 1331 it sank into decay.

3. Modern Condition:

The position of Hamah in a fruitful plain to the East of the Nusairiyeh Mountains, on the most frequented highway between Mesopotamia and Egypt, and on the new railway, gives it again, as in ancient times, a singular significance, and it is once more rising in importance. The modern town is built in four quarters around the ancient citadel-mound, and it has a population of at least 80,000. It is now noted for its gigantic irrigating wheels. Here, too, the Hittite inscriptions were first found and designated Hamathite.

4. Entering in of Hamath:

In connection with the northern boundary of Israel, "the entering in of Hamath" is frequently mentioned (Numbers 13:21 ; 1 Kings 8:65, etc., the American Standard Revised Version "entrance"). It has been sought in the Orontes valley, between Antioch and Seleucia, and also at Wady Nahr el-Barid, leading down from Homs to the Mediterranean to the North of Tripoli. But from the point of view of Palestine, it must mean some part of the great valley of Coele-Syria (Biqa'a). It seems that instead of translating, we should read here a place-name--"Libo of Hamath"--and the presence of the ancient site of Libo (modern Leboue) 14 miles North-Northeast of Baalbek, at the head-waters of the Orontes, commanding the strategical point where the plain broadens out to the North and to the South, confirms us in this conjecture.



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