A Biographical Evaluation of Rezin, The Last King of Aram

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Introduction

In thinking about the nations that have threatened Israel most severely, there are several that may come to mind. Especially during the inception and early life of Israel, the nation of Egypt would seem most imposing. As the people of the theocracy demanded a king, the Philistines were one among many threats to consider. Even further, when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, one is drawn to think about the nations of Assyria and Babylon, and for valid reasons. After all, Israel and Judah were overtaken by these latter two nations. One nation, however, that is rather unfamiliar to most casual students of the Bible (and even to some that are well versed in Scripture), is Aram. Leading that nation at its conclusion was a king named Rezin, and in order to more adequately understand the historical context of pre-exilic Israelite history, a brief evaluation of Rezin, the last king of Aram, shall be undertaken.

 

Overview of Aram

 

The people of Aram have a somewhat complex history, though enough clues exist to help provide a sufficient basis for understanding its history. Deuteronomy 26:5 speaks of the curiously similar progenitors of both Israel and Aram: “And you shall make response before the LORD your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous…” According to Tim Turnham, “The Aramaeans were rarely gathered into a cohesive political group; rather they lived as independent towns and tribes settled by nomads prior to 1000 B.C. Although the Aramaeans were quick to form alliances with each one another or with other countries if threatened, once the crisis was ended they disbanded and often fought among themselves and against their former allies.”[1] Thus, some of the later Arameans (8th century B.C.), who, like the Israelites were descendants of Shem (Genesis 10:22), eventually formed into more of a distinct entity, sometimes referred to in the Bible as “Syria.”[2] And it is precisely the life and death of Rezin that must be examined to further understand the ramifications surrounding this lesser known king.

 

Biblical Significance of Rezin

 

The divided kingdom of Israel and Judah was dramatically in opposition between itself during the rule of King Rezin. As Assyria became an emerging threat to all surrounding nations, Aram and Israel (under King Pekah) joined as allies, but adding Judah to the defense seemed necessary for survival.[3] Judah declined the invitation to this alliance, so the threat was made that Aram and Israel would overtake King Ahaz of Judah and replace him with a “puppet king,” the son of Tabeel (Isaiah 7:6).[4] This pressing charge does not simply strike fear in Ahaz for his life itself, but it is also an assault on the Davidic line.[5] Indeed, this passage in Isaiah 7 is Messianic, leading to the sign of God’s providence and protection over His Davidic King, doubly fulfilled in the immediate context as well as in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:23). God defended His Davidic heir against the pressures of King Rezin and his political operations, and has done so throughout all of history. Second Kings 16 narrates the failed plans and ultimately the death of Rezin, providing an excellent reminder of God’s providence and protection over His own plans. The arrangement to usurp[6] God’s authority over His King and Kingdom will never succeed; on the contrary, it is Christ who will “put all his enemies under his feet” (First Corinthians 15:25).

 


[1] Tim Turnham, “Aramean or Aramaean” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 94.

[2] See Daniel C. Browning, Jr., “Syria” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1547-1548. It is also worth noting from Browning that this entity of Aram/Syria in pre-exilic biblical literature is often associated with the capital of the kingdom, namely, Damascus.

[3] J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 86.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The Bible Knowledge Commentary even proposes the possibility that Rezin “may have usurped the throne of Aram.” John A. Martin, “Isaiah” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1046.

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