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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Aram

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The Arameans, or people of Aram, were one of the many groups of Semitic peoples who lived in the region of the Bible story. The ancestor from whom they took their name was Aram, the son of Shem, the son of Noah (Genesis 10:22).

Arameans

By the time the Arameans first appear in the Bible story, they were living in the north-western part of Mesopotamia. This was the territory to which the father of Abraham came when he migrated with his family from Babylonia. They settled around the town of Haran (Genesis 11:31).

Abraham later moved to Canaan, but the rest of his relatives remained in Aram (Genesis 12:1; Genesis 12:4-5). Consequently, they became known as Arameans, though actually they were descended not through Aram but through Arpachshad, another of Shem’s sons (Genesis 10:22-25; Genesis 11:10-32). When Abraham wanted to obtain a wife for his son Isaac from among his relatives, he had to send his servant back to Aram to fetch Rebekah (Genesis 24:10; Genesis 25:20). (Some versions of the Bible call the Arameans Syrians, though the region was not known as Syria till centuries later.)

Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, also went to Aram, where he obtained for himself two wives. Both of them were daughters of Laban, Rebekah’s brother (Genesis 28:2-5). Because Jacob had lived twenty years in Aram, and because his wives were from that region, he and his children became known as Arameans (Genesis 31:20; Genesis 31:38; Deuteronomy 26:5).

This explains how the practice developed of sometimes using the name Aramean’ when referring to the forefathers of the nation Israel. The name was related to the place where the forefathers lived, not to their racial descent. The true Arameans do not become prominent in the Bible story till the time of the Israelite monarchy. By that time Aram was known as Syria (see SYRIA).

Aramaic

One of the greatest influences the Arameans had was through their language, Aramaic. The Aramaic language spread far and wide, and from the time of Israel’s monarchy onwards was the language most commonly used throughout south-west Asia (2 Kings 18:26).

Written Aramaic used letters that were similar to Hebrew letters, and isolated sections of the Old Testament are written in Aramaic instead of the usual Hebrew (Ezra 4:8-24; Ezra 5; Ezra 6:1-18; Ezra 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11; Daniel 2:4-49; Daniel 3; Daniel 4; Daniel 5; Daniel 6; Daniel 7). In the Persian Empire (539-333 BC) Aramaic was the official language (Ezra 4:7). With the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Greek language spread throughout his empire and became the official language. But in south-western Asia, Aramaic was still the most commonly used language, in spite of the increasing use of Greek. Aramaic was the language that Jesus and his disciples usually spoke (Mark 5:41; Mark 7:34; Mark 15:34), though they also spoke and wrote Greek, the language in which the New Testament is written.


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Aram'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/a/aram.html. 2004.

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