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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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A´ram, the name given by the Hebrews to the tract of country lying between Phoenicia on the west, Palestine on the south, Arabia Deserta and the river Tigris on the east, and the mountain range of Taurus on the north. Many parts of this extensive territory have a much lower level than Palestine, but it might receive the designation of the highlands because it does rise to a greater elevation than that country at most points of immediate contact, and especially on the side of Lebanon. Aram, or Aramaea, seems to have corresponded generally to the Syria and Mesopotamia of the Greeks and Romans (see those articles). We find the following divisions expressly noticed in Scripture:—1. Aram-Dammesek, the 'Syria of Damascus' conquered by David, 2 Samuel 8:5-6, where it denotes only the territory around Damascus; but elsewhere 'Aram,' in connection with its capital 'Damascus,' appears to be used in a wider sense for Syria Proper (Isaiah 7:1; Isaiah 7:8; Isaiah 17:3; Amos 1:5). To this part of Aram the 'land of Hadrach' seems to have belonged (Zechariah 9:1). 2. Aram-Maachah (1 Chronicles 19:6), or simply Maachah (2 Samuel 10:6; 2 Samuel 10:8), was not far from the northern border of the Israelites on the east of the Jordan (comp. Deuteronomy 3:14, with Joshua 13:11; Joshua 13:13). 3. Aram-beth-Rechob, the precise locality of which cannot with certainty be determined. 4. Aram-Zobah (2 Samuel 10:6). Jewish tradition has placed Zobah at Aleppo, whereas Syrian tradition identifies it with Nisibis, a city in the north-east of Mesopotamia. The former seems a much nearer approximation to the truth. We may gather from 2 Samuel 3:3; 2 Samuel 10:16, that the eastern boundary of Aram-Zobah was the Euphrates, but Nisibis was far beyond that river. The people of Zobah are uniformly spoken of as near neighbors of the Israelites, the Damascenes, and other Syrians; and in one place (2 Chronicles 8:3) Hamath is called Hamath-Zobah, as pertaining to that district. We, therefore, conclude that Aram-Zobah extended from the Euphrates westward, perhaps as far north as to Aleppo. It was long the most powerful of the petty kingdoms of Aramaea, its princes commonly bearing the name of Hadadezer or Hadarezer. 5. Aram-Naharaim, i.e. Aramsof the Two Rivers, or Mesopotamia. The rivers which enclose Mesopotamia are the Euphrates on the west and the Tigris on the east; but it is doubtful whether the Aram-Naharaim of Scripture embraces the whole of that tract or only the northern portion of it (comp. Genesis 24:10; Deuteronomy 23:4; Judges 3:8). A part of this region of Aram is also called Padan-Aram, the plain of Aram (Genesis 25:20; Genesis 28:2; Genesis 28:6-7; Genesis 31:18; Genesis 33:18), and once simply Padan (Genesis 48:7), also Sedeh-Aram, the field of Aram (Hosea 12:12).

But though the districts now enumerated be the only ones expressly named in the Bible as belonging to Aram, there is no doubt that many more territories were included in that extensive region, e.g.Geshur, Hul, Arpad, Riblah. Tad-mor, Hauran, Abilene, etc. though some of them may have formed part of the divisions already specified. It appears from the ethnographic table in Genesis 10:22-23 that Aram was a son of Shem, and that his own sons were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Another Aram is mentioned (Genesis 22:20-21) as the grandson of Nahor and son of Kemuel, but he is not to be thought of here. The descent of the Aramaeans from a son of Shem is confirmed by their language, which was one of the branches of the Semitic family, and nearly allied to the Hebrew.

The Aramaic language—that whole, of which the Chaldee and Syriac dialects form the parts—constitutes the northern and least developed branch of the Syro-Arabian family of tongues. Its cradle was probably on the banks of the Cyrus, according to the best interpretation of Amos 9:7; but Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Syria form what may be considered its home and proper domain. Political events, however, subsequently caused it to supplant Hebrew in Palestine; and then it became the prevailing form of speech from the Tigris to the shore of the Mediterranean, and, in a contrary direction, from Armenia down to the confines of Arabia. After obtaining such a wide dominion, it was forced, from the ninth century onwards, to give way before the encroaching ascendency of Arabic; and it now only survives, as a living tongue, among the Syrian Christians in the neighborhood of Mosul. According to historical records, and also according to the comparatively ruder form of the Aramaic language itself, we might suppose that it represents, even in the state in which we have it, some image of that aboriginal type which the Hebrews and Arabians, under more favorable social and climatical influences, subsequently developed into fullness of sound and structure. But it is difficult for us now to discern the particular vestiges of this archaic form; for, not only did the Aramaic not work out its own development of the original elements common to the whole Syro-Arabian sisterhood of languages, but it was preeminently exposed, both by neighborhood and by conquest, to harsh collision with languages of an utterly different family. Moreover, it is the only one of the three great Syro-Arabian branches which has no fruits of a purely national literature to boast of. We possess no monument whatever of its own genius; not any work which may be considered the product of the political and religious culture of the nation, and characteristic of it—as is so emphatically the case both with the Hebrews and the Arabs. The first time we see the language, it is used by Jews as the vehicle of Jewish thought; and although, when we next meet it, it is employed by native authors, yet they write under the literary impulses of Christianity, and under the Greek influence on thought and language which necessarily accompanied that religion. These two modifications, which constitute and define the so-called Chaldee and Syriac dialects, are the only forms in which the normal and standard Aramaic has been preserved to us.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Aram'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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