Adad-Nirari III, the Deliverer of Israel?

The study of the biblical books of 1-2 Kings is a study of inspired theological history. That is to say, it is history but with an emphasis always on the divine perspective. The concern of the narrative is consistently whether the king under consideration, whether in the northern kingdom of Israel, or in Judah’s kingdom to the south, did that which was “right in the sight of the LORD.”

The Lord had promised Israel’s King Jehu (r. 841-814 BC) that his sons would reign to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30). Meanwhile Syria was ravaging Israel, gobbling up the territory on the eastern side of Jordan. Israel was drastically reduced in size (2 Kings 10:32). Following Jehu’s death, his son Jehoahaz reigned (814-798), and the Aramaic oppression continued (2 Kings 13:3) with its terrible devastation. The fascinating thing about this northern king is that though he was “evil” (2 Kings 13:2), “Jehoahaz pleaded with the LORD” (v. 4). What is further amazing is the mercy of God: though God permitted the Arameans to punish Israel because of national covenant unfaithfulness, “the LORD listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, because the king of Syria oppressed them (Ibid.).

The next verse tells us, “Then the LORD gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Syrians; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before” (2 Kings 13:5, NKJV). The ESV reads, “Therefore the LORD gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians, and the people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly.” (Note: the KJV, NRSV also render מושיע as “savior”. Most translations have “deliverer.” The hiphil participle means to deliver, to save).

This is reminiscent of the language of the Judges, where in times of punishment for sin, Israel would cry out to the LORD for deliverance, and He would send the Judge would deliver/save Israel from its oppressor. The biblical text does not name who the deliverer/savior was at the time referenced in 2 Kings 13:5.

Many scholars believe that it is the Assyrian King Adad-Nirari III who is referenced here as Israel’s מושיע.

Adad-Nirari III praying before his gods. Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient. Photo ©Leon Mauldin

For example, “Adad-nirari III may have been the ‘savior’ bringing them freedom from Aramean oppression” (Gilboy, The Lexham Bible Dictionary). “Adad-nirari III may have been the ‘deliverer’ of Israel mentioned in 2 Kgs. 13:5” (Chavalas, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 18). “By intervening in the affairs of the Syrian kingdoms, Adad-nerari III put pressure on Damascus, thus relieving Israel from the heavy hand of the Arameans (Mordechai Cogan, The Raging Torrent, p. 41).

David T. Lamb, in a chapter entitled, “An Evil King Praying, Jehoahaz of Israel,” states, “Within the context of this narrative, the most reasonable deliverer for Jehoash is therefore Adad-nirari III of Assyria since, toward the end of Jehoahaz’s reign, he attacked Aram. Adad-nirari’s campaign would have diverted Aram’s attention away from Israel and toward the north. From the perspective of the text, Adad-nirari would play a similar role to Cyrus (Isa 45:1), as a foreign ruler who accomplishes a divinely appointed task” (Lamb, D. T., 1-2 Kings, T. Longman III & S. McKnight, Eds.; p. 399).

D. J. Wiseman supplies the following information regarding Adad-nirari:

Adadnirari III (810–783 B.C.) took five years to quell the widespread revolt led by nobles, high officials, and some provincial governors who, like Dayan-Aššur, the army commander of Shalmaneser, had accumulated much local power. He had to reassert Assyrian authority also over tribes to the north and east who had meanwhile withheld their taxes. This was the beginning of the internal resistance to the central authority of the king which was to recur and ultimately lead to Assyrian weakness in the following century.


When Šamši-Adad died, his queen Sammu-ramat (in part the legendary Semiramis) took over command as co-regent for five years during the minority of her son Adadnirari. In 806 B.C. the young king undertook an expedition to north Syria, reaching the Mediterranean (Arpad), and another the following year, when he took Hazazu and broke up the powerful coalition developing between Damascus and states as far afield as Malatya. In 804 he struck further southwest to Tyre and Sidon. Joash of Israel, anxious to annul the burdensome treaty imposed on him by Hazael, seems to have taken this opportunity, as had Jehu before him, to obtain Assyrian help. The evidence for this is a royal stele (from Tell ar Rimah, Iraq) in which Adadnirari lists tribute from “Joash of Samaria” (Yu’ asu mātSamerinā) before that of Tyre and Sidon. When the Assyrian entered Damascus and took spoil from Ben-hadad it is likely that Israel was allowed to strengthen trade relations with that city and recover some lost territory (2 K. 13:25).

Wiseman, D. J. (1979–1988). Assyria. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 1, pp. 334–335). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

Similarly, the ESV Study Bible in its comments on our text says, “It seems likely that the ‘savior’ in question here is Assyria, whose interest in Syria-Palestine was rekindled in the closing years of the ninth century B.C., resulting in a measure of relief for Israel as the attention of Damascus necessarily turned tot he north.”

On the other hand, Keil & Delitzsch state, “but the Lord gave them the saviour in the two successors of Jehoahaz, in the kings Jehoash and Jeroboam, the former of whom wrested from the Syrians all the cities that had been conquered by them under his father (v. 25), while the latter restored the ancient boundaries of Israel (2 Kings 14:25).” (Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 3, p. 267).

Others have suggested Elisha, who foretold the three-fold victory over Aram, as the “deliverer” under consideration (2 Kings 13:14-19). Could the solution be that Elisha foretold the victory and enlargement of Israel (cf. the later reference to Jonah & Jeroboam II, 2 Kgs. 14:23-25), which was fulfilled in the days of Jehoash and Jeroboam, but was made possible by the role of Adad-nirari? Remember that God rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:17), and His providential use of the nations could well be under consideration here.

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