Ha'math (Heb. Chamath', חֲמָת, fortress; Sept. Ε᾿μάθ, Αἰμάθ, and ῾Ημάθ), a large and important city, capital of one of the smaller kingdoms of Syria, of the same name, on the Orontes, at the northern boundary of the Holy Land. Thus it is said (Nu 13:21) that the spies "went up and searched the land, from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath." Gesenius is probably right in deriving the word from the Arabic root Chamaz, "to defend;" with this agrees the modern name of the city Hamnah. The city was at the foot of Hermon (Jos 13:5; Jg 3:3), towards Damascus (Zec 9:2; Jer 49:20; Eze 47:16). The kingdom of Hamath, or, at least, the southern or central parts of it, appear to have nearly corresponded with what was afterwards denominated Caele-Syria (q.v.). It is more fully called Hamath the Great in Am 6:2, or HAMATH-ZOBAH in 2Ch 8:3. The country or district around is called "the land of Hamath" (2Ki 23:33; 2Ki 25:21).
Hamath is one of the oldest cities in the world. We read in Ge 10:18 that the youngest or last son of Canaan was the "Hamathite" (q.v.) — apparently so called because he and his family founded and colonized Hamath. It was a place of note, and the capital of a principality, when the Israelites conquered Palestine; and its name is mentioned in almost every passage in which the northern border of Canaan is defined (Nu 13:22; Nu 34:8; 1Ki 8:65; 2Ki 14:25, etc.). Toi was king of Hamath at the time when David conquered the Syrians of Zobah, and it appears that he had reason to rejoice in the humiliation of a dangerous neighbor, as he sent his own son Joram to congratulate the victor (2Sa 8:9-10), and (apparently) to put Hamath under his protection. Hamath was conquered by Solomon (2Ch 8:3), and its whole territory appears to have remained subject to the Israelites during his prosperous reign (ver. 4-6). The "store-cities" which Solomon "built in Hamath" (2Ch 8:4) were perhaps for staples of trade, the importance of the Orontes valley as a line of traffic always being great. On the death of Solomon and the separation of the two kingdoms, Hamath seems to have regained its independence. In the Assyrian inscriptions of the time of Ahab (B.C. 900) it 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" (2Ki 14:28); he seems to have dismantled the place, whence the prophet Amos, who wrote in his reign (Am 1:1), couples "Hamath the Great" with Gath, as an instance of desolation (Am 6:2). At this period the kingdom of Hamath included the valley of the Orontes, from the source of that river to near Antioch (2Ki 23:33; 2Ki 25:21). It bordered Damascus on the south, Zobab. on the east and north, and Phoenicia on the west (1Ch 18:3; Eze 47:17; Eze 48:1; Zec 9:2). In the time of Hezekiah, the town, along with its territory, was conquered by the Assyrians (2Ki 17:24; 2Ki 18:34; 2Ki 19:13; Isa 10:9; Isa 11:11), and afterwards by the Chaldaeans (Jer 39:2,5). It is mentioned on the cuneiform inscriptions (q.v.). It must have been then a large and influential kingdom, for Amos speaks emphatically of "Hamath the Great" (6, 2); and when Rabshakeh, the Assyrian general, endeavored to terrify king Hezekiah into unconditional surrender, he said, "Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?" (Isa 37:12-14; 2Ki 18:34 sq.). SEE ASHIMA. The frequent use of the phrase, "the entering in of Hamath," also shows that this kingdom was the most important in Northern Syria (Jg 3:3). Hamath remained under the Assyrian rule till the time of Alexander the Great, when it fell into the hands of the Greeks. The Greeks introduced their noble language as well as their government into Syria, and they even gave Greek names to some of the old cities; among these was Hamath, which was called Epiphania
(Ε᾿πιφάνεια), in honor of Antiochus Epiphanes (Cyril, Comment. ad Amos).
This change of name gave rise to considerable doubts and difficulties among geographers regarding the identity of Hamath. Jerome affirms that there were two cities of that name-Great Hamath, identical with Antioch, and another Hamath called Epiphania (Comment. ad Amos, 6). — The Targums in Nu 13:22 render Hamath Anztukia (Reland, Palcest. p. 120). Eusebius calls it "a city of Damascus," and affirms that it is not the same as Epiphania; but Jerome states, after a careful investigation, "reperi AEmath urbem Coeles Syrie appellari, quae nunc Graeco sermone Epiphania dicitur" (Onomast. s.v. AEmath and Emath). Theodoret says that Great Hanath was Emesa, and the other Hamath Epiphania (Comment. ad Jerem. 4). Josephus is more accurate when he tells us that Hamath "was still called in his day by the inhabitants Α᾿μάθη, although the Macedonians called it Epiphania" (Ant. 1, 6, 2). There is reason to believe that the ancient name Hamath was always retained and used by the Aramaic-speaking population; and, therefore, when Greek power declined, and the Greek language was-forgotten, the ancient name in its Arabic form Hamâh became universal (so הֲמָה in Eze 47:16, first occurrence). There is no ground whatever for Reland's theory (Palaest. p. 121) that the Hamath spoken of in connection with the northern border of Palestine was not Epiphania, but some other city much further south. The identification of Riblah and Zedad places the true site of Hamath beyond the possibility of doubt (Porter, Damascus, 2, 355, 354).
Epiphania remained a flourishing city during the Roman rule in Syria (Ptolemy, 5, 15; Pliny, Hist. Nat, 5, 19). It early became, and still continues, the seat of a bishop of the Eastern Church (Caroli a san. Paulo, Geogr. Sac. p. 288). It was taken by the Mohammedans soon after Damascus. On the death of the great Saladin, Hamath was ruled for a long period by his descendants, the Eiyubites. Abulfeda, the celebrated Arab historian and geographer of the 14th century, was a member of this family and ruler of Hamâh (Bohadin, Vita Saladini; Schulten's Index Geographicus, s.v. Hamata). He correctly states (Tab. Syriae, p. 108) that this city is mentioned in the books of the Israelites. He adds: "It is reckoned one of the most pleasant towns of Syria. The Orontes flows round the greater part of the city on the east and north. It boasts a lofty and well-built citadel. Within the town are many dams aid water-machines, by means of which the water is led off by canals to irrigate the gardens and supply private houses. It is remarked of this city and of Schiazar that they abound more in water-machines than any other cities in Syria."
This description still, in a great degree, applies. Hamath is a picturesque town, of considerable circumference, and with wide and convenient streets. In Burckhardt's time the attached district contained 120 inhabited villages, and 70 or 80 that lay waste. It is now a town of 30,000 inhabitants, of whom about 2500 are Greek Christians, a few Syrians, some Jews, and the rest Moslems. It is beautifully situated in the narrow and rich valley of the Orontes, thirty-two miles north of Emesa, and thirty-six south of the ruins of Assamea (Antonini Itinerarium, edit. Wesseling, p. 188). Four bridges span the rapid river, and a number of huge wheels turned by the current, like those at Verona, raise the water into rude aqueducts, which convey it to the houses and mosques. There are no remains of antiquity now visible. The mound on which the castle stood is in the center of the city, but every trace of the castle itself has disappeared. The houses are built of sun-dried bricks and timber. Though plain and poor externally. some of them have splendid interiors. They are built on the rising banks of the Orontes, and on both sides of it, the bottom level being planted with fruit-trees, which flourish in the utmost luxuriance. The western part of the district forms the granary of Northern Sria, though the harvest never yields more than a tenfold return, chiefly on account of the immense numbers of mice, which sometimes completely destroy the crops. The inhabitants carry on a considerable trade in silks and woolen and cotton stuffs with the Bedawin. A number of noble but decayed Moslem families reside in Hamah, attracted thither by its beauty, celebrity, and cheapness (Pococke, Travels, 2, pt. 1, p. 143 sq.; Burckhardt, Travels in Syria, p. 146 sq.; Handbook for Syria and Palestine, 2, 620; Richter, Wallfahrten, p. 231; comp. Rosenmüller's Bib. Geogr. 2, 243-246; Biblioth. Sacra, 1848, p. 680 sq.; Robinson's Res. new ed. 3:551, 568).
"The ENTRANCE OF HAMATH," or "entering into Hamath" (בּוֹא חֲמָת; Sept. εἰσπορευομἐνων εἰς Αἰμάθ, Vulg. introitum Emath), is a phrase often used in the O.T. as a geographical name. It is of considerable importance to identify it, as it is one of the chief landmarks on the northern border of the land of Israel There can be no doubt that the sacred writers apply the phrase to some well-known "pass" or "opening" into the kingdom of Hamath (Nu 34:8; Jos 13:5). The kingdom of Hamath embraced the great plain lying along both banks of the Orontes, from the fountain near Riblah on the south to Apamea on the north, and from Lebanon on the west to the desert on the east. To this plain there are two remarkable "entrances" one from the south, through the valley of Cele-Syria, between the parallel ranges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon; the other from the west, between the northern end of Lebanon and the Nusairtyeh Mountains. The former is the natural "entrance" from Central Palestine, the latter from the seacoast. The former is on the extreme south of the kingdom of Hamath, the latter on its western border.
Until within the last few years sacred geographers have almost universally maintained that the southern opening is the "entrance of Hamath." Reland supposed that the entrance described in Nu 34:8,10, did not extend further north than the parallel of Sidon. Consequently, he holds that the southern extremity of the valley of Caele-Syria, at the base of Hermon, is the "entrance" of Hamath (Palaestina, p. 118 sq.). Kitto set forth this view in greater detail (Pictorial Bible); and he would identify the "entrance of Hamath" with the expression used in Nu 13:21, "as men come to Hamath." Of late, however, some writers regard the latter as only intended to define the position of Beth-rehob, which was situated on the road leading from Central Palestine to Hamath-" as men come to Hamath;" that is, in the great valley of Caele-Syria. Van de Velde appears to locate the "entrance of Hamath" at the northern end of the valley of Caele-Syria (Travels, 2, 470); and Stanley adopts the same view (Sinai and Palest. p. 399). Dr. Keith would place the "entrance of Hamath" at that sublime gorge through which the Orontes flows from Antioch to the sea (Land of Israel, p. 112 sq.). A careful survey of the whole region, and a study of the passages of Scripture on the spot, however, leads Porter to conclude that the "entrance of Hamath" must be the opening towards the west, between Lebanon and the Nusairiyeh Mountains. The reasons are as follow:
1. That opening forms a distinct and natural northern boundary for the land of Israel, such as is evidently required by the following passages: 1Ki 8:65; 2Ki 14:25; 1Ch 13:5; Am 6:14.
2. The "entrance of Hamath" is spoken of as being from the western border or sea-board; for Moses says, after describing the western border, "This shall be your north border, from the great sea ye shall point out for you Mount Hor; from Mount Hor ye shall point out unto the entrance of Hamath" (Nu 34:7-8). Compare this with Eze 47:20, "the west side shall be the great sea from the (southern) border, till a man come over against Hamath;" and ver. 16, where the "way of Hethlon as men go to Zedad" is mentioned, and is manifestly identical with the "entrance of Hamath," and can be none other than the opening here alluded to.
3. The "entrance of Hamath" must have been to the north of the entire ridges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon (Jos 13:5; Jg 3:3); but the opening from Caele-Syria into the plain of Hamath is not so.
4. The territory of Hamath was included in the "Promised Land," as described both by Moses and Ezekiel (Nu 34:29; Eze 47:15-20; Eze 48:1). The "entrance of Hamath" is one of the marks of its northern border; but the opening from Caele-Syria is on the extreme south of the territory of Hamath, and could not, therefore, be identical with the "entrance of Hamath."
5. The "entrance to Hamath" was on the eastern border of Palestine, but north of Riblah (Nu 34:10-11), which is still extant between Hums and the northern point of Anti-Lebanon. SEE RIBLAH.
6. This position agrees with those of the other names associated on the northerly and easterly boundaries, e.g. Mount Hor, Hazar Ellan, etc. (see Porter's Damascus, 2, 354 sq.; also Robinson, Biblical Res. 3:568). These arguments, however, will be found, on a closer inspection, to be incorrect (see Keil and Delitzsch, Comment, on Pentat. 3:255 sq.). The only real force in any of them is that derived from the supposed identity of Zedad (q.v.) and Siphron (q.v.); and this is counterbalanced by the facts (1) that this district never was actually occupied by the Israelites, and (2) that the more definite description of the boundary of Asher and Naphtali in Jos 19:24-39 does not extend so far to the north. Hence we incline to the older views on this question. SEE TRIBE.