What was the Syrian-Israelite coalition? Why was it formed?

High Definition Video Standard Definition Video

(Right click this link to download video.)


The Syrian-Israelite coalition was an agreement between Syria and Israel, the northern kingdom, to try to fend off the Assyrian Empire that was encroaching on its territory. Sometimes because Israel is also known as Ephraim, you'll see it in the literature as the Syro-Ephramaic alliance. To get a handle on this, we really need to look at the geography of the Holy Land. The Holy Land is called "the land in between," and it's between three continents. You have Asia. And then the Fertile Crescent goes up and goes into Egypt. But then you also have Europe. And so, it served as a major trade route, and all of the big dogs in the neighborhood wanted to control those trade routes because they would generate wealth from that. Earlier on in Israel's history the big guns were the Hittites to the northwest and the Egyptians to the southeast. But by the time we get to Jonah, for example, the major player is Assyria. The Syro-Ephramaic alliance or the Israelite-Syrian alliance was from 735 to 722 B.C. We know these because of the chronological markers that are in the text; we can date these very precisely. So it lasted about 13 years… And the Syrian-Israelite alliance was an attempt to join forces to keep Assyria from gaining hegemony over that region. The way that played out is seen to for us in Isaiah 7 and 8 where the king of Judah is concerned because the king of Israel and the king of Syria have allied themselves together against Assyria, and they want Judah to join them. And Isaiah would come to Ahaz and say, "Don't worry about these kings or these kingdoms, God's going to take care of it." The way that played out chronologically is in 735 Isaiah says to King Ahaz, the king of the south, "Don't worry about these kingdoms because a child is going to be born, and before that child can, with discernment, say 'my father and my mother' the tribute is going to have to be taken from … Syria and Israel and is going to go to Assyria." And so, it's a way of saying they're going to be humbled. They're going to be, the two kingdoms that are in agreement here, they're going to be humbled, they're going to be impoverished by the king of Assyria. He also says in chapter 7 that before a child is born and reaches the ability to make moral categories, moral decisions on his own, the kings are going to be gone, they're going to be out of there, meaning that there's no more kingdoms to worry about. So, the message to Ahaz that Isaiah gives is, "You trust God. Don't worry about these kingdoms. Don't join them against Assyria. Don't worry about them because God's going to take care of them." And how that played out historically is that in 735 the alliance was made between Israel and Syria. In 732, Assyria came in and took Syria into captivity and received tribute from Israel. And 10 years later, about 13 years after the time of the agreement, the king of Assyria comes in and takes the northern kingdom. And so, it only lasted from 735 to 722… It had a major role in helping us to understand Isaiah 7 and 8 where Isaiah is dealing with King Ahaz and saying, "Don't worry about this alliance, God's going to take care of it."

Answer by Dr. Chip McDaniel

Dr. Ferris “Chip” McDaniel is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.