Ahab's Wars with Syria

20 (A)Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his army together. (B)Thirty-two kings were with him, and horses and chariots. And he went up and closed in on (C)Samaria and fought against it. And he sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel and said to him, “Thus says Ben-hadad: ‘Your silver and your gold are mine; your best wives and children also are mine.’” And the king of Israel answered, “As you say, my lord, O king, I am yours, and all that I have.” The messengers came again and said, “Thus says Ben-hadad: ‘I sent to you, saying, “Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children.” Nevertheless I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants and lay hands on whatever pleases you and take it away.’”

Then the king of Israel called all the (D)elders of the land and said, (E)“Mark, now, and see how this man is seeking trouble, for he sent to me for my wives and my children, and for my silver and my gold, and I did not refuse him.” And all the elders and all the people said to him, “Do not listen or consent.” So he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, “Tell my lord the king, ‘All that you first demanded of your servant I will do, but this thing I cannot do.’” And the messengers departed and brought him word again. 10 Ben-hadad sent to him and said, (F)“The gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people (G)who follow me.” 11 And the king of Israel answered, “Tell him, ‘Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.’” 12 When Ben-hadad heard this message as (H)he was drinking with the kings in the booths, he said to his men, “Take your positions.” And they took their positions against the city.

Ahab Defeats Ben-hadad

13 And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, (I)I will give it into your hand this day, (J)and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 14 And Ahab said, “By whom?” He said, “Thus says the Lord, By the servants of the governors of the districts.” Then he said, “Who shall begin the battle?” He answered, “You.” 15 Then he mustered the servants of the governors of the districts, and they were 232. And after them he mustered all the people of Israel, seven thousand.

16 And they went out at noon, while Ben-hadad (K)was drinking himself drunk in the booths, he and the thirty-two kings who helped him. 17 The servants of the governors of the districts went out first. And Ben-hadad sent out scouts, and they reported to him, “Men are coming out from Samaria.” 18 He said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive. Or if they have come out for war, take them alive.”

19 So these went out of the city, the servants of the governors of the districts and the army that followed them. 20 And each struck down his man. The Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them, but Ben-hadad king of Syria escaped on a horse with horsemen. 21 And the king of Israel went out and struck the horses and chariots, and struck the Syrians with a great blow.

22 Then (L)the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said to him, “Come, strengthen yourself, and consider well what you have to do, for (M)in the spring the king of Syria will come up against you.”

23 And the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. 24 And do this: remove the kings, each from his post, and put commanders in their places, 25 and muster an army like the army that you have lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot. Then we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.” And he listened to their voice and did so.

Ahab Defeats Ben-hadad Again

26 (N)In the spring, Ben-hadad mustered the Syrians and went up to (O)Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 And the people of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went against them. The people of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Syrians filled the country. 28 And a (P)man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, (Q)“The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore (R)I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’” 29 And they encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle was joined. And the people of Israel struck down of the Syrians 100,000 foot soldiers in one day. 30 And the rest fled into the city of (S)Aphek, and the wall fell upon 27,000 men who were left.

Ben-hadad also fled and entered (T)an inner chamber in the city. 31 And his servants said to him, “Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings. Let us (U)put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads and go out to the king of Israel. Perhaps he will spare your life.” 32 So they (V)tied sackcloth around their waists and put ropes on their heads and went to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad says, ‘Please, let me live.’” And he said, “Does he still live? He is my brother.” 33 Now the men were watching for a sign, and they quickly took it up from him and said, “Yes, your brother Ben-hadad.” Then he said, “Go and bring him.” Then Ben-hadad came out to him, and he caused him to come up into the chariot. 34 And Ben-hadad said to him, (W)“The cities that my father took from your father I will restore, and you may establish bazaars for yourself in (X)Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.” And Ahab said, “I will let you go on these terms.” So he made a covenant with him and let him go.

A Prophet Condemns Ben-hadad's Release

35 And a certain man of (Y)the sons of the prophets said to his fellow (Z)at the command of the Lord, “Strike me, please.” But the man refused to strike him. 36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you have gone from me, a lion shall strike you down.” And as soon as he had departed from him, (AA)a lion met him and struck him down. 37 Then he found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” And the man struck him—struck him and wounded him. 38 So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way, (AB)disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, (AC)your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent[a] of silver.’ 40 And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.” 41 Then he hurried to take the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. 42 And he said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction,[b] therefore (AD)your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.’” 43 And the king of Israel (AE)went to his house vexed and sullen and came to Samaria.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Kings 20:39 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms
  2. 1 Kings 20:42 That is, set apart (devoted) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction)

Ben-Hadad Attacks Samaria

20 Now Ben-Hadad(A) king of Aram mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria(B) and attacked it. He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine.’”

The king of Israel answered, “Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.”

The messengers came again and said, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘I sent to demand your silver and gold, your wives and your children. But about this time tomorrow I am going to send my officials to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will seize everything you value and carry it away.’”

The king of Israel summoned all the elders(C) of the land and said to them, “See how this man is looking for trouble!(D) When he sent for my wives and my children, my silver and my gold, I did not refuse him.”

The elders and the people all answered, “Don’t listen to him or agree to his demands.”

So he replied to Ben-Hadad’s messengers, “Tell my lord the king, ‘Your servant will do all you demanded the first time, but this demand I cannot meet.’” They left and took the answer back to Ben-Hadad.

10 Then Ben-Hadad sent another message to Ahab: “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dust(E) remains in Samaria to give each of my men a handful.”

11 The king of Israel answered, “Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armor should not boast(F) like one who takes it off.’”

12 Ben-Hadad heard this message while he and the kings were drinking(G) in their tents,[a] and he ordered his men: “Prepare to attack.” So they prepared to attack the city.

Ahab Defeats Ben-Hadad

13 Meanwhile a prophet(H) came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know(I) that I am the Lord.’”

14 “But who will do this?” asked Ahab.

The prophet replied, “This is what the Lord says: ‘The junior officers under the provincial commanders will do it.’”

“And who will start(J) the battle?” he asked.

The prophet answered, “You will.”

15 So Ahab summoned the 232 junior officers under the provincial commanders. Then he assembled the rest of the Israelites, 7,000 in all. 16 They set out at noon while Ben-Hadad and the 32 kings allied with him were in their tents getting drunk.(K) 17 The junior officers under the provincial commanders went out first.

Now Ben-Hadad had dispatched scouts, who reported, “Men are advancing from Samaria.”

18 He said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive; if they have come out for war, take them alive.”

19 The junior officers under the provincial commanders marched out of the city with the army behind them 20 and each one struck down his opponent. At that, the Arameans fled, with the Israelites in pursuit. But Ben-Hadad king of Aram escaped on horseback with some of his horsemen. 21 The king of Israel advanced and overpowered the horses and chariots and inflicted heavy losses on the Arameans.

22 Afterward, the prophet(L) came to the king of Israel and said, “Strengthen your position and see what must be done, because next spring(M) the king of Aram will attack you again.”

23 Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, “Their gods are gods(N) of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they. 24 Do this: Remove all the kings from their commands and replace them with other officers. 25 You must also raise an army like the one you lost—horse for horse and chariot for chariot—so we can fight Israel on the plains. Then surely we will be stronger than they.” He agreed with them and acted accordingly.

26 The next spring(O) Ben-Hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek(P) to fight against Israel. 27 When the Israelites were also mustered and given provisions, they marched out to meet them. The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside.(Q)

28 The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god(R) of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know(S) that I am the Lord.’”

29 For seven days they camped opposite each other, and on the seventh day the battle was joined. The Israelites inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Aramean foot soldiers in one day. 30 The rest of them escaped to the city of Aphek,(T) where the wall collapsed(U) on twenty-seven thousand of them. And Ben-Hadad fled to the city and hid(V) in an inner room.

31 His officials said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of Israel are merciful.(W) Let us go to the king of Israel with sackcloth(X) around our waists and ropes around our heads. Perhaps he will spare your life.”

32 Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says: ‘Please let me live.’”

The king answered, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”

33 The men took this as a good sign and were quick to pick up his word. “Yes, your brother Ben-Hadad!” they said.

“Go and get him,” the king said. When Ben-Hadad came out, Ahab had him come up into his chariot.

34 “I will return the cities(Y) my father took from your father,” Ben-Hadad(Z) offered. “You may set up your own market areas(AA) in Damascus,(AB) as my father did in Samaria.”

Ahab said, “On the basis of a treaty(AC) I will set you free.” So he made a treaty with him, and let him go.

A Prophet Condemns Ahab

35 By the word of the Lord one of the company of the prophets(AD) said to his companion, “Strike me with your weapon,” but he refused.(AE)

36 So the prophet said, “Because you have not obeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion(AF) will kill you.” And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.

37 The prophet found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” So the man struck him and wounded him. 38 Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. 39 As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, “Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, ‘Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life,(AG) or you must pay a talent[b] of silver.’ 40 While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.”

“That is your sentence,”(AH) the king of Israel said. “You have pronounced it yourself.”

41 Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. 42 He said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You(AI) have set free a man I had determined should die.[c](AJ) Therefore it is your life for his life,(AK) your people for his people.’” 43 Sullen and angry,(AL) the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Kings 20:12 Or in Sukkoth; also in verse 16
  2. 1 Kings 20:39 That is, about 75 pounds or about 34 kilograms
  3. 1 Kings 20:42 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.

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