The First Book of the Kings

Chapter 20

Ben-hadad, not content with Ahab's homage, besieges Samaria, 1-12. By the direction of a prophet, the Syrians are slain, 13-21. As the prophet forewarned Ahab, the Syrians, trusting in the valleys, come against him in Aphek, 22-27. By the word of the prophet and God's judgment, the Syrians are smitten again, 28-30. The Syrians submit themselves, and Ahab sends Ben-hadad away with a covenant, 31-34. The prophet, under the parable of a prisoner and making Ahab judge himself, denounces God's judgment against him, 35-43.

1 And Ben-hadad the king of Syria collected all his army. And there were thirty-two kings with him and horses and chariots. And he went up and besieged Samaria and warred against it. 2 And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city and said to him, "Thus says Ben-hadad: 3 'Your silver and gold are mine, and also your wives and your children, even the best, are mine.'" 4 And the king of Israel answered and said, "My lord, O king, according to your saying, I and all that I have are yours." 5 And the messengers came again and said, "Thus speaks Ben-hadad, saying, 'Although I have sent to you, saying, "You shall deliver to me your silver, your gold, your wives, and your children," 6 Yet I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants. And it shall be, that whatever is pleasant in your eyes, they shall take it in their hand and carry it away.'"

7 Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land and said, "Mark, I pray you, and see how this man seeks mischief, for he sent to me for my wives, for my children, for my silver, and for my gold, and I did not deny him." 8 And all the elders and all the people said to him, "Do not listen to him, nor consent." 9 Therefore, he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, "Tell my lord the king, 'All that you sent for to your servant at the first, I will do, but this thing I may not do.'" And the messengers departed and brought him word again. 10 And Ben-hadad sent to him and said, "May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me." 11 And the king of Israel answered and said, "Tell him, 'Do not let him who girds on his harness boast himself as he who takes it off.'" 12 And it came to pass, when Ben-hadad heard this message as he was drinking—he and the kings in the pavilions—that he said to his servants, "Set yourselves in array." And they set themselves in array against the city.

13 And behold, a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel, saying, "Thus says the LORD: 'Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver it into your hand this day. And you shall know that I am the LORD.'" 14 And Ahab said, "By whom?" And he said, "Thus says the LORD: 'Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces.'" Then he said, "Who shall order the battle?" And he answered, "You." 15 Then he numbered the young men of the princes of the provinces, and they were two hundred and thirty two. And after them he numbered all the people, even all the children of Israel, being seven thousand.

16 And they went out at noon. But Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions—he and the kings, the thirty-two kings who helped him. 17 And the young men of the princes of the provinces went out first. And Ben-hadad sent out, and they told him, saying, "There are men coming out of Samaria." 18 And 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 young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed them. 20 And they each slew his man. And the Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them, and Ben-hadad the king of Syria escaped on a horse with the horsemen. 21 And the king of Israel went out and smote the horses and chariots and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.

22 And the prophet came to the king of Israel and said to him, "Go, strengthen yourself, and mark and see what you do, for at the return of the year 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; therefore, they were stronger than we were. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they are. 24 And do this thing: take the kings away, every man out of his place, and put captains in their stead, 25 And number an army, like the army that you have lost, horse for horse and chariot for chariot. And we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they are." And he listened to their voice and did so.

26 And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Ben-hadad numbered the Syrians and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 And the children of Israel were numbered and were all present and went against them. And the children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of kids, but the Syrians filled the country. 28 And there came a man of God and spoke to the king of Israel and said, "Thus says the LORD: 'Because the Syrians have said, "The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys," therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.'" 29 And they encamped one over against the other seven days. And so it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined. And the children of Israel slew of the Syrians one hundred thousand footmen in one day. 30 But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city, and there a wall fell upon twenty-seven thousand of the men who were left. And Ben-hadad fled and came into the city, into an inner chamber.

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, I pray you, put sackcloth on our loins and ropes upon our heads and go out to the king of Israel. It may be that he will save your life." 32 So they girded sackcloth on their loins, put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said, "Your servant Ben-hadad says, 'I pray you, let me live.'" And he said, "Is he yet alive? He is my brother." 33 Now the men diligently observed whether anything would come from him, and hastily caught it, and they said, "Your brother Ben-hadad." Then he said, "Go, bring him." Then Ben-hadad came forth to him, and he caused him to come up into the chariot. 34 And Ben-hadad said to him, "The cities, which my father took from your father, I will restore, and you shall make streets for yourself in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria." Then Ahab said, "I will send you away with this covenant." So he made a covenant with him and sent him away.

35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his neighbor in the word of the LORD, "Smite me, I pray you." And the man refused to smite him. 36 Then he said to him, "Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will slay you." And as soon as he had departed from him, a lion found him and slew him. 37 Then he found another man and said, "Smite me, I pray you." And the man smote him so that in smiting he wounded him. 38 So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way and disguised himself with ashes upon his face. 39 And as the king passed by, he cried to the king. And he said, "Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a man turned aside and brought a man to me and said, 'Keep this man. If by any means he is missing, then your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.' 40 And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone." And the king of Israel said to him, "Thus your judgment shall be. You have decided it yourself." 41 And he hastened and took the ashes away from his face, and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets. 42 And he said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Because you have let go out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life and your people for his people.'" 43 And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased and came to Samaria.


Matthew Henry Commentary - 1st Kings, Chapter 20[➚]