1 Kings 20

Ben-Hadad Attacks Samaria

Ben-Hadad brought his whole army together. He was king of Aram. He went up to Samaria. He took 32 kings and their horses and chariots with him. All of them surrounded Samaria and attacked it. Ben-Hadad sent messengers into the city. They spoke to Ahab, the king of Israel. They told him, “Ben-Hadad says, ‘Your silver and gold belong to me. The best of your wives and children also belong to me.’ ”

The king of Israel replied, “What you say is true. You are my king and master. I belong to you. And everything I have belongs to you.”

The messengers came again. They told Ahab, “Ben-Hadad says, ‘I commanded you to give me your silver and gold. I also commanded you to give me your wives and children. But now I’m going to send my officials to you. They will come about this time tomorrow. They’ll search your palace. They’ll search the houses of your officials. They’ll take everything you value. And they’ll carry it all away.’ ”

The king of Israel sent for all the elders of the land. He said to them, “This man is really looking for trouble! He sent for my wives and children. He sent for my silver and gold. And I agreed to give them to him.”

All the elders and people answered, “Don’t listen to him. Don’t agree to give him what he wants.”

So Ahab replied to Ben-Hadad’s messengers. He said, “Tell my king and master, ‘I will do everything you commanded me to do the first time. But this time, I can’t do what you want me to do.’ ” They took Ahab’s answer back to Ben-Hadad.

Then Ben-Hadad sent another message to Ahab. Ben-Hadad said, “There won’t be enough dust left in Samaria to give each of my followers even a handful. If there is, may the gods punish me greatly.”

The king of Israel replied. He said, “Tell him, ‘Someone who puts his armor on shouldn’t brag like someone who takes it off.’ ”

Ben-Hadad and the kings were in their tents drinking. That’s when he heard the message. He ordered his men, “Get ready to attack.” So they prepared to attack the city.

Ahab Wins the Battle Over Ben-Hadad

During that time a prophet came to Ahab, the king of Israel. He announced, “The Lord says, ‘Do you see this huge army? I will hand it over to you today. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ”

“But who will do it?” Ahab asked.

The prophet answered, “The Lord says, ‘The junior officers who are under the area commanders will do it.’ ”

“And who will start the battle?” Ahab asked.

The prophet answered, “You will.”

So Ahab sent for the junior officers who were under the area commanders. The total number of officers was 232. Ahab gathered together the rest of the Israelites. The total number of them was 7,000. They started out at noon. At that time Ben-Hadad and the 32 kings helping him were in their tents. They were getting drunk. The junior officers who were under Ahab’s area commanders marched out first.

Ben-Hadad had sent out scouts. They came back and reported, “Men are marching against us from Samaria.”

Ben-Hadad said, “They might be coming to make peace. If they are, take them alive. Or they might be coming to make war. If they are, take them alive.”

The junior officers marched out of the city. The army was right behind them. Each man struck down the one fighting against him. When that happened, the army of Aram ran away. The Israelites chased them. But Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, escaped on a horse. Some of his horsemen escaped with him. The king of Israel attacked them. He overpowered the horses and chariots. Large numbers of the men of Aram were wounded or killed.

After that, the prophet came to the king of Israel again. The prophet said, “Make your position stronger. Do what needs to be done. Next spring the king of Aram will attack you again.”

During that time, the officials of the king of Aram gave him advice. They said, “The gods of Israel are gods of the hills. That’s why they were too strong for us. But suppose we fight them on the plains. Then we’ll certainly be stronger than they are. Here’s what you should do. Don’t let any of the kings continue as military leaders. Have other officers take their places. You must also put another army together. It should be just like the one you lost. It should have the same number of horses and chariots. Then we’ll be able to fight against Israel on the plains. And we’ll certainly be stronger than they are.” Ben-Hadad agreed with their advice. He did what they suggested.

The next spring Ben-Hadad brought together the men of Aram. They went up to the city of Aphek to fight against Israel. The Israelites were also brought together. They were given supplies. They marched out to fight against their enemies. Israel’s army camped across from Aram’s army. The Israelites looked like two small flocks of goats that had become separated from the others. But the men of Aram covered the countryside.

The man of God came up to the king of Israel again. He told him, “The Lord says, ‘The men of Aram think the Lord is a god of the hills. They do not think he is a god of the valleys. So I, the Lord, will hand their huge army over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ”

For seven days the two armies camped across from each other. On the seventh day the battle began. The Israelites wounded or killed 100,000 Aramean soldiers who were on foot. That happened in a single day. The rest of the men of Aram escaped to the city of Aphek. Its wall fell down on 27,000 of them. Ben-Hadad ran to the city. He hid in a secret room.

His officials said to him, “Look, we’ve heard that the kings of Israel often show mercy. So let’s go to the king of Israel. Let’s wear the rough clothing people wear when they’re sad. Let’s tie ropes around our heads. Perhaps Ahab will spare your life.”

So they wore rough clothing. They tied ropes around their heads. Then they went to the king of Israel. They told him, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says, ‘Please let me live.’ ”

The king answered, “Is he still alive? He used to be my friend.”

The men thought that was good news. So they quickly used the word Ahab had used. “Yes! Your friend Ben-Hadad!” they said.

“Go and get him,” the king said. Ben-Hadad came out of the secret room. Then Ahab had him get into his chariot.

“I’ll return the cities my father took from your father,” Ben-Hadad offered. “You can set up your own market areas in Damascus. That’s what my father did in Samaria.”

Ahab said, “If we sign a peace treaty, I’ll set you free.” So Ben-Hadad made a treaty with him. Then Ahab let him go.

A Prophet Accuses Ahab

There was a group of people called the group of the prophets. A message from the Lord came to one of their members. He said to his companion, “Strike me down with your weapon.” But he wouldn’t do it.

The prophet said, “You haven’t obeyed the Lord. So as soon as you leave me, a lion will kill you.” The companion went away. And a lion found him and killed him.

The prophet found another man. He said, “Please strike me down.” So the man struck him down and wounded him. Then the prophet went and stood by the road. He waited for the king to come by. He pulled his headband down over his eyes so no one would recognize him. The king passed by. Then the prophet called out to him. He said, “I went into the middle of the battle. Someone came to me with a prisoner. He said, ‘Guard this man. Don’t let him get away. If he does, you will pay for his life with yours. Or you can pay 75 pounds of silver.’ While I was busy here and there, the man disappeared.”

The king of Israel spoke to him. He told him, “What you’ve just said is what will happen to you.”

Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes. The king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. He told the king, “The Lord says, ‘You have set a man free. But I had said he should be set apart to the Lord in a special way to be destroyed. So you must pay for his life with yours. You must pay for his people’s lives with the lives of your people.’ ” The king of Israel was angry. He was in a bad mood. He went back to his palace in Samaria.

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1 Kings 21

Naboth’s Vineyard

Some time later King Ahab wanted a certain vineyard. It belonged to Naboth from Jezreel. The vineyard was in Jezreel. It was close to the palace of Ahab, the king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard. It’s close to my palace. I want to use it for a vegetable garden. I’ll trade you a better vineyard for it. Or, if you prefer, I’ll pay you what it’s worth.”

But Naboth replied, “May the Lord keep me from giving you the land my family handed down to me.”

So Ahab went home. He was angry. He was in a bad mood because of what Naboth from Jezreel had said. He had told Ahab, “I won’t give you the land my family handed down to me.” So Ahab lay on his bed. He was in a very bad mood. He wouldn’t even eat anything.

His wife Jezebel came in. She asked him, “Why are you in such a bad mood? Why won’t you eat anything?”

He answered her, “Because I spoke to Naboth from Jezreel. I said, ‘Sell me your vineyard. Or, if you prefer, I’ll give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I won’t sell you my vineyard.’ ”

His wife Jezebel said, “Is this how the king of Israel acts? Get up! Eat something! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth from Jezreel.”

So she wrote some letters in Ahab’s name. She stamped them with his royal seal. Then she sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in the city where Naboth lived. In those letters she wrote,

“Announce a day when people are supposed to go without eating. Have Naboth sit in an important place among the people. But put two worthless and evil men in seats across from him. Have them bring charges that he has cursed God and the king. Then take him out of the city. Kill him by throwing stones at him.”

So the elders and nobles who lived in that city did what Jezebel wanted. They did everything she directed in the letters she had written to them. They announced a day of fasting. They had Naboth sit in an important place among the people. Then two worthless and evil men came and sat across from him. They brought charges against Naboth in front of the people. The two men said, “Naboth has cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city. They killed him by throwing stones at him. Then they sent a message to Jezebel. They said, “Naboth is dead. We killed him by throwing stones at him.”

Jezebel heard that Naboth had been killed. As soon as she heard it, she said to Ahab, “Get up. Take over the vineyard of Naboth from Jezreel. It’s the one he wouldn’t sell to you. He isn’t alive anymore. He’s dead.” Ahab heard that Naboth was dead. So Ahab got up and went down to take over Naboth’s vineyard.

Then a message from the Lord came to Elijah, who was from Tishbe. The Lord said, “Go down to see Ahab, the king of Israel. He rules in Samaria. You will find him in Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab has gone there to take it over. Tell him, ‘The Lord says, “Haven’t you murdered a man? Haven’t you taken over his property?” ’ Then tell Ahab, ‘The Lord says, “Dogs licked up Naboth’s blood. In that same place dogs will lick up your blood. Yes, I said your blood!” ’ ”

Ahab said to Elijah, “My enemy! You have found me!”

“I have found you,” he answered. “That’s because you gave yourself over to do evil things. You did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord says, ‘I am going to bring horrible trouble on you. I will destroy your children after you. I will destroy every male in Israel who is related to you. It does not matter whether they are slaves or free. I will make your royal house like the house of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. I will make it like the house of Baasha, the son of Ahijah. You have made me very angry. You have caused Israel to sin.’

“The Lord also says, ‘Dogs will eat up Jezebel near the wall of Jezreel.’

“Some of the people who belong to Ahab will die in the city. Dogs will eat them up. Others will die in the country. The birds will eat them.”

There was never anyone like Ahab. He gave himself over to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord. His wife Jezebel talked him into it. He acted in the most evil way. He worshiped statues of gods. He was like the Amorites. The Lord drove them out to make room for Israel.

When Ahab heard what Elijah had said, he tore his clothes. He put on the rough clothing people wear when they’re sad. He went without eating. He even slept in his clothes. He went around looking sad.

Then a message from the Lord came to Elijah, who was from Tishbe. The Lord said, “Have you seen how Ahab has made himself humble in my sight? Because he has done that, I will not bring trouble on him while he lives. But I will bring it on his royal house when his son is king.”

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