The Message

1 Kings 20

11-3 At about this same time Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his troops. He recruited in addition thirty-two local sheiks, all outfitted with horses and chariots. He set out in force and surrounded Samaria, ready to make war. He sent an envoy into the city to set his terms before Ahab king of Israel: “Ben-Hadad lays claim to your silver and gold, and to the pick of your wives and sons.”

The king of Israel accepted the terms: “As you say, distinguished lord; I and everything I have is yours.”

5-6 But then the envoy returned a second time, saying, “On second thought, I want it all—your silver and gold and all your wives and sons. Hand them over—the whole works. I’ll give you twenty-four hours; then my servants will arrive to search your palace and the houses of your officials and loot them; anything that strikes their fancy, they’ll take.”

The king of Israel called a meeting of all his tribal elders. He said, “Look at this—outrageous! He’s just looking for trouble. He means to clean me out, demanding all my women and children. And after I already agreed to pay him off handsomely!”

The elders, backed by the people, said, “Don’t cave in to him. Don’t give an inch.”

So he sent an envoy to Ben-Hadad, “Tell my distinguished lord, ‘I agreed to the terms you delivered the first time, but this I can’t do—this I won’t do!’”

The envoy went back and delivered the answer.

10 Ben-Hadad shot back his response: “May the gods do their worst to me, and then worse again, if there’ll be anything left of Samaria but rubble.”

11 The king of Israel countered, “Think about it—it’s easier to start a fight than end one.”

12 It happened that when Ben-Hadad heard this retort he was into some heavy drinking, boozing it up with the sheiks in their field shelters. Drunkenly, he ordered his henchmen, “Go after them!” And they attacked the city.

13 Just then a lone prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “God’s word: Have you taken a good look at this mob? Well, look again—I’m turning it over to you this very day. And you’ll know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am God.”

14 Ahab said, “Really? And who is going to make this happen?”

God said, “The young commandos of the regional chiefs.”

“And who,” said Ahab, “will strike the first blow?”

God said, “You.”

15 Ahab looked over the commandos of the regional chiefs; he counted 232. Then he assessed the available troops—7,000.

16-17 At noon they set out after Ben-Hadad who, with his allies, the thirty-two sheiks, was busy at serious drinking in the field shelters. The commandos of the regional chiefs made up the vanguard.

A report was brought to Ben-Hadad: “Men are on their way from Samaria.”

18 He said, “If they’ve come in peace, take them alive as hostages; if they’ve come to fight, the same—take them alive as hostages.”

19-20 The commandos poured out of the city with the full army behind them. They hit hard in hand-to-hand combat. The Arameans scattered from the field, with Israel hard on their heels. But Ben-Hadad king of Aram got away on horseback, along with his cavalry.

21 The king of Israel cut down both horses and chariots—an enormous defeat for Aram.

22 Sometime later the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, “On the alert now—build up your army, assess your capabilities, and see what has to be done. Before the year is out, the king of Aram will be back in force.”

23-25 Meanwhile the advisors to the king of Aram said, “Their god is a god of the mountains—we don’t stand a chance against them there. So let’s engage them on the plain where we’ll have the advantage. Here’s the strategy: Remove each sheik from his place of leadership and replace him with a seasoned officer. Then recruit a fighting force equivalent in size to the army that deserted earlier—horse for horse, chariot for chariot. And we’ll fight them on the plain—we’re sure to prove stronger than they are.”

It sounded good to the king; he did what they advised.

26-27 As the new year approached, Ben-Hadad rallied Aram and they went up to Aphek to make war on Israel. The Israelite army prepared to fight and took the field to meet Aram. They moved into battle formation before Aram in two camps, like two flocks of goats. The plain was seething with Arameans.

28 Just then a holy man approached the king of Israel saying, “This is God’s word: Because Aram said, ‘God is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,’ I’ll hand over this huge mob of an army to you. Then you’ll know that I am God.”

29-30 The two armies were poised in a standoff for seven days. On the seventh day fighting broke out. The Israelites killed 100,000 of the Aramean infantry in one day. The rest of the army ran for their lives back to the city, Aphek, only to have the city wall fall on 27,000 of the survivors.

30-31 Ben-Hadad escaped into the city and hid in a closet. Then his advisors told him, “Look, we’ve heard that the kings of Israel play by the rules; let’s dress in old gunnysacks, carry a white flag of truce, and present ourselves to the king of Israel on the chance that he’ll let you live.”

32 So that’s what they did. They dressed in old gunnysacks and carried a white flag, and came to the king of Israel saying, “Your servant Ben-Hadad said, ‘Please let me live.’”

Ahab said, “You mean to tell me that he’s still alive? If he’s alive, he’s my brother.”

33 The men took this as a good sign and concluded that everything was going to be all right: “Ben-Hadad is most certainly your brother!”

The king said, “Go and get him.” They went and brought him back by chariot.

34 Ahab said, “I am prepared to return the cities that my father took from your father. And you can set up your headquarters in Damascus just as my father did in Samaria; I’ll send you home under safe conduct.” Then he made a covenant with him and sent him off.

35 A man who was one of the prophets said to a bystander, “Hit me; wound me. Do it for God’s sake—it’s his command. Hit me; wound me.” But the man wouldn’t do it.

36 So he told him, “Because you wouldn’t obey God’s orders, as soon as you leave me a lion will attack you.” No sooner had the man left his side than a lion met him and attacked.

37 He then found another man and said, “Hit me; wound me.” That man did it—hit him hard in the face, drawing blood.

38-40 Then the prophet went and took a position along the road, with a bandage over his eyes, waiting for the king. It wasn’t long before the king happened by. The man cried out to the king, “Your servant was in the thick of the battle when a man showed up and turned over a prisoner to me, saying, ‘Guard this man with your life; if he turns up missing you’ll pay dearly.’ But I got busy doing one thing after another and the next time I looked he was gone.”

The king of Israel said, “You’ve just pronounced your own verdict.”

41 At that, the man ripped the bandage off his eyes and the king recognized who he was—one of the prophets!

42 The man said to the king, “God’s word: Because you let a man go who was under sentence by God, it’s now your life for his, your people for his.”

43 The king of Israel went home in a sulk. He arrived in Samaria in a very bad mood.

New American Standard Bible

1 Kings 20

War with Aram

1Now Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army, and there were thirty-two kings with him, and horses and chariots. And he went up and besieged Samaria and fought against it. Then he sent messengers to the city to Ahab king of Israel and said to him, “Thus says Ben-hadad, ‘Your silver and your gold are mine; your most beautiful wives and children are also mine.’” The king of Israel replied, “It is according to your word, my lord, O king; I am yours, and all that I have.” Then the messengers returned and said, “Thus says [a]Ben-hadad, ‘Surely, I sent to you saying, “You shall give me your silver and your gold and your wives and your children,” but about this time tomorrow I will send my servants to you, and they will search your house and the houses of your servants; and [b]whatever is desirable in your eyes, they will [c]take in their hand and carry away.’”

Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land and said, “Please observe and see how this man is looking for trouble; for he sent to me for my wives and my children and my silver and my gold, and I did not refuse him.” 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 sent for to your servant at the first 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, “May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria will suffice for handfuls for all the people who [d]follow me.” 11 Then the king of Israel replied, “Tell him, ‘Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.’” 12 When Ben-hadad heard this message, as he was drinking [e]with the kings in the [f]temporary shelters, he said to his servants, “Station yourselves.” So they stationed themselves against the city.

Ahab Victorious

13 Now behold, a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’” 14 Ahab said, “By whom?” So he said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘By the young men of the rulers of the provinces.’” Then he said, “Who shall [g]begin the battle?” And he [h]answered, “You.” 15 Then he mustered the young men of the rulers of the provinces, and there were 232; and after them he mustered all the people, even all the sons of Israel, 7,000.

16 They went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the [i]temporary shelters [j]with the thirty-two kings who helped him. 17 The young men of the rulers of the provinces went out first; and Ben-hadad sent out and they told him, saying, “Men have come out from Samaria.” 18 Then 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 from the city, the young men of the rulers of the provinces, and the army which followed them. 20 They [k]killed each his man; and the Arameans fled and Israel pursued them, and Ben-hadad king of Aram escaped on a horse with horsemen. 21 The king of Israel went out and [l]struck the horses and chariots, and [m]killed the Arameans with a great slaughter.

22 Then the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said to him, “Go, strengthen yourself and observe and see what you have to do; for at the turn of the year the king of Aram will come up against you.”

23 Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, “Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we will be stronger than they. 24 Do this thing: remove the kings, each from his place, and put captains in their place, 25 and [n]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 will be stronger than they.” And he listened to their voice and did so.

Another Aramean War

26 At the turn of the year, Ben-hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 The sons of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went to meet them; and the sons of Israel camped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Arameans filled the country. 28 Then a man of God came near and spoke to the king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Arameans have said, “The Lord is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’” 29 So they camped one over against the other seven days. And on the seventh day the battle was joined, and the sons of Israel [o]killed of the Arameans 100,000 foot soldiers in one day. 30 But the rest fled to Aphek into the city, and the wall fell on 27,000 men who were left. And Ben-hadad fled and came into the city into an inner chamber.

31 His servants said to him, “Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings, please let us put sackcloth on our loins and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will save your [p]life.” 32 So they girded sackcloth on their loins and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad says, ‘Please let me live.’” And he said, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.” 33 Now the men [q]took this as an omen, and quickly [r]catching his word said, “Your brother Ben-hadad.” Then he said, “Go, bring him.” Then Ben-hadad came out to him, and he [s]took him up into the chariot. 34 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.” Ahab said, “And I will let you go with this covenant.” So he made a covenant with him and let him go.

35 Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to [t]another by the word of the Lord, “Please strike me.” But the man refused to strike him. 36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will [u]kill you.” And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and [v]killed him. 37 Then he found another man and said, “Please [w]strike me.” And the man [x]struck him, [y]wounding him. 38 So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 As the king passed by, he cried to the king and 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, ‘Guard this man; if for any reason he is missing, then your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’ 40 While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” And the king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.” 41 Then he hastily took the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him that he was of the prophets. 42 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, therefore your [z]life shall go for his [aa]life, and your people for his people.’” 43 So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and vexed, and came to Samaria.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Kings 20:5 Lit Ben-hadad, saying
  2. 1 Kings 20:6 Lit all the desire of your eyes
  3. 1 Kings 20:6 Lit put
  4. 1 Kings 20:10 Lit are at my feet
  5. 1 Kings 20:12 Lit he and
  6. 1 Kings 20:12 Or booths
  7. 1 Kings 20:14 Lit bind
  8. 1 Kings 20:14 Lit said
  9. 1 Kings 20:16 Or booths
  10. 1 Kings 20:16 Lit he and the 32 kings
  11. 1 Kings 20:20 Lit smote
  12. 1 Kings 20:21 Lit smote
  13. 1 Kings 20:21 Lit smote
  14. 1 Kings 20:25 Lit number
  15. 1 Kings 20:29 Lit smote
  16. 1 Kings 20:31 Lit soul
  17. 1 Kings 20:33 Lit divined
  18. 1 Kings 20:33 Lit caught from him
  19. 1 Kings 20:33 Lit caused him to come up
  20. 1 Kings 20:35 Lit his neighbor
  21. 1 Kings 20:36 Lit smite
  22. 1 Kings 20:36 Lit smote
  23. 1 Kings 20:37 Lit smite
  24. 1 Kings 20:37 Lit smote
  25. 1 Kings 20:37 Lit striking and wounding
  26. 1 Kings 20:42 Lit soul
  27. 1 Kings 20:42 Lit soul