1 Kings 20
Ben Hadad Invades Israel1 Now King Ben Hadad of Syria assembled all his army, along with thirty-two other kings with their horses and chariots. He marched against Samaria ▼ and besieged and attacked it. ▼
▼ Heb “and he went up and besieged Samaria and fought against it.”2 He sent messengers to King Ahab of Israel, who was in the city. ▼
▼ Heb “to the city.”3 He said to him, “This is what Ben Hadad says, ‘Your silver and your gold are mine, as well as the best of your wives and sons.’” 4 The king of Israel replied, “It is just as you say, my master, O king. I and all I own belong to you.”
5 The messengers came again and said, “This is what Ben Hadad says, ‘I sent this message to you, “You must give me your silver, gold, wives, and sons.” 6 But now at this time tomorrow I will send my servants to you and they will search through your palace and your servants’ houses. They will carry away all your valuables.” ▼
▼ Heb “all that is desirable to your eyes they will put in their hand and take.”7 The king of Israel summoned all the leaders ▼
▼ Heb “elders.”of the land and said, “Notice how this man is looking for trouble. ▼
▼ Heb “Know and see that this [man] is seeking trouble.”Indeed, he demanded my wives, sons, silver, and gold, and I did not resist him.” 8 All the leaders and people said to him, “Do not give in or agree to his demands.” ▼
▼ Heb “Do not listen and do not be willing.”9 So he said to the messengers of Ben Hadad, “Say this to my master, the king, ‘I will give you everything you demanded at first from your servant, but I am unable to agree to this latest demand.’” ▼
▼ Heb “all which you sent to your servant in the beginning I will do, but this thing I am unable to do.”So the messengers went back and gave their report.
10 Ben Hadad sent another message to him, “May the gods judge me severely ▼
▼ Heb “So may the gods do to me, and so may they add.”if there is enough dirt left in Samaria for my soldiers to scoop up in their hands.” ▼
▼ Heb “if the dirt of Samaria suffices for the handfuls of all the people who are at my feet.”11 The king of Israel replied, “Tell him the one who puts on his battle gear should not boast like one who is taking it off.” ▼
▼ The point of the saying is that someone who is still preparing for a battle should not boast as if he has already won the battle. A modern parallel would be, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”12 When Ben Hadad received this reply, ▼
▼ Heb “When he heard this word.”he and the other kings were drinking in their quarters. ▼
▼ Heb “in the temporary shelters.” This is probably referring to tents.He ordered his servants, “Get ready to attack!” So they got ready to attack the city.
The Lord Delivers Israel13 Now a prophet visited King Ahab of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says, ‘Do you see this huge army? ▼
▼ Heb “this great horde.”Look, I am going to hand it over to you this very day. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” 14 Ahab asked, “By whom will this be accomplished?” ▼
▼ The words “will this be accomplished” are supplied in the translation for clarification.He answered, “This is what the Lord says, ‘By the servants of the district governors.’” Ahab ▼ asked, “Who will launch the attack?” He answered, “You will.”
15 So Ahab ▼ assembled the 232 servants of the district governors. After that he assembled all the Israelite army, numbering 7,000. ▼
▼ Heb “after them he assembled all the people, all the sons of Israel, seven thousand.”16 They marched out at noon, while Ben Hadad and the thirty-two kings allied with him were drinking heavily ▼
▼ Heb “drinking and drunken.”in their quarters. ▼
▼ Heb “in the temporary shelters.” This is probably referring to tents.17 The servants of the district governors led the march. When Ben Hadad sent messengers, they reported back to him, “Men are marching out of Samaria.” ▼ 18 He ordered, “Whether they come in peace or to do battle, take them alive.” ▼
▼ Heb “if they come in peace, take them alive; if they come for battle, take them alive.”19 They marched out of the city with the servants of the district governors in the lead and the army behind them. 20 Each one struck down an enemy soldier; ▼
▼ Heb “each struck down his man.”the Syrians fled and Israel chased them. King Ben Hadad of Syria escaped on horseback with some horsemen. 21 Then the king of Israel marched out and struck down the horses and chariots; he thoroughly defeated ▼
▼ Heb “struck down Aram with a great striking down.”Syria.
The Lord Gives Israel Another Victory22 The prophet ▼ visited the king of Israel and instructed him, “Go, fortify your defenses. ▼
▼ Heb “strengthen yourself.”Determine ▼
▼ Heb “know and see.”what you must do, for in the spring ▼
▼ Heb “at the turning of the year.”the king of Syria will attack ▼
▼ Heb “go up against.”you.” 23 Now the advisers ▼
▼ Or “servants.”of the king of Syria said to him: “Their God is a god of the mountains. That’s why they overpowered us. But if we fight them in the plains, we will certainly overpower them. 24 So do this: Dismiss the kings from their command, and replace them with military commanders. 25 Muster an army like the one you lost, with the same number of horses and chariots. ▼
▼ Heb “And you, you muster an army like the one that fell from you, horse like horse and chariot like chariot.”Then we will fight them in the plains; we will certainly overpower them.” He approved their plan and did as they advised. ▼
▼ Heb “he listened to their voice and did so.”
26 In the spring ▼
▼ Heb “at the turning of the year.”Ben Hadad mustered the Syrian army ▼
▼ Heb “mustered Aram.”and marched to Aphek to fight Israel. ▼
▼ Heb “and went up to Aphek for battle with Israel.”27 When the Israelites had mustered and had received their supplies, they marched out to face them in battle. When the Israelites deployed opposite them, they were like two small flocks ▼
▼ The noun translated “small flocks” occurs only here. The common interpretation derives the word from the verbal root חשׂף, “to strip off; to make bare.” In this case the noun refers to something “stripped off” or “made bare.” HALOT 359 s.v. II חשׂף derives the noun from a proposed homonymic verbal root (which occurs only in Ps 29:9) meaning “cause a premature birth.” In this case the derived noun could refer to goats that are undersized because they are born prematurely.of goats, but the Syrians filled the land. 28 The prophet ▼
▼ Heb “the man of God.”visited the king of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Syrians said, “The Lord is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,” I will hand over to you this entire huge army. ▼
▼ Heb “I will place all this great horde in your hand.”Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
29 The armies were deployed opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day the battle began, and the Israelites killed 100,000 Syrian foot soldiers in one day. 30 The remaining 27,000 ran to Aphek and went into the city, but the wall fell on them. ▼
▼ Heb “and the remaining ones fled to Aphek to the city and the wall fell on twenty-seven thousand men, the ones who remained.”Now Ben Hadad ran into the city and hid in an inner room. ▼
▼ Heb “and Ben Hadad fled and went into the city, [into] an inner room in an inner room.”31 His advisers ▼
▼ Or “servants.”said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of the Israelite dynasty are kind. ▼
▼ Or “merciful.” The word used here often means “devoted” or “loyal.” Perhaps the idea is that the Israelite kings are willing to make treaties with other kings.Allow us to put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads ▼
▼ Sackcloth was worn as a sign of sorrow and repentance. The precise significance of the ropes on the head is uncertain, but it probably was a sign of submission. These actions were comparable to raising a white flag on the battlefield or throwing in the towel in a boxing match.and surrender ▼
▼ Heb “go out.”to the king of Israel. Maybe he will spare our lives.” 32 So they put sackcloth around their waists and ropes on their heads and went to the king of Israel. They said, “Your servant ▼
▼ Your servant. By referring to Ben Hadad as Ahab’s servant, they are suggesting that Ahab make him a subject in a vassal treaty arrangement.Ben Hadad says, ‘Please let me live!’” Ahab ▼ replied, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.” ▼
▼ He is my brother. Ahab’s response indicates that he wants to make a parity treaty and treat Ben Hadad as an equal partner.33 The men took this as a good omen and quickly accepted his offer, saying, “Ben Hadad is your brother.” Ahab ▼ then said, “Go, get him.” So Ben Hadad came out to him, and Ahab pulled him up into his chariot. 34 Ben Hadad ▼
▼ Heb “he”; the referent (Ben Hadad) has been specified in the translation for clarity.said, “I will return the cities my father took from your father. You may set up markets ▼
▼ Heb “streets,” but this must refer to streets set up with stalls for merchants to sell their goods. See HALOT 299 s.v. חוּץ.in Damascus, just as my father did in Samaria.” ▼ Ahab then said, “I want to make a treaty with you before I dismiss you.” ▼
▼ Heb “I will send you away with a treaty.” The words “Ahab then said” are supplied in the translation. There is nothing in the Hebrew text to indicate that the speaker has changed from Ben Hadad to Ahab. Some suggest adding “and he said” before “I will send you away.” Others prefer to maintain Ben Hadad as the speaker and change the statement to, “Please send me away with a treaty.”So he made a treaty with him and then dismissed him.
A Prophet Denounces Ahab’s Actions35 One of the members of the prophetic guild, speaking with divine authority, ordered his companion, “Wound me!” ▼
▼ Heb “Now a man from the sons of the prophets said to his companion by the word of the Lord, ‘Wound me.’”But the man refused to wound him. 36 So the prophet ▼ said to him, “Because you have disobeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.” When he left him, a lion attacked and killed him. 37 He found another man and said, “Wound me!” So the man wounded him severely. ▼
▼ Heb “and the man wounded him, wounding and bruising.”38 The prophet then went and stood by the road, waiting for the king. He also disguised himself by putting a bandage down over his eyes. 39 When the king passed by, he called out to the king, “Your servant went out into the heat ▼
▼ Heb “middle.”of the battle, and then a man turned aside and brought me a prisoner. ▼
▼ Heb “man” (also a second time later in this verse).He told me, ‘Guard this prisoner. If he ends up missing for any reason, ▼
▼ Heb “if being missed, he is missed.” The emphatic infinitive absolute before the finite verbal form lends solemnity to the warning.you will pay with your life or with a talent ▼
▼ The Hebrew term כִּכָּר (kikkar, “circle”) refers generally to something that is round. When used of metals it can refer to a disk-shaped weight made of the metal or to a standard unit of weight, generally regarded as a talent. Since the accepted weight for a talent of metal is about 75 pounds, this would have amounted to about 75 pounds of silver.of silver.’ ▼
▼ Heb “your life will be in place of his life, or a unit of silver you will pay.”40 Well, it just so happened that while your servant was doing this and that, he disappeared.” The king of Israel said to him, “Your punishment is already determined by your own testimony.” ▼
▼ Heb “so [i.e., in accordance with his testimony] is your judgment, you have determined [it].”41 The prophet ▼ quickly removed the bandage from his eyes and the king of Israel recognized he was one of the prophets. 42 The prophet ▼ then said to him, “This is what the Lord says, ‘Because you released a man I had determined should die, you will pay with your life and your people will suffer instead of his people.’” ▼
▼ Heb “Because you sent away the man of my destruction [i.e., that I determined should be destroyed] from [my/your?] hand, your life will be in place of his life, and your people in place of his people.”43 The king of Israel went home to Samaria ▼ bitter and angry.
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