Study Guide

1 Kings Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

Ahab Defeats Ben-hadad, Then Gets Palsy-Walsy

  • Despite the Lord's command that Elijah anoint Hazael to be king of Syria, for whatever reason Ben-hadad is still king for the time being. He's at war with Ahab.
  • During a siege of Ahab's capital of Samaria, Ben-hadad sends a messenger to tell Ahab, "Here's what's up: All your silver and gold, and your prettiest wives and children are all mine now."
  • Ahab, who's obviously losing, says, "Okay, you win." He probably expects Ben-hadad to make Ahab his vassal, but let him keep his family and treasure with the understanding that it all really belongs to Ben-hadad.
  • But Ben-hadad's like, "No, I'm gonna send my people in there so they can take anything nice they see."
  • So now Ahab gathers his elders, and says, "What's with Ben-hadad? I agreed to surrender, but now he literally wants all my stuff. What do I do?"
  • His advisors are like, "Don't do it."
  • So Ahab tells Ben-hadad he won't settle for worse than political subjugation.
  • Ben-hadad is mad. He swears to take Ahab down.
  • Ahab's like, "I'll believe it when I see it."
  • So Ben-hadad commands his huge army to go against the city.
  • An unknown prophet comes to Ahab and tells him that the Lord is going to help him win the battle so he'll know that he's God.
  • How? The young nobles of Israel will follow Ahab into battle and defeat Ben-hadad.
  • Ahab gathers 232 young men at the head of his army of 7,000 Israelites and attacks Ben-hadad and his generals as they're inebriating themselves under the war tents they've set up in the hills around Samaria.
  • Ahab's army leaves no prisoners, and Ben-hadad barely escapes on horseback.
  • The prophet warns Ahab that Ben-hadad will return next spring to attack once again, so he'd better strengthen his defenses.
  • Ben-hadad's servants tell him that Israel must worship a hill god, and that's why they were so much stronger when they fought in the hills.
  • They suggest that Ben-hadad fight Israel in the plains, where their god (they suppose) won't be able to help them.
  • So that's what they do. That spring, a huge Syrian army goes out to meet the Israelite army in the plains.
  • Once again, a man of God tells Ahab that the Lord will give him victory to prove that he is God—and not just of the hills.
  • The Israelites kill 100,000 soldiers in a single day, and the Syrians flee to a city called Aphek.
  • There, a wall falls down on 27,000 soldiers. Big wall.
  • While Ben-hadad hides in the city, his advisors suggest that he surrender. They've heard that Israelite kings are merciful.
  • So the advisors go and ask Ahab to spare Ben-hadad's life. Ahab says, "Of course! He's my bro. Bring him on over."
  • So Ahab and Ben-hadad settle their differences, make some treaties, and part ways.
  • The Lord wanted Ahab to kill Ben-hadad, though, so he sets up a little lesson for Ahab.
  • A prophet disguises himself as a wounded soldier (he even gets someone to actually wound him, after some persuasion involving a killer lion) and covers his face with a bandage over his eyes.
  • When Ahab comes, he tells him, "King, I was fighting in the battle, but then someone told me to guard a prisoner, and that if he got away, I'd have to pay a talent of silver or die. But I got distracted during the battle, and he got away. Can you help me out here?"
  • But Ahab's like, "No way. You have to pay the price."
  • And the prophet's like, "Ah-hah!" He takes the bandage off his eyes, and Ahab recognizes him. "You let Ben-hadad get away instead of taking care of him like the Lord wanted. Now the Lord will take your life in place of his."
  • Ahab feels like a real dork, and goes home.

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