1 Kings 20

Ben-Hadad attacks Samaria

1 Ben-Hadad was the king of Syria. He got all his army together. 32 other kings with their horses and chariots joined with him. He went to attack the city of Samaria. He put his army all around it and then he attacked it. 2 He sent men to take a message to Ahab, the king of Israel, who was in the city. 3 The message said: ‘This message is from King Ben-Hadad. He says, “Your silver and your gold now belong to me. Your best wives and your strongest children will also be mine.” ’

20:1Syria was a country north of Israel.

4 The king of Israel replied, ‘My master, the king, I agree with what you have said. I, and everything that I have, belongs to you.’

5 Ben-Hadad's men then took another message to Ahab. They said to him, ‘This is what Ben-Hadad says: “I already told you that you must give me your silver, your gold, your wives and your children. 6 At this time tomorrow, I will send my officers to look for things in your palace. They will also look in the houses of your officers. They will take away everything that is valuable.” ’

7 Then King Ahab told all the leaders of Israel to come to him. He said to them, ‘See what this man is doing! He wants to cause trouble! He asked me to give him my wives, my children, my silver and my gold. And I did not refuse to do it.’ 8 The leaders and the people answered King Ahab, ‘Do not listen to that man. Do not agree to do what he is asking for.’

9 So King Ahab said to the men who brought the messages from King Ben-Hadad, ‘Say this to my master, the king of Syria: “I agree to do everything that you asked for the first time. But I will not let you take the other things that you want.” ’

So the men took Ahab's answer back to Ben-Hadad. 10 Then Ben-Hadad sent men with another message to Ahab. He said, ‘I promise that my soldiers will completely destroy Samaria! There will be nothing left! There will not even be enough dirt to fill the hands of each of my soldiers. I pray that the gods will punish me very much if that does not happen!’ 11 The king of Israel replied, ‘Tell King Ben-Hadad, “Do not boast when you are preparing for a battle. Wait until the battle has finished and you know that you have won.” ’

12 When Ben-Hadad received Ahab's message, he and the other kings were drinking wine in their tents. Ben-Hadad told his officers, ‘Prepare to attack!’ So they prepared to attack the city of Samaria.

The Lord rescues Israel

13 Then a prophet came to Ahab, the king of Israel. He said, ‘The Lord says this to you: “Look at Ben-Hadad's great army! Today I will put them under your power. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” ’ 14 King Ahab asked, ‘But who will fight this battle?’ The prophet answered, ‘This is what the Lord says: “The young soldiers who are under the authority of each region's officer will do it.” ’ Then Ahab asked, ‘Who will lead them into the battle?’ The prophet answered, ‘You will do that.’

15 So Ahab brought together the young soldiers of each region. There were 232 of them. Then he brought together the whole Israelite army. There were 7,000 of them.

16 The soldiers marched out of Samaria at noon. Ben-Hadad and the 32 other kings were still drinking in their tents. They were drunk. 17 The young soldiers of each region's officers went in front of the Israelite army.

Ben-Hadad had sent men out to watch the Israelites. They told him, ‘Men are marching out from Samaria.’ 18 Ben-Hadad commanded, ‘If they are coming to make peace with me, catch them alive. If they have come out to fight a battle, do the same thing.’

19 The Israelites marched out of the city as the young soldiers led the whole army. 20 Each of the Israelite soldiers killed one of the enemy's soldiers. Then the Syrian soldiers ran away as the Israelites chased them. Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria, rode away on his horse and he escaped. Some of his soldiers who rode on horses went with him. 21 Then the king of Israel came out of the city and he attacked the Syrian horses and chariots. He destroyed them and he won the battle against the Syrian army.

22 After the battle, the prophet came to the king of Israel again. He said to him, ‘Now go and make your army strong. Decide what you need to do. Do this, because next spring the king of Syria will attack you again.’

23 At the same time, some of the king of Syria's officers said to him, ‘The gods of the Israelites are gods who live in the hills. That is why the Israelites were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the lower ground, we will surely be stronger than them. 24 You should do this: Remove all the other kings. Put your own officers to lead the army instead. 25 Bring together enough men to make an army as big as the one that lost the battle. There must be the same number of horses and chariots. Then we will fight the Israelites on the low ground. If we do that, we will surely be stronger than them.’ Ben-Hadad agreed with them. He did what they had suggested.

26 The next spring, King Ben-Hadad brought together the men for his army. The Syrian army marched to Aphek to fight against the Israelites. 27 King Ahab brought together the Israelite army and he gave them food and weapons. Then they marched out to fight against the Syrian army. The Israelite soldiers stood there in two groups. They looked like two small groups of goats! The Syrian soldiers were so many that they covered all the land around.

28 God's servant, the prophet, went to the king of Israel. He said to the king, ‘This is what the Lord says: “The Syrians think that the Lord is a god who lives only in the hills. They think that he has no authority in the valleys. But I will give you power over all their great army. Then you will know that I am the Lord” ’

29 For seven days, the two armies stayed in their camps where they could see each other. On the seventh day, the battle started. The Israelites killed 100,000 Syrian soldiers on that one day. 30 The other soldiers ran back to Aphek. When they went into the city, the city wall fell on 27,000 of them. King Ben-Hadad also ran into the city. He hid in a room at the back of a house.

31 Some of Ben-Hadad's officers said to him, ‘We have heard that the family of kings who rule Israel are kind men. We should show that we are sorry. We will tie sackcloth around our bodies. We will put ropes around our heads. Then maybe King Ahab will let you live.’ 32 So they tied sackcloth around themselves. They put ropes around their heads. They went to the king of Israel and they said, ‘Your servant Ben-Hadad says, “Please let me live.” ’ King Ahab asked, ‘Is Ben-Hadad still alive? He is like my own brother.’ 33 When Ben-Hadad's men heard this, they thought that it was a friendly answer. So they quickly agreed, ‘Yes! Ben-Hadad is like your own brother.’ King Ahab said, ‘Go and fetch him.’

20:32They wore these clothes to show that they were sorry. Maybe they put the ropes around their necks.
20:32‘like my brother’ means that both of them were equal as kings.

So Ben-Hadad came out from Aphek city. Ahab took him up into his chariot. 34 Ben-Hadad said, ‘I will give back to you the cities that my father took from your father. Your traders can have their own markets in Damascus, as my father had in Samaria.’ Ahab answered, ‘If you do that, I will agree to let you go as a free man.’ So King Ahab made an agreement with King Ben-Hadad. Then he let him go home.

A prophet warns King Ahab

35 At this time, the Lord gave a message to a prophet who belonged to a group of prophets. He told the prophet to say to one of his friends, ‘Hit me with your stick.’ But his friend refused to do it. 36 So the prophet said to him, ‘You have not obeyed the Lord's command. Because of that, a lion will kill you as soon as you leave here.’ After the man left the prophet, a lion attacked him and it killed him.

20:35The prophet wanted people to think that someone had hurt him in the battle.

37 Then the prophet found another man. He said to him, ‘Please hit me!’ So the man hit him. He hurt the prophet very much. 38 Then the prophet went and he stood beside the road. He was waiting for king Ahab to come. He tied a cloth over his eyes so that the king would not recognize him.

39 When the king came along the road, the prophet shouted to him, ‘Please sir, I went to fight in the middle of the battle. Then someone brought an enemy soldier to me as a prisoner. He said to me, “Keep this prisoner safe. If he escapes for any reason, you will die! To save your life, you will have to pay 3,000 silver coins.” 40 But I had other things to do, sir. While I was doing them, the prisoner escaped.’

King Ahab replied, ‘What you have just said shows that you deserve your punishment.’

41 Then the prophet quickly took away the cloth that covered his eyes. The king recognized that the man was one of the prophets. 42 The prophet said to the king, ‘This is what the Lord says to you: “I decided that a man should die, but you have let him go free. So you must pay for his life with your life. Your people will receive the trouble that his people deserved.” ’

43 So King Ahab of Israel went home to his palace in Samaria. He was angry and upset.