1 Kings 20

Ben-hadad attacks Samaria

1 Ben-hadad was the king of Aram. He got all his army together. He had 32 princes, with their horses and chariots. Then he went to Samaria. He put his army all round it and then he attacked it. 2 He sent people with messages into the city. They came to Ahab, who was the king of Israel. They said to Ahab, ‘This is what Ben-hadad says. 3 “Your silver and your gold are mine. Your children are mine and the best of your wives are mine.” ’ 4 This is what the king of Israel answered him. ‘It is as you say, my lord. You are the king of Syria. I, and everything that I have, are yours.’ 5 The people with messages came again. They said, ‘This is what Ben-hadad says. “I want your silver, your gold, your wives and your children. 6 At this time tomorrow, I will send my officers to look in your palace. They will also look in the houses of your officers. They will take everything that is valuable. They will carry it away with them.” ’

7 Then the king of Israel said that all the leaders in his country must come to him. He said to them, ‘You must know this. This man wants to cause trouble! I did not refuse when he asked for my wives and my children, my silver and my gold.’ 8 The leaders and the people answered, ‘Do not listen to him. Do not agree to what he demands.’ 9 So the king of Israel said to the people who brought messages from Ben-hadad, ‘Say this to my lord, king of Aram. “Your servant will do all that you demanded the first time. But I will not let you do what you demand now.” ’ So they left Ahab and they took the answer back to Ben-hadad. 10 Then Ben-hadad sent another message to Ahab. He said, ‘I want the gods to be cruel to me, if I am not very cruel! And I pray that it will happen! I will leave very little dirt in Samaria. There will not be enough dirt to fill the hands of each of my soldiers.’ 11 This was the king of Israel's answer. ‘Say to him, “If you put on a soldier's clothes, do not boast. When you take them off you may not have anything to boast about.” ’ 12 Ben-hadad received this message when he and his princes were drinking alcohol in their tents. So he said to his men, ‘Prepare to attack!’ So they prepared to attack the city called Samaria.

Ahab beats Ben-hadad

13 Then a prophet came to Ahab the king of Israel. He said, ‘The LORD is saying this to you. “Look at this very large army! You will beat them today. Then you will know that I am the LORD.” ’ 14 ‘But who will do this?’ asked Ahab. The prophet answered, ‘This is what the LORD says. “The young officers among the army leaders will do it.” ’ ‘Who will start the war?’ asked Ahab. The prophet answered, ‘You will.’ 15 So Ahab said that the young officers must come to him. There were 232 of them among the army leaders. Then he brought all the other Israelite soldiers together. There were 7000 of them.

16 They went out at noon to where the enemy's army was. Ben-hadad and his 32 princes were like drunks in their tents. 17 The young officers, from among the army leaders, went out first. Now Ben-hadad had put men to watch the enemy. They said, ‘Men are coming from Samaria.’ 18 Ben-hadad said, ‘If they want to stop the war, catch them alive. If they want to fight, catch them alive.’ 19 The young officers, from among the army leaders, marched out of the city called Samaria. The army marched behind them. 20 Each of the soldiers killed an enemy. When that happened, the soldiers from Aram ran away. The Israelites followed them. But Ben-hadad the king of Aram rode away on his horse. Some of his riders on horses went with him. 21 The king of Israel attacked the horses and chariots of the enemies, and he beat them. Many of the enemies died.

22 After the fight, the prophet came to the king of Israel. He said, ‘See what you must do to make your country strong. Do this, because next spring the king of Aram will attack you again.’ 23 Also, after the fight, some of the king of Aram's leaders spoke to him. ‘The gods of the Israelites are gods of the hills. That is why the Israelites were too strong for us. But if we fight them on flat ground, we will be stronger than them. 24 Do this. Remove all the princes from the army. Put other leaders in the army instead of them. 25 Also you must get an army the same size as the one that you lost. There must be the same number of horses and chariots. We will fight Israel on the flat ground. If we do that, surely, we will be stronger than them.’ Ben-hadad agreed with them. And he did what they had suggested.

26 The next spring, Ben-hadad brought together his army of soldiers from Aram. They went to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 Ahab brought all the Israelite army together and he gave enough food to them for the war. They marched out to meet the enemies. The tents of the Israelites were like two small groups of goats. The soldiers from Aram covered all the land because there were so many. 28 God's servant came to the king of Israel. He told the king, ‘This is what the LORD says. “The men from Aram think that the LORD is a god of the hills. They think that he is not a god of the valleys. But you will know that I am the LORD of both. You will know that, because I will give this very large army to you.” ’ 29 For 7 days, the two armies stayed in their tents, on different sides of the flat ground. On the 7th day, the war started. The Israelites killed 100,000 soldiers from Aram on one day. These soldiers did not have horses. 30 The other soldiers ran to the city of Aphek. There, a wall fell on 27,000 of them. Ben-hadad hurried into the city and he hid in a room inside one of the houses.

31 Some of his leaders said to Ben-hadad, ‘We have heard that the kings of the family of Israel are kind men. We should go to the king of Israel. We will wear short, hairy trousers and we will put thick pieces of line on our heads. Maybe Ahab will not kill you.’ 32 So they put on short hairy trousers. They put thick lines on their heads. They went to the king of Israel and they said, ‘Your servant Ben-hadad says, “Please let me live.” ’ The king Ahab answered, ‘Is he still alive? He is like my brother.’ 33 So the men hoped that they would get a friendly answer. They answered him quickly. ‘Yes! Ben-hadad is like your brother’, they said. ‘Go and fetch him’, the king said. When Ben-hadad came out from Aphek, Ahab got him up into his chariot. 34 Ben-hadad said, ‘I will give you the cities that my father took from your father. You can have your own markets in Damascus, as my father had in Samaria.’ Ahab answered, ‘We will agree to do this and you can go home a free man.’ So they agreed together, and Ahab let Ben-hadad go home.

A prophet brings a message to King Ahab

35 The word of the LORD ordered one of the sons of the prophets to say this to another prophet. ‘Hit me with your stick.’ But the man refused. 36 So the prophet said, ‘You have not obeyed the LORD, so a lion will kill you. It will happen soon after you leave me.’ And after the man went away, a lion did find him. The lion killed him. 37 The prophet found another man. He said, ‘Hit me, please.’ So the man hit him and hurt him. 38 Then the prophet went and he stood by the road. He was waiting for king Ahab. He did not seem like a prophet, because he pulled his hat down over his eyes. 39 The king passed the prophet, who shouted to him, ‘Your servant went into the worst part of the war. Someone came to me with a soldier of the enemy's army that he had caught. He said, “Do not let this man run away. If he does, you will die. Or you must pay a talent of silver.” 40 But your servant was busy. He did several things. While he did them, the man ran away.’ ‘That is your problem’, the king of Israel said. ‘You have said yourself what will happen.’ 41 Then the prophet quickly took the hat from his eyes. And the king of Israel recognised that the man was one of the prophets. 42 The prophet said to the king, ‘This is what the LORD is saying to you. “I decided that a man should die. But you have let him go free. So, it is your life for his life, and your people for his people.” ’ 43 So the king went to his palace in Samaria. He was angry and he would not speak to people.

Notes about chapter 20

20:43Verse 1. Aram is another name for Syria. It was a country north of Israel. Verse 24. The princes had lost the fight. So Ben-hadad chose proper army leaders instead.
20:43Verse 26. Bible students think that Aphek was on flat ground.
20:43Verse 28. The servant of God in this verse may not be the prophet in verses 13 and 22. Bible students are not sure.
20:43Verse 31. ‘The family of Israel’ means the family of Israel's kings. These leaders knew that Ahab had beaten them. That is why they wore those clothes. Maybe the ropes were round their necks.
20:43Verse 32. ‘like my brother’ means that both of them were kings.
20:43Verse 35. The ‘sons of the prophets’ was a group of prophets. The prophet wanted people to think that someone had hurt him in the war.
20:43Verse 36. The lion punished the prophet's friend because he did not obey ‘the word of the LORD’.
20:43Verse 42. ‘your life for his life’ means that Ahab would die.