Ben Hadad Invades Israel

1 Now King Ben Hadad of Syria assembled all his army, along with thirty-two other kings with their horses and chariots. He marched against Samaria1 and besieged and attacked it.2 2 He sent messengers to King Ahab of Israel, who was in the city.3 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 servantshouses. They will carry away all your valuables.”4 7 The king of Israel summoned all the leaders5 of the land and said, “Notice how this man is looking for trouble.6 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.”7 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.’”8 So the messengers went back and gave their report.

10 Ben Hadad sent another message to him, “May the gods judge me severely9 if there is enough dirt left in Samaria for my soldiers to scoop up in their hands.”10 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.”11 12 When Ben Hadad received this reply,12 he and the other kings were drinking in their quarters.13 He ordered his servants, “Get ready to attack!” So they got ready to attack the city.

The Lord Delivers Israel

13 Now a prophet visited King Ahab of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says, ‘Do you see this huge army?14 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?”15 He answered, “This is what the Lord says, ‘By the servants of the district governors.’” Ahab16 asked, “Who will launch the attack?” He answered, “You will.”

15 So Ahab17 assembled the 232 servants of the district governors. After that he assembled all the Israelite army, numbering 7,000.18 16 They marched out at noon, while Ben Hadad and the thirty-two kings allied with him were drinking heavily19 in their quarters.20 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.”21 18 He ordered, “Whether they come in peace or to do battle, take them alive.”22 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;23 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 defeated24 Syria.

The Lord Gives Israel Another Victory

22 The prophet25 visited the king of Israel and instructed him, “Go, fortify your defenses.26 Determine27 what you must do, for in the spring28 the king of Syria will attack29 you.” 23 Now the advisers30 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.31 Then we will fight them in the plains; we will certainly overpower them.” He approved their plan and did as they advised.32

26 In the spring33 Ben Hadad mustered the Syrian army34 and marched to Aphek to fight Israel.35 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 flocks36 of goats, but the Syrians filled the land. 28 The prophet37 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.38 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.39 Now Ben Hadad ran into the city and hid in an inner room.40 31 His advisers41 said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of the Israelite dynasty are kind.42 Allow us to put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads43 and surrender44 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 servant45 Ben Hadad says, ‘Please let me live!’” Ahab46 replied, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”47 33 The men took this as a good omen and quickly accepted his offer, saying, “Ben Hadad is your brother.” Ahab48 then said, “Go, get him.” So Ben Hadad came out to him, and Ahab pulled him up into his chariot. 34 Ben Hadad49 said, “I will return the cities my father took from your father. You may set up markets50 in Damascus, just as my father did in Samaria.”51 Ahab then said, “I want to make a treaty with you before I dismiss you.”52 So he made a treaty with him and then dismissed him.

A Prophet Denounces Ahab’s Actions

35 One of the members of the prophetic guild, speaking with divine authority, ordered his companion, “Wound me!”53 But the man refused to wound him. 36 So the prophet54 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.55 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 heat56 of the battle, and then a man turned aside and brought me a prisoner.57 He told me, ‘Guard this prisoner. If he ends up missing for any reason,58 you will pay with your life or with a talent59 of silver.’60 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.”61 41 The prophet62 quickly removed the bandage from his eyes and the king of Israel recognized he was one of the prophets. 42 The prophet63 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.’64 43 The king of Israel went home to Samaria65 bitter and angry.

120:1map For location see Map2-B1; Map4-D3; Map5-E2; Map6-A4; Map7-C1. 220:1tn Heb “and he went up and besieged Samaria and fought against it.” 320:2tn Heb “to the city.” 420:6tn Heb “all that is desirable to your eyes they will put in their hand and take.” 520:7tn Heb “elders.” 620:7tn Heb “Know and see that this [man] is seeking trouble.” 720:8tn Heb “Do not listen and do not be willing.” 820:9tn Heb “all which you sent to your servant in the beginning I will do, but this thing I am unable to do.” 920:10tn Heb “So may the gods do to me, and so may they add.” 1020:10tn Heb “if the dirt of Samaria suffices for the handfuls of all the people who are at my feet.” 1120:11sn 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.” 1220:12tn Heb “When he heard this word.” 1320:12tn Heb “in the temporary shelters.” This is probably referring to tents. 1420:13tn Heb “this great horde.” 1520:14tn The words “will this be accomplished” are supplied in the translation for clarification. 1620:14tn Heb “he”; the referent (Ahab) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 1720:15tn Heb “he”; the referent (Ahab) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 1820:15tn Heb “after them he assembled all the people, all the sons of Israel, seven thousand.” 1920:16tn Heb “drinking and drunken.” 2020:16tn Heb “in the temporary shelters.” This is probably referring to tents. 2120:17map For location see Map2-B1; Map4-D3; Map5-E2; Map6-A4; Map7-C1. 2220:18tn Heb “if they come in peace, take them alive; if they come for battle, take them alive.” 2320:20tn Heb “each struck down his man.” 2420:21tn Heb “struck down Aram with a great striking down.” 2520:22tn The definite article indicates previous reference, that is, “the prophet mentioned earlier” (see v. 13). 2620:22tn Heb “strengthen yourself.” 2720:22tn Heb “know and see.” 2820:22tn Heb “at the turning of the year.” 2920:22tn Heb “go up against.” 3020:23tn Or “servants.” 3120:25tn Heb “And you, you muster an army like the one that fell from you, horse like horse and chariot like chariot.” 3220:25tn Heb “he listened to their voice and did so.” 3320:26tn Heb “at the turning of the year.” 3420:26tn Heb “mustered Aram.” 3520:26tn Heb “and went up to Aphek for battle with Israel.” 3620:27tn 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. 3720:28tn Heb “the man of God.” 3820:28tn Heb “I will place all this great horde in your hand.” 3920:30tn Heb “and the remaining ones fled to Aphek to the city and the wall fell on twenty-seven thousand men, the ones who remained.” 4020:30tn Heb “and Ben Hadad fled and went into the city, [into] an inner room in an inner room.” 4120:31tn Or “servants.” 4220:31tn 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. 4320:31sn 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. 4420:31tn Heb “go out.” 4520:32sn 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. 4620:32tn Heb “he”; the referent (Ahab) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 4720:32sn He is my brother. Ahab’s response indicates that he wants to make a parity treaty and treat Ben Hadad as an equal partner. 4820:33tn Heb “he”; the referent (Ahab) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 4920:34tn Heb “he”; the referent (Ben Hadad) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 5020:34tn Heb “streets,” but this must refer to streets set up with stalls for merchants to sell their goods. See HALOT 299 s.v. חוּץ. 5120:34map For location see Map2-B1; Map4-D3; Map5-E2; Map6-A4; Map7-C1. 5220:34tn 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.” 5320:35tn Heb “Now a man from the sons of the prophets said to his companion by the word of the Lord, ‘Wound me.’” 5420:36tn Heb “he”; the referent (the prophet) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 5520:37tn Heb “and the man wounded him, wounding and bruising.” 5620:39tn Heb “middle.” 5720:39tn Heb “man” (also a second time later in this verse). 5820:39tn Heb “if being missed, he is missed.” The emphatic infinitive absolute before the finite verbal form lends solemnity to the warning. 5920:39tn 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. 6020:39tn Heb “your life will be in place of his life, or a unit of silver you will pay.” 6120:40tn Heb “so [i.e., in accordance with his testimony] is your judgment, you have determined [it].” 6220:41tn Heb “he”; the referent (the prophet) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 6320:42tn Heb “he”; the referent (the prophet) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 6420:42tn 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.” 6520:43map For location see Map2-B1; Map4-D3; Map5-E2; Map6-A4; Map7-C1.