1 Kings 20:1
And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.
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(1) Ben-hadad.—This is the inherited title of the Syrian kings. (See Amos 1:4; Jeremiah 49:27.) From the allusion in 1Kings 20:34 it appears that this Ben-hadad was the son of a king who had been victorious against Omri—possibly pushing still further the advantage gained in the time of Baasha. It is evident that he assumed, perhaps by inheritance, a sovereignty over Israel.

Thirty and two kings.—All the notices of Syria show it as divided into small kingdoms, confederated from time to time under some leading power. In the days of David this leading power was that of Hadadezer of Zobah (2Samuel 8:3-13; 2Samuel 10:19), although Hamath was apparently independent. Now Damascus, under the dynasty of Hadad, assumes a most formidable predominance. Ahab cannot stand before it, but shuts himself up, probably after defeat, within the strong walls of Samaria.

(2–4) And he sent.—This message and the answer of Ahab (“My lord, O king”) are the assertion and acceptance of Syrian sovereignty over Israel: all the possessions and the family of the vassal are acknowledged to be the property of his superior lord. Ahab surrenders, but not at discretion. Ben-hadad refuses all qualified submission.

1 Kings 20:1. Gathered all his host — To war against Israel: wherein his design was to enlarge the conquest which his father had made; but God’s design was to punish Israel for their apostacy and idolatry. There were thirty and two kings with him — Petty kings, such as were in Canaan in Joshua’s time, who indeed were no more than governors of cities or small territories: these were either subject or tributary to Ben-hadad, or hired by him. He were up and besieged Samaria — He did not actually besiege it; for his army was routed before he could do it. But the sense is, He went up in order to besiege it.

20:1-11 Benhadad sent Ahab a very insolent demand. Ahab sent a very disgraceful submission; sin brings men into such straits, by putting them out of the Divine protection. If God do not rule us, our enemies shall: guilt dispirits men, and makes them cowards. Ahab became desperate. Men will part with their most pleasant things, those they most love, to save their lives; yet they lose their souls rather than part with any pleasure or interest to prevent it. Here is one of the wisest sayings that ever Ahab spake, and it is a good lesson to all. It is folly to boast of any day to come, since we know not what it may bring forth. Apply it to our spiritual conflicts. Peter fell by self-confidence. Happy is the man who is never off his watch.Ben-hadad, the king of Syria - Probably the son of the Ben-hadad who assisted Asa against Baasha (1 Kings 15:18 note).

Thirty and two kings with him - Not allies, but feudatories 1 Kings 20:24. Damascus had in the reign of this Ben-hadad become the center of an important monarchy, which may not improbably have extended from the Euphrates to the northern border of Israel. The Assyrian inscriptions show that this country was about the period in question parcelled out into a multitude of petty kingdoms, the chief tribes who possessed it being the Hittites, the Hamathites, and the Syrians of Damascus.

Horses and chariots - The Assyrian inscriptions show us how very important an arm of the service the chariot force was reckoned by the Syrians. A king, who has been identified with this Ben-hadad, brought into the field against Assyria nearly four thousand chariots.


1Ki 20:1-12. Ben-hadad Besieges Samaria.

1. Ben-hadad the king of Syria—This monarch was the son of that Ben-hadad who, in the reign of Baasha, made a raid on the northern towns of Galilee (1Ki 15:20). The thirty-two kings that were confederate with him were probably tributary princes. The ancient kings of Syria and Phœnicia ruled only over a single city, and were independent of each other, except when one great city, as Damascus, acquired the ascendency, and even then they were allied only in time of war. The Syrian army encamped at the gates and besieged the town of Samaria.Ben-hadad, not content with Ahab’s homage, besiegeth Samaria, 1 Kings 20:1-12. By the direction of a prophet the Syrians are twice beaten, and Ben-hadad hides himself, 1 Kings 20:13-30. The Syrians submit themselves, and Ahab maketh a covenant with Ben-hadad, 1 Kings 20:31-34. The prophet by a parable reproveth Ahab, and denounceth judgments against him 1 Kings 20:35-43.

Ben-hadad; called Adad by Josephus, and Ader by the LXX., and Adores by Justin; such changes of names being usual in their translations into other languages, and by other authors.

Gathered all his host together, to war against Israel; wherein his design was to amplify the conquests which his father had made, 1 Kings 15:20, but God’s design was to punish Israel for their apostacy and idolatry. Thirty and two kings; petty kings, such as were in Canaan in Joshua’s time, who indeed were no more than governors of cities or small territories. These were either subject or tributary to Ben-hadad, or hired by him.

And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together,.... This was Benhadad the second, the son of that Benhadad, to whom Asa sent to help him against Baasha, 1 Kings 15:18.

and there were thirty and two kings with him; these were heads of families, so called, and at most governors of cities under Benhadad; petty princes, such as were in the land of Canaan in Joshua's time:

and horses and chariots; how many is not said:

and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it; he went up with such an intent, but had not as yet done it in form; what moved him to it cannot be said precisely, whether an ambitious view of enlarging his dominions, or because the king of Israel paid not the tribute his father had imposed upon him, see 1 Kings 20:34, however, so it was, through the providence of God, as a scourge to Ahab for his impiety.

And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two {a} kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.

(a) That is, governors and rulers of provinces.

Ch. 1 Kings 20:1-12. Ben-hadad king of Syria besieges Samaria. His messages to Ahab (Not in Chronicles)

1. In the LXX. Chapters 20. and 21. are transposed, apparently with a view of bringing the history in which Elijah plays a part into closer connexion. Josephus also adopts the same order of events in his history. See Ant. viii. 13. 8 and viii. 14. i.

Ben-hadad the king of Syria] See above on 1 Kings 15:18. The LXX. always translates the first syllable of this name, writing υἱὸς Ἄδερ. There is nothing to help us to conclude with certainty whether the Ben-hadad of this verse was the same who made a treaty with Asa king of Judah against Baasha king of Israel. Between the death of Baasha and the beginning of Ahab’s reign was only about 14 years, so that it is not impossible that he may be the same Ben-hadad mentioned before, but perhaps the probability is in favour of his being a son or grandson with the same name.

gathered all his host together] The LXX. adds here ‘and went up and besieged Samaria,’ and repeats nearly the same words in the next verse.

thirty and two kings with him] These would be princes from the different provinces of Aram (Syria) over whom Ben-hadad at Damascus would be lord superior. They would probably include princes from among the Hittites and Hamathites, who dwelt near at hand and who would be in alliance or perhaps tributaries.

and horses] The LXX. gives πᾶς ἵππος ‘all his cavalry.’

besieged Samaria] Josephus says that Ahab did not feel equal to meeting his powerful adversary in the field and so shut up himself, and all that he could collect, in the strongest fortresses in the land, himself continuing in Samaria as the best defended.

and warred (R.V. fought) against it] The change of rendering is made because the verb is nearly always translated ‘fight’ elsewhere. It is so rendered in 1 Kings 20:23; 1 Kings 20:25 of this chapter.

Verse 1. - And Ben-hadad [See on 1 Kings 11:14 and 1 Kings 15:18. The LXX. uniformly spells the name Ader (υἱὸςἌδερ). The form אֲדַד is found in 1 Kings 11:17, and ד and ר are frequently interchanged; cf. Genesis 25:15; Genesis 36:39 with 1 Chronicles 1:30, 46. We learn from ver. 34 that this prince was the son of a Syrian king who had conquered some of the cities of Israel, but we cannot nevertheless be certain that he was the son of that Ben-hadad (1 Kings 15:18) who invaded Israel in the reign of Baasha (Ewald), See on ver. 34.] the king of Syria gathered all his host [See note on 1 Kings 10:2, where we have same word] together: and there were thirty and two kings with him [Evidently these were vassals, not allied powers. The number alone proves that they must have been petty princes or chieftains of Hittite tribes, ruling over very limited districts' and all acknowledging the suzerainty of the king of Damascus, all paying tribute (1 Kings 10:25) and furnishing a contingent in time of war "The Assyrian inscriptions show that this country was, about the period in question, parcelled out into a number of petty kingdoms," etc. (Rawlinson. See "Records of the Past," vol. 12. p. 20)], and horses, and chariots [Heb. horse and chariot; cf. ver. 21 and 1 Kings 1:5; 1 Kings 10:26; 1 Kings 16:9, etc. Both are collective nouns. We see here the fruit and retribution of Solomon's irreligious policy (1 Kings 10:29 and Homiletics, p. 216). "A king who has been probably identified with this Ben-hadad brought into the field against Assyria nearly 4000 chariots" (Rawlinson)]: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. [The object of this expedition was clearly to humble and to plunder the kingdom of Samaria. It would almost appear, from the animus of the Syrian king and the studied offensiveness of his messages, as if Ahab or Israel must have given him dire offence. But Ben-hadad was clearly a vain and overbearing and tyrannical prince, and the only crime of Israel may have been that it was independent of him, or had refused to do him homage.] 1 Kings 20:1The First Victory. - 1 Kings 20:1. Benhadad, the son of that Benhadad who had conquered several cities of Galilee in the reign of Baasha (1 Kings 15:20), came up with a great army - there were thirty-two kings with him, with horses and chariots - and besieged Samaria. The thirty-two kings with him (אתּו) were vassals of Benhadad, rulers of different cities and the territory belonging to them, just as in Joshua's time almost every city of Canaan had its king; they were therefore bound to follow the army of Benhadad with their troops.
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