1 Kings 20:14
And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? And he answered, Thou.
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(14) Who shall order the battle?—The marginal reading seems right, “Who shall give battle?” “Who shall begin the fray?”

1 Kings 20:14. By the young men of the princes, &c. — The Hebrew word נערי, nagnaree, here rendered young men, is ambiguous, and may mean either the sons or the servants of the princes of the provinces. It was not by old, experienced soldiers, but by those young men, who had lived delicately, and perhaps had never seen a fight, that this battle was to be won; in order that it might appear that the victory was wholly due to God’s gracious providence, and not to the valour or worthiness of the instruments. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? — Or, as some understand the words, Who shall begin the fight, they or we? Shall we make a sally, or wait till they assault us? He answered, Thou — The prophet bids the king begin and lead them on, partly to encourage the young men to fight courageously, as being in the presence of their prince; and partly to try whether Ahab would thus far trust God, or not.

20:12-21 The proud Syrians were beaten, and the despised Israelites were conquerors. The orders of the proud, drunken king disordered his troops, and prevented them from attacking the Israelites. Those that are most secure, are commonly least courageous. Ahab slew the Syrians with a great slaughter. God often makes one wicked man a scourge to another.The "princes of the provinces" are the governors of districts, many of whom may have fled to the capital, as the hostile army advanced through Galilee and northern Samaria. The "young men" are their attendants, youths unaccustomed to war.

Who shall order the battle? - i. e., "Who shal join battle, begin the attack? We or the enemy?" The reply was, that the Israelites were to attack.

1Ki 20:13-20. The Syrians Are Slain.

13-21. behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab—Though the king and people of Israel had highly offended Him, God had not utterly cast them off. He still cherished designs of mercy towards them, and here, though unasked, gave them a signal proof of His interest in them, by a prophet's animating announcement that the Lord would that day deliver the mighty hosts of the enemy into his hand by means of a small, feeble, inadequate band. Conformably to the prophet's instructions, two hundred thirty-two young men went boldly out towards the camp of the enemy, while seven thousand more, apparently volunteers, followed at some little distance, or posted themselves at the gate, to be ready to reinforce those in front if occasion required it. Ben-hadad and his vassals and princes were already, at that early hour—scarcely midday—deep in their cups; and though informed of this advancing company, yet confiding in his numbers, or it may be, excited with wine, he ordered with indifference the proud intruders to be taken alive, whether they came with peaceful or hostile intentions. It was more easily said than done; the young men smote right and left, making terrible havoc among their intended captors; and their attack, together with the sight of the seven thousand, who soon rushed forward to mingle in the fray, created a panic in the Syrian army, who immediately took up flight. Ben-hadad himself escaped the pursuit of the victors on a fleet horse, surrounded by a squadron of horse guards. This glorious victory, won so easily, and with such a paltry force opposed to overwhelming numbers, was granted that Ahab and his people might know (1Ki 20:13) that God is the Lord. But we do not read of this acknowledgment being made, or of any sacrifices being offered in token of their national gratitude.

By the young men of the princes of the provinces; not by old and experienced soldiers, but by those young men; either the sons of the princes and great men of the land, who were generally fled thither for safety; or their pages or servants that used to attend upon them, who are bred up delicately, and seem unfit for the business.

He answered, Thou, partly to encourage the young men to fight courageously, as being in the presence of their prince; and partly that it might appear that the victory was wholly due to God’s gracious and powerful providence, and not to the valour or worthiness of the instruments.

And Ahab said, by whom?.... Knowing he had no army with him sufficient to go out with against the Syrian army:

and he said, thus saith the Lord, even by the young men of the princes of the provinces; either such, as Kimchi thinks, who were brought up with him; or, as others, the sons of governors of provinces, who were kept as hostages, that their fathers might not rebel; neither of which is likely: but rather the servants of such princes who waited on them, and lived delicately and at ease, and were not trained up to military exercise, even by these should the victory be obtained:

then he said, who shall order the battle? begin the attack, we or they? or who shall conduct it, or be the general of the army, go before it, and lead them on? Ahab might think, being an idolater, that the Lord would not make use of him, or otherwise who could be thought of but himself?

and he answered, thou; thou must be the commander, go forth with the army, and make the attack upon the enemy.

And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? And he answered, Thou.
14. the young men of the princes of the provinces] The LXX. gives υἱοὶ τῶν ἡγεμόνων, ‘sons of the leaders’, and Josephus nearly the same. ‘The princes of the provinces’ were probably chieftains who had come from various parts of the kingdom of Israel. The ‘young men’ would be their attendants or squires. Evidently they are selected as persons who had no great experience though they might have the courage to go, few in number, against a much superior force.

Who shall order the battle] The verb, as is seen from the margin of A.V., means ‘to bind’ or ‘tie’. The R.V. taking this to apply to the bringing of the armies together has rendered begin. Instead of remaining within the walls, God encourages Ahab to be the first to strike a blow. Humanly speaking, even, such a step was likely to meet with some success. Josephus says Ahab was to lead because of the inexperience of the young men.

Verse 14. - And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the Lord [Observe the repetition. He is careful to give special prominence to the sacred name, as the only help in trouble (Psalm 20:1, 5, 7, etc.)], Even by the young men [or servants - נַעַר has both meanings, corresponding with παῖς (cf. Genesis 37:2; 2 Kings 5:20; 2 Kings 8:4] of the princes of the provinces. [The local governors (cf. 1 Kings 4:7; 1 Kings 10:15), on the approach of Ben hadad, had apparently fled to the capital. Whether these "young men" were their "pages" (Thenius), or even were "young lads" (Ewald) at all, or, on the contrary, a "select body of strong young men" (Bahr), the bodyguard of the various governors (2 Samuel 18:15) (Von Gerlach), may be doubtful; but when Bahr says that Ahab would not have consented to appoint weak boys to lead the van, at least without remonstrance, he must have forgotten that all the ordinary means at Ahab's disposal were equally insufficient, and that in themselves 200 or 2000 tried veterans would have been just as inadequate a force as 200 pages. The agency by which the victory was won was purposely weak and feeble (per turbam imbellem), in order that the work might be seen to be of God (cf. Judges 7:2; 1 Corinthians 1:27, 29). And this consideration makes against the supposition that the attacking body was composed of tried and skilful warriors.] Then he said, Who shall order [Heb. bind; we speak of "joining battle"] the battle? [The meaning is - not, "who shall command this force," but, "which side shall begin the fray?"] And he answered, Thou [i.e., thy band of young men shall make the attack.] 1 Kings 20:14While the Syrians were preparing for the attack, a prophet came to Ahab and told him that Jehovah would deliver this great multitude (of the enemy) into his hand that day, "that thou mayest know that I am Jehovah," and that through the retainers of the governors of the provinces (המּדינות שׂרי, who had fled to Samaria), i.e., by a small and weak host. In the appearance of the prophet in Samaria mentioned here and in 1 Kings 20:28, 1 Kings 20:35. there is no such irreconcilable contradiction to 1 Kings 18:4, 1 Kings 18:22, and 1 Kings 19:10, as Thenius maintains; it simply shows that the persecution of the prophets by Jezebel had somewhat abated, and therefore Elijah's labour had not remained without fruit. מי יאסר הם, who shall open the battle? אסר answers to the German anfdeln (to string, unite; Eng. join battle - Tr.); cf. 2 Chronicles 13:3.
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