1 Kings 20:18
And he said, Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.Ben-hadad sent out, and they told him - The Septuagint has a better reading: "they sent and told the king of Syria." 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.

He bids them not fight; for he thought they needed not to strike one stroke, and that the Israelites could not stand the first brunt. And he said, whether they be come out for peace,.... To propose terms of peace:

take them alive; make them prisoners, which was contrary to the laws of nations:

or whether they be come out for war, take them alive; he made no doubt of their being easily taken; but he would not have them be put to death, that he might examine them, and know the state of things in Samaria, and what Ahab intended to do, that he might take his measures accordingly.

And he said, Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. take them alive] Whatever their mission might be Ben-hadad had no doubt that his followers could surround them and capture them without fighting. They could have no difficulty in overpowering so insignificant a force. Why he wished for the capture rather than the slaughter of the Israelites is not so evident. It might be only with a view of making it clear that there was no need to cut off any troops sent against them; by mere force of numbers they could overpower them and make them prisoners.Verse 18. - And he said, Whether they be come out for peace [i.e., to negociate or to submit], take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive. [We may trace in these words, possibly the influence of wine, but certainly the exasperation which Ahab's last message had occasioned the king. So incensed is he that he will not respect the rights of ambassadors, and he is afraid lest belligerents should be slain before he can arraign them before him. Possibly he meant that they should be tortured or slain before his face.] After this reply of Ahab, Benhadad gave command to attack the city, while he was drinking with his kings in the booths. סכּות are booths made of branches, twigs, and shrubs, such as are still erected in the East for kings and generals in the place of tents (vid., Rosenmller, A. u. N. Morgenl. iii. pp. 198-9). שׂימוּ: take your places against the city, sc. to storm it (for שׂים in the sense of arranging the army for battle, see 1 Samuel 11:11 and Job 1:17); not οἰκοδομήσατε χάρακα (lxx), or place the siege train.
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