1 Kings 20:31
And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) Ropes upon our heads—like “the ropes round the necks” of the burghers of Calais, in the days of Edward III. The envoys offer themselves as naked, helpless criminals, to sue for mercy.

1 Kings 20:31. We have heard that the kings of Israel are merciful kings — More merciful than others, because that religion, which they professed, taught them humanity, and obliged them to show mercy. Let us put sackcloth upon our loins, and ropes, &c. — As a testimony of our sorrow for undertaking this war; and that we have justly forfeited our lives for it, and shall submit to any punishment he may be pleased to inflict. This, it seems, was the habit in those times, in which supplicants presented themselves, when they petitioned for mercy. Peradventure he will save thy life — This encouragement have all poor sinners, to repent and humble themselves before God. The God of Israel is a merciful God; let us rend our hearts and return to him.

20:31-43 This encouragement sinners have to repent and humble themselves before God; Have we not heard, that the God of Israel is a merciful God? Have we not found him so? That is gospel repentance, which flows from an apprehension of the mercy of God, in Christ; there is forgiveness with him. What a change is here! The most haughty in prosperity often are most abject in adversity; an evil spirit will thus affect a man in both these conditions. There are those on whom, like Ahab, success is ill bestowed; they know not how to serve either God or their generation, or even their own true interests with their prosperity: Let favour be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness. The prophet designed to reprove Ahab by a parable. If a good prophet were punished for sparing his friend and God's when God said, Smite, of much sorer punishment should a wicked king be thought worthy, who spared his enemy and God's, when God said, Smite. Ahab went to his house, heavy and displeased, not truly penitent, or seeking to undo what he had done amiss; every way out of humour, notwithstanding his victory. Alas! many that hear the glad tidings of Christ, are busy and there till the day of salvation is gone.And ropes upon our heads - "Ropes about our necks" is probably meant. They, as it were, put their lives at Ahab's disposal, who, if he pleased, might hang them at once. 27-31. like two little flocks of kids—Goats are never seen in large flocks, or scattered, like sheep; and hence the two small but compact divisions of the Israelite force are compared to goats, not sheep. Humanly speaking, that little handful of men would have been overpowered by numbers. But a prophet was sent to the small Israelite army to announce the victory, in order to convince the Syrians that the God of Israel was omnipotent everywhere, in the valley as well as on the hills. And, accordingly, after the two armies had pitched opposite each other for seven days, they came to an open battle. One hundred thousand Syrians lay dead on the field, while the fugitives took refuge in Aphek, and there, crowding on the city walls, they endeavored to make a stand against their pursuers; but the old walls giving way under the incumbent weight, fell and buried twenty-seven thousand in the ruins. Ben-hadad succeeded in extricating himself, and, with his attendants, sought concealment in the city, fleeing from chamber to chamber; or, as some think it, an inner chamber, that is, a harem; but seeing no ultimate means of escape, he was advised to throw himself on the tender mercies of the Israelitish monarch. Merciful kings; more merciful than others, because that religion which they had professed taught them humanity, and obliged them to show mercy.

Sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads; as a testimony of our sorrow for undertaking this war; and that we have justly forfeited our lives for it, which we submit to their mercy.

And his servants said unto him,.... Being reduced to the utmost extremity; for if he attempted to go out of the city, he would fall into the hands of the Israelites, and there was no safety in it, the wall of it being fallen down; and it could not be thought he could be concealed long in the chamber where he was, wherefore his servants advised as follows:

behold, now, we have heard that the kings of the Israel are merciful kings; not only the best of them as David and Solomon, but even the worst of them, in comparison of Heathen princes, were kind and humane to those that fell into their hands, and became their captives:

let us, I pray thee; so said one in the name of the rest:

put sack cloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads; and so coming in such a mean and humble manner, and not with their armour on, they might the rather hope to have admittance; so, the Syracusans sent ambassadors to Athens, in filthy garments, with the hair of their heads and beards long, and all in slovenly habits, to move their pity (r);

and go out to the king of Israel: and be humble supplicants to him:

peradventure he will save thy life; upon a petition to him from him; to which the king agreed, and sent it by them.

(r) Justin e Trogo, l. 4. c. 4.

And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our {n} loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life.

(n) In sign of submission and that we have deserved death, if he will punish us with rigour.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
31. let us, I [R.V. we] pray thee] The change is made because the sentence is in other parts in the plural. The Hebrew נא is a mere particle employed to give emphasis to forms of entreaty, and has nothing that indicates whether one or more persons are speakers.

sackcloth on our loins] The garment of humiliation and mourning. Cp. Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31; 2 Kings 6:30; Isaiah 37:1-2.

ropes upon our heads] Probably meaning with ropes around the neck. No token of submission could be more expressive than this to indicate that Ahab might hang them if he pleased.

peradventure he will save thy life] A touch of Oriental character, which is destroyed by the LXX., which has ‘our lives’. The Eastern courtier, even at such a time, would speak of his master’s life and not his own. If the former were spared, the latter would be spared also, as a matter of course.

Verse 31. - And his servants [Possibly the very same men who (ver. 23) had counselled this second expedition] said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings [As no doubt they were when compared with contemporary pagan sovereigns]: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins [in token of humiliation and contrition, שַׂק is identical, radically, with σάκκος, saccus, and our sack], and ropes upon our heads [i.e., round our necks. To show how completely they were at Ahab's mercy. Bahr shows that this custom still exists in China but the well-known story of the citizens of Calais, after its siege by Edward III., supplies a closer illustration], and go out [Heb. go] to the king of Israel [It would appear from the language of ver. 33 am if Ahab's army was now besieging the place. He himself may have kept at a safe distance from it]: peradventure he will save thy life. [LXX. our lives, τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν.] 1 Kings 20:31In this extremity his servants made the proposal to him, that trusting in the generosity of the kings of Israel, they should go and entreat Ahab to show favour to him. They clothed themselves in mourning apparel, and put ropes on their necks, as a sign of absolute surrender, and went to Ahab, praying for the life of their king. And Ahab felt so flattered by the fact that his powerful opponent was obliged to come and entreat his favour in this humble manner, that he gave him his life, without considering how a similar act on the part of Saul had been blamed by the Lord (1 Samuel 15:9.). "Is he still alive? He is my brother!" was his answer to Benhadad's servants.
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