1 Kings 20:34
And Benhadad said unto him, The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria. Then said Ahab, I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with him, and sent him away.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(34) Make streets—properly, squares, or quarters of a city. This concession implies a virtual acknowledgment of supremacy; for the right to have certain quarters for residence, for trade, perhaps even for garrison, in the capital of a king, belongs only to one who has sovereignty over him. Hence it goes beyond the significance of the restoration of the cities—conquered, it would seem, from Omri, unless, indeed, taking “father” in the sense of predecessor, the reference is to the Syrian victories in the days of Baasha. (See 1Kings 15:20.) The narrative seems to convey an idea that the covenant was made hastily, on insufficient security. The great point, however, was that a war, victoriously conducted under prophetic guidance, should not have been concluded without prophetic sanction.

1 Kings 20:34. The cities which my father took from thy father — Either from Baasha, (1 Kings 15:20,) whom he calls Ahab’s father, because he was his predecessor in the government; or rather, from Omri, in whose time he probably made a successful invasion into the land of Israel, and took some more of the cities, and Aphek among the rest, though it be not elsewhere recorded in Scripture. And thou shall make streets in Damascus — Bishop Patrick tells us, that some suppose the word to signify market-places, where things were sold, the toll of which should belong to Ahab: others think he meant courts of judicature, where he should exercise a jurisdiction over the Syrians; others, what we now call a piazza, or rather, what by Rauwolff is called a caravansera, and by others a kane, that is, a great house, built like a cloister, round a great court-yard, and full of warehouses and apartments, in which foreign merchants are wont to live, or travellers to repair to, as to an inn, and of which Ahab was to receive the rents. It is probable, it was a quarter for his subjects to live in, and which he should possess, and over which he should enjoy the same jurisdiction, as he did with respect to the rest of his kingdom. Such a power granted in Samaria, and such a making over a part of it, to the father of Ben-hadad, and annexing it to the kingdom of Syria, with a right of building such idol temples as he thought fit, was a sufficient disgrace to the father of Ahab; as the proposing to give Ahab now a like honour in Damascus, was an expression of a very abject adulation in Ben-hadad.

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.Ben-hadad, secure of his life, suggests terms of peace as the price of his freedom. He will restore to Ahab the Israelite cities taken from Omri by his father, among which Ramoth Gilead was probably the most important 1 Kings 22:3; and he will allow Ahab the privilege of making for himself "streets," or rather squares, in Damascus, a privilege which his own father had possessed with respect to Samaria. Commercial advantages, rather than any other, were probably sought by this arrangement.

So he made a covenant with him ... - Ahab, without "inquiring of the Lord," at once agreed to the terms offered; and, without even taking any security for their due observance, allowed the Syrian monarch to depart. Considered politically, the act was one of culpable carelessness and imprudence. Ben-hadad did not regard himself as bound by the terms of a covenant made when he was a prisoner - as his after conduct shows 1 Kings 22:3. Ahab's conduct was even more unjustifiable in one who held his crown under a theocracy. "Inquiry at the word of the Lord" was still possible in Israel 1 Kings 22:5, 1 Kings 22:8, and would seem to have been the course that ordinary gratitude might have suggested.

34. streets for thee in Damascus—implying that a quarter of that city was to be assigned to Jews, with the free exercise of their religion and laws, under a judge of their own. This misplaced kindness to a proud and impious idolater, so unbecoming a theocratic monarch, exposed Ahab to the same censure and fate as Saul (1Sa 15:9, &c.). It was in opposition to God's purpose in giving him the victory. The cities which my father took from thy father; either,

1. From Baasha, 1 Kings 15:20, whom he calls Ahab’s father, because he was his legal father, i.e. his predecessor. Or,

2. From Omri; in whose time, it seems, he made a successful invasion into the land of Israel, and took some more of the cities, and Aphek amongst the rest, though it be not elsewhere recorded in Scripture.

Thou shalt make streets, or markets, &c., places where thou mayest either receive the tribute which I promise to pay thee, or exercise judicature upon my subjects in case of their refusal; or outlets (as the LXX. render it) in or into Damascus, i.e. some strong fort near Damascus, which might curb the kings of Damascus, and keep them from attempting any other invasion into the land of Israel. With this covenant: he takes no notice of his blasphemy against God, nor of the vast injuries which his people had suffered from him; but only minds his own grandeur, and the advancement of his power.

And Benhadad said unto him,.... The word Benhadad is not in the original text, and some, as Osiander and others, have thought they are the words of Ahab last spoken of; which seems most likely, who not only took Benhadad into his chariot, but in his great and superabundant kindness, though the conqueror, said to him what follows:

the cities which my father took from thy father I will restore; that is, those cities which Omri, the father of Ahab, had taken from the father of Benhadad; for as Omri was a prince of might and valour, 1 Kings 16:16, it is more probable that he took cities from the king of Syria, than that the king of Syria should take any from him, and which Ahab in his circumstances weakly promises to restore:

and thou shall make streets for thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria; which confirms it that it is Ahab, and not Benhadad, that is speaking; for Benhadad's father never had any power nor residence in Samaria, whereas Omri, the father of Ahab, had, he built it, and made it his royal seat; and, in like manner, Ahab promises Benhadad that he should have his palace at Damascus, the metropolis of Syria, and exercise power there, and over all Syria; whereby Ahab renounced all right he had to the kingdom, and any of the cities of it: for by "streets" are not meant those literally so called, for the making of which there was no reason; nor markets to take a toll from, as some, supposing them to be the words of Benhadad; nor courts of judicature, to oblige them to pay it who refused it, as others; nor fortresses to keep them in awe; but a royal palace, as a learned critic (t) has observed, for Benhadad to reside in; this Ahab gave him power to erect, and added:

and I will send thee away with this covenant; or promise now made:

so he made a covenant with him; confirmed the above promises:

and sent him away; free, to enjoy his crown and kingdom, for which folly and weakness Ahab is reproved by a prophet, 1 Kings 20:42.

(t) Vallandi Dissert. ad 1. Reg. xx. 33, 34. Subsect. 2. sect. 4.

And Benhadad said unto him, The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in {p} Damascus, as my father made in Samaria. Then said Ahab, I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with him, and sent him away.

(p) You shall appoint in my chief city what you will, and I will obey you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
34. This verse is very singular from the omission of the names of both the speakers. It is clear enough from the sense, to whom each clause must be assigned, but the omissions are so unusual that one can hardly help suspecting some error in the text. The LXX. joins the two clauses as though they were spoken by the same person.

make streets for thee in Damascus] This must signify that a portion of Damascus should be set apart as belonging to Israel, and that dwellings might be erected there for the use of such Israelites as should have need to go thither. That such a privileged quarter in a foreign city might be of great use for purposes of commerce we can readily imagine, and more so in those days and lands of caravans than in the western world. Probably ‘Lombard Street’ in London was originally a privileged part of the city, where the wealthy Lombard merchants established themselves.

Then, said Ahab, I will send thee away] R.V., And I, said Ahab, will let thee go. The verb is rendered ‘to let go’ in the application made by the son of the prophets in 1 Kings 20:42. It is better therefore to translate it in the same way here, and in the following clause of this verse ‘and let him go’.

with this covenant] The agreement, namely, for the restoration of the taken cities, and for the privilege of occupying part of Damascus with houses for Israelites. The language sets before us the easy way in which Ahab allowed the advantages of the victory to slip from his grasp. It seems too that Ben-hadad did not fulfil all his part of the covenant (see 1 Kings 22:3), and this may have been in consequence of the behaviour of Ahab, which would make the compact appear of little moment.

Verse 34. - And Ben-hadad said unto him The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will restore [We can hardly see in these words "the terms of peace which he is willing to offer as the price of his freedom" (Rawlinson), because he was absolutely at Ahab's mercy, and was not in a position to make any stipulations; but they express Ben-hadad's idea of the results which must follow the conquest. His utter defeat would necessitate this reconstruction of their respective territories, etc. We cannot be quite certain that the cities here referred to are those enumerated in 1 Kings 15:20, as taken by Ben-hadad's armies from Baasha. For Baasha was not the father, nor even was he the "ancestor" (as Keil, later edition) of Ahab, but belonged to a different dynasty. At the same time it is quite conceivable that a prince in Ben-hadad's position, in his ignorance or forgetfulness of the history of Israel, might use the word "father" improperly, or even in the sense of "predecessor." We know that אָב had a very extended signification.] Keil and Bahr, however, think that we have a reference to some war in the reign of Omri (cf. 1 Kings 16:27), which is not recorded in Scripture. And the words which follow make this extremely probable, inasmuch as in Baasha's days Samaria had no existence] ? and thou shalt make streets [חצות lit., whatever is without; hence streets, spaces, quarters] for thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria. [The commentators are agreed that a permission to establish bazaars or quarters, in which the Hebrews might live and trade, is here conceded]. Then said Ahab [These words are rightly supplied by our translators. The meaning would have been quite clear had the Hebrews been familiar with the use of quotation marks. For lack of these, all the versions ascribe the words to Ben-hadad], I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with him and sent him away. 1 Kings 20:34Benhadad, in order to keep Ahab in this favourable mood, promised to give him back at once the cities which his father had taken away from Ahab's father, and said, "Thou mayest make thyself roads in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria." There is no account of any war between Omri and Benhadad I; it is simply stated in 1 Kings 15:20 that Benhadad I had taken away several cities in Galilee from the Israelites during the reign of Baasha. This cannot be the war intended here, however, not indeed because of the expression אביך מאת, since אב might certainly be taken in a broader sense as referring to Baasha as an ancestor of Ahab, but chiefly on account of the statement that Benhadad had made himself roads in Samaria. This points to a war between Omri and Benhadad, after the building of Samaria into the capital of the kingdom, of which no account has been preserved. לו חצות שׂים, "to make himself roads," cannot be understood as referring either to fortifications and military posts, or to roads for cattle and free pasturage in the Syrian kingdom, since Samaria and Damascus were cities; not can it signify the establishment of custom-houses, but only the clearing of portions of the city for the purpose of trade and free intercourse (Cler., Ges. etc.), or for the establishment of bazaars, which would occupy a whole street (Bttcher, Thenius; see also Movers, Phnizier, ii. 3, p. 135). - "And I," said Ahab, "will let thee go upon a covenant" (a treaty on oath), and then made a covenant with him, giving him both life and liberty. Before ואני we must supply in thought אחאב ויּאמר. This thoroughly impolitic proceeding on the part of Ahab arose not merely from a natural and inconsiderate generosity and credulity of mind (G. L. Bauer, Thenius), but from an unprincipled weakness, vanity, and blindness. To let a cruel and faithless foe go unpunished, was not only the greatest harshness to his own subjects, but open opposition to God, who had announced to him the victory, and delivered the enemy of His people into his hand.

(Note: Clericus is correct in the explanation which he has given: "Although, therefore, this act of Ahab had all the appearance of clemency, it was not an act of true clemency, which ought not to be shown towards violent aggressors, who if released will do much more injury than before, as Benhadad really did. God had given the victory to Ahab, and delivered the guilty king into his hands, that he might inflict punishment upon him, not that he might treat him kindly. And Ahab, who had allowed so many prophets to be slain by his wife Jezebel, had no great clemency at other times.")

Even if Ahab had no express command from God to put Benhadad to death, as Saul had in 1 Samuel 15:3, it was his duty to punish this bitter foe of Israel with death, if only to secure quiet for his own subjects; as it was certainly to be foreseen that Benhadad would not keep the treaty which had been wrung from him by force, as was indeed very speedily proved (see 1 Kings 22:1).

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