And he said to him, Thus said the LORD, Because you have let go out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)A man whom I appointed—properly, a man under my curse. The rash action of Ahab, like the deliberate disobedience of Saul (1 Samuel 15), may have been due partly to compassion, partly to weakness. In either case it had no right to stand unauthorised between God’s judgment and him on whom it was pronounced; for even soft-heartedness, as in the case of Eli, may be treason to the cause of righteousness. The prophet (like Elisha, in 2Kings 13:19) speaks partly as a patriot, jealous—and, as the event proved, with a sagacious jealousy—of the lenity which left the deadly enemy of Israel unsubdued; but he speaks also as the representative of God’s stern and righteous judgment. which Ahab, after signal deliverance, had treated as of no account. (For the fulfilment of his words, see 1Kings 22:34-36.)1 Kings 20:42. Thus saith the Lord, Because, &c. — “What was the great sin of Ahab in this action, for which God so severely punished him?” The great dishonour hereby done to God, in suffering so horrid a blasphemer to go unpunished, which was contrary to an express law, Leviticus 24:16. And God had delivered him into Ahab’s hand, for his blasphemy, as he promised to do, (1 Kings 20:28,) by which act of his providence, compared with that law, it was most evident that this man was appointed by God to destruction. But Ahab was so far from punishing this blasphemer, that he did not so much as rebuke him, but dismissed him upon easy terms, and took not the least care for the reparation of God’s honour. And the people were punished for their own sins, which were many and great; though God took this occasion to inflict the punishment. The former part of this decree of God, Thy life shall go for his life, was fulfilled three years after, when Ahab was killed in a battle against the Syrians, 1 Kings 22:1-40. But the latter, And thy people for his people, was deferred till the reign of Hazael, who fulfilled it by the wars he had with the Israelites, and the slaughter he made of them, 2 Kings 10:32-33.Leviticus 27:28 note). Quest. What was the great sin of Ahab in this action for which God so severely punisheth him?
Answ. The great dishonour hereby done to God in suffering so horrid a blasphemer, 1 Kings 20:23, to go unpunished, which was, contrary to an express law, Leviticus 24:16.
Object. What is this to Ben-hadad, seeing that law concerned Israelites only?
Answ. It reached both to them that were born in the land, and (as is there expressed) unto strangers that were among them, and in their power, which was Ben-hadad’s case; for God had delivered him into Ahab’s hand for his blasphemy, as he promised to do, 1 Kings 20:28, by which act of his providence, especially compared with that law, it was most evident that this man was appointed by God to destruction, as is here said. But Ahab was so far from punishing this blasphemer, that he doth not so much as rebuke him, but treats him like a friend and a brother; dismisseth him upon easy terms, and takes his word for the performance, and takes not the least care for the reparation of God’s honour, but only for the amplification of his own power.
Thy people for his people.
Quest. Why were the people punished for Ahab’s sin?
Answ. 1. Because Ahab was punished in the loss of his people.
2. The people were punished for their own sins, which were many and great; though God took this occasion to inflict it.
3. The great injury and mischief was hereby done to his own people, who by this most foolish and wicked act were exposed to all those rapines and slaughters which Ben-hadad either did commit, or might have committed, against them afterwards; of which consequently Ahab was guilty. And it must be considered that all the Israelites were the Lord’s peculiar people; nor did their apostacy from God deprive God of his right; and the kings of Israel and Judah had these committed to them, in way of trust, to be governed and protected by them. And therefore Ahab for this gross breach of his trust was justly liable, though not to the censures of his people, yet to the hand of God, who was his King and Governor.
because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction; meaning Benhadad; or "the man of my anathema or curse" (w); cursed of God for his blasphemy of him, and devoted by him to ruin on that account; or "of my net" (x), being by his providence brought into a net or noose at Aphek, out of which he could not have escaped, had not Ahab let him go:
therefore thy life shall go for his life; as it shortly did, and that by the hand of a Syrian soldier, 1 Kings 22:34,
and thy people for his people; which was fulfilled by Hazael king of Syria, the sins of Israel rendering them deserving of the calamities they endured by his means, see 2 Kings 8:12.And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)42. a man] R.V. the man. For the whole multitude, and of course the king above all, had been delivered into Ahab’s hand (see 1 Kings 20:28), and the victory was to be an evidence that Jehovah had fought for Israel.
appointed to utter destruction] R.V. devoted to destruction. This was the purpose for which Ben-hadad had been brought into Ahab’s hand. The literal rendering is ‘the man of my banning’, whom I have laid under a ban. It is used Isaiah 34:5 ‘the people of my curse’.Verse 42. - And he said onto him. Thus saith the lord, Because thou hast let go [Heb. sent away; same word as in ver; 34. This is an in direct proof that those were the words of Ahab] out of thy hand [Heb. out of hand - same idiom in 1 Samuel 26:23 - i.e., power, possession. Cf. Genesis 32:12; Exodus 18:9; Numbers 35:25] a man whom I appointed to utter destruction [Heb. a man of my devoting. Cf. Isaiah 34:5; Zechariah 14:11. It is the word used of the Canaanites and their cities, Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 7:2; Joshua 8:26; Joshua 10:28; and it gave a name to the city Hormah, Numbers 21:3; Numbers 14:45. Ben-hadad, therefore, was doomed of God], therefore thy life shall go for [Heb. be instead of] his life, and thy people for his people. [By the lex talionis. It was probably because of this denunciation (cf. 1 Kings 22:8) that Josephus identifies this prophet with Micaiah, the son of Imlah, "whom Ahab appears to have imprisoned on account of some threatening prophecy (Rawlinson). See 1 Kings 22:9, 26. For the fulfilment o! this prediction see ch. 22. It has seemed to some writers as if Ahab were here very hardly dealt with for merely gratifying s generous impulse, and dealing magnanimously with a conquered foe. Indeed, there are commentators who see in his release of the cruel and insolent tyrant s "trait which does honour to the heart of Ahab." But it is to be remembered, first, that Ahab was not free to do as he liked in this matter. His victories had been won, not by his prowess, by the skill of his generals, or the valour of his soldiers, but by the power of God alone. The war, that is to say, was God's war: it was begun and continued, and should therefore have been ended, in Him. When even the details of the attack had been ordered of God (ver. 14), surely He should have been consulted as to the disposal of the prisoners. The prophet who promised Divine aid might at any rate have been asked - as prophets constantly were in that age (1 Kings 22:5, 8) - what was the "word of the Lord" concerning Israel's overbearing and inveterate enemy. But Ahab, who had himself played so craven a part (vers. 21, 31), and who had contributed nothing to these great and unhoped-for victories, nevertheless arrogated to himself their fruits, and thereby ignored and dishonoured God. Secondly, if he had so little regard for his own private interests as to liberate such a man as Ben-hadad, he ought, as trustee for the peace and welfare of Israel, to have acted differently. The demand of ver. 6 should have revealed to him the character of the man he had to deal with. And lastly, he was acting in defiance of all the principles and precedents of the Old Testament dispensation. For one great principle of that dispensation was the lex talionis. The king was the authorized dispenser of rewards and punishments, not only to wicked subjects but to aggressive nations. It was his duty to mete out to them the measure they had served to Israel. And the precedents were all in favour of putting such wretches as this Ben-hadad to the sword (Joshua 10:26; Judges 7:25; 1 Samuel 15:33). If he had been the first oppressor who fell into the hands of Israel, Ahab might have had some excuse. But with the fate of Agog, of Adonibezek, of Oreb and Zeeb, in his memory, he ought at any rate to have paused and asked counsel of God before taking Ben-hadad into his chariot and sending him away with a covenant of peace, to reappear at no distant period on the scene as the scourge of the Lord's people.] 1 Kings 20:35, 1 Kings 20:36. A disciple of the prophets received instructions from God, to announce to the king that God would punish him for letting Benhadad go, and to do this, as Nathan had formerly done in the case of David (2 Samuel 12:1.), by means of a symbolical action, whereby the king was led to pronounce sentence upon himself. The disciples of the prophets said to his companion, "in the word of Jehovah," i.e., by virtue of a revelation from God (see at 1 Kings 13:2), "Smite me;" and when the friend refused to smite him, he announced to him that because of this disobedience to the voice of the Lord, after his departure from him a lion would meet him and smite him, i.e., would kill him; a threat which was immediately fulfilled. This occurrence shows with how severe a punishment all opposition to the commandments of God to the prophets was followed, as a warning for others; just as in the similar occurrence in 1 Kings 13:24.
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