1 Kings 20:9
Why he said to the messengers of Benhadad, Tell my lord the king, All that you did send for to your servant at the first I will do: but this thing I may not do. And the messengers departed, and brought him word again.
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1 Kings 20:9-11. This thing I may not do — If I would do it, I cannot; because my people will not suffer it. If the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls, &c. — If I do not assault thy city with so potent and numerous an army, as shall turn it all into a heap of dust, and shall be sufficient to carry it all away, though every soldier take but one handful of it. See the like boast, 2 Samuel 17:13. The king of Israel said, Let not him that girdeth, &c. — Do not triumph before the victory, for the events of war are uncertain.20:1-11 Benhadad sent Ahab a very insolent demand. Ahab sent a very disgraceful submission; sin brings men into such straits, by putting them out of the Divine protection. If God do not rule us, our enemies shall: guilt dispirits men, and makes them cowards. Ahab became desperate. Men will part with their most pleasant things, those they most love, to save their lives; yet they lose their souls rather than part with any pleasure or interest to prevent it. Here is one of the wisest sayings that ever Ahab spake, and it is a good lesson to all. It is folly to boast of any day to come, since we know not what it may bring forth. Apply it to our spiritual conflicts. Peter fell by self-confidence. Happy is the man who is never off his watch."The people" had no distinct place in the ordinary Jewish or Israelite constitution; but they were accustomed to signify their approbation or disapprobation of the decisions of the elders by acclamations or complaints (Joshua 9:18; Judges 11:11, etc.). 2-12. Thus said Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine—To this message sent him during the siege, Ahab returned a tame and submissive answer, probably thinking it meant no more than an exaction of tribute. But the demand was repeated with greater insolence; and yet, from the abject character of Ahab, there is reason to believe he would have yielded to this arrogant claim also, had not the voice of his subjects been raised against it. Ben-hadad's object in these and other boastful menaces was to intimidate Ahab. But the weak sovereign began to show a little more spirit, as appears in his abandoning "my lord the king" for the single "tell him," and giving him a dry but sarcastic hint to glory no more till the victory is won. Kindling into a rage at the cool defiance, Ben-hadad gave orders for the immediate sack of the city. This thing I may not do; if I would do it, I cannot, because my people will not suffer it. Wherefore he sent unto the messengers of Benhadad,.... Upon the advice the elders had given him, and encouraged thereby, though in a poor sneaking manner after all:

tell my lord the king, all that thou didst send for to thy servant at the first I will do; owning him as his lord, and himself as his servant, and promising to grant his first demand, though so insolent, in the sense he understood him, of paying tribute to him for it:

but this thing I may not do; to have not only all put into his hands, but his and his servant's houses to be searched and pillaged, because the elders of his people would not agree; and yet he seems to speak as if he himself would have submitted to it, but was restrained by his council:

and the messengers departed, and brought him word again; reported to Benhadad the answer they received from Ahab.

Wherefore he said unto the messengers of Benhadad, Tell my lord the king, All that thou didst send for to thy servant at the first I will do: but this thing I may not do. And the messengers departed, and brought him word again.
9. Tell my lord the king] The LXX. says ‘your lord’. The Hebrew accords better with the generally submissive conduct of Ahab throughout the whole narrative. The picture of the power of the Israelitish king is not very magnificent. Even in this final answer he speaks of himself as Ben-hadad’s ‘servant’.Verse 9. - Wherefore [Heb. and] he said unto the mcaeengers of Ben-hadad, Tell my lord the king [He still employs the same obsequious language as in ver. 4], All that thou didst send for to thy servant at the first I will do: but this thing I may [Heb. can] not do [At first sight it appears as if Ahab objected to the search (ver. 6), i.e., plunder, of his house and capital much more than to the surrender of his wives to shame and of his children to slavery. But we must remember that a man is ready to promise almost anything in his extremity, and that we do not know what construction he put, or would have claimed to put, upon Ben-hadad's first demand, had that monarch consented to revert to these conditions, or by what means he hoped to evade it]. And the messengers departed, and brought him [Ben-hadad, not Ahab, as Rawlinson imagines] word again. [Not the "word related in the next verse" (Rawlinson), but the message just recorded.] During the siege Benhadad sent messengers into the city to Ahab with this demand: "Thy silver and thy gold are mine, and the best of thy wives and thy sons are mine;" and Ahab answered with pusillanimity: "According to thy word, my lord king, I and all that is mine are thine." Benhadad was made still more audacious by this submissiveness, and sent messengers the second time with the following notice (1 Kings 20:6): "Yea, if I send my servants to thee to-morrow at this time, and they search thy house and thy servants' houses, all that is the pleasure of thine eyes they will put into their hands and take." אם כּי does not mean "only equals certainly" here (Ewald, 356, b.), for there is neither a negative clause nor an oath, but אם signifies if and כּי introduces the statement, as in 1 Kings 20:5; so that it is only in the repetition of the כּי that the emphasis lies, which can be expressed by yea. The words of Ahab in 1 Kings 20:9 show unquestionably that Benhadad demanded more the second time than the first. The words of the first demand, "Thy silver and thy gold," etc., were ambiguous. According to 1 Kings 20:5, Benhadad meant that Ahab should give him all this; and Ahab had probably understood him as meaning that he was to give him what he required, in order to purchase peace; but Benhadad had, no doubt, from the very first required an unconditional surrender at discretion. He expresses this very clearly in the second demand, since he announces to Ahab the plunder of his palace and also of the palaces of his nobles. כּל־מחמד עניך, all thy costly treasures. It was from this second demand that Ahab first perceived what Benhadad's intention had been; he therefore laid the matter before the elders of the land, i.e., the king's counsellors, 1 Kings 20:7 : "Mark and see that this man seeketh evil," i.e., that he is aiming at our ruin, since he is not contented with the first demand, which I did not refuse him.
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