Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.The Partial Exclusion of God
1 Kings 20:28
I. There are scenes with which we naturally associate God; and how true that was of the Syrians a glance will show us. It was among the hills that Israel fought them; it was on the rough hillside that Israel conquered. For us no less than for the Syrians there is a suggestion of God about the hills. It was on a hill that our Saviour blessed the world with the priceless preaching of the Sermon on the Mount. And on a hill-top having said farewell He ascended to the mansions of His Father. Somehow right through the Bible story there clings to the hills the thought of the Divine. As it is with nature so it is with our lives, for they, too, have got their hill-tops mystical. There are great hours when we rise above ourselves and in such hours God is not far away. For just as the fierce north wind catches the clouds and drives them apart till through the gap we see the sun, so our great sorrows and joys and passions and despairs scatter the clinging mists and show us God.
II. We are often blind to God just where He is most active. You see at once how true that was of the Syrians. They saw Him on the wild torrent-swept hills, but not in the tenanted and fertile valleys. They denied the Infinite in its sweetest revelation, and were blind to God just where He was most active. Perhaps we are all in danger of that sin, as the Syrians were, even in regard to nature. There are certain set places we can admire enthusiastically, but to all the rest of God's world we are half-blind. The man who can see hardly needs to go abroad. The wonder and bloom of the world are at his hand. But perhaps our great danger lies in ignoring God in the valley-lands of common life. It is far easier to see God upon the hills than to discern His presence in the valleys. It is far easier to see Him in the crisis than to detect His going in our common days, yet He is never nearer than in these simple duties that meet us every morning when we rise, in these common joys that consecrate our homes, in these common burdens that we all must bear.
III. To exclude God always spells disaster, in friendship and home and State, even in business. And the more a man prospers in a godless business, the worse is the disaster in the eye of heaven. Exclude God altogether if you will, but do not give Him the hills and Keep the valleys. That did not save the Syrians in the battle, and it will not keep you and me from being lost.
—G. H. Morrison, The Unlighted Lustre, p. 144.
Business Here and There
1 Kings 20:40
The words of the text are a part of a parable spoken by the prophet to King Ahab. The King of Syria had been given over to the hands of Ahab, whose duty it was, for the sake of the religion of God and of the people of Israel, that Ben-hadad, the king, should be slain. Instead of that, in a moment of weakness, weakness which cost Israel dear, the king let Ben-hadad go free, and the words of the text are really a portion of a parable spoken by the prophet against the act of the king. Now we will get away from the context, and look upon our own age.
I. A Busy Age.—It is, all will acknowledge, a busy age. It is a mere truism to tell you that the life you lead is a busy one, it is from Monday morning till Saturday night full of business; but the warning which the prophet gives the king is quite as good for you as it was for Ahab. 'And as thy servant was busy here and there the great opportunity was gone.' It does not require much paraphrasing. Now in a great town it is business that holds sway. We are all of us conscious of the evil influence that this rush and hurry has on our spiritual life. In our better moments we are ashamed to think how very far behind business religion comes. We try, some of us at any rate, to climb the steep incline to heaven with a burden tied to our back. Is it to be wondered at that your steps are feeble and tottering and faint? Religion strikes most of us as a thing for heaven only. It is for the eternal spheres and not for the temporal. 'Business is the thing here,' you say. It requires the exercise of moral qualities. A man must be honest, his integrity must be above reproach, he must be truthful, he must be diligent. These are moral qualities which in themselves are glorious, but after all they are not the best qualities, are they? How about unselfishness, meekness, considerateness for other people, purity, rightness of motive, do they thrive on the milk of business? No, business does not touch them because they are higher than business.
II. What will Business Do for You?—It will give you a certain amount of comfort. Quite so, it will. It will give you a fair share of pleasure. Yes, there is nothing wrong in that. It will give you a certain influence with your fellow-men. That is right; there is nothing wrong in that. But what more can business give you? Can it give you anything that you will take away when you go to a better realm than this? No; I will tell you why. The things of business are temporal, and when the things of time finish, the things of business end. Therefore whatever you gain here in quantity you must leave behind. There is no arguing with it. All the credit that a man has got will end when his will is proved, and it is known that he has left so many thousands. Notice the word. He is leaving them. He does not benefit. The issues of business have to do with quantity, not quality; with time, not with eternity.
III. 'Good Business.'—There is nothing in the Bible against making a man a diligent business man. Diligence, skill, perseverance, will always have their due reward. The business man who is a Christian should be second to none. The working man who is a Christian should need no watching. The servant man or the servant girl who are Christians should be above complaint, because the Christian, whatever his sphere, should be the very best.
IV. The Noblest Standard.—Now it is very practical for us to consider that religion after all is the only thing that gives us the noblest standard of purity. The noblest standard of purity is to be had in the religion of Jesus Christ, and in the religion of Jesus Christ only. Religion demands truthfulness. You cannot be a Christian and a liar at the same time. You must be absolutely truthful in word and deed. Religion is utterly opposed to the modern fashion of putting on appearances, trying to induce people to think that you are what you are not. Religion will not permit you to start a dishonest business. You cannot, if you are a religious man, start your business on a fictitious character. Let no man go beyond and defraud his brother in anything. That is religion. Be busy; be as busy as you can; be diligent, work hard in the fear of God and in the love of Christ. You will not then lose your opportunity. No, you will be busy here and there, but the love of Christ will be in your hearts. You will be better Christians and better business men, and in the long run, when the adding up and counting is done, you will find the incorruptible crown which God, the righteous Judge shall give you.
References.—XX. 40.—J. Angell James, The Penny Pulpit, No. 1938. XXI. 1-10.—J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Feast Days, p. 27. XXI. 19, 20.—C. Kingsley, Town and County Sermons, p. 317. XXI. 20.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Holytide Teachings, p. 128. XXI. 29.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sunday After Trinity, part i. p. 283.
And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Benhadad,
Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine.
And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have.
And the messengers came again, and said, Thus speaketh Benhadad, saying, Although I have sent unto thee, saying, Thou shalt deliver me thy silver, and thy gold, and thy wives, and thy children;
Yet I will send my servants unto thee to morrow about this time, and they shall search thine house, and the houses of thy servants; and it shall be, that whatsoever is pleasant in thine eyes, they shall put it in their hand, and take it away.
Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land, and said, Mark, I pray you, and see how this man seeketh mischief: for he sent unto me for my wives, and for my children, and for my silver, and for my gold; and I denied him not.
And all the elders and all the people said unto him, Hearken not unto him, nor consent.
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.
And Benhadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.
And the king of Israel answered and said, Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.
And it came to pass, when Benhadad heard this message, as he was drinking, he and the kings in the pavilions, that he said unto his servants, Set yourselves in array. And they set themselves in array against the city.
And, behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? And he answered, Thou.
Then he numbered the young men of the princes of the provinces, and they were two hundred and thirty two: and after them he numbered all the people, even all the children of Israel, being seven thousand.
And they went out at noon. But Benhadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings, the thirty and two kings that helped him.
And the young men of the princes of the provinces went out first; and Benhadad sent out, and they told him, saying, There are men come out of Samaria.
And he said, Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive.
So these young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed them.
And they slew every one his man: and the Syrians fled; and Israel pursued them: and Benhadad the king of Syria escaped on an horse with the horsemen.
And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.
And the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said unto him, Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest: for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come up against thee.
And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.
And do this thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place, and put captains in their rooms:
And number thee an army, like the army that thou hast lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot: and we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. And he hearkened unto their voice, and did so.
And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Benhadad numbered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel.
And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, and went against them: and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country.
And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
And they pitched one over against the other seven days. And so it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined: and the children of Israel slew of the Syrians an hundred thousand footmen in one day.
But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and there a wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left. And Benhadad fled, and came into the city, into an inner chamber.
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.
So they girded sackcloth on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said, Thy servant Benhadad saith, I pray thee, let me live. And he said, Is he yet alive? he is my brother.
Now the men did diligently observe whether any thing would come from him, and did hastily catch it: and they said, Thy brother Benhadad. Then he said, Go ye, bring him. Then Benhadad came forth to him; and he caused him to come up into the chariot.
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.
And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.
Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him, and slew him.
Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him.
So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face.
And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king: and he said, Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold, a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver.
And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it.
And he hasted, and took the ashes away from his face; and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets.
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.
And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.