Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
THE DEEDS OF AHAB
1 KINGS 20, 21, 22
A.—The Victories of Ahab over the Syrians
1AND Ben-hadad2 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. 2And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city,3 and said unto him, Thus saith Ben-hadad, 3Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest,4 are mine. 4And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have. 5And the messengers came again, and said, Thus speaketh Ben-hadad, saying, Although5 I have sent unto thee, saying, Thou shalt deliver me thy silver, and thy gold, and thy wives, and thy children; 6yet 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,6 they shall put it in their hand,and take it away. 7Then 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,7 and for my silver, and for my gold; and I denied him not. 8And all the elders and all the people said unto him, Hearken not unto him, nor8 consent. 9Wherefore he said unto the messengers of Ben-hadad, Tell my9 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 10brought him word again. And Ben-hadad sent unto him, and said, The gods10 do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls11 for all the people that follow me. 11And 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. 12And it came to pass, when Ben-hadad 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.
13And behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], 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 [Jehovah]. 14And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order [begin12] the battle? And he answered, Thou. 15Then 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. 16And 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. 17And the young men of the princes of the provinces went out first; and Ben-hadad sent out, and they told him, saying, There are men come out of Samaria. 18And he said, Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive. 19So these young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed them. 20And they slew every one his man15: and the Syrians fled; and Israel pursued them: and Ben-hadad the king of Syria escaped on an horse with the horsemen. 21And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.
22And 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. 23And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they16 were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. 24And do this thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place, and put captains in their rooms: 25and 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. 26And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Ben-hadad numbered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel. 27And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present [were provided for17], and went against them: and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country. 28And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], Because the Syrians have said, The Lord [Jehovah] 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 ye18 shall know that I am the Lord [Jehovah]. 29And 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. 30But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and there a [the19] wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left. And Ben-hadad fled, and came into the city, into an inner chamber.
31And his servants said unto him,20 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. 32So they girded sackcloth on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said, Thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live. And he said, Is he yet alive? he is my brother. 33Now the men did diligently observe whether any thing would come from him [and the men interpreted this favorably21], and did hastily catch it:22 and they said, Thy brother Ben-hadad. Then he said, Go ye, bring him. Then Ben-hadad came forth to him; and he caused him to come up into the chariot. 34And Ben-hadad 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,23 I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with him, and sent him away.
35And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbor in the word of the Lord [Jehovah], Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him. 36Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the Lord [Jehovah], 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. 37Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him. 38So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face 39[with a band over his eyes24]. 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 sil1 Kings 20:40And 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. 41And he hasted, and took the ashes away from his face [band away from his eyes]; and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets. 42And he said unto him, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], 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. 43And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.
Exegetical and Critical
1 Kings 20:1–9. And Ben-hadad. &c. The entire account of chap. 20. was derived, as we have already remarked, from a different source than chaps. 17, 18, and 19. There can be no other reason for our author’s having introduced it here than this, that the victory of Ahab over the Syrians occurred previous in time to the execution of Naboth (chap. 21), which gave occasion for the reappearance of Elijah.—Concerning Ben-hadad, see 1 Kings 15:18. The thirty-two kings were not rulers over entire territories, but were lords of single cities and their districts (cf.Jos. 12:7), vassals (Grotius: reguli in clientela ipsius), who paid tribute to Ben-hadad, and in the event of war, were obliged to furnish auxiliaries. The cause and aim of the expedition was, according to 1 Kings 20:3, to plunder Ahab, and make him a vassal. הַטּוֹבִים can hardly refer, as Thenius and Keil would have it, to wives and sons, but only to the latter; by them are meant not Ahab’s own sons, but the best, that is, the most eminent young men of the city or the country, whom Ben-hadad demanded as hostages. The import of his message was, “surrender to me all these, and I will withdraw.” When Ahab, without hesitation, consented so submissively and timorously, Ben-hadad grew only the more audacious and insolent in his demands; he was sorry for having demanded so little, and he now threatens to give over the king’s palace and the dwellings of the king’s servants to be plundered (the pillaging of the entire city can hardly be meant, as Keil and Kimchi think).—Whatsoever is pleasant in thine eyes,i.e., not merely silver and gold, but everything costly and valuable. According to Maurer, Gesenius, Keil, and others, כִּי, of 1 Kings 20:5, serves, like ὃτι, only to introduce the oratio directa; and כִּי before אִם, 1 Kings 20:6, is a repetition for the sake of emphasis merely; אִם, however, meaning in that place “when;” better Thenius: “כּיִ, 1 Kings 20:5, serves to strengthen the assertion; כִּי אִם, 1 Kings 20:6, to strengthen it still more, so that the latter is, according to the sense, to be rendered: but since Ben-hadad increases his demand.” The elders of the land (1 Kings 20:7), in distinction from the elders of the city (1 Kings 21:8), being the highest officials, perhaps, had their court at their residences, or, upon the approach of Ben-hadad, had betaken themselves thither with their treasures. Ahab calls them together to say to them: Ben-hadad is not satisfied with my treasures, he wants yours also. רָעָח does not here mean “mischief” (Luther: how malevolent his purpose is), but “disaster,” “destruction:” he intends to ruin us completely.
1 Kings 20:10–12. And Ben-hadad sent unto him, &c., 1 Kings 20:10. He seeks, by boasting in the genuine oriental style, to overawe Ahab (cf.2 Sam. 17:13); the import of his words is, My army is so large that if, in the impending desolation of Samaria, every one of my people desired to take away with him only a handful of rubbish, many would have to go back empty-handed. The explanation of the Rabbins and the Chaldean: Si suffecerit pulvis Somron, ut feratur soleis plantarum pedum populi qui mecum est, is incorrect, since שֹׁעָל in Isai. 40:12; Ezek. 13:19, the only other places where the wore occurs, means not vola pedis, but the hollow of the hand. Just as incorrect is the interpretation of Josephus: “He could, with his army, cast up a dike higher than his walls were, if every one of his people contributed only a handful of earth.” Ahab’s somewhat defiant response, expressed in words of a proverb, 1 Kings 20:11, proceeded, perhaps, from the elders, who were much more determined and courageous, and were willing to await the utmost. The import of the proverb is the Latin: ne triumphum canas ante victoriam; the German: Verkaufe das Fell des Bären nicht, bevor du ihn hast. Let not him who is arming for the fight, boast as though he had already laid aside his weapons, i.e., had gained the victory. The סֻכּוֹת, 1 Kings 20:12, in which the drinking-bout occurred, were not tents of sailcloth, but huts made of branches of trees, like those put up to-day for the Turkish pashas and Agas on their expeditions (Keil, Rosenmüller A. u. N. Morgenland III. s. 198). The translation of שִׂימוּ, “bring up! (the siege instruments) as a command to prepare for immediately storming the place” (so Thenius, following the Sept. οἰκοδομήσατε χάρακα), does not accord with the use of the word elsewhere: in 1 Sam. 11:11; Job. 1:17, the word seems to refer simply to setting the army in array.
1 Kings 20:13. There came a prophet unto Ahab. The conjecture of the Rabbins that this prophet may have been Micaiah (1 Kings 22:8) has no historical basis. The entrance of a prophet here and in 1 Kings 20:28, 35 Thenius thinks inconsistent with the statements, chap, 18:4, 22; 19:10, 14. But the statement is nowhere made that in the persecution of the prophets all had been put to death; Obadiah, in fact, had concealed a hundred of them who did not perish, and Elijah mentioned himself as the only remaining one, because at that time he was the only one who openly appeared as a prophet. The persecution appears to have taken place principally at the time of the famine, and to have ceased after the flight of Elijah. On the approach of Ben-hadad there were other things to be thought of beside the extermination of the prophets, and in the time of their distress a prophet who foretold victory was even welcome. From what quarter this prophet came to Samaria, whether he lived there, or whether he had been sent there from one of the schools of the prophets, must remain undecided. In no case, however, could the compiler of our books have been so thoughtless as to have inserted in chap. 20 anything which stands in contradiction to the immediately preceding chapters. Where Elijah sojourned at the time of the war we do not learn. That it was not he but some other prophet who announced the promise of victory to Ahab cannot be wondered at under the existing circumstances. Elijah was the least suited of all for such a message.
1 Kings 20:14–16. By the servants of the princes, 1 Kings 20:14. Gerlach: “The administrators appointed over separate districts of the country appear at that time to have assembled with the army in Samaria, and each one among them had a sort of body-guard, or such servants about him as generally executed his orders” (2 Sam. 18:15). The נְעָרִים are therefore not “pages unaccustomed to fight” (Thenius), or “young lads of very tender age” (Ewald); much rather are we to suppose that they were a very select body of strong young men. Ahab would not have consented to appoint weak, inexperienced boys for the advance guard, without at least having expressed some scruples. The extraordinary divine aid consisted not in this, that the victory should be gained by boys, but by such a small number (for that very reason the number is so explicitly specified). Ahab’s question, Who shall open the battle? represents him as by no means a “courageous and resolute man” (Thenius), for such a man, in a struggle where it was a question of life or death, would not first ask a prophet who was to make the attack. The thou in the reply, moreover, does not mean that Ahab was to lead the two hundred and thirty-two, but that the attack was to be made by Israel. According to 1 Kings 20:21, Ahab did not march out until the Syrians had betaken themselves to flight. The very small army of only seven thousand is a token of a not very glorious condition of the might of the kingdom under Ahab. The position of Jarchi is that of a true Rabbi, viz., that the seven thousand were those who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18); the number, without doubt, is here an historical one. At noon they marched out, that is, at the time when Ben-hadad, haughty and confident, had given, himself up with his vassals to the table, news of which had probably been received in the city.
1 Kings 20:17–21. And Ben-hadad sent out, &c., 1 Kings 20:17. When he was made aware that something was going on, and the messengers who had been sent out brought him news that a troop was drawing near, in his haughtiness he gave the command to take them all prisoners, even in case they had come to treat or capitulate. Starke, indeed, fills out the idea of alive with “that they may be cut down before mine eyes,” which thought, however, is not necessarily contained in the word. According to 1 Kings 20:20 they fought man to man, each one coping with the enemy immediately opposed to him; the addition of the Sept.: καὶ ἐδευτέρωσεν ἔκαστος τὸν παρ’ αὐτοῦ is gloss, and does not justify an alteration of the text. עַל־סוּם וּפָּרָשִׁים does not mean equis mutatis alternis (Schulz), nor according to the Sept. ἐφ ἵππων ἵππέων, but upon a horse (according to Thenius: on a hastily seized chariot-horse) with his rider, i.e., in company with the horsemen. Not till now did the king march out of the city with the remainder of the garrison. In place of וַיַּךְ the Sept. has καὶ ἔλαβε, therefore Thenius would read וַיִּקַח, which is unnecessary, as the idea of “taking posession of” is contained in the word “slew,” according to Vatablus: he smote those who were endeavoring to escape upon horses and chariots. In any case the idea of butchering of the horses and the demolishing of the chariots is not intended.
1 Kings 20:22–25. And the prophet came, &c. 1 Kings 20:22. The same prophet as that mentioned in 1 Kings 20:13, as we see by the article. The translation of הִתְחַזַּק “be of good cheer!” or “be brave!” is not suitable, inasmuch as Ahab had just now gained the victory; therefore: fortify yourself, make yourself strong—namely, by collecting your forces of war. At the return of the year, i.e., with the beginning of the next year, “when, after the close of the winter rains, campaigns were customarily commenced, 2 Sam. 11:1” (Keil). 1 Kings 20:23–25 do not belong to the speech of the prophet, who only announced the coming war; the man of God (1 Kings 20:28) is the first to tell the king what was to happen in that conflict; 1 Kings 20:23–25 are thus an insertion of the narrator’s. The sense of 1 Kings 20:23 is this: in the mountainous region of Samaria we were defeated by the Israelites, because we were there obliged to contend against their gods who are gods of the mountains; in the plains, on the other hand, where these gods do not reside, we will most certainly be victorious. The dii montium, who are enthroned on mountains and direct and watch over everything that takes place within their region, and accordingly prosper and defend the inhabitants of the mountains, are mentioned in other places in heathen antiquities (Deyling, Observatt. III. 12; Winer, Real-Wört.-Buch I. p. 154). The advice to remove the kings was caused, perhaps, by the fact that they as vassals marched with him only through compulsion, and therefore were not in earnest, or not entirely to be depended upon in a fight, while the leaders appointed by Ben-hadad himself would be bound to obey him absolutely, and thus there would be greater harmony in inaugurating the war (cf. 1 Kings 22:31). The removal of the princes was accompanied with the loss of the auxiliaries furnished by them, therefore Benhadad was obliged to form an army from his own people that would equal the former one, including the auxiliary troops.
1 Kings 20:26–30. And it came to pass at the return of the year, &c., 1 Kings 20:26. Ben-hadad’s wish being to fight in the plain, this Aphek spoken of can be neither that one at the foot of Lebanon, in the tribe of Asher (Josh. 13:4; 19:30), nor the highly elevated one of the east of the sea of Galilee; it is rather Aphek in the plain of Jezreel, in the tribe of Issachar, “the largest plain of Palestine, where from the times of Joshua to Napoleon so many great battles have been fought” (Keil). cf.1 Sam. 29:1; 28:4; Robinson’s Palestine III. p. 477.—חֲשִׂיף 1 Kings 20:27 means properly something separated (from חָשַׂף in its original meaning—to separate), literally, then, like two flocks of kids, i.e., “like two little flocks of kids separated from the main herd ”(Keil). These flocks pasture mostly on the cliffs, and are smaller than the flocks of sheep. “The figure was used, without question, to present in a vivid manner the insignificance of the Israelitish army, separated into two bands, as contrasted with that of the Syrians which covered the entire plain” (Thenius). The seventh day (1 Kings 20:29) was probably chosen for the attack as being a day of good omen (Josh. 6:15). There is a difficulty in the number one hundred thousand; to slaughter so many men in one day seems scarcely possible. Either נכה here has, like our word “beat,” the meaning of “defeat,” so that by 100,000 the size of the entire army is designated, or the number is a mistake, to be classed with those mistakes in numbers which arise from confounding figures of similar appearance. The falling of the wall (1 Kings 20:30), according to the old interpreters, resulted from a miracle; according to others, from an earthquake; according to Gerlach and Keil, through a special interposition of God. Thenius supposes a plan for undermining carried on by night on the part of the Israelites; they then enticed a part of the besieged away to the place, and at the capture which occurred thereupon the rest were put to death. Ewald says: the rubbish of the quickly devastated city buried the remaining 27,000. The Sept. translates חֶדֶר בְּחָדֶר, εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ κοιτῶνος εἰς τὸ ταμεῖον; the Vulgate; in cubiculum, quod erat intra cubiculum; it is, however, not necessary to refer it to a bed-chamber. Josephus has εἰς ὑπογαῖον οἶκον ἐκρύβη. Thenius interprets arbitrarily: Ben-hadad fled into the fortress of the city, and there from one chamber into another (cf. 1 Kings 22:25; 2 Chron. 18:24).
1 Kings 20:31–34. And his servants said, &c., 1 Kings 20:31. Sackcloth was a sign of penitence, the ropes about the neck signs of most complete subjection. The latter custom still exists in the East. “The peasants in the region of Ningpo (China) are obliged to bring the contributions levied upon them to the city with ropes about their necks, as a sign of their subjection.” (Allg. Zeitung, 1862, Suppl. s. 2,931). In place of thy life the Sept. and Vulg. have, our lives; evidently incorrect. יְנַחֲשׁוּ (1 Kings 20:33) Vulg. Quod acceperunt viri pro omine; they took the expression of Ahab’s to be a good omen. The words וַיַּחְלְטוּ חֲמִמֶּנּוּ are variously understood. The Talmud interprets the verb חָלַט, occurring only in this place, by declare, and this Maurer and Keil follow: declarare eum fecerunt, an ex ipso pronunciation esset, num ex animi sententia hoc dixisset. Others consider חָלַט equivalent to הָלַץ, to snatch, and according to the Syriac, Chald., and some manuscripts unite the ה standing before מִמֶּנּוּ with the verb as a suffix: arripuerunt id ex eo (ex ejus ore, ne istud revocare posset); so likewise the Vulg.: rapuerunt verbum ex ore ejus; the Sept. has καὶ ἀνελέξαντο τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ; following this Ewald would read: הַדָּבָר ממנו in place of הממנו, i.e., they hastily quoted his own word, and adopted it as theirs. Thenius: they took him immediately at his own word. The words “my brother” contained more than they demanded; namely, not only that he would grant Ben-hadad his life, but that he would treat him not even as captive, rather as a king of equal rank, in fine, as though, nothing had happened between them.
1 Kings 20:34. The cities which my father, &c. The cities mentioned in 1 Kings 15:20 cannot he referred to here, since these were taken in the time of Baasha, and Baasha was not the father of Ahab, and the city of Samaria, besides, was not yet built; we are therefore compelled to assume that Ben-hadad’s father, as formerly with Baasha, so afterwards with Omri, Ahab’s father, had a war, and that, too, after the building of Samaria, which war was concluded by the surrender of certain cities, and can easily be included in what is spoken of in 1 Kings 16:27. The חֻצוֹת are neither fortified places, nor places for paying customs, nor pasture grounds, but streets, in which the Syrians were accustomed to live and do business; thoroughfares for licensed merchants (Böttcher), bazars (Thenius). The words וַאֲנִי בַּבְּרִית אֲשַׁלֹּחֶךָ, can only he translated: but I will permit you to go hence free, in accordance with the covenant, i.e., the concluded treaty; thus translated they could only have been the words of Ahab, and we are compelled to supply at the beginning—“Ahab replied.” This is much more admissible than, following the grammatically incorrect translation of the Vulgate (et ego [Benadad] fœderatus recedam a te), to alter the text as Thenius does, and read, אַשֻׁלַּח־נָא, i.e., “and I, on the other, wish to be sent away in accordance with an agreement concluded and sworn to.” Opposed to this is the emphatic וַאֲנִי, which throughout is not suited to Ben-hadad; moreover, the two following verbs, of which Ahab is the subject, compel us to refer the אני to him.
1 Kings 20:35. And a certain man of the sons of the prophets, &c. The expression בְּנֵי הַנְּבִיאִים appears here for the first time; we are not to consider the “sons of the prophets” young men necessarily, but rather members of the society of prophets, or, if we will, of the order of prophets; according to 2 Kings 4:1, there were married men among them. They were called sons in distinction from the heads and leaders of the separate communities of prophets (cf. Winer, Real-Wört.-Buch II. p. 282). The רֵעַ is a fellow-prophet. Concerning בִּדְבַר see under 1 Kings 13:1. The passage 1 Kings 20:35–43 is not a part which is arbitrarily appended to the preceding narrative, while not originally belonging to it (Thenius), but is an essential constituent part of it—its fitting conclusion, for it furnishes the solemn announcement of the divine punishment for Ahab’s perverse procedure with Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:32–34). All that the prophet says and does, is summed up in the declaration of v. 42, which must not be lost sight of, as the principal thing. Just as the victory was foretold to the king by a prophet, as an act of God, so also the punishment for his conduct, after the victory had been granted him, was made known to him by a prophet (whether by the same one or some other is unknown), as a judgment of God upon him. This happened in a peculiar, but in every respect in a genuinely prophetic and solemn manner, namely, by means of symbolic action followed by explicit declaration (see above, p. 119). The symbolic action, however, was of such a kind as not only to present to the eyes of the king the blamableness of his conduct, but also to lead him, without his knowing it or wishing it, to pass sentence upon himself, and by that means declare that the prophesied punishment was justly deserved.
1 Kings 20:35. Smite me, I pray thee, &c., that is, wound me (cf. 1 Kings 20:37). The prophet was shortly about to represent himself as a warrior returning from a severe fight (cf. 1 Kings 20:39: into the midst of the battle); the wounding of the prophet renders all the remaining symbolic action conditional, and just for that reason it is made so markedly prominent. The demand: Smite me! was accompanied without doubt with a statement of the reason and with an appeal to the “word of Jehovah,” and for that very reason the refusal to fulfil the demand, on the part of a fellow-prophet especially, was not at all justifiable. But because the prophet without being wounded could not carry out the action which he had been charged with, nor make a prophetic announcement of the coming punishment, he turned and made his request of another, who consented. What is related besides in 1 Kings 20:36 of the fellow-prophet who refused, does not really belong to the main action, but is a side feature of the narrative, and shows itself to be such from the brevity and fragmentary character of the statements. It is nevertheless important, because by it the main action is made only the more conspicuous, and is at the same time referred to the necessity of unconditional obedience to the “word of God” within the society of prophets. To oppose this word is a thing not consistent with the nature of the prophet’s position, whose calling consists wholly in being the instrument of “Jehovah’s word” (cf. 1 Kings 13:21, p. 144). 1 Kings 20:37: הַכֵּה וּפָצֹעַ, smiting and wounding, i. e., he smote him in such a manner as to wound him. אֲפֵר, 1 Kings 20:38, is not equivalent to אֵפֶר ashes, as the Vulg., Luther, and others translate, but means (from אָפַר to enwrap, to surround) head-bandage, Sept. τελαμών, bandage (not turban, as Maurer and others would have it). The bandages betokened one severely wounded, and served at the same time to conceal his features, so that Ahab, who was to be made to pass sentence upon himself, could not recognize him (1 Kings 20:41). By the way he stationed himself, because the proceeding was to take place previous to the king’s return home, in the open street, and before the eyes of his entire retinue, as an open testimony against himself.
1 Kings 20:39–41. Thy servant went out, &c. 1 Kings 20:39. De Wette translates אִישׁ־סָר, a man approached, but סוּר does not mean “to approach,” but “turn aside,” turn away from the road (Ex. 3:3; Judges 14:8); here, then, one who has left the field of battle. Ewald, whom Thenius follows, would read סַר which is used for שַׂר, and then translates “captain,” i. e., “one whom he (the wounded man) as king, a common soldier must obey,” an officer. The parable would, under these circumstances, certainly be more complete, since this officer would represent Jehovah, who had given Ben-hadad into the power of Ahab; but another lection is not required. If the wounded man should suffer the prisoner committed to him to escape, he would have to forfeit his life or a talent of silver, i. e., 2,600 thalers. “The prisoner is thus represented to be a very important personage” (Thenius).—In place of עשֶֹׁה (1 Kings 20:40), Houbigant reads שֹׁעֶה, Thenius פֹנֶה (turning his eyes this way and that); wherefore the translations read: Sept., περιεβλέπετο; Vulg. dum ego turbatus huc illucque me verterem. This alteration of the text is absolutely unnecessary.—Concerning the signification of the parable, so much is indisputable, that the young man who had gone out into the battle is representative of Ahab, and the man intrusted to his keeping, but allowed to escape through carelessness, is the representative of King Ben-hadad. The signification of the wounding is not so apparent, inasmuch, indeed, as Ahab was not wounded. The hostile treatment which Ahab suffered soon after at the hands of the released Ben-hadad (chap. 22), cannot possibly be signified, since the wounding happened before the man’s escape, and besides it was not the work of the captive; still less possible is the idea of older interpreters, that it was a symbol of the wound which Ahab had inflicted on himself and the people by his idolatry and the release of Ben-hadad. Neither is Ewald’s explanation acceptable, that the prophet allowed himself to be wounded by another, “and as though he had a right, on account of the bloody injury which he had received, to call aloud on the king for help,” put himself in Ahab’s way. It is not acceptable, because the wounded man did not cry to the king for help, but demanded of him, as the chief judge, a decision as to whether he was punishable or not; moreover, the king answered him, “thyself hast decided it” (מִשְׁפָּטֶךָ 1 Kings 20:40). We would do better to recognize in the wounded man a picture not only of Ahab, but at the same time of the people of Israel, inasmuch as the king is the people—individualized, is the deputy and representative of his people. The sentence of punishment (1 Kings 20:42) especially shows this: Thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people. Israel had just endured a hard, bloody fight, and had carried off the promised victory; but now, in the person of its king, it had let the arch-enemy, whom the Lord had given into their hands, go free and unpunished. They sinned therefore against Jehovah, whose will it was that this enemy, who had sworn to destroy Israel, should not be suffered to escape out of their hands, but should suffer merited punishment; their suffering him to escape was a practical denial of the might, the goodness, and the justice of Jehovah. After the king had pronounced his own sentence, the aim of the disguise by means of bandages, indeed the aim of the entire symbolic proceeding was attained, and hence the prophet threw aside the bands, and allowed himself to be recognized as a prophet, as one who declares the word of Jehovah; following the symbolic-prophetic action comes (1 Kings 20:42) the solemn, prophetic declaration, as in 1 Kings 11:31.
1 Kings 20:42–43. Thus saith the Lord, Because, &c., 1 Kings 20:42. Ben-hadad is called אִישׁ־הֶרְמִי, i. e., man of my curse, the man whom I appointed to destruction. Cf.Isai. 34:5: My sword shall come down upon Idumea, וְעַל־עַם הֶרְמִי לְמִשְׁפָּט (Mal. 3:24). The punishment which Ben-hadad and his people had deserved, but which thou, disobeying the Lord, hast remitted completely, and on thine own authority, shall fall upon thee and thy nation. King and people seem here inseparable from one another, as head and members. Ahab probably had a great desire to seize the prophet for this independent outspoken reproof and curse, but he had the less courage to do it since he had given the sentence of judgment himself; still he was deeply moved to resistance in his heart, and angrily withdrew (סַר, from סרר, to be stubborn, refractory, Deut. 21:18; Isai. 30:1, meaning more than disheartened or low-spirited).
Historical and Ethical
1. The two victories over the Syrians were designed, according to the declaration of both the prophets who foretold them, to effect “that thou, (king) and ye (the entire nation) may know that I am Jehovah,” that is to say, that Jehovah is the only true God, the God of Israel. In this declaration we have specified the purpose of the entire narrative, and at the same time the stand-point from which it is to be comprehended. That day on Mount Carmel, if it did not put an end to idolatry at once, had at least broken its power, as was already evident from the mere fact that the prophets were no longer persecuted and put to death, but could again go about openly and continue the work begun by Elijah; they even had access to Ahab again. Still the conversion was by no means complete, but rather, being weak, it needed support and strength from above if a complete relapse was to be prevented from setting in. This assistance came from the display of the power of Jehovah, a power which rescued in a time of great need and distress. The attack of the Syrian king, who had grown so mighty, threatened Ahab and his kingdom with destruction; at this crisis God, who never forsakes his people, who is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6), repeatedly grants them the victory, which was so extraordinary and wonderful, that it could not possibly be ascribed to human power and strength, but only to God, to His might, His grace and truth. It was designed to make king and people unmistakably certain that it is not Baal or any other god but the God Jehovah who “doeth wonders, and declareth His strength among His people, and redeemeth His people with a strong arm” (Ps. 77:15). And in order that every one may know whence and from whom such a victory came, he caused it to be foretold by his servants the prophets. If ever anything could be, this double victory was designed to open the eyes of king and people, and bring them to a recognition of the “thus saith the Lord, ‘I am Jehovah.’ ” We have thus in this account, not merely an ordinary history of wars, but a part of the divine history of salvation before us, which in an individual instance is what the entire history of Israel is in its completeness, namely, a display of the special dealings with a guidance of His people on God’s part. Although the first victory is a marked evidence of the saving might and grace of Jehovah, the second, by which the entire Syrian power was destroyed, was for Israel as well as for the Syrians themselves a still more remarkable proof of the fact, that Jehovah was no mere mountain, and local, or national divinity, but that the whole earth was His, and He was God of all nations (Ex. 19:5; Ps. 24:1). He who reduces the God of Israel to a mere local or national deity, as is so often done even nowadays, stands on the same footing with the “servants of the king of Syria” (1 Kings 20:23, 28).
2. King Ahab appears by no means in the present part of the historical narrative “in a more favorable light than in those [previously alluded to, traditional] passages” (Thenius); on the contrary he is just as weak, faithless, and devoid of character. There is not the slightest evidence of a single religious emotion, in a time of need and distress; he neither calls upon the Lord for help and assistance, nor renders thanks to him after his rescue from danger. The name of Jehovah does not pass his lips. He does not oppose himself to the haughty, boastful enemy “as a resolutely determined man,” but is faint-hearted and timorous, calls himself his “servant,” submits to his demands, and is ready to surrender to him not only his gold and silver, but also his wives and sons. It is only when the whole nation cries out to him, “You have no right to do that!” that he plucks up courage and assumes quite a different tone: to-day despairing and way down, to-morrow defiant and lofty; still for some time he inquired of the very prophet who foretold to him his victory, whether indeed he should make the attack and place himself at the head of his people. When the danger was past it did not occur to him to prepare for a similar peril; a prophet must first suggest it to him and give him instructions to that end. After the second victory, which brings into his power the bold, dangerous enemy who was constantly threatening Israel, and who, as circumstances afterwards gave evidence, was a false and treacherous foe, he acknowledges him as a brother, treats him with royal honor, and allows him to depart on the easiest possible conditions. This last-mentioned act later interpreters and historians have set down as greatly to his credit; it was “an act which did honor to his heart” (Bauer), a token of a “naturally very noble mind” (J. D. Michaelis), or of “natural kindness of heart and confiding disposition” (Thenius), he had “magnanimously granted life and liberty to a wounded and captive enemy” (Duncker). Not much can be said, however, concerning kindness of heart in connection with that man who at one time permitted the slaughter of defenceless prophets because they opposed the wild, lascivious Baal and Astarte worship, and subsequently permitted the innocent Naboth to be executed through deceit and treachery, merely because he wanted his vineyard; and when he called that barbarous Syrian Ben-hadad, who had set out on an expedition merely to plunder and devastate, and, persevering, sought to destroy Israel at once, his “brother,” and at the same time honored him as a king—whereas he had found fault with such a man as Elijah, charging him with being a disturber of Israel (chap, 18:17). We see no evidence in such action of generosity and magnanimity, but simply that foolishness which is usually allied with weakness and lack of character. He is flattered that the highest servants and generals of Benhadad should come to him in sackcloth and with ropes around their necks, and recite to him all manner of things about the well-known mercy and high-mindedness of the kings of the house of Israel, but about which in reality nothing had been known since the time of Jeroboam. That he should allow himself to be immediately influenced and entrapped by their flattery, is only a proof of his fickle character and his want of serious moral conduct. The sequel (1 Kings 22:31 sq.) shows how wretchedly he had allowed himself to be deceived.
3. The solemn prophetic denunciation which Ahab drew down upon himself was in every sense justly deserved. Concerning the fitness of it and the method of its accomplishment Hess says (loc. cit. O. p. 146): “A very striking scene, if we take the affair out from its old surroundings, and transfer it to the present time. Considered from the point of view of the theocracy, as the old narrator looked at it, it has by no means any of the impropriety which the sense of the present day ascribes to it, but it is a noticeable evidence of the delicate insight into human nature, and the noble independence with which the prophets understood how to resent the encroachments of the kings on the rights of the theocracy.” If ever a man ought to have been made harmless once for all, it was this Benhadad, who had twice wantonly commenced war for the mere sake of robbing and exercising power, who had set a small value on the lives of thousands of his subjects, and who proposed to change Samaria into a heap of ruins and utterly exterminate Israel. This is no question of relations between private individuals; just as Ahab was not so much victor as Jehovah, so Ben-hadad was not Ahab’s but Jehovah’s prisoner. Ahab had then no right to let him go free and unpunished, for by so doing he arbitrarily interfered with the righteous decision of God, and instead of being an instrument of divine justice he became the toy of his own foolishness and imbecility. The nature and method of the prophetic denunciation was similar to that of Nathan, who caused David to utter sentence against himself concerning his deed (2 Sam. 12:1 sq.). What took place there by means of a spoken parable took place here through an acted one, whose peculiarity is by no means any more striking than the one which we find Proverbs ex. in Jer. 13:1 sq.; 27:2 sq.; Ezek. 5:1 sq.; 24:3 sq. At the same time, however, it gives us an opportunity, as Von Gerlach observes, “to gain an insight into the awful solemnity of the prophetic office at this period of the revolt.” What an obedience to the word of Jehovah, what independence and courage were required to do what this son of the prophets did! When Duncker says (loc. cit. p. 412): “The prophets of Jehovah were very much dissatisfied with this merciful forbearance; as Samuel had once blamed Saul, so now they blamed Ahab passionately and bitterly,” his remarks spring from the same spirit of animosity, in accordance with which they discover something noble and good in the actions of Ahab and men like him, but place the doings of the prophets in the worst possible light. Clericus has indeed remarked with justice: Factum Ahabi, quamvis clementiœ speciem prœ se ferat, non erat verœ clementiœ, quœ non est erga latrones exercenda; qui si dimittantur, multo magis nocebunt, quam antea, quemadmodum re vera fecit Benhadad.
Homiletical and Practical
1 Kings 20:1–43. The twice repeated victory of Ahab over the Syrians proclaimed aloud and distinctly (a) the power and strength of the Lord (Ben-hadad came with thirty-two kings, horses and chariots, and a great army, 1 Kings 20:1 and 10, the first time, with more than a hundred thousand men the second time, 1 Kings 20:29. Ahab had only seven thousand; two hundred and thirty-two decided the battle, 1 Kings 20:15, the first time, and the second time his army was like two flocks of kids, 1 Kings 20:27; nevertheless, he conquered. If ever, it could be said in this case: the horse is prepared against the day of battle, but safety is of the Lord, Prov. 21:31; 1 Mac. 3:18, 19. Every king who goes to battle should consider what is written in Ps. 33:16 sq., and his army should sing: By our own strength nothing is done, &c., through God we shall do valiantly, Ps. 60:14; 84:6). (b) The grace and mercy of the Lord. (Ahab had deserved nothing as little as he had this repeated victory, for he had introduced the worship of idols, abandoned the confederacy, &c., divine judgments had been fruitless. However, God granted him the victory, not from any merit of his, but out of pure grace and compassion. He endured with much long-suffering, &c., Rom. 9:22. He is long-suffering, not willing that any, &c., 2 Pet. 3:9; Ezek. 18:23. But the great triumph, cried out to Ahab and Israel: Despisest thou the riches, &c., Rom. 2:4–6. Great victories ought not to make a king and his people haughty, but humble, and bring them to the knowledge that He, the Lord, is God alone.) 1 Kings 20:1–21. The war between Ben-hadad and Ahab; (a) Ben-hadad’s invasion and demands; (b) Ahab’s danger and distress; (c) Israel’s victory. 1 Kings 20:1–11. The messages of Ben-hadad to Ahab, and his responses, (a) The first one, 1 Kings 20:1–4; (b) the second, 1 Kings 20:5–9; (c) the third, 1 Kings 20:10, 11.
1 Kings 20:1–4. WÜRT SUMM.: In these two kings we see what a thing the human heart is, how insolent and timorous by turns (Jer. 17:9). It is insolent when man, grown prosperous, powerful, and rich, places his confidence in his success, and haughtily despises his neighbor. But it is timid when man falls into difficulty, and neither sees nor knows any help, just as was the despairing, womanly heart of king Ahab, who took it for granted that everything was lost when he saw the hosts of his enemies.
1 Kings 20:1–3. Ben-hadad thought that because he had the power to rob and appropriate, ho also had the right to do so. But God gives power and might to kings, not to distort the right, but to protect it. The power of that one who, confiding in his own strength, treads the right under his feet, will sooner or later miserably decline.
1 Kings 20:4. Those who no longer have a Lord in heaven whom they fear, and before whom they bow, cringe and fawn before all men who can harm or serve them. If Ahab had said to the King of kings what he sent as a response to the royal robber and boaster: “I am thine and all that I have;” he would then have had the trust and assurance: He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty, &c. (Ps. 91:1–3). He who bows before God is sure to be humble before men; but he does not cringe to them nor throw himself away. To submit to the superior power and force that demands gold and silver is no disgrace; but to surrender wife and child is contrary to honor, duty, and conscience.
1 Kings 20:5, 6. Haughty and insolent men grow all the more overbearing and ungovernable, and the more one submits to them and crawls before them and gratifies their desires, the more exorbitant they become in their demands. It is the curse that rests upon avarice, that the more the appetite after money and property is gratified, the more it grows, not diminishes (Prov. 16:8).
1 Kings 20:7–9. Ahab and his people, (a) Ahab feels himself helpless and perplexed. Adversity teaches us how to pray, but Ahab had turned from the living God, who is a helper in every time of trouble, to a dumb idol that cannot help; he had forgotten how to pray, forgotten the word of the Psalm 1:15: Call on me in a day of trouble, &c.; he had sought to help himself by cowardly submission, and now he seeks help of men. In every distress we should turn first to the Lord, Ps. 118:8, 9; 108:13; Hymn: Wenn wir in höchsten Nöthen sein, und wissen nicht wo aus und ein, &c. (“God is the refuge of his saints, when storms of deep distress invade”), 1 Kings 20:1 and 2. (b) The elders and the people reproach him. Instead of his giving instructions to them with the words of Joel 3:15, like a king, they give commands to him: Hearken not unto him. He is no real king, realizing the position which has been given to him by God, whom the people control instead of allowing themselves to be controlled by him. Tyrants are of this class: at first they do not consult the people, and do not scruple to appropriate their most sacred possessions, take away their faith, and burden their consciences. Ahab did not consult his people about the introduction of the worship of Baal and the persecution of the prophets; but now when he does not know how to counsel or help himself, he applies to the wish of the nation, the aid of the people is now very acceptable.
1 Kings 20:10. Boasting and braggadocio are never a sign of true strength and ability, much rather of moral weakness. Ben-hadad, who speaks of the dust of Samaria, shows himself by that very act to be of dust, Ps. 75:5, 6; Jer. 17:5 (Matt. 26:33, 69).
1 Kings 20:11. CRAMER: It is presumption for a man to celebrate a triumph before he has gained the victory; so that those who propose doing anything should say: If the Lord will, &c. (Jas. 4:15). STARKE: We have no need to stand in fear of men who put their confidence in themselves.
1 Kings 20:12. No success or blessing can rest upon orders which issue from drunken revelries.
1 Kings 20:13. Formerly Ahab wished no instruction from the prophets; now in his danger and distress he admits them and listens to them. In days of prosperity the world does not care for any advice from the faithful servants of the divine word; it looks down upon them and despises them; but in the hour of sorrow and mourning it grants them access, and is glad to avail itself of their consolation. Temptation teaches us to observe God’s word. They who do accept it and obey it will have as little cause as Ahab to repent of it. Before a great troop which has been abandoned of God, you have no cause to fear if God has said to you: I will help thee (Isai. 41:13). You are to acknowledge: I am the Lord. This is the end and aim of all God’s guidings and providences; if they do not attain this end in your case, your life and existence are vain and of no value, to no purpose.
1 Kings 20:14, 15. Cf. 1 Sam. 14:6; 2 Chron. 14:11. A little band of brave men accomplishes more than a great troop of such as fight in a bad cause and with a wicked conscience.
1 Kings 20:16. Ben-hadad must have sorely repented his drunkenness, as it resulted in the loss of his army, his horses and chariots. How often still is drunkenness the original cause of great sorrow and distress (Ephes. 5:18; Isai. 5:22; Prov. 23:29, 30).
1 Kings 20:18. Great men often think, when they have been disturbed in their carnal rest and security, that they only need to speak the word of command in order to be relieved from everything disagreeable and wearisome, but they must learn that they cannot rid themselves by a command of what God has sent for their humiliation.
1 Kings 20:19–21. The way of the godless shall perish (Ps. 1:6). Their way is covetousness and pillage (1 Kings 20:3, 6), haughtiness, insolence, and assurance (1 Kings 20:10, 18), service of their belly, wantonness (1 Kings 20:16). This way shall perish; they are as chaff which the wind driveth away, “utterly consumed with terrors” (1 Kings 20:20, 21; Ps. 73:19).
1 Kings 20:22–34. The second expedition of the Syrians against Israel. (a) The motive; (b) the issue.
1 Kings 20:22. The advice of the prophet; Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, &c. is applicable in another, higher sense to us all. Our enemies are not idle, they are constantly returning to the attack. Even if we have by the help of the Lord conquered a victory over sin, the world, and the devil, that is not all there is to be done; we must even after the victory be on our guard and arm ourselves, so that the enemy may not fall upon us unawares (1 Cor 16:13; Ephes 6:10 sq.; 1 Pet 5:8; Hymn: Rüstet euch, ihr Christenleute, die Feinde suchen euch zur Beute, &c., “My soul be on thy guard. Ten thousand foes arise,” &c.).
1 Kings 20:23–25. The evil counsellors of Ahab. (a) They urge him on to war and battle instead of counselling peace, because their pride was wounded and their hope of booty had been frustrated. Place no confidence in the man who incites you to begin a quarrel. The saying of Scripture (Heb. 12:14) is applicable to all, in private as well as public life, for individuals and entire nations, for masters and servants. (b) They plead religious reasons, and make use of the superstition of their unwitting lord. It is possible for a bad, unholy thing to become confirmed through superstition; the man who plants himself on truth, however, will not permit himself to be deceived on such a foundation, (c) They shove the blame of the ignominious defeat on to the thirty-two kings, instead of seeking for it in themselves. A man always prefers to find the cause of his own misfortune and distress in another’s rather than in his own sin and guilt.
1 Kings 20:26. Ben-hadad followed their foolish and perverse advice because it was entirely in accordance with his own wish. So strong and overpowering is sinful desire in the human heart, that even the bitterest dispensation and chastisement of God suppresses it only for a time, and, as soon as the external impression ceases, it breaks forth afresh.
1 Kings 20:28. He who calls the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth and filled them both (Jer. 23:23, 24), a god of the hills or a national divinity, blasphemes His name; the Lord, however, will not let him go unpunished, who takes His name in vain.
1 Kings 20:29 sq. God is a judge who putteth down one and setteth up another (Ps. 75:8). Hymn: Es sind ja Gott geringe Sachen, und seiner Allmacht gilt es gleich, den Reichen arm und klein zu machen, &c. Today a king and lord over hundreds and thousands, to-morrow a man who is obliged to sneak about and beg for mercy; to-day haughty and insolent, to-morrow a slave in sackcloth, and with a rope about the neck (Jer. 16:6, 7).—WÜRT. SUMM.: Nothing among mortal affairs is so inconstant as temporal prosperity. There is a time for everything. For that reason let no man place his dependence on his good fortune and exalt himself on its account, for he does not know whether he shall possess in the evening what was his in the morning (Sir. 18:26).
1 Kings 20:31–42. LISKO: Ahab’s wicked conduct after the victory. (a) In what it consisted. (b) How he was punished for it.—CRAMER: When authority is compassionate out of proper season and neglects its office of correction, it draws upon itself the guilt of the other. God wants no mercy to be shown where he has ordered punishment. 1 Kings 20:31–33. Praise, flattery, and subserviency are only too often the snare with which kings and great men are caught, so that under the appearance of generosity and magnanimity they may be led astray and act contrary to the will of God. They ought, indeed, to be merciful and gracious, but not forget that to do justice is their first duty, and that they do not carry the sword in vain.—Ahab persecutes an Elijah in every kingdom (chap, 18:10), and threatens him with death, but he permits a robber and a plunderer to sit beside him in his chariot and makes a covenant with him. What to the eyes of the world looks like generosity, in the eyes of God, who trieth the heart and reins, is only weakness and folly. Great injury can be done by seeming ill-timed generosity.
1 Kings 20:33. CRAMER: After a word has been once spoken, we cannot recall it. Therefore learn to guard thy mouth: he who does will not offend by his words (Sir. 23:7).
1 Kings 20:35–43. The proclamation of the divine punishment for Ahab’s conduct. (a) How it occurred; (b) how it was received by him (vide Historical and Ethical).
1 Kings 20:35–37. He who has his calling and service from the word of God ought to allow no danger to detain him from making an announcement of the fact (2 Tim. 4:2), and must obediently submit himself to his commands even when the fulfilment of them is joined with pain and sacrifice.
1 Kings 20:38–40. A genuine preacher of repentance must first of all convict the sinner of his guilt and bring him to the point where he condemns himself, just as Nathan did with David.
1 Kings 20:42, 43. Ahab listened well pleased to the falsehood from the lips of the Syrian nobles, for it gave nourishment to his folly; the truth from the mouth of the prophet made him restless and angry, because it punished his folly. There is no help for the man who allows himself to be irritated by the truth instead of receiving it with meekness (Jas. 1:21). There is nothing that so rouses and provokes an unconverted and unbelieving man as to have his sinful character so unveiled and set before his eyes that he can no longer justify or excuse himself.
[The Vat. Sept. transposes chapters 20 and 21, thus making the affair of Naboth precede the deliverance and victories of Ahab, but making the narrative of the wars of Israel under Ahab with the Syrians continuous.
1 Kings 20:1.—[Many MSS., followed by the Sept., have this name uniformly with the final letter r instead of d.
1 Kings 20:2.—[1 Kings 20:3 begins at this point in the arrangement of our Heb. Bibles, of Luther, and of our author; the Sept. divides as in the A. V.
1 Kings 20:3.—[The Vat. Sept. omits this qualification of Ben-hadad’s demand.
1 Kings 20:5.—[On this form of oath, כִּי אִם cf. 17:1.
1 Kings 20:6.—The Sept., Vulg., and Syr., by taking the pronoun in the plural, make this refer to the officers of Ben-hadad—whatsoever they should fancy.
1 Kings 20:7.—[The Sept. more particularly, “my sons and my daughters.”
1 Kings 20:8.—[The negative is here printed לוֹא, which form occurs but twice elsewhere, but many MSS. give the more usual form לֹא.
1 Kings 20:9.—[The Sept changes the pronoun, and reads, “tell your lord.” The other VV. all follow the Heb., but below the Alex. Sept. omits the words “at the first.”
1 Kings 20:10.—[אֱלֹהִים is here, as in 19:2, connected with verbs in the plural, and is rightly translated as referring to the false gods of Ben-hadad. The Vat. Sept., however, has ὁ Θεός in the singular, and the Chald. דַּחֲלָתָא = the terrors.
1 Kings 20:10.—[On the meaning of שֹׁעָל see the Exeg. Com.
1 Kings 20:14.—[מִיִ־יֶאְסֹר הַמִּלְחָמָה = who shall join the battle, i. e., begin the fight?
1 Kings 20:15.—[The Alex. Sept. alters this number to 332, an evident error.
1 Kings 20:19.—The Sept., by introducing the negative μή and changing the form of the verb to ἐξελθάτωσαν makes 1 Kings 20:19 a part of Ben-hadad’s order: “Let not the princes. … go out,” &c.
1 Kings 20:20.—[The Sept. very unnecessarily reduplicates: καὶ ἐδευτέρωσιν ἕκαστος τὸν παρ’ αὐτοῦ.
1 Kings 20:23.—[The Sept., by putting the verb in the singular, refers the superiority more immediately to the God of Israel.
1 Kings 20:27.—[The translation of the A. V. is certainly wrong, resting upon a false derivation of כָּלְכְּלוּ from כָּל. The word is POLP.: from כּוּל, and means “were supplied with provisions.” Vulg. acceptis cibariis. Our author renders [mit Lebensmitteln] versorgt; Keil, too fully, “were supplied with ammunition and provisions.” The Vat. Sept. neglects the word altogether, but the Alex, renders διοικήθησαν.
1 Kings 20:28.—[The Sept. puts this in the sing., “thou shalt know.”
1 Kings 20:30.—[הַחוֹמָה = the wall sc. of the city. “The fleeing Syrians probably, in order to make a stand in Aphek against the pursuing Israelites, bad partly climbed and occupied the city walls, and partly sought behind them a shelter for their protection,” Keil. Many MSS. read without the ו, and Kennicott, adopting this reading, would understand the word of the Simoom, or pestilential wind, by which so many of the Syrians were destroyed. There seems little support for this.
1 Kings 20:31.—[The Vat. Sept. makes this the address of Ben-hadad to his servants. At the close of the verse both recensions have the plural pronoun of the first person—save our lives.
1 Kings 20:33.—[וְהָֽאֲנָשִׁים יֲנֽחֲשׁוּ. The verb נָחַשׁ seems to be always used of augury, foreboding, presentiment, &c. (cf. Gen. 44:5, 15; Lev. 19:26; 2 Kings 17:17, &c). and is always translated in this general sense in the A. V. except in this passage and in Gen. 30:27, where it should be. All the versions here concur in this sense, e. g. the Vulg. Quod acceperunt viri pro omine. Our author translates as in the brackets—Und die Münner deuteten es günstig. So also Keil: “These took the words of Ahab as a good omen.”
1 Kings 20:33.—[וַיַּחְלְטוּ הֲמִמֶּנּוּ. These words are of much more difficult interpretation, especially because of the ἅπαξ λεγ. word חָלַט. For a discussion of its meaning see the Exeg. Com.
1 Kings 20:34.—[All the VV. concur in making this clause a continuation of the words of Ben-hadad. Keil agrees with our author and with the AV. in changing the speaker to Ahab.
1 Kings 20:38 —אֲפֵר is rendered in the A. V. as in the Vulg. and some of the other VV. as if it had been pointed אֵפֶר. The Chald. and Sept. (τελαμών) have undoubtedly hit the true sense, which in the Chald, is expressed by the very similar word מַעְפָּרָת. This is agreeable to the following words עַל־עֵינָיו, and also to the readiness with which it was removed, 1 Kings 20:41.—F. G.]
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.