1 Kings 20:12-21
And it came to pass, when Ben-hadad heard this message, as he was drinking, he and the kings in the pavilions…
The notable answer of the king of Israel to the insolent king of Syria, "Let not him that girdeth on the harness boast himself as he that putteth it off," came to Ben-hadad when he was drinking wine with the thirty and two kings that followed him. He at once gave orders to his servants to set themselves in battle array. While the enormous host which "filled the country" (see vers. 25, 27) disposed itself to attack the city, the men of Israel, who were but a handful, naturally trembled for the issue, at this juncture God interposed in the manner related here, and thereby asserted the general truths, viz. -
I. THAT GOD RULES IN THE DESTINIES OF MEN.
1. Here He showed His hand.
(1) He sent a prophet. Jarchi says it was Micalah, the son of Imlah, while others think it was Elijah in disguise; but it is useless to speculate on this point. We are more concerned with the purport of His message, which was to promise victory to Israel, and to indicate how that victory should be organized, so that in the issue Jehovah might be acknowledged.
(2) The hand of God was seen not only in the prophet's foreknowledge of events, but also in the wisdom of the adjustments by which they were to be brought about. For the victory was organized according to instructions of the prophet, purporting also to be from the Lord. Who but the Lord could have foreseen that at noon Ben-hadad and his kings would be so drunken as to be unfit and indisposed to take their posts of command? Who else could have foreseen that Ben-hadad would have been so foolish as to order the sortie to be taken alive? For thereby the Syrians were put to a disadvantage, which enabled the "young men of the princes of the provinces" and those who followed them to slay "every one his man," and throw the invading host into confusion.
(3) The power of God also was evident when the disparity of numbers is considered. An army of seven thousand Israelites could never without supernatural aid, have demoralized and routed the formidable hosts of Syria.
(4) And that God was in this victory could not be reasonably doubted, since this was not an extraordinary event by itself, but one of a series of such events; therefore it could not have been an accident. It was preceded by three years of drought which began and ended according to the "word" of Elijah, with the miracle on Carmel.
2. By so showing His hand He evinced that He is ever working.
(1) When events are ordinary, men are disposed to see in them natural causes only; but extraordinary events force upon their consideration the fact of a superior agency behind these causes.
(2) This truth is the more evident when the ordinary are recognized in the extraordinary. Thus God ordered the battle. He appointed the general, disposed the attack which was to assure the victory, and timed everything so to fit in with circumstances as to bring about the promised result.
(3) With God there is no essential difference between things ordinary and extraordinary. It is simply a question of proportions. For natural causes are all second causes, and would have no existence but for the First Cause. A miracle is but the unusual action of the First Cause upon the second causes; but in the usual action, God is none the less present and necessary to the result.
II. THAT HE RULES IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND MERCY.
1. He humbles the proud is righteousness.
(1) Defeat in any case is humiliation. To Ben-hadad after his confident boasting it was eminently so. He would remember the lesson, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." Let us observe it.
(2) The manner was an aggravation of the defeat. It was accomplished by two hundred and thirty-two "young men of the princes of the provinces," who are by some thought to have been a militia raised by provincial magistrates, and by others, with perhaps better reason - for the number seems too small to answer the former description - the attendants of such of those princes as were then in Samaria. It was intensely humiliating that a company of such combatants should rout a formidable army. God makes the weak confound the mighty.
(3) Ben-hadad would be mortified to think how his overweening confidence, together with his drunkenness, had directly contributed to his humiliation. He was too drunk to appear at the head of his army, but not too drunk to find his way to the cavalry to facilitate his flight. "There is but one step from the sublime to the ludicrous!"
2. He shows long-suffering in mercy.
(1) The judgment upon Ben-hadad was mercy to Ahab. It delivered him from the hand of a cruel oppressor. It gave him another warning and space for repentance.
(2) Did Ahab deserve this? Certainly not, while he submitted to be led by Jezebel, and that notwithstanding his experience of the drought and the miracle on Carmel. God is long suffering in mercy.
(3) But there were "seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which had not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" Jarchi would identify these with the "seven thousand" mentioned in verse 15. Probably some of that seven thousand went to compose this, and for their sakes it may have been that God had so signally interposed. Let us never lose sight of God. Let us discern His hand in nature, providence, grace. Let us never provoke His justice by pride, by rebellion. Let us respect His long-suffering by repentance. Let us throw ourselves upon His mercy for salvation, for help. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.