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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 20

 

 

Verses 1-34

1 Kings 20:1-34. Ahab's Victory over Ben-hadad.—Chs. 20 and 22 come from another source. Elijah does not appear, the religious interest is less prominent, and Ahab is presented in a far less hostile light. He acts as a brave and chivalrous king, bold in the battle and merciful in victory. In the Book of Kings the kings of Israel are seldom represented in a hostile spirit when confronted by the common enemy, Syria (cf. 2 Kings 7).

Syria, we learn, had become a formidable power. Ben-hadad's father had taken some of Omri's cities, and had compelled him to allow his merchants to have "streets," i.e. bazaars, in Samaria (1 Kings 20:34). The power of Syria was such that the king could treat the Israelite sovereign as his despised vassal. When the Syrian army filled the valley, the Israelite forces appeared like two small flocks of goats (1 Kings 20:27). Ahab, who is almost always called in this chapter "the king of Israel," was helped by an unnamed prophet (1 Kings 20:13) or man of God (1 Kings 20:28). Ben-hadad behaved throughout with arrogance (1 Kings 20:3-10), and Ahab with dignified calmness. His reply in three Hebrew words, "Let not him that girdeth on his armour boast himself as he that putteth it off" (1 Kings 20:11), is as brave as it is terse. The first year Ben-hadad with his thirty-two subject kings was defeated (1 Kings 20:20). The second he returned with a stronger army, led by his own captains instead of the kings. The Syrians believed that, because the Israelites were helped by mountain gods (1 Kings 20:23; LXX, "a god of the hills"), they would not gain a victory on the level plain. Ever since the Judges the Israelites had failed, as a rule, in the plains, because of the chariots of iron (Judges 1:19). Ahab, however, had a large force of chariots. A man of God announced that Israel would prevail because the Syrians boasted that Yahweh was not a god of the plain as well as of the hill. In the battle Ben-hadad was utterly defeated, and threw himself on Ahab's mercy. The kings of Israel had, it is interesting to know, the reputation of being merciful (1 Kings 20:31), and Ahab (1 Kings 20:32) declared that Ben-hadad was after all "his brother." A highly advantageous treaty with Israel was the result.

1 Kings 20:26. Aphek: there has been much discussion about the site; see EBi and G. A. Smith's Atlas pp. xviii., xx. Probably it was in the Plain of Sharon, near the Philistine border. The Syrians seem to have come down by the road through Megiddo to Aphek, and used it as the point from which to attack Samaria, or Philistia. Observe that in 2 Kings 13:22 Lucian's text of the LXX adds, "and Hazael took the Philistine from his hand from the Western Sea to Aphek."—A. S. P.]


Verses 35-43

1 Kings 20:35-43. Ahab's Death Foretold for Sparing Benhadad.—This section reminds us of 1 Samuel 15, Saul's sparing of Agag. It does not appear to be part of the foregoing narrative, but may be of great antiquity. The sin of Ahab, like that of Saul, seems commendable in our eyes, but to the Hebrews it was the most deadly of all—the violation of the herem or ban (pp. 99, 114), the sparing of a person "devoted" to Yahweh (1 Kings 20:42). The sons of the prophets" are mentioned here for the first time in the Bible (1 Kings 20:35).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Kings 20:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/1-kings-20.html. 1919.

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