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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

1 Kings 20

 

 

Verses 1-30

AHAB AND BENHADAD

1 Kings 20:1-30

IN the Septuagint and in Josephus the events narrated in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Kings are placed after the meeting of Elijah with Ahab at the door of Naboth’s vineyard, which occupies the twenty-first chapter in our version. This order of events seems the more probable, but no chronological data are given us in the long but fragmentary details of Ahab’s reign. They are, in fact, composed of different sets of records, partly historical, partly prophetic, and partly taken from some special monograph on the career of Elijah. Here, too, we may observe that some most important details are altogether omitted, and that we only learn them,

(1) from the inscription of King Mesha, and

(2) from the clay tablets of Assyria.

1. As regards King Mesha, the monument containing his very interesting annals is generally known as The Moabite Stone. It is a stele of black basalt, 3 feet 10 inches high, 2 feet broad, 14 1-2 inches thick, rounded at the top and bottom almost into a semicircle. The Phoenician inscription is of capital importance both for philology and history. It was first discovered by Mr. Klein, the German missionary of an English society at Dibon, east of the Dead Sea, and it is now at the Louvre. Dibon is now Dibban.

Mr. Klein in 1868, at Jerusalem, informed Professor Petermann of Berlin of the existence of this ancient relic, and from a few letters of the thirty-four lines which he had copied the Professor at once pronounced that the language employed was Phoenician. When M. Clermont Ganneau, the French consul at Jerusalem, endeavored to get possession of it, the Bedawin discovered that it was regarded with deep interest by European scholars. They immediately began to quarrel over its possession, and the Arab who had been sent to copy it barely escaped with his life. In their greed and jealousy these modern Moabites "sooner than give it up, put a fire under it, and threw cold water on it, and so broke it, and then distributed the bits among the different families to be placed in the granaries and to serve as blessings upon the corn; for they said that without the stone (or its equivalent in hard cash) a blight would fall upon their crops." Squeezes had been previously taken from it by M. Ganneau and Captain Warren, from which the text has been restored.

It records three great events in the reign of Mesha.

(1) Lines 1-21. Wars of Mesha with Omri and his successors.

(2) Lines 21-31. Public works of Mesha after his deliverance from his Jewish oppressors.

(3) Lines 31-34. His successful wars against the Edomites (or a people of Horonaim), undertaken by command of his god Chemosh. The date of the erection of the monolith is about B.C. 890.

It begins thus:-

(1) I, Mesha, am son of Chemosh-Gad, King of Moab,

(2) the Dibonite. My father reigned over Moab thirty years, and I reigned

(3) after my father. And I erected this Stone to Chemosh (a stone of salvation) {Comp. 1 Samuel 7:12}

(4) for he saved me from all despoilers, and let me see my desire upon all my enemies.

(5) Now Omri, King of Israel, he oppressed Moab many days, for Chemosh was angry with his

(6) land. His son succeeded him, and he also said, I will oppress Moab. In my days he said (Let us go)

(7) and I will see my desire on him and his house, and Israel said, I shall destroy it for ever. Now Omri took the land

(8) Medeba, and (the enemy) occupied it (in his days and in) the days of his sons, forty years. And Chemosh (had mercy)

(9) on it in my days.

He goes on to tell how he built Bael Meon and Kirjathaim; captured Ataroth, and killed all its warriors, and devoted its spoil to Chemosh. "And Chemosh said to me, Go take Nebo against Israel." He took it, slew seven thousand men, devoted the women and maidens to Ashtar-Chemosh, and offered Jehovah’s vessels to Chemosh. Then he took Jahas which the king of Israel had fortified, and annexed it to Dibon; built Korcha, its palaces, prisons, etc., Aroer, Bethbamoth, and other towns which he colonised with poor Moabites; and took Horonaim by assault.

There the inscription ends, but not until it has given us some details of a series of bloody wars about which the Scripture narrative is almost entirely silent, though in 2 Kings 3:4-27 it narrates Mesha’s desperate resistance of Israel, Judah, and Edom (B.C. 896).

On this inscription we may briefly remark that for Chemosh-Gad, Dr. Neubauer reads Chemosh-melech, and makes various other changes and suggestions.

2. From the annals of Assyria we learn the altogether unexpected fact that Ahabu Sirlai, i.e., "Ahab of Israel," was acting as one of the allies, or more probably as one of the vassals, of Syria in the great battle fought at Karkar, B.C. 854, against Shalmanezer II, by Hittites, Hamathites, and Syrians. Whether this was before the invasion of Benhadad, or after his defeat, is uncertain.

The twentieth chapter of the Book of Kings tells us that Benhadad, the Aramaean king, accompanied by thirty-two feudatory princes of Hittites, Hamathites, and others, gathered together all his host with his horses and chariots, and proclaimed war against Israel. Unable to meet this vast army in the field, Ahab shut himself up in Samaria, and Benhadad went up and besieged it. We do not know which Benhadad this was. It could not have been the grandson of Rezon, whom, fourteen years earlier, King Asa had bribed to attack Baasha in order to divert him from building Ramah. It may have been his son or grandson bearing the same religious dynastic name. In any case the policy of attacking Israel was suicidal. If the kings had possessed the prescient glance of the prophets they could not have failed to see on the northern horizon the cloud of Assyrian power, which menaced them all with cruel extinction at the bands of that atrocious people. Their true policy would have been to form an offensive and defensive league, instead of coveting one another’s dominions. Although Assyria had not yet risen to the zenith of her empire, she was already formidable enough to convince the King of Damascus that he would never be able single-handed to prevent Syria from being crushed before her. Instead of inflicting ruinous losses and humiliations on the tribes of Israel, the dynasty of Rezon if it had been wise in its day, would have insured their friendly aid against the horrible common enemy of the nations.

When Benhadad had succeeded in reducing Ahab to hopeless straits, he sent him a herald to demand the admission of ambassadors. Their ultimatum was couched in language of the deadliest insult. Benhadad laid insolent claim to everything which Ahab possessed-his silver, his gold, his wives, and the fairest of his children. To save his people from ruin, Ahab-it is strange that throughout the narrative we do not hear one word either about Jezebel or Elijah-sent an answer of the humblest submission. Tyre gave him no help, nor did Judah. He seems at this time to have been entirely isolated and to have sunk to the nadir of his degradation. "It is true," he said, "my lord, and king; I, and all that I possess, is thine." The depth of humiliation involved in such a concession is the measure of the utter straits to which Ahab was reduced. When an Eastern king had to give up to his conqueror even his seraglio-yes, even his queen-all his power must have been humbled to the very dust. And at the head of Ahab’s seraglio was Jezebel. How frenzied must have been the thoughts of that terrible woman, when she saw that her Baal, and the Astarte to whom her father was a priest, in spite of the temple which she had built, and her eight hundred and fifty priests of Baal and Asherah with all their vestments and pompous ceremonies and blood-stained invocations, had wholly failed to save her-a great king’s daughter and a great king’s wife-from drinking to the very dregs this cup of shame!

Encouraged by this abject demeanor into yet more outrageous insolence, Benhadad sent back his ambassadors with the further menace that he would himself send his messengers next day into Samaria, who should search and rifle not only the palace of Ahab, but the houses of all his servants, from which they should take away everything that was pleasant in their eyes.

The merciless demand kindled in the breast of the wretched king one last spark of the courage of despair. Nothing could be worse than such a pillage. Death itself seemed preferable. He summoned together all the elders of the land to a great council, to which the people also were invited, and he set the state of things before them. The fact gives us an interesting glimpse into the constitution of the kingdom of Israel. It greatly resembled that of the little Greek states in the days of the Iliad. Under ordinary circumstances of prosperity the king was within certain limits despotic; but he might easily be reduced to the necessity of consulting a sort of senate, composed of his greatest subjects, and at these open-air deliberations the people were present as assessors on whose will depended the ultimate decision.

Ahab put before his council the desperate condition to which he had been reduced by the Syrian leaguer. He recounted the cruel terms to which he had submitted in order to save his people from destruction. From the second embassage of Benhadad it was clear that the first demand had only been made in the hope that its refusal would give the Syrians an excuse for pressing on the siege, and delivering the city to ravage and slaughter. Was it their will that the insolent foreign tyrant should have his way, and be permitted without let or hindrance to rifle their houses, and carry away their goodliest sons as eunuchs and their fairest wives as concubines? He asked their advice how to overcome this dire calamity;

"What reinforcement we may gain from hope, If not what resolution from despair."

The elders saw that even massacre and pillage could hardly be worse than a tame submission to such demands. They plucked up courage and said to Ahab, "Hearken not to him, nor consent" and the people shouted their applause to the heroic refusal. {Comp. Joshua 9:18; 11:11} The king seems in this instance to have been more despondent than his subjects, perhaps because he was better able than they to gauge the immense military superiority of his invader. Even his second message, though it rejected Benhadad’s demand was almost pusillanimous in its submission. With bated breath and whispering humbleness Ahab said to the Syrian ambassadors, quite in the tone of a vassal: "Tell my lord the king, I will submit to his first demands; I may not consent to his final ones." The ambassadors went to Benhadad, and returned with the fierce menace that in the name of his god their king would shatter Samaria into dust, of which the handfuls would not suffice for each of his soldiers. Ahab replied firmly in a happy proverb, "Let not him that girdeth on his armor boast himself as he that putteth it off."

The warning proverb was reported to the Aramaean king, whilst in the insolent confidence of victory he was drinking himself drunk in his war-booths. It nettled him to fury. "Plant the engines," he exclaimed. The catapults and battering-rams, with all the engines which constituted the siege-train of the day, were at once set in motion, the scaling ladders brought up, and the archers set in position, just as we see in the Assyrian Kouyunjik sculptures of the siege of Lachish and other cities by Sennacherib.

Ahab’s heart must have sunk within him, for he knew his impotence, and he knew also the horrors which befell a city taken after desperate resistance. But he was not left unencouraged. The characteristic of the prophets was that dauntless confidence in Jehovah which so often made a prophet the Tyrtaeus of his native land, unless the land had sunk into utter apostasy. In this extreme of peril a nameless prophet-the Rabbis, who always guess at a name when they can, say it was Micaiah ben Imlah-came to Ahab. As though to emphasize the supernatural character of his communication, he pointed to the chariots and archers and the Syrian host - which, if the subsequent numbers be accurate, must have reached the astounding total of one hundred and thirty thousand men-and said, in the name of Jehovah:-

"Hast thou seen all this great multitude? Lo! I will deliver it into thine hand today: And thou shalt know that I am the Lord."

"By whom?" was the astonished and half-despairing question of the king; and the strange answer was:-

"By the young servants of the provincial governors."

It was to be made clear that this was a victory due to the intervention of God, and not won by the power nor the might of man, lest the warriors of Israel should be able to boast of the arm of flesh.

"Who shall lead the assault?" asked the king. "Thou!" answered the prophet.

Nothing could be wiser than this counsel, now that the nation was brought to the extreme edge of hazard. The veterans, perhaps, were intimidated. They would see more clearly the hopelessness of attempting to cope with that colossal host under its five-and-thirty kings. But now the nation, whose veterans had been driven back, evoked the battle-brunt of its youths. The two hundred and thirty-two pages of the district governors were ready to obey orders, ready, like an army of Decii to devote their lives to the cause of their country. They were put in the forefront of the battle, and so pitiable was the depression of the capital that Ahab could only number a paltry army of seven thousand soldiers to stand behind their desperate undertaking.

Their plan was well laid. They went out at noon. At that burning hour, under the intolerable glare and heat of the Syrian sun-and campaigns were only undertaken in spring and summer-it is almost impossible to bear the weight of armor, or to sit on horseback, or to endure the fierce heat of iron chariots. The first little army which issued from the gates of Samaria might rely on the effects of a surprise. Thousands of the Syrian soldiers expecting nothing less than a battle would be unarmed, and taking their siesta. Their chariots and war steeds would be unharnessed and unprepared.

Benhadad was still continuing his heavy drinking bout with his vassal princes, and not one of them was in a condition to give coherent commands. A messenger announced to the band of royal drunkards that "men" were come out of Samaria. They were too few to call them "an army," and the notion of an attack from that poor handful seemed ridiculous. Benhadad thought they were coming to sue for peace, but whether peace or war were their object he gave the contemptuous order to "take them alive."

It was easier said than done. Led by the king at the head of his valorous youths the little host clashed into the midst of the unwieldly, unprepared, ill-handled Syrian host, and by their first slaughter created one of those fearful panics which have often been the destruction of Eastern hosts. The Syrians, whose army wag made up of heterogeneous forces, and which could not be managed by thirty-four half-intoxicated feudatories of differing interests and insecure allegiance, was doubtless afraid that internal treachery must have been at work. Like the Midianites, like Zerah’s Ethiopian host, like the Edomites in the Valley of Salt, like the Ammonites and Moabites in the wilderness of Tekoa, like the army of Sennacherib, like the enormous and motley hosts of Persia at Marathon, at Plataea, and at Arbela, they were instantly flung into irremediable confusion which tended every moment to be more fatal to itself. The little band of the youths and horses of Israel had nothing to do but to slay, and slay, and slay. No effective resistance was even attempted. Long before evening the hundred and thirty thousand Syrians. with the entangled mass of their chariots and horsemen, were in headlong flight, while Ahab and the people of Israel slaughtered their flying rear. The defeat became an absolute rout. Benhadad himself had a most narrow escape. He could not even wait for his war chariot. He had to fly with a few of his horsemen, and apparently, so the words may imply, on an inferior horse.

What effect was produced on the national mind and on the social religion by this immense deliverance we are not told. Never, certainly, had any nation deeper cause for gratitude to its religious teachers, who alone had not despaired of the commonwealth when everything seemed lost. We would fain know where was Elijah at this crisis and whether he took any part in it. We cannot tell, hut we know that as a rule the sons of the prophets acted together under their chiefs, and that individual impulses were rarely encouraged. The very meaning of the "Schools of the Prophets" was that they were all trained to adopt the same principles and to move together as one body.

The service rendered by this prophet, whose very name has been buried in undeserved oblivion, did not end here. Perhaps he saw signs of carelessness and undue exultation. He went again to the king, and warned him that his victory, immense as it had been, was not final. It was no time for him to settle on his lees. The Syrians would assuredly return the following year probably with increased resources and with the burning determination to avenge their defeat. Let Ahab look well to his army and his fortresses, and prepare himself for the coming shock!


Verses 31-43

AHAB’S INFATUATION

1 Kings 20:31-43

"Quem vult Deus perire dementat prius."

THE courtiers of Benhadad found it easy to flatter his pride by furnishing reasons to account for such an alarming overthrow. They had attacked the Israelites on their hills, and the gods of Israel were hill-gods. Next time they would take Israel at a disadvantage by fighting only on the plain. Further, the vassal kings were only an element of dissension and weakness. They prevented the handling of the army as one strong machine worked by a single supreme will. Let Benhadad depose from command these incapable weaklings, and put in their place dependent civil officers (pachoth) who would have no thought but to obey orders. And so, with good heart, let the king collect a fresh army with horses and chariots as powerful as the last. The issue would be certain conquest and dear revenge.

Benhadad followed this advice The next year he went with his new host and encamped near Aphek. There is an Aphek (now Fik) which lay on the road between Damascus on the east of Jordan on a little plain south-east of the Sea of Galilee. This may have been the town of Issachar, in the valley of Jezreel, where Saul was defeated by the Philistines. {1 Samuel 29:1} Israel went out to meet them duly provisioned. The Syrian host spread over the whole country; the Israelite army looked only like two little flocks of kids.

To strengthen the misgivings of the anxious king of Israel, another nameless prophet-probably, like Elijah, a Gileadite-came to promise him the victory. Jehovah would convince the Syrians that He was something more than a mere local god of the hills as they had blasphemously said, and Israel would once more he shown that He was indeed the Lord.

For seven days the vast army and the little band of patriots gazed at each other, as the Israelites and Philistines had done in the days of Saul and Goliath. On the seventh day they joined battle. In what special way the aid of Jehovah seconded the desperate valor of His people who were fighting for their all we do not know, but the result was, once more, their stupendous victory. The army of the Syrians was not only defeated, but practically annihilated. In round numbers 100,000 Syrians fell in the slaughter of that day, and when the remnant took refuge in Aphek, which they had captured, they perished in a sudden crash-perhaps of earthquake-which buried them in the ruins of its fortifications. Rescued, we know not how, from this disaster, Benhadad fled from chamber to chamber to hide himself from the victors in some innermost recess.

But it was impossible that he should not be discovered, and therefore his servants persuaded him to throw himself on the mercy of his conqueror. "The kings of Israel," they said, "are, as we have heard, compassionate kings; let us go before the king with sackcloth on our loins, and ropes round our necks, and ask if he will save thy life." So they went, as the burghers of Calais went before Edward I and then Ahab heard from the ambassadors of the king who had once dictated terms to him with such infinite contempt, the message: "Thy slave Benhadad saith, I pray thee, let me live." The incident that followed is eminently characteristic of Eastern customs. In rencontres between Orientals everything depends on the first words which are exchanged. It is believed that superior powers wield the utterances of the tongue amid the chances which are really destiny, so that the most casual expression is caught up superstitiously as a sort of Bath Kol, or "the daughter of a voice," which not only indicates but even helps to bring about the purposes of Heaven. A chance friendly greeting may become the termination of a blood feud, because something more than chance is supposed to lie behind it! Once when a group of doomed gladiators gathered themselves under the Imperial podium of the amphitheatre with their sublimely monotonous chant, "Ave Caesar, morituri te salutamus," the half-dazed emperor inadvertently answered, "Avete vos! He has bidden us, ‘Hail!"’ shouted the gladiators: "the contest is remitted; we are free!" Had the Romans been Orientals the twenty thousand assembled spectators would have felt the force of the appeal. Even as it was the significance of the omen was felt to be so great that the gladiators threw down their arms, and it was only by whips and violence that they were finally driven to the combat in which they perished.

So with intense eagerness the ambassadors, in their sackcloth and their halters, awaited the Bath Kol. It came far more favorably than they had dared to hope. Surprised, and perhaps half touched with pity for so immense a reverse of misfortune, "Is he yet alive?" exclaimed the careless king: "he is my brother!"

The Syrians snatched at the expression as a decisive omen. It constituted an absolute end of the feud. It became an implicit promise of that sacred dakheel, that "protection" to which the slightest and most accidental expression constitutes a recognized claim. "Thy brother Benhadad," they earnestly and emphatically repeated. In accordance with Eastern custom and augury their whole end was gained. As far as Benhadad was concerned he was now safe; as far as Ahab was concerned, the mischief, if mischief it were, was irreparably done. Ahab could hardly have drawn back even if he wished to do so, but perhaps he was swayed by a fellow feeling for a king. This strange uxorious monarch, with his easily swayed impulses, his fits of schoolboy sullenness and swift repentance, his want of insight into existing conditions, his-if the expression may be excused-happy-go-lucky way of letting questions settle themselves, was, no doubt, a brave warrior, but he was a most incapable statesman. His conduct was perfectly infatuated. Pity is one thing, but the security of a nation has also to be considered. It would have been a worse than insensate piece of pseudo-chivalry if the Congress of Vienna had not sent Napoleon to Elba, and if England had not confined him in St. Helena. To set free a man endowed with passionate hatred, with immense ambitions, with boundless capacities for mischief-or only to bind him with the packthread of insecure promises-was the conduct of a fool. If it was compassion which induced Ahab to give Benhadad his life, it showed either gross incapacity or treachery against his own nation not to clip his wings, and hamper him from the future injuries which the burden of gratitude was little likely to prevent. The sequel shows that Benhadad’s resentment against his royal "brother" only became more hopelessly implacable, and in all probability it was largely mingled with contempt.

And Ahab’s conduct, besides being foolish, was guilty. It showed a frivolous non-recognition of his duties as a theocratic king. It flung away the national advantages, and even the national security, which had not been vouchsafed to any power or worth of his, but only to Jehovah’s direct interposition to save the destinies of his people from premature extinction.

When Benhadad came out of his hiding-place, Ahab, not content with sparing the life of this furious and merciless aggressor, took him up into his chariot, which was the highest honor he could have paid him, and accepted the excessively easy terms which Benhadad himself proposed. The Syrians were not required to pay any indemnity for the immense expenditure and unutterable misery which their wanton invasions had inflicted upon Israel! They simply proposed to restore the cities which Benhadad’s father had taken from Omri, and to allow the Israelites to have a protected bazaar in Damascus similar to the one which the Syrians enjoyed in Samaria. On this covenant Benhadad was sent home scatheless, and with a supineness which was not so much magnanimous as fatuous, Ahab neglected to take hostages of any kind to secure the fulfillment even of these ridiculously inadequate terms of peace.

Benhadad was not likely to throw away the chance which gave him such an easy-going and improvident adversary. It is certain that he did not keep the covenant. He probably never even intended to keep it. If he condescended to any excuse for breaking it, he would probably have affected to regard it as extorted by violence, and therefore invalid, as Francis I defended the forfeiture of his parole after the battle of Pavia. The recklessness with which Ahab had reposed in Benhadad a confidence, not only undeserved, but rendered reckless by all the antecedents of the Syrian king, cost him very dear. He had to pay the penalty of his dementation three years later in a new and disastrous war, in the loss of his life, and the overthrow of his dynasty. The fact that, after so many exertions, and so much success in war, in commerce, and in worldly policy, he and his house fell unpitied, and no one raised a finger in his defense, was doubtless due in part to the alienation of his army by a carelessness which flung away in a moment all the fruits of their hard-won victories.

There was one aspect in which Ahab’s conduct assumed an aspect more supremely culpable. To whom had he owed the courage and inspiration which had rescued him from ruin, and led to the triumphs which had delivered him and his people from the depths of despair? Not in the least to himself, or to Jezebel, or to Baal’s priests, or to any of his captains or counselors. In both instances the heroism had been inspired and the success promised by a prophet of Jehovah. What would convince him, if this would not, that in God only was his strength? Did not the most ordinary gratitude as well as the most ordinary wisdom require that he should recognize the source of these unhoped-for blessings? There is not the least trace that he did so. We read of no word of gratitude to Jehovah, no desire to follow the guidance of the prophets to whom he was so deeply indebted, and who had proved their right to be regarded as interpreters of God’s will. Had he done this he would not have suffered the clannishness of royalty to plunge him into a step which was the chief cause of his final destruction

He might ignore guidance, but he could not escape reproof. Again an unknown monitor from the sons of the prophets was commissioned to bring home to him his error He did so by an acted parable, which gave concrete force and vividness to the lesson which he desired to convey Speaking "by the word of the Lord"-i.e., as a part of the prophetic inspiration which dictated his acts-he went to one of his fellows in the school of which the members are here first called "the sons of the prophets," and bade him to wound him. His comrade, not unnaturally, shrank from obeying so strange a command. It must be borne in mind that the mere appeal to an inspiration from Jehovah did not always authenticate itself. Over and over again in the prophetic books, and in these histories which the Jews call "the earlier prophets," we find that men could profess to act in Jehovah’s name, and even perhaps to be sincere in so doing, who were mere dupes of their own wills and fancies. It was, in fact, possible for them to become false prophets, without always meaning to be so; and these chances of hallucination-of being misled by a lying spirit-led to fierce contentions in the prophetic communities. "Since you have not obeyed Jehovah’s voice," said the man, "the lion shall immediately slay you." "And as soon as he was departed from him the lion found him and slew him." There is nothing impossible in the incident, for in those days lions were common in Palestine, and they multiplied when the country had been depopulated by war. But we can never feel certain how far the ethical and didactic and parabolic elements were allowed, for purposes of edification, to play a part in these ancient yet not contemporaneous Acta Prophetarum, and at any rate to dictate the interpretation of things which may have actually occurred.

The prophet then bade another comrade to smite him, and he did so effectually, inflicting a serious wound. This was a part of the intended scene in which the prophet meant for a moment to play the role of a soldier who had been wounded in the Syrian war. So he bound up his head with a bandage, and waited for the king to pass by. An Eastern king is liable at any time to be appealed to by the humblest of his subjects, and the prophet stopped Ahab and stated his imaginary case. "A captain," he said, "brought me one of his war captives, and ordered me to keep him safe. If I failed to do so, I was to pay the forfeit of my life, or to pay as a fine a silver talent. But as I was looking here and there the captive escaped." "Be it so," answered Ahab; "you are bound by your own bargain." Thus Ahab, like David, was led to condemn himself out of his own mouth. Then the prophet tore the bandage from his face, and said to Ahab: "Thou art the man! Thus saith Jehovah, I entrusted to thee the man under my ban (cherem), and thou hast let him escape. Thou shalt pay the forfeit. Thy life shall go for his life thy people for his people."

Anger and indignation filled the heart of the king; he went to his house "heavy and displeased." The phrase, twice applied to him and never used of another, shows that he was liable to characteristic moods of overwhelming sullenness, the result of an uneasy conscience, and of a rage which was compelled to remain impotent. It is evident that he did not dare to chastise the audacious offender, though the Jews say that the prophet was Micaiah, the son of Imlah, and that he was imprisoned for this offense. As a rule the prophets-like Samuel and Nathan, and Gad and Shemaiah, and Jehu the son of Hanani-were protected by their sacrosanct position. Now and then an Urijah, a Jeremiah, a Zechariah son of Berechiah, paid the penalty of bold denunciation, not only by hatred and persecution, but with his life. This, however, was the exception. As a rule the prophets felt themselves safe under the wing of a Divine protector. Not only Elijah in his sheepskin mantle, but even the humblest of his imitators in the prophetic schools might fearlessly stride up to a king, seize his steed by the bridle, as Athanasius did to Constantine, and compel him to listen to his rebuke or his appeal.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Kings 20:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/1-kings-20.html.

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