June 27, 1 Kings 20-21

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Victory over Ben-hadad

20 Now King Ben-hadad of Aram assembled his entire army. Thirty-two kings, along with horses and chariots, were with him. He marched up, besieged Samaria, and fought against it. He sent messengers into the city to King Ahab of Israel and said to him, “This is what Ben-hadad says: ‘Your silver and your gold are mine! And your best wives and children are mine as well!’”

Then the king of Israel answered, “Just as you say, my lord the king: I am yours, along with all that I have.”

The messengers then returned and said, “This is what Ben-hadad says: ‘I have sent messengers to you, saying, “You are to give me your silver, your gold, your wives, and your children.” But at this time tomorrow I will send my servants to you,[a] and they will search your palace and your servants’ houses. They will lay their hands on and take away whatever is precious to you.’”

Then the king of Israel called for all the elders of the land and said, “Recognize[b] that this one is only looking for trouble, for he demanded my wives, my children, my silver, and my gold, and I didn’t turn him down.”

All the elders and all the people said to him, “Don’t listen or agree.”

So he said to Ben-hadad’s messengers, “Say to my lord the king, ‘Everything you demanded of your servant the first time, I will do, but this thing I cannot do.’” So the messengers left and took word back to him.

10 Then Ben-hadad sent messengers to him and said, “May the gods punish me and do so severely if Samaria’s dust amounts to a handful for each of the people who follow me.”

11 The king of Israel answered, “Say this: ‘Don’t let the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off.’”

12 When Ben-hadad heard this response, while he and the kings were drinking in their quarters,[c] he said to his servants, “Take your positions.” So they took their positions against the city.

13 A prophet approached King Ahab of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do you see this whole huge army? Watch, I am handing it over to you today so that you may know that I am the Lord.’”

14 Ahab asked, “By whom?”

And the prophet said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘By the young men of the provincial leaders.’”

Then he asked, “Who is to start the battle?”

He said, “You.”

15 So Ahab mobilized the young men of the provincial leaders, and there were 232. After them he mobilized all the Israelite troops: 7,000. 16 They marched out at noon while Ben-hadad and the thirty-two kings who were helping him were getting drunk in their quarters. 17 The young men of the provincial leaders marched out first. Then Ben-hadad sent out scouts, and they reported to him, saying, “Men are marching out of Samaria.”

18 So he said, “If they have marched out in peace, take them alive, and if they have marched out for battle, take them alive.”

19 The young men of the provincial leaders and the army behind them marched out from the city, 20 and each one struck down his opponent. So the Arameans fled and Israel pursued them, but King Ben-hadad of Aram escaped on a horse with the cavalry. 21 Then the king of Israel marched out and attacked the cavalry and the chariots. He inflicted a severe slaughter on Aram.

22 The prophet approached the king of Israel and said to him, “Go and strengthen yourself, then consider carefully[d] what you should do, for in the spring the king of Aram will attack you.”

23 Now the king of Aram’s servants said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hill country. That’s why they were stronger than we were. Instead, we should fight with them on the plain; then we will certainly be stronger than they are. 24 Also do this: remove each king from his position and appoint captains in their place. 25 Raise another army for yourself like the army you lost—horse for horse, chariot for chariot—and let’s fight with them on the plain; and we will certainly be stronger than they are.” The king listened to them and did it.

26 In the spring, Ben-hadad mobilized the Arameans and went up to Aphek to battle Israel. 27 The Israelites mobilized, gathered supplies, and went to fight them. The Israelites camped in front of them like two little flocks of goats, while the Arameans filled the landscape.

28 Then the man of God approached and said to the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans have said, “The Lord is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,” I will hand over all this whole huge army to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

29 They camped opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day, the battle took place, and the Israelites struck down the Arameans—one hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day. 30 The ones who remained fled into the city of Aphek, and the wall fell on those twenty-seven thousand remaining men.

Ben-hadad also fled and went into an inner room in the city. 31 His servants said to him, “Consider this: we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings. So let’s put sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads, and let’s go out to the king of Israel. Perhaps he will spare your life.”

32 So they dressed with sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, went to the king of Israel, and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad says, ‘Please spare my life.’”

So he said, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”

33 Now the men were looking for a sign of hope, so they quickly picked up on this[e] and responded, “Yes, it is your brother Ben-hadad.”

Then he said, “Go and bring him.”

So Ben-hadad came out to him, and Ahab had him come up into the chariot. 34 Then Ben-hadad said to him, “I restore to you the cities that my father took from your father, and you may set up marketplaces for yourself in Damascus, like my father set up in Samaria.”

Ahab responded, “On the basis of this treaty, I release you.” So he made a treaty with him and released him.

Ahab Rebuked by the Lord

35 One of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow prophet by the word of the Lord, “Strike me!” But the man refused to strike him.

36 He told him, “Because you did not listen to the Lord, mark my words: When you leave me, a lion will kill you.” When he left him, a lion attacked and killed him.

37 The prophet found another man and said to him, “Strike me!” So the man struck him, inflicting a wound. 38 Then the prophet went and waited for the king on the road. He disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 As the king was passing by, he cried out to the king and said, “Your servant marched out into the middle of the battle. Suddenly, a man turned aside and brought someone to me and said, ‘Guard this man! If he is ever missing, it will be your life in place of his life, or you will weigh out seventy-five pounds[f] of silver.’ 40 But while your servant was busy here and there, he disappeared.”

The king of Israel said to him, “That will be your sentence; you yourself have decided it.”

41 He quickly removed the bandage from his eyes. The king of Israel recognized that he was one of the prophets. 42 The prophet said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because you released from your hand the man I had set apart for destruction, it will be your life in place of his life and your people in place of his people.’” 43 The king of Israel left for home resentful and angry, and he entered Samaria.

Ahab and Naboth’s Vineyard

21 Some time passed after these events. Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard; it was in Jezreel next to the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. So Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard so I can have it for a vegetable garden, since it is right next to my palace. I will give you a better vineyard in its place, or if you prefer, I will give you its value in silver.”

But Naboth said to Ahab, “As the Lord is my witness, I will never give my ancestors’ inheritance to you.”

So Ahab went to his palace resentful and angry because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had told him. He had said, “I will not give you my ancestors’ inheritance.” He lay down on his bed, turned his face away, and didn’t eat any food.

Then his wife Jezebel came to him and said to him, “Why are you so upset that you refuse to eat?”

“Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite,” he replied. “I told him, ‘Give me your vineyard for silver, or if you wish, I will give you a vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I won’t give you my vineyard!’”

Then his wife Jezebel said to him, “Now, exercise your royal power over Israel. Get up, eat some food, and be happy. For I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal. She sent the letters to the elders and nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. In the letters, she wrote:

Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people. 10 Then seat two wicked men opposite him and have them testify against him, saying, “You have cursed God and the king!” Then take him out and stone him to death.

11 The men of his city, the elders and nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them, just as it was written in the letters she had sent them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the people. 13 The two wicked men came in and sat opposite him. Then the wicked men testified against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed God and the king!” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

15 When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite who refused to give it to you for silver, since Naboth isn’t alive, but dead.” 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite to take possession of it.

The Lord’s Judgment on Ahab

17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 “Get up and go to meet King Ahab of Israel, who is in Samaria. He’s in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you murdered and also taken possession?’ Then tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, the dogs will also lick up your blood!’”

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So, my enemy, you’ve found me, have you?”

He replied, “I have found you because you devoted yourself to do what is evil in the Lord’s sight. 21 This is what the Lord says:[g] ‘I am about to bring disaster on you and will eradicate your descendants:

I will wipe out all of Ahab’s males,[h]
both slave and free,[i] in Israel;

22 I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have angered me and caused Israel to sin.’ 23 The Lord also speaks of Jezebel: ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the plot of land[j] at Jezreel:

24 Anyone who belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, the dogs will eat,
and anyone who dies in the field, the birds[k] will eat.’”

25 Still, there was no one like Ahab, who devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him. 26 He committed the most detestable acts by following idols as the Amorites had, whom the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites.

27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put sackcloth over his body, and fasted. He lay down in sackcloth and walked around subdued. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? I will not bring the disaster during his lifetime, because he has humbled himself before me. I will bring the disaster on his house during his son’s lifetime.”

It would have been wiser for Ahab to consider the counsel of his elders before he surrendered to the Syrians and not after, but he did indeed ask for their wisdom. They advised him not to surrender all of the things he had surrendered. We then find God is going to come to the aid of the rebellious and idolatrous Israelites. They deserved abandonment, but they were going to receive divine intervention.

What can we learn from the reading?

There should be those in our life who we can ask to give us wisdom when we face difficult decisions in our life.

God loves us unconditionally. Although he will not always bail out our sinful actions, He loves us so much that He will cover some things. Does this mean we should live as please and ignore His instructions? That would be a disgrace and abuse of the grace of God. Just do your best to live for God and live in His mercy and grace and trust Him to cover the gaps.

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