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The first book of the Kings : with map, introduction and notes online

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hadad's previous conduct. 11. Tell him, (fee] We convey
somewhat of a like sense by 'Praise not the day till the evening.'
For the somewhat antiquated 'harness 1 the B.Y. substitutes
armour. 12. as he was drinking] Ben-hadad was clearly



I. KINGS, XX. 13-16. 123

the pavilions, that he said unto his servants, Set yourselves in
array. And they set themselves in array against the city.

And behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, 13
saying, Thus saith the Lord, 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. And Ahab said, By 14
whom? And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Even by the
young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said,
Who shall order the battle? And he answered, Thou. Then he 15
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. And they went out at noon. But Ben-hadad 16

full of confidence, and was giving a banquet to the allied princes in
anticipation of the victory. he and the hiitgs] i.e. the thirty

and two, mentioned in ver. 1. m the pavilions ]1 he word is

the same which is used for the temporary booths erected of branches
of trees at the feast of Tabernacles. Doubtless the tents of Ben-
hadad and his princes were of the like kind, for the erection ot
which material was not difficult to find. Set yourselves in

array] As there is only the verb expressed here, it is possible to
substitute as is done in the margin 'the engines' instead ot the
text The word is used elsewhere with a noun ' battering-ranis
after it (Ezek. iv. 2), but there is nothing in this passage to shew
us whether the persons or the engines are referred to. Such ellip-
tical phrases are common among words of command.

13. there came a prophet] The R.V. has came near, ims

prophet must have been one of those who were saved at the time

of Jezebel's attempt to destroy them all. 14. the young

men of the princes of the provinces] 'The princes of the provinces

were probably chieftains who had come from various parts ot the

kingdom of Israel. The ' young men ' would be their attendants or

squires. Evidently they are selected as persons who had no great

experience, though they might have the courage to go, few in

number, against a much superior force. TI ho shall, order the

battle] The R.V. has rendered begin. Instead of remaining within

the walls, God encourages Ahab to be the first to strike a blow.

Humanly speaking, even, such a step was likely to meet with some

success. 15. Then he numbered [R.V. mustered] the young

men] The verb occurs several times in this chapter, and is always

rendered 'numbered' (see vv. 26, 27 and the two instances in this

verse), as indeed it is in nearly all cases in A.V. But looking at

verse 27, in comparison with this verse, 'to number' can hardly be

correct, for then the operation would have been performed twice

over even all the children of Israel] The smallness of the

number mentioned (7000) is very remarkable. There were no

doubt many more men of war in Israel, but if the number in the

text be correct, it must be that Ahab had not been able to bring

many soldiers together in the city by reason of the suddenness ol

the attack 16. they went out at noon\ They had probably



124 I. KINGS, XX. 17—24.

was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings,
17 the thirty and two kings that helped him. And 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
i« of Samaria. And he said, Whether they be come out for

peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war,
ii» take them alive. So these young men of the princes of the

provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed

20 them. And they slew every one his man : and the Syrians fled ;
and Israel pursued them : and Ben-hadad the king of Syria

21 escaped on a horse with the horsemen. And the king of Israel
went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the
Syrians with a great slaughter.

22 And 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

23 up against thee. And the servants of the king of Syria said
unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they
were stronger than we ; but let us fight against them in the

-'4 plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. And do this

learnt that the royal banquet was in progress, and the moment
would appear a favourable one. 17. and Ben-hadad sent out]

Even in his drunken revelry he is made aware that something
unexpected is taking place, and he sends to know exactly what
it is. ' There are men come out of (R.V. from) Samaria ; ' ' They
are not going to wait for our attack, but either come to attack us,
or to make proposals for peace.' 18. take them alive] What-

ever their mission might be Ben-hadad had no doubt that his
followers could surround them and capture them without fighting.

19. >So these young men, &c.] The R.Y. keeps the order of the
original and renders, So these went out of the city, the young
men, fee. and the army which followed them] That is, the
7000 mentioned above in verse 15. Apparently the battle was to
be commenced by the young men, and the other troops were to
come on and increase the alarm caused by the unexpected attack.

20. on a horse with the horsemen] The king of Syria fled away
in such haste that he did not get a proper riding-horse for himself,
but took a carriage-horse and on that made his escape among the
mounted troops. 21. And the king of Israel went out ] Ahab's
part appears to have been a small one.

22. the prophet came to the king] R.Y. came near as in vv. 13
and 28. mark, and see] i.e. take every possible precaution.

at the return of the year] i.e. when the fitting season for taking
the field has again come round. 23. their gods are gods) R.V.

their god is a god. The Syrians would speak of the God of
Israel as a national divinity, just as they would of their own god.
The former battle had been fought in the hill country round about
Samaria, and this may have given encouragement to the idea that
in a level plain the Syrian forces would meet with more success.



I. KINGS, XX. 25—30. 125

thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place, and
put captains in their rooms : and number thee an army, like 25
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. And it came to pass at the return of 26
the year, that Ben-hadad numbered the Syrians, and went up
to Aphek, to fight against Israel. And the children of Israel 27
were numbered, and were all present, and went against them:
and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little
flocks of kids ; but the Syrians filled the country. And there 28
came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and
said, Thus saith the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, The
Lord 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 ye shall know that I am the Lord. And they pitched one 29
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.
But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and there a wall fell 30

24. Take the kings away] That is, the thirty and two, whose
attendance on the court, and the wassail consequent on their
presence, had done much harm to the expedition. 25. and

number thee an army] Here the operation is one of numbering,
making the force tally exactly in each arm with that which had
been gathered in the previous year. 26. numbered] R.V.

mustered, and so in the next verse. up to Aphek] The Aphek

here intended must be the city of that name which lay in the plain
of Jezreel. 27. were all present] The E.V. has adopted the

marginal rendering of A.V. were victualled. This is the render-
ing of the Yulg. and the children of Israel pitched [K.V.
encamped] before them] The R.V. is a very frequent translation
of this word, and seems best when there is no object after the verb.

tiro little flocks] The Israelite army had adopted a division into
two parts, perhaps from the arrangement which had been so
successful hi the previous attack. 28. And there came a man

of God] R.V. And a man of God came near. See on verse 13
above. This was probably a different person from the prophet of
verses 13 and 22. and said] This is the same word in the

original with that rendered ' and spake ' just a few words before.
It seems probable that its repetition is due to an error of the
scribe. the Lord is God] R.V. a god, twice in this

verse. 29. seven days] Perhaps there was some religious

idea on the part of the Israelites connected with this time of
waiting before they began the battle. an hundred thousand

footmen] The number is very large. If it be correct, the slaughter
can hardly have been effected in any other way but by a panic
in which these troops cut and trampled down one another.

30. and there a [R.V. and the] vail fell upon twenty and sere,



126 I. KINGS, XX. 31—34.

upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left.
And Ben-hadad fled, and came into the city, into an inner

3J chamber. And his servants said unto him, 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:

32 peradventure he will save thy life. So 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

;*3 brother. Now the men did diligently observe whether any
thing would come from him, and did hastily catch it: 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

34 come up into the chariot. And Ben-hadad said unto him,
The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will



thousand of the [K.V. omits of the"] men] The noun is definite in
the original, and must refer to the city wall of Aphek. The Divine
promise of victory seems to warrant us in concluding that the disaster
was by Divine interposition. The small number of Israel could not
have availed even for the slaughter of those avIio fell in the battle.

And Ben-hadad fled] He was probably on or near the walls when
the great disaster occurred. into an inner chamher] Literally,

'a chamber within a chamber.' What is meant is no doubt some
room as far removed from the entrance as possible. 31. let ns,

I [R.V. we] pray thee] The change is made because the sentence
is in other parts in the plural. sackcloth on our loins] The

garment of humiliation and mourning. ropes upon our heads]

Probably meaning with ropes around the neck. No token of sub-
mission could be more expressive than this to indicate that Ahab
might hang them if he pleased. peradventure he will save thy

life] A touch of Oriental character. The Eastern courtier, even at
such a time, would speak of his master's life and not his own. If
the former were spared, the latter would be spared also, as a matter
of course. 32. Is he yet alive ? he is my brother] Ahab could

not know whether Ben-hadad had perished under the falling wall,
but as soon as he hears that he is safe, his sympathy is stirred for
one of his own rank, and he uses the kingly form of address in
speaking of bun 'my brother.' 33. the men did diligently

observe whether any thing would come from him, and did hastily
catch it] B.V. the men observed diligently and hasted to
catch whether it were his mind. The R.V. seems to have
improved a little upon the A.Y., and the following words 'Thy
brother Ben-hadad' shew on what point the Syrians were anxious
for confirmation. into the chariot] The war chariot in which

Ahab had come forth to the battle. 34. This verse is very

singular from the omission of the names of both the speakers. It
is clear enough from the sense, to whom each clause must be
assigned, but the omissions are so unusual that one can hardly



I. KINGS, XX. 35—39. 127

restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus, as
my father made in Samaria. Then said Ahab, I will send
thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with
him, and sent him away.

And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his 35
neighbour in the word of the Lord, Smite me, I pray thee.
And the man refused to smite him. Then said he unto him, 36
Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the Lord, 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. Then he found another man, and said, Smite 37
me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting
he wounded him. So the prophet departed, and waited for the 38
king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his
face. And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king : and 39

help suspecting some error in the text. make streets for thee

in Damascus] This must signify that a portion of Damascus should
be set apart as belonging to Israel, and that dwellings might be
erected there for the use of such Israelites as should have need to
go thither. Then, said Ahab, / will send thee away] E.V.,

And I, said Ahab, will let thee go. It is better to translate it
thus here, and in the following clause of this verse ' and let him
go.' with this covenant] The agreement, namely, for the

restoration of the taken cities, and for the privilege of occupying
part of Damascus with houses for Israelites.

35. a certain man of the sons of the prophets] It is clear from
what follows in the history (2 Kings ii.) about the taking of Elijah
into heaven, that in spite of Jezebel's persecution, the prophets and
their schools were not put down. said unto his neighbour
in [E.V. fellow by] the word of the Lord] The man to whom
he made the request was probably one who like himself dwelt
in one of the prophetic societies, and he ought therefore to have
understood that there was some purpose in his companion's request.

Smite me] He wished to personate a man who had been engaged
in the battle and had suffered something from the enemy.

the man refused] Such a refusal was utterly at variance with
the character of a prophet, who was to be prepared to obey
at all costs a message which came as the word of the Lord.

36. a lion] On the frequency of wild beasts in the Holy Land
at this time, see above on xiii. 24. 37. so that in smiting
he wounded him] The K.V. has adopted the literal rendering
which stands on the margin of A.V. smiting and wounding
him. 38. waited for the hing by the way] He wished to inter-
cept Ahab just as he was coming from his interview with Ben-
hadad. and disguised himself] With this action may be
compared the assumed mourning garb of the widow of Tekoah
(2 Sam. xiv. 2). with, ashes upon his face] E.V. with his
head band over his eyes. When the proper meaning is given
to the first word, the common rendering ' eyes ' for the second can
be brought in. 39. cried unto the Icing] The appeal for the



128 I. KINGS, XX. 40— XXI. 2.

he said, Tby 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

•40 silver. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was
gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy

ii judgment be; thyself hast decided it. And he hasted, and
took the ashes away from his face; and the king of Israel

42 discerned him that he icas of the prophets. And he said unto
him, Thus saith the Lord, 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.

43 And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased,
and came to Samaria.

21 And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the
Jezreelite had a vineyard, which ivas in Jezreel, hard by the
2 palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth,
saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden
of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give
thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to

king's intervention is made with a view of getting free from the
punishment which had been threatened to bun. a man turned

aside'] Evidently meant to indicate one of authority. be

missing] i.e. when I come to ask for the prisoner whom I trusted
to your hands. a talent of silver] The fine was large to

mark the importance of the trust. 40. he was gone] The

sentence would of course continue thus: 'Let me however find
grace and not let thy servant suffer for this neglect.' So

shall thy judgement be] i.e. As he laid down who entrusted his
prisoner to thy care. 41. the ashes au-ag from his face]

Here E.V. (as in 38) the head band from his eyes. that

he was of the prophets] It is clear that the prophets were distin-
guished by dress, or in some evident manner, so that they were
easy of recognition. 42. a man] R.Y. the man. For

the whole multitude, and of course the king above all, had been
delivered into Ahab's hand (see verse 28). and the victory was to be
an evidence that Jehovah had fought for Israel. appointed to

utter destruction] R.Y. devoted to destruction. This was the
purpose for which Ben-hadad had been brought into Ahab's hand.

43. heavy and displeased] Said again of Ahab in the next
chapter (verse 4) when he could not prevail upon Naboth to part
with his vineyard.

XXI. 1. This chapter is placed by the LXX. before the preceding,
and numbered xx. 2. that I mag hare it for a garden of herbs]

These events must have taken place during a time of peace, when
Ahab had leisure to think about the convenient arrangement of his
grounds. And it is most probable they occurred after Ben-hadad's
utter defeat, otherwise the victory then granted to Ahab would have
been like a condonation f his sin, and not in harmony with the



I. KINGS, XXI. 3—8. 129

thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth 3
said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the
inheritance of my fathers unto thee. And Ahab came into his 4
house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth
the Jezreelite had spoken to him : for he had said, I will not
give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him
down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat
no bread. But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto 5
him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread? And 6
he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite,
and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if
it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he
answered, I will not give thee my vineyard. And Jezebel his 7
wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of
Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry:
I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. So she h
wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal,
and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that



doom pronounced in this chapter (ver. 19) by Elijah. 3. The

Lord forbid it me~] This verse is very interesting, because (1) it
makes clear that Naboth was a worshipper of Jehovah. Here was
an example of one who had not bowed the knee nor given a kiss to
Baal. And (2) the reason which he alleges for clinging to his
inheritance shews that the teaching of the law of Moses concerning
the sacredness of a paternal inheritance had taken firm hold of the
minds of the people. 4. And Ahab came into his house']

It is clear from the continuation of the story that it was to Samaria
that Ahab came back after his interview with Naboth. And he

laid him down, &c] This detail shews, like so much else in Ahab's
history, what a feeble character he was, and how thoroughly he
would be dominated by the more powerful mind of Jezebel.

6. / will not give thee my vineyard] For the last two words
the LXX. has 'the inheritance of my fathers.' Of course it is
to be understood that Ahab would lay before Jezebel the motive,
from which Naboth had refused his king's request. But the
narrative is much more in character with the rest of Ahab's
behaviour, if he at first makes mention only of the blank refusal.

7. Dost thoti now govern the kingdom of Israel?] Jezebel does
not urge Ahab to act the despot's part, but plays it for him.

I will give thee, &c] The 'I' in this clause is emphatically ex-
pressed, just as ' thou' in the preceding one. 8. she wrote
letters in Ahab's name] She was the real ruler, he only king in
name. The letters would be prepared for her by the royal secre-
taries. Jezebel's part was to take the signet ring of her husband,
and therewith affix the royal seal that the document might go forth
with authority. Apparently Ahab asked no question about the
means which his wife meant to employ. the elders and to the
nobles] The law ordered (Deut. xvi. 18) that there should be judges
appointed in every city, and we cannot doubt the existence of such

i. kings 9



130 I. KINGS, XXI. 9—13.

!* were in his city, dwelling with Naboth. And she wrote in the
letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among

10 the people: and set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to
bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God
and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that

n he may die. And the men of his city, even the elders and the
nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had
sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she

12 had sent unto them. They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth

13 on high among the people. And there came in two men,
children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial
witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of
the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king.
Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him

a tribunal in a place so important as Jezreel, where the elders and
nobles would form the bench of magistrates. Tbe sequel shews
that for such an offence as that charged against Naboth they bad
tbe power of life and death. 9. 1' roclaim a fast] Let a day of

humiliation be appointed, for it must be represented that a great
wrong has been committed both agahist God and the king.

and set Naboth on high among the people] Lit. 'at the bead of the
people.' He was to be put in a prominent place, as one who bad
hitherto held an honourable position. By thus, at the beginning of
tbe process, treating Naboth with honour they would seem to make
it plain that, but for the evidence against him, they would have
been glad to think him innocent. 10. sons of Belial] Li Deut.

xiii. 13, tbe K.V. has translated this expression 'base fellows,'
putting in the margin 'sons of worthlessness.' This is tbe sense
everywhere in the O.T. and should have been in tbe text. Thou

didst blaspheme [R.V. curse] God and the king] Tbe verb in the
original is very frequently used of blessing, but it bad the opposite
sense also. The root idea appears to be 'to say adieu to.' This
might be and most frequently was witb a parting benediction ; but
it also might be a renunciation, a declaration of hostility. It is re-
markable that an accusation of tins nature should have been set
afoot by Jezebel. We need not however assume that she had any
care about tbe cursing of God; only that sbe found tbis tbe first
convenient mode of getting rid of Naboth. But amongst the people,
who were to suppose Naboth justly executed, there must have still
been left some regard for the divine name and the divine law.

11. viho were the inhabitants] R.V. who dwelt. 13. And,

there came in two men, children of Belial] K.V. And the two men,
sons of Belial, came in. witnessed] R.V. bare witness.

even against Naboth, in the presence of the people] As much
publicity as possible was given to the accusation, that thus it might


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Online LibraryJoseph Rawson LumbyThe first book of the Kings : with map, introduction and notes → online text (page 16 of 18)