20:1 Now King Ben Hadad of Syria assembled all his army, along with thirty-two other kings with their horses and chariots. He marched against Samaria 1 and besieged and attacked it. 2 20:2 He sent messengers to King Ahab of Israel, who was in the city. 3 20:3 He said to him, “This is what Ben Hadad says, ‘Your silver and your gold are mine, as well as the best of your wives and sons.’” 20:4 The king of Israel replied, “It is just as you say, my master, O king. I and all I own belong to you.”
20:5 The messengers came again and said, “This is what Ben Hadad says, ‘I sent this message to you, “You must give me your silver, gold, wives, and sons.” 20:6 But now at this time tomorrow I will send my servants to you and they will search through your palace and your servants’ houses. They will carry away all your valuables.” 4 20:7 The king of Israel summoned all the leaders 5 of the land and said, “Notice how this man is looking for trouble. 6 Indeed, he demanded my wives, sons, silver, and gold, and I did not resist him.” 20:8 All the leaders and people said to him, “Do not give in or agree to his demands.” 7 20:9 So he said to the messengers of Ben Hadad, “Say this to my master, the king, ‘I will give you everything you demanded at first from your servant, but I am unable to agree to this latest demand.’” 8 So the messengers went back and gave their report.
20:10 Ben Hadad sent another message to him, “May the gods judge me severely 9 if there is enough dirt left in Samaria for my soldiers to scoop up in their hands.” 10 20:11 The king of Israel replied, “Tell him the one who puts on his battle gear should not boast like one who is taking it off.” 11 20:12 When Ben Hadad received this reply, 12 he and the other kings were drinking in their quarters. 13 He ordered his servants, “Get ready to attack!” So they got ready to attack the city.
20:13 Now a prophet visited King Ahab of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says, ‘Do you see this huge army? 14 Look, I am going to hand it over to you this very day. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” 20:14 Ahab asked, “By whom will this be accomplished?” 15 He answered, “This is what the Lord says, ‘By the servants of the district governors.’” Ahab 16 asked, “Who will launch the attack?” He answered, “You will.”
20:15 So Ahab 17 assembled the 232 servants of the district governors. After that he assembled all the Israelite army, numbering 7,000. 18 20:16 They marched out at noon, while Ben Hadad and the thirty-two kings allied with him were drinking heavily 19 in their quarters. 20 20:17 The servants of the district governors led the march. When Ben Hadad sent messengers, they reported back to him, “Men are marching out of Samaria.” 21 20:18 He ordered, “Whether they come in peace or to do battle, take them alive.” 22 20:19 They marched out of the city with the servants of the district governors in the lead and the army behind them. 20:20 Each one struck down an enemy soldier; 23 the Syrians fled and Israel chased them. King Ben Hadad of Syria escaped on horseback with some horsemen. 20:21 Then the king of Israel marched out and struck down the horses and chariots; he thoroughly defeated 24 Syria.
20:22 The prophet 25 visited the king of Israel and instructed him, “Go, fortify your defenses. 26 Determine 27 what you must do, for in the spring 28 the king of Syria will attack 29 you.” 20:23 Now the advisers 30 of the king of Syria said to him: “Their God is a god of the mountains. That’s why they overpowered us. But if we fight them in the plains, we will certainly overpower them. 20:24 So do this: Dismiss the kings from their command, and replace them with military commanders. 20:25 Muster an army like the one you lost, with the same number of horses and chariots. 31 Then we will fight them in the plains; we will certainly overpower them.” He approved their plan and did as they advised. 32
20:26 In the spring 33 Ben Hadad mustered the Syrian army 34 and marched to Aphek to fight Israel. 35 20:27 When the Israelites had mustered and had received their supplies, they marched out to face them in battle. When the Israelites deployed opposite them, they were like two small flocks 36 of goats, but the Syrians filled the land. 20:28 The prophet 37 visited the king of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Syrians said, “The Lord is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,” I will hand over to you this entire huge army. 38 Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
20:29 The armies were deployed opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day the battle began, and the Israelites killed 100,000 Syrian foot soldiers in one day. 20:30 The remaining 27,000 ran to Aphek and went into the city, but the wall fell on them. 39 Now Ben Hadad ran into the city and hid in an inner room. 40 20:31 His advisers 41 said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of the Israelite dynasty are kind. 42 Allow us to put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads 43 and surrender 44 to the king of Israel. Maybe he will spare our lives.” 20:32 So they put sackcloth around their waists and ropes on their heads and went to the king of Israel. They said, “Your servant 45 Ben Hadad says, ‘Please let me live!’” Ahab 46 replied, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.” 47 20:33 The men took this as a good omen and quickly accepted his offer, saying, “Ben Hadad is your brother.” Ahab 48 then said, “Go, get him.” So Ben Hadad came out to him, and Ahab pulled him up into his chariot. 20:34 Ben Hadad 49 said, “I will return the cities my father took from your father. You may set up markets 50 in Damascus, just as my father did in Samaria.” 51 Ahab then said, “I want to make a treaty with you before I dismiss you.” 52 So he made a treaty with him and then dismissed him.
20:35 One of the members of the prophetic guild, speaking with divine authority, ordered his companion, “Wound me!” 53 But the man refused to wound him. 20:36 So the prophet 54 said to him, “Because you have disobeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.” When he left him, a lion attacked and killed him. 20:37 He found another man and said, “Wound me!” So the man wounded him severely. 55 20:38 The prophet then went and stood by the road, waiting for the king. He also disguised himself by putting a bandage down over his eyes. 20:39 When the king passed by, he called out to the king, “Your servant went out into the heat 56 of the battle, and then a man turned aside and brought me a prisoner. 57 He told me, ‘Guard this prisoner. If he ends up missing for any reason, 58 you will pay with your life or with a talent 59 of silver.’ 60 20:40 Well, it just so happened that while your servant was doing this and that, he disappeared.” The king of Israel said to him, “Your punishment is already determined by your own testimony.” 61 20:41 The prophet 62 quickly removed the bandage from his eyes and the king of Israel recognized he was one of the prophets. 20:42 The prophet 63 then said to him, “This is what the Lord says, ‘Because you released a man I had determined should die, you will pay with your life and your people will suffer instead of his people.’” 64 20:43 The king of Israel went home to Samaria 65 bitter and angry.
[20:11] 11 sn The point of the saying is that someone who is still preparing for a battle should not boast as if he has already won the battle. A modern parallel would be, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”
[20:27] 36 tn The noun translated “small flocks” occurs only here. The common interpretation derives the word from the verbal root חשׂף, “to strip off; to make bare.” In this case the noun refers to something “stripped off” or “made bare.” HALOT 359 s.v. II חשׂף derives the noun from a proposed homonymic verbal root (which occurs only in Ps 29:9) meaning “cause a premature birth.” In this case the derived noun could refer to goats that are undersized because they are born prematurely.
[20:31] 43 sn Sackcloth was worn as a sign of sorrow and repentance. The precise significance of the ropes on the head is uncertain, but it probably was a sign of submission. These actions were comparable to raising a white flag on the battlefield or throwing in the towel in a boxing match.
[20:34] 52 tn Heb “I will send you away with a treaty.” The words “Ahab then said” are supplied in the translation. There is nothing in the Hebrew text to indicate that the speaker has changed from Ben Hadad to Ahab. Some suggest adding “and he said” before “I will send you away.” Others prefer to maintain Ben Hadad as the speaker and change the statement to, “Please send me away with a treaty.”
[20:39] 59 tn The Hebrew term כִּכָּר (kikkar, “circle”) refers generally to something that is round. When used of metals it can refer to a disk-shaped weight made of the metal or to a standard unit of weight, generally regarded as a talent. Since the accepted weight for a talent of metal is about 75 pounds, this would have amounted to about 75 pounds of silver.
[20:42] 64 tn Heb “Because you sent away the man of my destruction [i.e., that I determined should be destroyed] from [my/your?] hand, your life will be in place of his life, and your people in place of his people.”