Ahab Condemned

In one of his meetings, D.L. Moody was explaining to his audience the truth that we cannot bring about spiritual changes in our lives by our own strength. He demonstrated the principal like this: “Tell me,” he said to his audience, “how can I get the air out of … More


Once again Israel was severely outnumbered by the Syrians (vv. 26-27). In comparison with the vast host of the Arameans the Israelite forces looked like two small flocks of goats (v. 27). God was their only hope of victory and He was about to demonstrate His power in a most vivid way. The sovereign God of all creation was fighting for Israel. 

When they engaged in battle the Syrians faced the proverbial “out of the frying pan and into the fire” experience (vv. 28-29). They lost l00,000 men and the rest of their troops took refuge inside the city walls of Aphek (v. 29). But God killed an additional 27,000 by causing the city wall to collapse on them (v. 30).

While Ben-hadad was hiding in an inner room of a city building, his officials advised him to give himself up and plead for mercy. Ben-hadad’s servants appealed for Ahab’s sympathy. As a result the two kings met and an agreement was made where Ben-hadad pledged to return the cities his father had taken from Ahab’s father (vv. 31-34). In addition Ben-hadad offered trade privileges to Ahab in Damascus.  Ahab’s motive was to use Syria as a buffer in the event of an invasion by Assyria.

Ahab’s action called for God’s judgement (vv. 35-36). It was not his prerogative to dictate terms of peace for a victory God had won. Ahab’s motive for sparing Ben-hadad revealed a lack of trust in God to exercise His power against Assyria as He had done against Syria. As in Nathan’s story to David (2 Sam. 12:1–7) the king responded to the prophet in words that judged himself (vv. 37-43). 


It is so easy for me to take things into our own hands, just as Ahab did, when I need to seek God’s counsel. I need to always follow God’s plan for my life and not my own plan.

I Kings 20:26-43 (English Standard Version)

In the spring, Ben-hadad mustered the Syrians and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. And the people of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went against them. The people of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Syrians filled the country. And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, "Thus says the LORD, 'Because the Syrians have said, "The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys," therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.'" And they encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle was joined. And the people of Israel struck down of the Syrians 100,000 foot soldiers in one day. And the rest fled into the city of Aphek, and the wall fell upon 27,000 men who were left. Ben-hadad also fled and entered an inner chamber in the city. And his servants said to him, "Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings. Let us put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads and go out to the king of Israel. Perhaps he will spare your life." So they tied sackcloth around their waists and put ropes on their heads and went to the king of Israel and said, "Your servant Ben-hadad says, 'Please, let me live.'" And he said, "Does he still live? He is my brother." Now the men were watching for a sign, and they quickly took it up from him and said, "Yes, your brother Ben-hadad." Then he said, "Go and bring him." Then Ben-hadad came out to him, and he caused him to come up into the chariot. And Ben-hadad said to him, "The cities that my father took from your father I will restore, and you may establish bazaars for yourself in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria." And Ahab said, "I will let you go on these terms." So he made a covenant with him and let him go. And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, "Strike me, please." But the man refused to strike him. Then he said to him, "Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as you have gone from me, a lion shall strike you down." And as soon as he had departed from him, a lion met him and struck him down. Then he found another man and said, "Strike me, please." And the man struck him--struck him and wounded him. So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way, disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes. And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, "Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, 'Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.' And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone." The king of Israel said to him, "So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it." Then he hurried to take the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. And he said to him, "Thus says the LORD, 'Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.'" And the king of Israel went to his house vexed and sullen and came to Samaria.

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