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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

1 Kings 20

Verses 1-43

Defeat of Ben-hadad (20:1-43)

Ahab appeared to be in serious trouble when a combined army of Syria (Aram) and neighbouring states besieged the Israelite capital Samaria and demanded heavy payments. Ahab at first submitted (20:1-4), but when their demands increased, he changed his mind and decided to fight (5-12).
A prophet assured Ahab that God would give Israel victory (13-15). Ahab’s plan, based on the prophet’s advice, was to send a large group of young men ahead to distract the Syrians, then follow with a surprise attack by his army. Ahab won a decisive victory, but was warned to be ready for a further battle the following spring (16-22).
The Syrians improved the combined fighting force by replacing the allied commander-kings with their own professional soldiers. They also thought they had a better chance of victory by changing the location of the battle to a region where their gods were stronger. Again Israel won, proving to the Syrians (and to Ahab) that they were mistaken in thinking God’s power was limited to only certain places (23-30).
Ahab captured the enemy king Ben-hadad, but let him go after Ben-hadad agreed to give back to Israel territory that Syria had previously seized. The two kings also made a trade agreement that was very favourable to Israel. This cooperation with Syria was no doubt intended to give Israel added strength against any possible invader, but it would not have been necessary had Ahab trusted in God, as his recent victory should have taught him (31-34). A young prophet acted a parable to show Ahab that because he rejected a God-given opportunity to destroy the enemy once and for all, that enemy would return and bring increasing suffering upon Israel (35-43).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 20". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.