Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 20

Verses 1-43

War between Israel and Syria

The Syrians besiege Samaria, but a sally being made from the city by the direction of a prophet, they are driven off, and the next year are beaten at Aphek. Ahab, having spared Benhadad the Syrian king, is rebuked by a prophet in the name of the Lord.

1. Ben-hadad] probably the son of the Benhadad mentioned, in 1 Kings 15:18. In the Assyrian inscription he is termed Dad-idri, i.e. Hadadezer. The history here reverts to the Syrian attacks upon Israel made originally at the instigation of Judah (1 Kings 15:20). Thirty and two kings] probably vassal princes: cp. 1 Kings 15:24.

14. The young men.. provinces] the servants (or esquires) of the Israelite chiefs who had been driven by the Syrian invasion from the provinces into the capital.

16. At noon] a time when the beleaguering host would be resting during the heat of the day..

20. With the horsemen] RV 'with horsemen': i.e. with some mounted attendants.

21. Smote] the LXX has 'took.' To aid his pursuit Ahab took the horses abandoned by the Syrians.

22. See what thou doest] i.e. consider what thou shouldest do, take the necessary precautions. At the return of the year] in the spring, when military operations would again be possible: cp. 2 Samuel 11:1.

23. Their gods.. the hills] RV 'Their god is a god of the hills' A national god was believed to exert his power chiefly within his own land, and the Syrians regarded Jehovah's power as confined to the hill-country in the neighbourhood of Samaria; whereas in the plain (or plateau) E. of the Jordan, of which they doubtless considered themselves masters, they expected their own deity to prevail.

24. Take the kings away] The disaster recorded in 1 Kings 20:20 seems to have been in part attributed to the misconduct of the vassal kings, and their places (or posts) were now taken by Syrian officers, in whose loyalty and obedience more confidence could be placed.

26. Aphek] probably a city E. of the Sea of Galilee.

27. Were all present] RV 'were victualled'

30. A wall (RV 'the wall') fell] either as a result of the Israelites' assault, or in consequence of an earthquake. Probably it was crowded with defenders.

33. Did diligently observe.. from him] RM 'took it' (i.e. the expression 'he is my brother') 'as an omen, and hasted to catch it from him': i.e. they fastened on the kindly expression and repeated it to attract attention to it and make withdrawal difficult. To come up.. chariot] This was a mark of honour: cp. 2 Kings 10:15.

34. The cities.. I will restore] This promise was apparently not faithfully fulfilled: see 2 Kings 22:3. Make streets.. Damascus] i.e. have certain parts of Damascus assigned for the use of Israelite traders (like the 'English quarters' in Shanghai and other Chinese towns).

35. A certain man] identified by Josephus with Micaiah (1 Kings 22:8). The sons of the prophets] bodies of youths organised and trained by the prophets to serve as their ministers and envoys, and perhaps eventually to succeed them in their office. They were established at Bethel, Jericho, and Gilgal (2 Kings 2:3-5; 2 Kings 4:38), and doubtless at other centres. Smite me] The wounds would support his story that he had been present in the battle (1 Kings 20:30), and had received injury either from the enemy or from the man whose prisoner he suffered to escape.

38. With ashes, etc.] RV 'with his headband over his eyes': to conceal his identity: so in 1 Kings 20:41.

40. Thyself hast decided if] by his own confession he had neglected his charge.

42. Because thou hast let go] It is possible that Ahab's clemency towards Benhadad was due to the threatening attitude of the Assyrians, against whom it may have seemed expedient for Israel and Syria to unite. In any case, the Assyrian inscriptions record that Ahab and Benhadad both sent forces to aid Hamath, when it was attacked by Shalmaneser II in 854, and with their allies were defeated by the Assyrian king at Karkar (a city near the Orontes) The alliance between the two countries thus failed in its object; and that the Syrians proved false to their engagement to restore the captured Israelite cities is probable from 1 Kings 22:3. The prophet's censure of Ahab's conduct thus appears to have been justified by events.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 20". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.