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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 20

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-43



Among the remarkable chapters of this book the present stands out distinctively, but we shall be unable to give it the consideration it should have if we forget God’s purpose in dealing with Israel. It has been reiterated that He is using that people as an instrument in the redemption of mankind, and especially as a witness to Himself before the nations. This explains everything in their history, and to ignore it is to make that history like a tale of the Arabian nights. We should remember also that what is written is ofttimes the barest outline of what was said and done, and while we are by no means to fill in what we please, yet the omissions should have a qualifying influence in our understanding of the record.

Ben-hadad means the son of Hadad, and is a general title for the kings of Syria of that period, like the Pharaohs of Egypt or the Caesars of Rome. He was a descendant of the king met with in Baasha’s reign (1 Kings 15:20 ). The thirty-two kings with him (1 Kings 20:1 ) were petty tributary princes, rulers over cities in his neighborhood.

His claim for tribute (1 Kings 20:3 ) would have been acceded to had he not overreached himself (1 Kings 20:5-6 ), and had not frightened Ahab been encouraged by his subjects (1 Kings 20:7-11 ).

What an evidence we have of God’s goodness and providential purpose in Israel in 1 Kings 20:13 ! Wine and panic explain the victory from the human side, but God’s interposition from the divine side (1 Kings 20:19-21 ).

If this victory was great, that of the succeeding year was greater (1 Kings 20:22-30 ). Note the relative size of the walls under the weight of those who there made a stand against Israel.

Ahab’s clemency to Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:31-34 ) was repetition of Saul’s disloyalty to God in the case of Agag (1 Samuel 15:0 ) and explains the circumstance following (1 Kings 20:35-43 ). The parabolic manner of the prophet in announcing Ahab’s judgment suggests Nathan’s dealing with David (2 Samuel 12:0 ).


Note that Naboth’s refusal to Ahab was not disregard for him, nor for selfish reasons, but from obedience to God. (Compare 1 Kings 21:3 with Leviticus 25:23 , Numbers 36:7-8 .) Sons of Belial (1 Kings 21:10 ) means “ungodly men.”

For the fulfillment of 1 Kings 21:19 compare the next chapter, 1 Kings 21:37-38. The phrase, “sold thyself to work evil” means that he allowed evil to get the mastery over him. (Compare Romans 7:11 .) For the fulfillment of 1 Kings 21:23 , compare 2 Kings 9:30-37 . Note God’s mercy to the penitent (1 Kings 21:27-29 ) and compare 2 Kings 9:21-26 .


1 Kings 22:3 indicates that Ben-hadad had not fulfilled the covenant with Ahab he had been so ready to make (compare 1 Kings 20:34 ).

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, has not been met with before, but a history of his reign is reported in the concluding verses of the chapter. He makes a striking Old Testament type of the New Testament Christian who forms entangling alliances with the world, but more is said concerning him in 1 Chronicles 18:0 .

Note the piety of Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:5 ), and observe that a good man is sometimes found voluntarily in bad company.

Micaiah (1 Kings 22:9 ) was in prison because of his faithful testimony to God against Ahab. Zedekiah was one of the false prophets (1 Kings 22:11 ), but what worship he represented, now that Baalism had been discredited, is difficult to say; but certainly not that of Jehovah.

Observe the temptation placed before Micaiah and the manner in which he met it (1 Kings 22:13-14 ). His words in 1 Kings 22:15 are ironical, but those of 1 Kings 22:17 are a prediction of the defeat that followed. It is he who speaks in 1 Kings 22:19-23 , for a commentary on which see 1 Samuel 18:0 , and also the first two chapters of Job. With 1 Kings 22:24-25 compare Jeremiah 20:1-6 .

Observe that Jehoshaphat’s “unholy alliance” nearly cost him his life (1 Kings 22:30-33 ), but it taught him a lesson (1 Kings 22:49 ).


1. In what light are we to interpret the marvelous transactions in this book?

2. Who was Ben-hadad?

3. How does this lesson illustrate the cowardice and the courage of Ahab?

4. How does it illustrate the goodness and mercy of God?

5. How many of the marginal references have you examined?

6. What is the meaning of “sons of Belial”?

7. Of what is Jehoshaphat a type, and why?

8. With what prophet may Micaiah be compared?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 1 Kings 20". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/1-kings-20.html. 1897-1910.
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