Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

1 Kings 20

Verses 1-34

1 Kings 20:1-4. And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he sent messengers to Ahab, king of Israel, into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Benhadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine, thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have.

This was a king of Israel, meanly crouching before the idolatrous king of Syria. Not after this fashion would David have spoken, or any of those kings who followed the Lord of hosts; but when men forsake God, they soon become cowards. What kingdom or nation shall prosper that casts off the yoke of the Most High?

1 Kings 20:5-6. And the messengers came again, and said, Thus speaketh Benhadad, saying, although I have sent unto thee, saying, Thou shalt deliver me thy silver, and thy gold, and thy wives, and thy children; Yet I will end my servants unto thee tomorrow about this time, and they shall search thine house, and the houses of thy servants; and it shall be that whatsoever is pleasant in thine eyes, they shall put it in their hand, and take it away.

That is always the way with such people, give them an inch, and they take a mile. Ahab had agreed to all that the Syrian king claimed, so now Benhadad pushes his advantage. If you ever yield to Satan, you will find him to be a hard taskmaster. You can never yield enough to satisfy him; and if you yield to any sin, whatever it may be, you will find it to be a cruel tyrant to you. If you allow it once to have power over your soul, it will push its advantage further and further, and make your yoke to be exceedingly heavy.

1 Kings 20:7-9. Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land, and said, Mark, I pray you, and see how this man seeketh mischief: for he sent unto me for my wives, and for my children, and for my silver, and for my gold, and I denied him not. And all the elders and all the people said unto him, Hearken not unto him, nor consent. Wherefore he said unto the messengers of Benhadad, Tell my lord, the king. All that thou didst send for to thy servant at the first I will do: but this thing I may not do. And the messengers departed, and brought him word again.

Driven to extremity, Ahab showed that he had a little courage left, and when he was supported by his people, and, possibly, urged on by them, he put his foot down, and would not altogether submit to Benhadad. Oh, that men had the moral courage to revolt against sin! Would that, when they felt its cruel bondage, they would resist it! God grant them grace to do so, and strengthen them in their resistance!

1 Kings 20:10. And Benhadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.

As much as to say, “I will bring so many against you that all the dust of the city would not be enough to furnish a handful each.”

1 Kings 20:11. And the king of Israel answered and said, Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.

That was a sharp shrewd check to the boasting of the Syrian king.

1 Kings 20:12-15. And it came to pass, when Benhadad heard this message, as he was drinking, he and the kings in the pavilions, that he said unto his servants, Set yourselves in array. And they set themselves in array against the city. And, behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD. And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? And he answered, Thou. Then he numbered the young men of the princes of the provinces, and they were two hundred and thirty two: and after them he numbered all the people, even all the children of Israel, being seven thousand.

All the volunteers that were ready for the war; they were only seven thousand.

1 Kings 20:16-18. And they went out at noon. But Benhadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings, the thirty and two kings that helped him. And the young men of the princes of the provinces went out first; and Benhadad sent out, and they told him, saying, There are men come out of Samaria. And he said, —

In his drunken fury,” he said,” —

1 Kings 20:18. Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive.

They were not to be so easily taken as Benhadad imagined.

1 Kings 20:19-21. So these young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed them. And they slew every one his man: and the Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them: and Benhadad the King of Syria escaped on an horse with the horsemen. And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.

God has ways and means of delivering his people at his own time. I wish all the young men of our churches had the high ambition to be serviceable to the Lord of hosts. These young princes were a very small band of soldiers, but they led the way, and smote the drunken monarch and his troops —and if our young men, full of holy zeal and ardor, had confidence in God, and went forth every one to slay his man, by which I mean, each one to win a soul to Christ, what glorious victories would be won for the truth as it is in Jesus!

1 Kings 20:22. And the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said unto him, Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest: for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come up against thee.

Another year would bring another war, so they must be prepared.

1 Kings 20:23. And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are god of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.

It was a current heathenish idea, that there was one god for a mountain,

another for a stream, another for a plain; and these men imagined that the glorious Jehovah was a local deity like their images were supposed to be.

1 Kings 20:24. And do this thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place, and put captains in their rooms:

“Do not let the kings, who have their own armies, govern them, for that creates divisions in the camp; but appoint captains in their place.”

1 Kings 20:25-27. And number thee an army, like the army that thou hast lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot: and we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. And he hearkened unto their voice, and did so. And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Benhadad numbered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel. And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, —

That is a grand record. It shows the kind of men they were. I wish that all our church-members were present at all our prayer-meetings, and on all occasions when work is to be done for Christ. What a healthy condition the church would be in if it could be said, “The children of Israel were numbered, and were all present,” —

1 Kings 20:27. And went against them: and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids;

A herd of goats was seldom very large, and the whole of the Israelites put together seemed only “like two little flocks of kids;” —

1 Kings 20:27-28. But the Syrians filled the country. And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

See how good came to Israel through the blasphemy of the Syrians! Whenever there is a rather worse book than usual brought out against the religion of Jesus Christ, or a more than ordinary villainous blasphemy is invented against the grace of God, you may almost clap your hands, and say, “Now will God bestir himself for his truth and for righteousness’ sake. These men will provoke him so that he will arise, and defend his own cause.”

1 Kings 20:29-32. And they pitched one over against the other seven days. And so it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined: and the children of Israel slew of the Syrians an hundred thousand footmen in one day. But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and there a wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left. And Benhadad fled, and came into the city, into an inner chamber. And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life. So they girded sackcloth on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said, Thy servant Benhadad —

There is a wonderful difference between this language and the way in which he had previously spoken. “Thy servant Benhadad” —

1 Kings 20:32. Saith, I pray thee, let me live. And he said, Is he yet alive? he is my brother.

When a man leaves his God, he cannot distinguish between his foes and his friends; so that, oftentimes, those who would do him the direst mischief he reckons to be his brothers.

1 Kings 20:33-34. Now the men did diligently observe whether any thing would come from him, and did hastily catch it: and they said, Thy brother Benhadad. Then he said, Go ye, bring him. Then Benhadad came forth to him; and he caused him to come up into the chariot. And Benhadad said unto him, The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria. Then said Ahab, I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with him, and sent him away.

Ahab actually made a treaty of peace with him, and let him live to plot incalculable mischief against the nation.

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Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Kings 20". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.