Old Testament

1 Kings 20
Ben Hadad Lays Siege to Samaria
201Then Ben Hadad king of Aram, along with thirty-two kings, mobilized his whole army with their horses and chariots. He went up and laid siege to Samaria and fought against it. 2He sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel in the city, 3who said to him, “This is what Ben Hadad says. Your silver and your gold are mine. The best of your wives and your children are mine.”
4The king of Israel answered, “Just as you have said, my lord the king, I and all that I own are yours.”
5The messengers came a second time and said, “This is what Ben Hadad says. I did indeed send word to you, saying, ‘You must give me your silver and your gold and your wives and your children.’ 6So at this time tomorrow, I will send my servants to you, and they will search your palace and the houses of your officials, and they will gather up everything that you value and take it away.”
7The king of Israel summoned all the elders of the land and said, “See how this man is looking for trouble. When he sent for my wives and my children, my silver and my gold, I did not refuse him.”
8All the elders and all the people said to him, “Do not listen and do not agree to this!”
9So he told Ben Hadad's messengers, “Say this to my lord the king. Everything which you demanded of your servant the first time, I will do, but this thing I cannot do.” So the messengers brought his message back to the king.
10Then Ben Hadad sent word to him: “May the gods punish me severely and even double it, if the dust left from Samaria will be enough to give a handful to each of those who follow me.”
11The king of Israel answered, “Tell him that someone who is putting his armor on should not boast like someone who is taking it off.”
12When he heard this message, Ben Hadad and his kings were in their tents drinking. He said to his servants, “Get ready!” and they took up positions against the city.
13But then, at that time, a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says. Do you see all of this huge horde?[] Look, I am giving it into your hands today. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
14Then Ahab said, “Through whom will this happen?”
The prophet answered, “This is what the Lord says. It will be through the young officers from the provinces.”
Ahab said, “Who will start the battle?”
The prophet said, “You will.”
15So Ahab inspected the young officers from the provinces and found that there were two hundred thirty-two. After inspecting them he inspected the whole army. The Israelites numbered seven thousand men. 16They marched out at noon while Ben Hadad was getting drunk in his tent, along with the thirty-two kings who were supporting him. 17So the young officers from the provinces marched out first. Ben Hadad sent out scouts, who told him, “Men are marching out of Samaria!”
18Ben Hadad said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive! Even if they have come out for war, take them alive!” 19But when the young officers from the provinces and the army that was with them marched out of the city, 20each of them killed his opponent. Then the Arameans fled, and Israel pursued them. Ben Hadad king of Aram escaped on a horse with his charioteers.[]
21The king of Israel marched out and attacked the horses and chariots. He inflicted a great defeat on Aram.
Ben Hadad Attacks Aphek
22Afterward the prophet approached the king of Israel and said to him, “Strengthen your position and consider carefully what you should do, because next spring the king of Aram will attack you.”
23The king of Aram's officials said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they defeated us. But if we fight them on the plain, we will certainly defeat them. 24Now do this. Remove the kings from their positions as field commanders, and replace them with military officers. 25Then raise an army like the army you lost—horse for horse and chariot for chariot. Then if we fight them on the plain, we will certainly defeat them.” The king listened to them and did what they recommended.
26When spring came, Ben Hadad mobilized the army of Aram and went up to Aphek to wage war against Israel. 27The Israelites also were mobilized and given provisions, and they went out to confront the Arameans. The Israelites camped across from them, like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans filled the land.
28Then the man of God approached and said to the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says. Because the Arameans said, ‘The Lord is a god of the hills, but not a god of the valleys,’ I will give all of this huge horde into your hands. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
29So they camped opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day the battle was joined by both armies. The Israelites struck down the Arameans—one hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day. 30The survivors fled to the city of Aphek, and the wall fell on twenty-seven thousand of the survivors. Ben Hadad also fled and went into the city, to an inner room.
Ahab Spares Ben Hadad
31Then his officials said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful. So let us put sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads and go out to the king of Israel. Maybe he will spare your life.”
32So they wrapped sackcloth around their waists and put ropes on their heads, and they went to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant, Ben Hadad, says, ‘Please spare my life.’”
Ahab said, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”[]
33The men took this as a good omen, so they quickly latched on to what he said and responded, “Ben Hadad is your brother.”
Then Ahab said, “Go get him.” So Ben Hadad came out to him, and Ahab brought him up into his chariot.
34Ben Hadad said to him, “I will return the cities that my father took from your father, and you may put your own trading centers in Damascus, just as my father put them in Samaria.”
Then Ahab said, “Under these terms, I release you.” So he made a treaty[] with Ben Hadad and let him go.
God's Judgment on Ahab
35Then by the word of the Lord one of the sons of the prophets[] said to his neighbor, “Strike me, please.” But the man refused to strike him. 36So he said to him, “Because you did not listen to the voice of the Lord, when you leave me, a lion will kill you.” When he left him, a lion found him and killed him.
37Then he found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” The man struck him and wounded him. 38The prophet went and waited for the king at the road and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes.
39When the king was passing by, the prophet shouted to the king, “Your servant went out in the middle of the battle. Then someone brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man. If you can't account for him, then it will be your life for his life, or you will have to pay a talent of silver.’ 40But while your servant was busy doing this and that, all of a sudden the man was gone!”
Then the king of Israel said to him, “That is your sentence. You have pronounced it on yourself.”
41Then he quickly removed the bandage from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized that he was one of the prophets.
42He said to the king, “This is what the Lord says. Because you set a man free, whom I had devoted to destruction, it will be your life for his life and your people for his people.” 43The king of Israel headed for his palace sullen and angry, and he arrived in Samaria.


  • 20:13 The biblical accounts regularly use the Hebrew term hamon to refer to hostile, heathen armies. This term refers to a noisy, disorderly crowd. In reference to an army, horde is an appropriate rendering. See, for example, the barbarian hordes of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 39.
  • 20:20 An interesting translation issue is at what point of history we can translate the Hebrew word parosh as horsemen or cavalry rather than charioteers. At about the time of this text, Assyrian reliefs begin to picture riders shooting bows from horseback, but it seems clear that this battle was fought by chariots not cavalry, though some survivors may have fled on horseback.
  • 20:32 Used between two kings, the term brother implies equality.
  • 20:34 Or covenant
  • 20:35 The sons of the prophets were assistants to the prophets.