Study Notes

1Kings 20:1-43


In the book of 1Kings, chapters 16 through the end (chapter 22), deal with the time in history that Ahab ruled over Israel as king, and his dealings with Elijah the prophet. Elijah is not involved in our study tonight of chapter 20, but we will see much of Ahab.

20:1 Ben-hadad Besieges Samaria

Ben-had-AD is not a name, but a title. It means "son of Hadad." Hadad was one of the false gods of the Syrians. This was the title of all the kings of Arawm, what we know of today as Syria.

He was a very powerful man with extensive resources. You may recall from our study of chapter 15 that when King Asa was at war with Israel's King Bah-SHAW, he sent silver and gold to this king's father, (also called Ben-had-AD), saying,

1Kgs. 15:19-20 "{Let there be} a treaty between you and me, {as} between my father and your father. Behold, I have sent you a present of silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Bah-SHAW king of Israel so that he will withdraw from me." So Ben-had-AD listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and conquered Ee-YONE, Dan, Aw-BALE Bayth Ma-a-KAW and all Kin-ner-OTH, besides all the land of Naphtali.

As a result, Bah-SHAW abandoned the blockade north of Jerusalem that he had been setting up, in order to return and protect his own territory.

Now, Ben-had-AD seems to be even more powerful than before. He has gathered a massive army from the all of the kingdoms under his rule, and besieged Samaria, which was being used as the northern kingdom of Israel's capital city.

20:2-4 Ban-hadad's First Demand

Ben-had-AD sent the word in to Ahab, saying, "The terms of your surrender will be that I take your gold, silver, and those of your wives and children whom I choose." What could King Ahab do? He was outnumbered and overpowered. He conceded, and agreed to the terms of the surrender.

20:5-6 Ben-hadad's Second Demand

This had been too easy for Ben-had-AD. His terms had been agreed to far too quickly. He must not have demanded enough. So now he sends for a second condition to Ahab: "We will also plunder everything of value in the city."

This is, after all, human nature. When someone is allowed to get away with one thing, then they assume that they must be able to get away with the next thing. The progression will continue until the line is drawn. For some, starting with cigarettes turns into marijuana, which becomes LSD and cocaine, which leads to shooting heroin. For others, white lies turns into deception and cheating, which turns into con-artistry and theft. The progression is shown to us in Romans 1 of the rejection of God turns into sexual immorality, which turns into homosexuality, which turns into depravity of such a sort that they actually invent ways of doing evil.

Personally, we must not allow even little sins to develop in our lives. But as parents and members of society, we must exercise the authority that we have to put a stop to sin, to not allow it to continue. It will only progress and intensify if we do not.

When Ben-had-AD had gotten what he asked for, he only increased his demands.

20:7-9 Ahab's Denial

After meeting with the elders of the land, King Ahab decided that he would draw the line at Ben-had-AD's second demand. He wasn't quite ready to go to battle yet, so he did agree to the first condition.

20:10 Confidence And Boasting

Ben-had-AD knew that he had the upper hand. He had more men and more power, he was in the place to dictate whatever he wanted. He tells Ahab,

1Kgs. 20:10 ..."May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me."

He is boasting that he has such a multitude in his army that, after his victory in the battle, if they all simply took a handful of dirt, Samaria would be gone.

20:11 Ahab's Retort

Ahab sent back to Ben-had-AD,

1Kgs. 20:11 ..."Let not him who girds on {his armor} boast like him who takes {it} off.'"

The Living Bible renders this statement, "don't count your chickens before they're hatched." While not an accurate translation of the original Hebrew language, it communicates the idea. Ahab is telling him not to be boastful about his victory until he's actually fought the war.

20:12 Drinking With The Kings

Ben-had-AD had a battle to fight, but he was drinking with the kings. Verse 16 will tell us that they were getting drunk. I will save the lengthy sermon for a more appropriate time, but understand that we have a battle to fight, an enemy against us. We are told to...

1Tim. 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith

And so we must be constantly on the alert. Always sharp, in full control. Therefore, the Scripture says,

2Tim. 4:5 But you, be sober in all things...

Eph. 5:17-18 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit

Ben-had-AD will lose this battle. Instead of being on the alert, he is drinking with the kings.

20:13-15 The Lord's Prophecy

God intervened in Israel's history again, even with the wicked leadership of Ahab over the kingdom. A prophet of God told Ahab that He would give them victory in the battle, to prove that He was the Lord.

Ahab inquired of the prophet how this victory would be accomplished. Ahab was to begin the battle, with the 232 young men of the rulers of the provinces leading the way to victory.

20:16-18 Ben-hadad's Orders

Ban-had-AD was drunk. When it was reported to him that men were coming out from the city, he said,

1Kgs. 20:18 ..."If they have come out for peace, take them alive; or if they have come out for war, take them alive."

His judgment was impaired, and his statement could even be read with slurred speech and confusion.

20:19-21 Israel's Victory

Seven thousand men emerged from Samaria to wage war, but Ben-had-AD in his drunken stupor had given the command to take them all alive. They were cut down before the Israelites.

20:22 A Second Prophecy

King Ahab might have gotten overconfident, but the unnamed prophet spoke to him again, saying that Israel would be attacked again by Ban-had-AD at the turn of the year. Ahab was to use the time to get ready.

20:23-25 Gods With Limited Influence

The Arameans believed that gods were regional powers. That gods had a certain sphere of influence. They believed that their loss to the Israelites was because they were in the mountains, where the God of Israel had power. They were convinced that if they could fight Israel in the plain, that their false gods would strengthen them for victory.

20:26-29 Another Victory

God didn't like being called a limited, regional god. Although Israel was once again terribly outnumbered, God gave Israel the victory again because the Arameans had said this.

20:30-31 Appealing To Ahab

When the Arameans fled to Af-EEK, the wall of the city collapsed upon thousands of them. But Ben-had-AD hid himself in the interior of the city.

His servants knew that they were all going to die the way things stood. They suggested that they appeal to the mercy of Ahab by humbling themselves before him. They said,

1Kgs. 20:31 ..."We have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings..."

As far down as the nation of Israel had fallen into idolatry and sin, they were still known as merciful people. They had a foundation of what we know of today as a Judeo-Christian ethics system. While the

kings of the Canaanites did terrible things like cutting off their enemies thumbs and big toes and making them gather scraps from under the king's table (Judges 1:7), the Israelites kings were not nearly so brutal or unmerciful.

Today, we find our own nation in much the same boat. Founded on Christian values and ethics, the United States has been built on a foundation of justice, fairness, and morality. Now our country has turned from God, yet the deep foundation which was laid so long ago is still somewhat intact.

It is known throughout the world that our justice system is more fair than many other countries. That our laws are more moral than other nations. While dictators come to power through military might in other parts of the world, we elect our leaders. While drug use and prostitution are legalized in other places, we have not yet fallen that far.

However, it is not enough to simply be less dark than others. Whether nationally or individually, we are called to be representatives of God and His perfect righteousness. Don't settle for being the least immoral guy at work. Don't settle for simply being the woman who gossips the least on the block. Stand for righteousness.

Matt. 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Be known of as a child of God, not just less bad than the rest.

20:32-34 Ahab's Mistake

Ben-had-AD's servants put on sackcloth and came humbly to King Ahab, saying, "Ben-had-AD is your servant, and is asking you to spare his life." But Ahab's response is perplexing. He says, "He is my brother." God had put Israel's enemy in subjection to Ahab, but Ahab says, "he is my brother." They bring out Ben-had-AD and the two quickly come to an agreement.

This was the same mistake that the children of Israel had made when they first came into the promised land - they were told to completely wipe out their enemies. But since they did not, the results are felt even to the present day in Israel.

The enemy that we face in this life is sin. God has told us to give it no place, to completely eradicate it from our lives. Jesus said,

Matt. 18:8-9 "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell."

Paul asked us,

2Cor. 6:14-15 ...what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial...?

Compromise with the world, fellowship with the enemy, has always brought about judgment. As this chapter comes to a conclusion, we will see that very fact demonstrated.

20:35-37 A Reluctant Prophet

When one prophet was called by God to deliver a message, he asked another prophet to help him set the stage by punching him. When he refused, he was judged, for he was not listening to the voice of the Lord.

20:38 A Wounded Prophet

But when he did find a man to punch him, his face was sufficiently wounded to illustrate God's message of judgment.

20:39-42 The Prophet's Prophecy

In the same way that Nathan had confronted David (2Sam 12) and the widow woman had convinced the king to bring Ab-shaw-LOME back (2Sam 14), the prophet brings a story to King Ahab. Giving the king a situation in which he makes a judgment, then turning it back around to the king's own situation, solidifies that the judgment is just, even in the mind of the one who will be judged.

Showing people how they violate their own rules and standards is an effective tool to get people to see their sin. Jesus taught,

Matt. 23:29-31 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been {living} in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in {shedding} the blood of the prophets.' Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

People's wickedness causes them to violate even their own consciences. God wouldn't even have to measure people by His standard of perfection to accuse them. They fall short even when they are measured by theirs.

20:43 Sullen And Vexed

Ahab went away sad. You might remember the story of the man who came to Jesus asking what to do in order to obtain eternal life. Jesus reminded him of various commandments, which the man was confident that he had kept. But there was one thing that was standing between him and God - his money had become his god. And so Jesus said to him,

Matt. 19:21-22 ..."If you wish to be complete, go {and} sell your possessions and give to {the} poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.

It sounds like the guy never made it to eternal life. It sounds like when he left, he didn't do what Jesus said. But we don't know that for a fact. He very well may have done as Jesus said. Yes, he was sad, but that didn't prevent him from doing what was right.

Along the same lines, don't think right away that there is no hope for Ahab. Although he is 99% wicked, we will actually see a time of humbling in his heart before we finish up the book of 1Kings.

Go to next study

Go to previous study