Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Ben-hadad the king of Syria--This monarch was the son of that
Ben-hadad who, in the reign of Baasha, made a raid on the northern
towns of Galilee
The thirty-two kings that were confederate with him were probably
tributary princes. The ancient kings of Syria and Phœnicia ruled
only over a single city, and were independent of each other, except
when one great city, as Damascus, acquired the ascendency, and even
then they were allied only in time of war. The Syrian army encamped at
the gates and besieged the town of Samaria.
2-12. Thus said Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine--To this
message sent him during the siege, Ahab returned a tame and submissive
answer, probably thinking it meant no more than an exaction of tribute.
But the demand was repeated with greater insolence; and yet, from the
abject character of Ahab, there is reason to believe he would have
yielded to this arrogant claim also, had not the voice of his subjects
been raised against it. Ben-hadad's object in these and other boastful
menaces was to intimidate Ahab. But the weak sovereign began to show a
little more spirit, as appears in his abandoning "my lord the king" for
the single "tell him," and giving him a dry but sarcastic hint to glory
no more till the victory is won. Kindling into a rage at the cool
defiance, Ben-hadad gave orders for the immediate sack of the city.
12. as he was drinking, he and the kings in the pavilions--booths made
of branches of trees and brushwood; which were reared for kings in the
camp, as they still are for Turkish pashas or agas in their expeditions
Set yourselves in array--Invest the city.
13-21. behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab--Though the king and
people of Israel had highly offended Him, God had not utterly cast them
off. He still cherished designs of mercy towards them, and here, though
unasked, gave them a signal proof of His interest in them, by a
prophet's animating announcement that the Lord would that day deliver
the mighty hosts of the enemy into his hand by means of a small, feeble,
inadequate band. Conformably to the prophet's instructions, two hundred
thirty-two young men went boldly out towards the camp of the enemy,
while seven thousand more, apparently volunteers, followed at some
little distance, or posted themselves at the gate, to be ready to
reinforce those in front if occasion required it. Ben-hadad and his
vassals and princes were already, at that early hour--scarcely
midday--deep in their cups; and though informed of this advancing
company, yet confiding in his numbers, or it may be, excited with wine,
he ordered with indifference the proud intruders to be taken alive,
whether they came with peaceful or hostile intentions. It was more
easily said than done; the young men smote right and left, making
terrible havoc among their intended captors; and their attack, together
with the sight of the seven thousand, who soon rushed forward to mingle
in the fray, created a panic in the Syrian army, who immediately took up
flight. Ben-hadad himself escaped the pursuit of the victors on a fleet
horse, surrounded by a squadron of horse guards. This glorious victory,
won so easily, and with such a paltry force opposed to overwhelming
numbers, was granted that Ahab and his people might know
that God is the Lord. But we do not read of this acknowledgment being
made, or of any sacrifices being offered in token of their national
22-26. the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said--The same
prophet who had predicted the victory shortly reappeared, admonishing
the king to take every precaution against a renewal of hostilities in
the following campaign.
at the return of the year--that is, in spring, when, on the cessation
of the rainy season, military campaigns
were anciently begun. It happened as the prophet had forewarned.
Brooding over their late disastrous defeat, the attendants of Ben-hadad
ascribed the misfortune to two causes--the one arose from the
principles of heathenism which led them to consider the gods of Israel
as "gods of the hills"; whereas their power to aid the Israelites would
be gone if the battle was maintained on the plains. The other cause to
which the Syrian courtiers traced their defeat at Samaria, was the
presence of the tributary kings, who had probably been the first to
take flight; and they recommended "captains to be put in their rooms."
Approving of these recommendations, Ben-hadad renewed his invasion of
Israel the next spring by the siege of Aphek in the valley of Jezreel
with 1Sa 28:4),
not far from En-dor.
27-31. like two little flocks of kids--Goats are never seen in large
flocks, or scattered, like sheep; and hence the two small but compact
divisions of the Israelite force are compared to goats, not sheep.
Humanly speaking, that little handful of men would have been
overpowered by numbers. But a prophet was sent to the small Israelite
army to announce the victory, in order to convince the Syrians that the
God of Israel was omnipotent everywhere, in the valley as well as on
the hills. And, accordingly, after the two armies had pitched opposite
each other for seven days, they came to an open battle. One hundred
thousand Syrians lay dead on the field, while the fugitives took refuge
in Aphek, and there, crowding on the city walls, they endeavored to
make a stand against their pursuers; but the old walls giving way under
the incumbent weight, fell and buried twenty-seven thousand in the
ruins. Ben-hadad succeeded in extricating himself, and, with his
attendants, sought concealment in the city, fleeing from chamber to
chamber; or, as some think it, an inner chamber, that is, a harem; but
seeing no ultimate means of escape, he was advised to throw himself on
the tender mercies of the Israelitish monarch.
32-34. put ropes on their heads--Captives were dragged by ropes round
their necks in companies, as is depicted on the monuments of Egypt.
Their voluntary attitude and language of submission flattered the pride
of Ahab, who, little concerned about the dishonor done to the God of
Israel by the Syrian king, and thinking of nothing but victory, paraded
his clemency, called the vanquished king "his brother," invited him to
sit in the royal chariot, and dismissed him with a covenant of peace.
34. streets for thee in Damascus--implying that a quarter of that
city was to be assigned to Jews, with the free exercise of their
religion and laws, under a judge of their own. This misplaced kindness
to a proud and impious idolater, so unbecoming a theocratic monarch,
exposed Ahab to the same censure and fate as Saul
It was in opposition to God's purpose in giving him the victory.
35-38. Smite me--This prophet is supposed
to have been Micaiah. The refusal of his neighbor to smite the prophet
was manifestly wrong, as it was a withholding of necessary aid to a
prophet in the discharge of a duty to which he had been called by God,
and it was severely punished
as a beacon to warn others (see on
The prophet found a willing assistant, and then, waiting for Ahab,
leads the king unconsciously, in the parabolic manner of Nathan
to pronounce his own doom; and this consequent punishment was forthwith
announced by a prophet (see on
39. a talent of silver--£342.