1 Kings 20 Good News Translation (GNT)
War with Syria
20 King Benhadad of Syria gathered all his troops, and supported by thirty-two other rulers with their horses and chariots, he marched up, laid siege to Samaria, and launched attacks against it. 2 He sent messengers into the city to King Ahab of Israel to say, “King Benhadad demands that 3 you surrender to him your silver and gold, your women and the strongest of your children.”
4 “Tell my lord, King Benhadad, that I agree; he can have me and everything I own,” Ahab answered.
5 Later the messengers came back to Ahab with another demand from Benhadad: “I sent you word that you were to hand over to me your silver and gold, your women and your children. 6 Now, however, I will send my officers to search your palace and the homes of your officials, and to take everything they[a] consider valuable. They will be there about this time tomorrow.”
7 King Ahab called in all the leaders of the country and said, “You see that this man wants to ruin us. He sent me a message demanding my wives and children, my silver and gold, and I agreed.”
8 The leaders and the people answered, “Don't pay any attention to him; don't give in.”
9 So Ahab replied to Benhadad's messengers, “Tell my lord the king that I agreed to his first demand, but I cannot agree to the second.”
The messengers left and then returned with another message 10 from Benhadad: “I will bring enough men to destroy this city of yours and carry off the rubble in their hands. May the gods strike me dead if I don't!”
11 King Ahab answered, “Tell King Benhadad that a real soldier does his bragging after a battle, not before it.”
12 Benhadad received Ahab's answer as he and his allies, the other rulers, were drinking in their tents. He ordered his men to get ready to attack the city, and so they moved into position.
13 Meanwhile, a prophet went to King Ahab and said, “The Lord says, ‘Don't be afraid of that huge army! I will give you victory over it today, and you will know that I am the Lord.’”
14 “Who will lead the attack?” Ahab asked.
The prophet answered, “The Lord says that the young soldiers under the command of the district governors are to do it.”
“Who will command the main force?” the king asked.
“You,” the prophet answered.
15 So the king called out the young soldiers who were under the district commanders, 232 in all. Then he called out the Israelite army, a total of seven thousand men.
16 The attack began at noon, as Benhadad and his thirty-two allies were getting drunk in their tents. 17 The young soldiers advanced first. Scouts sent out by Benhadad reported to him that a group of soldiers was coming out of Samaria. 18 He ordered, “Take them alive, no matter whether they are coming to fight or to ask for peace.”
19 The young soldiers led the attack, followed by the Israelite army, 20 and each one killed the man he fought. The Syrians fled, with the Israelites in hot pursuit, but Benhadad escaped on horseback, accompanied by some of the cavalry. 21 King Ahab took to the field, captured[b] the horses and chariots, and inflicted a severe defeat on the Syrians.
22 Then the prophet went to King Ahab and said, “Go back and build up your forces and make careful plans, because the king of Syria will attack again next spring.”
The Second Syrian Attack
23 King Benhadad's officials said to him, “The gods of Israel are mountain gods, and that is why the Israelites defeated us. But we will certainly defeat them if we fight them in the plains. 24 Now, remove the thirty-two rulers from their commands and replace them with field commanders. 25 Then call up an army as large as the one that deserted you, with the same number of horses and chariots. We will fight the Israelites in the plains, and this time we will defeat them.”
King Benhadad agreed and followed their advice. 26 The following spring he called up his men and marched with them to the city of Aphek to attack the Israelites. 27 The Israelites were called up and equipped; they marched out and camped in two groups facing the Syrians. The Israelites looked like two small flocks of goats compared to the Syrians, who spread out over the countryside.
28 A prophet went to King Ahab and said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Syrians say that I am a god of the hills and not of the plains, I will give you victory over their huge army, and you and your people will know that I am the Lord.’”
29 For seven days the Syrians and the Israelites stayed in their camps, facing each other. On the seventh day they started fighting, and the Israelites killed a hundred thousand Syrians. 30 The survivors fled into the city of Aphek, where the city walls fell on twenty-seven thousand of them.
Benhadad also escaped into the city and took refuge in the back room of a house. 31 His officials went to him and said, “We have heard that the Israelite kings are merciful. Give us permission to go to the king of Israel with sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our necks, and maybe he will spare your life.” 32 So they wrapped sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their necks, went to Ahab and said, “Your servant Benhadad pleads with you for his life.”
Ahab answered, “Is he still alive? Good! He's like a brother to me!”
33 Benhadad's officials were watching for a good sign, and when Ahab said “brother,” they took it up at once, and said, “As you say, Benhadad is your brother!”
“Bring him to me,” Ahab ordered. When Benhadad arrived, Ahab invited him to get in the chariot with him. 34 Benhadad said to him, “I will restore to you the towns my father took from your father, and you may set up a commercial center for yourself in Damascus, just as my father did in Samaria.”
Ahab replied, “On these terms, then, I will set you free.” He made a treaty with him and let him go.
A Prophet Condemns Ahab
35 At the Lord's command a member of a group of prophets ordered a fellow prophet to hit him. But he refused, 36 so he said to him, “Because you have disobeyed the Lord's command, a lion will kill you as soon as you leave me.” And as soon as he left, a lion came along and killed him.
37 Then this same prophet went to another man and said, “Hit me!” This man did so; he hit him a hard blow and hurt him. 38 The prophet bandaged his face with a cloth, to disguise himself, and went and stood by the road, waiting for the king of Israel to pass. 39 As the king was passing by, the prophet called out to him and said, “Your Majesty, I was fighting in the battle when a soldier brought a captured enemy to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if he escapes, you will pay for it with your life or else pay a fine of three thousand pieces of silver.’ 40 But I got busy with other things, and the man escaped.”
The king answered, “You have pronounced your own sentence, and you will have to pay the penalty.”
41 The prophet tore the cloth from his face, and at once the king recognized him as one of the prophets. 42 The prophet then said to the king, “This is the word of the Lord: ‘Because you allowed the man to escape whom I had ordered to be killed, you will pay for it with your life, and your army will be destroyed for letting his army escape.’”
43 The king went back home to Samaria, worried and depressed.
1 Kings 20 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Ahab’s Wars with the Arameans
20 King Ben-hadad of Aram gathered all his army together; thirty-two kings were with him, along with horses and chariots. He marched against Samaria, laid siege to it, and attacked it. 2 Then he sent messengers into the city to King Ahab of Israel, and said to him: “Thus says Ben-hadad: 3 Your silver and gold are mine; your fairest wives and children also are mine.” 4 The king of Israel answered, “As you say, my lord, O king, I am yours, and all that I have.” 5 The messengers came again and said: “Thus says Ben-hadad: I sent to you, saying, ‘Deliver to me your silver and gold, your wives and children’; 6 nevertheless I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants, and lay hands on whatever pleases them,[a] and take it away.”
7 Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land, and said, “Look now! See how this man is seeking trouble; for he sent to me for my wives, my children, my silver, and my gold; and I did not refuse him.” 8 Then all the elders and all the people said to him, “Do not listen or consent.” 9 So he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, “Tell my lord the king: All that you first demanded of your servant I will do; but this thing I cannot do.” The messengers left and brought him word again. 10 Ben-hadad sent to him and said, “The gods do so to me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria will provide a handful for each of the people who follow me.” 11 The king of Israel answered, “Tell him: One who puts on armor should not brag like one who takes it off.” 12 When Ben-hadad heard this message—now he had been drinking with the kings in the booths—he said to his men, “Take your positions!” And they took their positions against the city.
Prophetic Opposition to Ahab
13 Then a certain prophet came up to King Ahab of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Look, I will give it into your hand today; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 14 Ahab said, “By whom?” He said, “Thus says the Lord, By the young men who serve the district governors.” Then he said, “Who shall begin the battle?” He answered, “You.” 15 Then he mustered the young men who served the district governors, two hundred thirty-two; after them he mustered all the people of Israel, seven thousand.
16 They went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the booths, he and the thirty-two kings allied with him. 17 The young men who served the district governors went out first. Ben-hadad had sent out scouts,[b] and they reported to him, “Men have come out from Samaria.” 18 He said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive; if they have come out for war, take them alive.”
19 But these had already come out of the city: the young men who served the district governors, and the army that followed them. 20 Each killed his man; the Arameans fled and Israel pursued them, but King Ben-hadad of Aram escaped on a horse with the cavalry. 21 The king of Israel went out, attacked the horses and chariots, and defeated the Arameans with a great slaughter.
22 Then the prophet approached the king of Israel and said to him, “Come, strengthen yourself, and consider well what you have to do; for in the spring the king of Aram will come up against you.”
The Arameans Are Defeated
23 The servants of the king of Aram said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. 24 Also do this: remove the kings, each from his post, and put commanders in place of them; 25 and muster an army like the army that you have lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot; then we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.” He heeded their voice, and did so.
26 In the spring Ben-hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 After the Israelites had been mustered and provisioned, they went out to engage them; the people of Israel encamped opposite them like two little flocks of goats, while the Arameans filled the country. 28 A man of God approached and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord: Because the Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,’ therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 29 They encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle began; the Israelites killed one hundred thousand Aramean foot soldiers in one day. 30 The rest fled into the city of Aphek; and the wall fell on twenty-seven thousand men that were left.
Ben-hadad also fled, and entered the city to hide. 31 His servants said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings; let us put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will spare your life.” 32 So they tied sackcloth around their waists, put ropes on their heads, went to the king of Israel, and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad says, ‘Please let me live.’” And he said, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.” 33 Now the men were watching for an omen; they quickly took it up from him and said, “Yes, Ben-hadad is your brother.” Then he said, “Go and bring him.” So Ben-hadad came out to him; and he had him come up into the chariot. 34 Ben-hadad[c] said to him, “I will restore the towns that my father took from your father; and you may establish bazaars for yourself in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.” The king of Israel responded,[d] “I will let you go on those terms.” So he made a treaty with him and let him go.
A Prophet Condemns Ahab
35 At the command of the Lord a certain member of a company of prophets[e] said to another, “Strike me!” But the man refused to strike him. 36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, as soon as you have left me, a lion will kill you.” And when he had left him, a lion met him and killed him. 37 Then he found another man and said, “Strike me!” So the man hit him, striking and wounding him. 38 Then the prophet departed, and waited for the king along the road, disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 As the king passed by, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the thick of the battle; then a soldier turned and brought a man to me, and said, ‘Guard this man; if he is missing, your life shall be given for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’ 40 While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.” 41 Then he quickly took the bandage away from his eyes. The king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. 42 Then he said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have let the man go whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.’” 43 The king of Israel set out toward home, resentful and sullen, and came to Samaria.
1 Kings 20 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
20 Now Ben-Hadad the king of Aram rallied his whole army; with him were thirty-two kings, besides horses and chariots. Then he marched on Shomron and laid siege to it. 2 He sent messengers inside the city to Ach’av king of Isra’el 3 to say to him, “Here is the message from Ben-Hadad: ‘Your silver and gold are mine, also your wives and your best children are mine.’” 4 The king of Isra’el answered, “Just as you say, my lord, king; I am yours, along with everything I own.”
5 The messengers returned and said, “Here is Ben-Hadad’s response: ‘I sent you a message to hand over your silver, gold, wives and children to me. 6 But I am going to send my servants to you tomorrow around this time; they will ransack your house and the houses of your servants; and whatever they see that they like they will seize and remove.’” 7 Then the king of Isra’el summoned all the leaders of the land and said, “Please take notice! Do you see how this man is trying to make trouble? First he demanded my wives, children, silver and gold; and I denied him nothing.” 8 All the leaders and all the people said to him, “Don’t listen, and don’t agree.” 9 So he said to Ben-Hadad’s messengers, “Tell my lord the king, ‘I will do all that you asked of me the first time, but this I cannot do.” The messengers left and brought word back to him.
10 Ben-Hadad then sent this message to him: “May the gods do terrible things to me and worse ones as well if there’s enough dust in Shomron to give each of my followers a handful!” 11 The king of Isra’el answered, “Tell him: ‘He who is putting on his armor shouldn’t boast as if he were taking it off!’” 12 It happened that Ben-Hadad received this message when he was drinking, he and his kings, in the field-barracks. He ordered his servants: “Take up your battle positions!” So they got ready to attack the city.
13 At that moment a prophet approached Ach’av king of Isra’el and said, “Here is what Adonai says: ‘Have you seen this vast army? I am going to give you victory over them today. Then you will know that I am Adonai!’” 14 Ach’av asked, “Who will defeat them?” He answered, “This is what Adonai says: ‘The young men who serve the district governors.’” He asked, “Who will start the fighting?” and he answered, “You will.” 15 He counted the district governors’ young men; there were 232. After that, he counted all the people, all the people of Isra’el; there were 7,000.
16 They set out at noon. Ben-Hadad was drinking himself senseless in the field-barracks, he and the kings, the thirty-two kings who were his allies. 17 The district governors’ men went out first. Ben-Hadad sent for information, and they reported, “Men have come out from Shomron.” 18 He said, “Whether they have come out for peace or for war, take them alive.” 19 So the district governors’ men left the city, followed by the army; 20 and each one killed his man. Aram fled, and Isra’el pursued them. Ben-Hadad king of Aram escaped on horseback with some of the cavalry. 21 The king of Isra’el went out and attacked the horses and chariots, inflicting a massive defeat on Aram.
22 Afterwards, the prophet approached the king of Isra’el and said to him, “Go, regroup your forces, and think carefully what to do, for next year at this time the king of Aram will renew his attack.” 23 Meanwhile, the servants of the king of Aram said to him, “Their God is a God of the hills; that’s why they were stronger than we were. But if we fight them on level ground, we will certainly be stronger than they are. 24 Also do this: remove all the kings from their commands, and put professional officers in their place. 25 Then recruit an army as big as the army you lost, horse for horse and chariot for chariot. We will attack them on level ground, and we will certainly be stronger than they.” He heeded what they said and acted accordingly.
26 At the same time the following year, Ben-Hadad mustered the army of Aram and went up to Afek to attack Isra’el. 27 The army of Isra’el, already mobilized and supplied, went to meet them; but the army of Isra’el, encamped opposite them, looked like two herds of goats; while Aram filled the land.
28 At this point, a man of God approached and said to the king of Isra’el, “Here is what Adonai says: ‘Because Aram said that Adonai is a God of the hills but not a God of the valleys, I will hand over to you this entire huge army. Then you will know that I am Adonai.’”
29 They remained in camp opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day, the battle began; and the people of Isra’el killed 100,000 soldiers of Aram in a single day. 30 The rest fled to Afek, into the city; and the wall fell on 27,000 of the men who were left. Ben-Hadad fled into the city and took refuge in an inside room. 31 His servants said to him, “Here now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Isra’el are merciful kings. If it’s all right with you, let’s put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Isra’el. Maybe he will spare your life.” 32 So they put sackcloth around their waists and ropes on their heads, went to the king of Isra’el and said, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says, ‘Please spare my life.’” And he answered, “He’s still alive? He is my brother.” 33 The men took this as a promising indication and seized on it to say, “Yes, Ben-Hadad is your brother.” Then Ach’av said, “Go, and bring him here.” Ben-Hadad went out to him, and Ach’av had him climb up into his chariot. 34 Ben-Hadad said to him, “I will return the cities my father took from your father. Also you can set up markets for trade in Dammesek, as my father did in Shomron.” “If you put this covenant in writing,” said Ach’av, “I will set you free.” So he made a covenant with him and set him free.
35 One of the members of the prophets’ guild said to another one, by the word of Adonai, “Hit me!” But the man refused to hit him. 36 Then he said to him, “Because you didn’t listen to the voice of Adonai, the moment you leave me, a lion will kill you.” No sooner had he left him than a lion found him and killed him. 37 The prophet went to another man and said, “Hit me!” The man struck him a blow and wounded him. 38 The prophet left and waited for the king by the road, disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 As the king passed by, he called out to the king and said, “Your servant was on his way into the thick of the fighting when someone turned, brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man! If he is missing, you will pay for his life with yours; or else you will pay sixty-six pounds of silver.’ 40 But while your servant was busy with one thing and another, he disappeared.” The king of Isra’el said to him, “So that is your sentence; you have pronounced it on yourself.” 41 Quickly he removed the bandage from his eyes, and the king of Isra’el recognized him as one of the prophets. 42 Then he said to the king, “Here is what Adonai says: ‘Because you have let escape the man I had given over to be destroyed, you will pay with your life for his life and with your people for his people.’” 43 The king of Isra’el returned home to Shomron resentful and depressed.
1 Kings 20 The Message (MSG)
20 1-3 At about this same time Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his troops. He recruited in addition thirty-two local sheiks, all outfitted with horses and chariots. He set out in force and surrounded Samaria, ready to make war. He sent an envoy into the city to set his terms before Ahab king of Israel: “Ben-Hadad lays claim to your silver and gold, and to the pick of your wives and sons.”
4 The king of Israel accepted the terms: “As you say, distinguished lord; I and everything I have is yours.”
5-6 But then the envoy returned a second time, saying, “On second thought, I want it all—your silver and gold and all your wives and sons. Hand them over—the whole works. I’ll give you twenty-four hours; then my servants will arrive to search your palace and the houses of your officials and loot them; anything that strikes their fancy, they’ll take.”
7 The king of Israel called a meeting of all his tribal elders. He said, “Look at this—outrageous! He’s just looking for trouble. He means to clean me out, demanding all my women and children. And after I already agreed to pay him off handsomely!”
8 The elders, backed by the people, said, “Don’t cave in to him. Don’t give an inch.”
9 So he sent an envoy to Ben-Hadad, “Tell my distinguished lord, ‘I agreed to the terms you delivered the first time, but this I can’t do—this I won’t do!’”
The envoy went back and delivered the answer.
10 Ben-Hadad shot back his response: “May the gods do their worst to me, and then worse again, if there’ll be anything left of Samaria but rubble.”
11 The king of Israel countered, “Think about it—it’s easier to start a fight than end one.”
12 It happened that when Ben-Hadad heard this retort he was into some heavy drinking, boozing it up with the sheiks in their field shelters. Drunkenly, he ordered his henchmen, “Go after them!” And they attacked the city.
13 Just then a lone prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “God’s word: Have you taken a good look at this mob? Well, look again—I’m turning it over to you this very day. And you’ll know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am God.”
14 Ahab said, “Really? And who is going to make this happen?”
God said, “The young commandos of the regional chiefs.”
“And who,” said Ahab, “will strike the first blow?”
God said, “You.”
15 Ahab looked over the commandos of the regional chiefs; he counted 232. Then he assessed the available troops—7,000.
16-17 At noon they set out after Ben-Hadad who, with his allies, the thirty-two sheiks, was busy at serious drinking in the field shelters. The commandos of the regional chiefs made up the vanguard.
A report was brought to Ben-Hadad: “Men are on their way from Samaria.”
18 He said, “If they’ve come in peace, take them alive as hostages; if they’ve come to fight, the same—take them alive as hostages.”
19-20 The commandos poured out of the city with the full army behind them. They hit hard in hand-to-hand combat. The Arameans scattered from the field, with Israel hard on their heels. But Ben-Hadad king of Aram got away on horseback, along with his cavalry.
21 The king of Israel cut down both horses and chariots—an enormous defeat for Aram.
22 Sometime later the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, “On the alert now—build up your army, assess your capabilities, and see what has to be done. Before the year is out, the king of Aram will be back in force.”
23-25 Meanwhile the advisors to the king of Aram said, “Their god is a god of the mountains—we don’t stand a chance against them there. So let’s engage them on the plain where we’ll have the advantage. Here’s the strategy: Remove each sheik from his place of leadership and replace him with a seasoned officer. Then recruit a fighting force equivalent in size to the army that deserted earlier—horse for horse, chariot for chariot. And we’ll fight them on the plain—we’re sure to prove stronger than they are.”
It sounded good to the king; he did what they advised.
26-27 As the new year approached, Ben-Hadad rallied Aram and they went up to Aphek to make war on Israel. The Israelite army prepared to fight and took the field to meet Aram. They moved into battle formation before Aram in two camps, like two flocks of goats. The plain was seething with Arameans.
28 Just then a holy man approached the king of Israel saying, “This is God’s word: Because Aram said, ‘God is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,’ I’ll hand over this huge mob of an army to you. Then you’ll know that I am God.”
29-30 The two armies were poised in a standoff for seven days. On the seventh day fighting broke out. The Israelites killed 100,000 of the Aramean infantry in one day. The rest of the army ran for their lives back to the city, Aphek, only to have the city wall fall on 27,000 of the survivors.
30-31 Ben-Hadad escaped into the city and hid in a closet. Then his advisors told him, “Look, we’ve heard that the kings of Israel play by the rules; let’s dress in old gunnysacks, carry a white flag of truce, and present ourselves to the king of Israel on the chance that he’ll let you live.”
32 So that’s what they did. They dressed in old gunnysacks and carried a white flag, and came to the king of Israel saying, “Your servant Ben-Hadad said, ‘Please let me live.’”
Ahab said, “You mean to tell me that he’s still alive? If he’s alive, he’s my brother.”
33 The men took this as a good sign and concluded that everything was going to be all right: “Ben-Hadad is most certainly your brother!”
The king said, “Go and get him.” They went and brought him back by chariot.
34 Ahab said, “I am prepared to return the cities that my father took from your father. And you can set up your headquarters in Damascus just as my father did in Samaria; I’ll send you home under safe conduct.” Then he made a covenant with him and sent him off.
35 A man who was one of the prophets said to a bystander, “Hit me; wound me. Do it for God’s sake—it’s his command. Hit me; wound me.” But the man wouldn’t do it.
36 So he told him, “Because you wouldn’t obey God’s orders, as soon as you leave me a lion will attack you.” No sooner had the man left his side than a lion met him and attacked.
37 He then found another man and said, “Hit me; wound me.” That man did it—hit him hard in the face, drawing blood.
38-40 Then the prophet went and took a position along the road, with a bandage over his eyes, waiting for the king. It wasn’t long before the king happened by. The man cried out to the king, “Your servant was in the thick of the battle when a man showed up and turned over a prisoner to me, saying, ‘Guard this man with your life; if he turns up missing you’ll pay dearly.’ But I got busy doing one thing after another and the next time I looked he was gone.”
The king of Israel said, “You’ve just pronounced your own verdict.”
41 At that, the man ripped the bandage off his eyes and the king recognized who he was—one of the prophets!
42 The man said to the king, “God’s word: Because you let a man go who was under sentence by God, it’s now your life for his, your people for his.”
43 The king of Israel went home in a sulk. He arrived in Samaria in a very bad mood.