"If they have marched out in peace," he said, "take them alive. Even if they have marched out for war, take them alive."
I. THAT GOD RULES IN THE DESTINIES OF MEN.
1. Here He showed His hand.
(1) He sent a prophet. Jarchi says it was Micalah, the son of Imlah, while others think it was Elijah in disguise; but it is useless to speculate on this point. We are more concerned with the purport of His message, which was to promise victory to Israel, and to indicate how that victory should be organized, so that in the issue Jehovah might be acknowledged.
(2) The hand of God was seen not only in the prophet's foreknowledge of events, but also in the wisdom of the adjustments by which they were to be brought about. For the victory was organized according to instructions of the prophet, purporting also to be from the Lord. Who but the Lord could have foreseen that at noon Ben-hadad and his kings would be so drunken as to be unfit and indisposed to take their posts of command? Who else could have foreseen that Ben-hadad would have been so foolish as to order the sortie to be taken alive? For thereby the Syrians were put to a disadvantage, which enabled the "young men of the princes of the provinces" and those who followed them to slay "every one his man," and throw the invading host into confusion.
(3) The power of God also was evident when the disparity of numbers is considered. An army of seven thousand Israelites could never without supernatural aid, have demoralized and routed the formidable hosts of Syria.
(4) And that God was in this victory could not be reasonably doubted, since this was not an extraordinary event by itself, but one of a series of such events; therefore it could not have been an accident. It was preceded by three years of drought which began and ended according to the "word" of Elijah, with the miracle on Carmel.
2. By so showing His hand He evinced that He is ever working.
(1) When events are ordinary, men are disposed to see in them natural causes only; but extraordinary events force upon their consideration the fact of a superior agency behind these causes.
(2) This truth is the more evident when the ordinary are recognized in the extraordinary. Thus God ordered the battle. He appointed the general, disposed the attack which was to assure the victory, and timed everything so to fit in with circumstances as to bring about the promised result.
(3) With God there is no essential difference between things ordinary and extraordinary. It is simply a question of proportions. For natural causes are all second causes, and would have no existence but for the First Cause. A miracle is but the unusual action of the First Cause upon the second causes; but in the usual action, God is none the less present and necessary to the result.
II. THAT HE RULES IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND MERCY.
1. He humbles the proud is righteousness.
(1) Defeat in any case is humiliation. To Ben-hadad after his confident boasting it was eminently so. He would remember the lesson, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." Let us observe it.
(2) The manner was an aggravation of the defeat. It was accomplished by two hundred and thirty-two "young men of the princes of the provinces," who are by some thought to have been a militia raised by provincial magistrates, and by others, with perhaps better reason - for the number seems too small to answer the former description - the attendants of such of those princes as were then in Samaria. It was intensely humiliating that a company of such combatants should rout a formidable army. God makes the weak confound the mighty.
(3) Ben-hadad would be mortified to think how his overweening confidence, together with his drunkenness, had directly contributed to his humiliation. He was too drunk to appear at the head of his army, but not too drunk to find his way to the cavalry to facilitate his flight. "There is but one step from the sublime to the ludicrous!"
2. He shows long-suffering in mercy.
(1) The judgment upon Ben-hadad was mercy to Ahab. It delivered him from the hand of a cruel oppressor. It gave him another warning and space for repentance.
(2) Did Ahab deserve this? Certainly not, while he submitted to be led by Jezebel, and that notwithstanding his experience of the drought and the miracle on Carmel. God is long suffering in mercy.
(3) But there were "seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which had not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" Jarchi would identify these with the "seven thousand" mentioned in verse 15. Probably some of that seven thousand went to compose this, and for their sakes it may have been that God had so signally interposed. Let us never lose sight of God. Let us discern His hand in nature, providence, grace. Let us never provoke His justice by pride, by rebellion. Let us respect His long-suffering by repentance. Let us throw ourselves upon His mercy for salvation, for help. - J.A.M.
And the young men of the princes of the provinces went out first.I. THE MIGHTY ENEMIES TO BE OPPOSED.
II. THE GLORIOUS MONARCH UNDER WHOM WE FIGHT.
III. THE INSTRUMENTS EMPLOYED ON THIS OCCASION IN HIS SERVICE. "The young men of the princes of the provinces." Such it was, that God selected on this occasion, that His hand might be more clearly revealed. Thus the faith of His people was called forth and exercised; thus bold zeal in His cause would be encouraged. Nor is it only in the history of Israel, that young men have been employed. There have, in our own country and in our own Church, been in past days associations of young men, that have been eminently blessed of God. The societies for the reformation of manners originated with young men; and from 1668, for nearly a century, their associated efforts greatly blessed our country. Vice was discouraged and put down; and innumerable books of piety, circulated by the young men of that period, produced a great reformation of morals, especially in the city of London, but which spread also through other parts of the country.
IV. THE VICTORY OBTAINED.
(E. Bickersteth, M. A.)
PeopleAhab, Aram, Ben, Benhadad, Ben-hadad, Hadad, Israelites, Syrians
PlacesAphek, Damascus, Samaria, Syria
TopicsAlive, Battle, Catch, Peace, War, Whether
Outline1. Ben-Hadad, not content with Ahab's homage, besieges Samaria
13. By the direction of a prophet, the Syrians are slain
22. As the prophet forewarned Ahab, the Syrians come against him in Aphek
28. By the word of the prophet, and God's judgment, the Syrians are smitten again
31. The Syrians submit; Ahab sends Ben-Hadad away with a covenant
35. The prophet, under the parable of a prisoner,
39. making Ahab judge himself, denounces God's judgment against him
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 20:13-21
LibraryThe Lost Opportunity
TEXT: "And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it."--1 Kings 20:40. There is a very striking incident connected with this text. The great battle is raging, a certain important prisoner has been taken, and if you read between the lines you seem to know that upon him depend many of the issues of war. His skill in leading the enemy had been marvelous, his courage in the thick of the fight striking; …
J. Wilbur Chapman—And Judas Iscariot
Putting on the Armour
The Section Chap. I. -iii.
The Letter of the Synod to the Emperor and Empress.
Nature of the Renderings
The Practice of Piety in Glorifying God in the Time of Sickness, and when Thou Art Called to Die in the Lord.
The Twelve Minor Prophets.
Tiglath-Pileser iii. And the Organisation of the Assyrian Empire from 745 to 722 B. C.
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