Meanwhile, the servants of the king of Aram said to him, "Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they prevailed over us. Instead, we should fight them on the plains; surely then we will prevail.
No man is so wise that it may not be to his advantage to consider advice; but in listening to advice we may be led astray. There are two classes of advisers, viz., those who are influenced by the "wisdom of this world," and those who are influenced by the "wisdom from above." Of both we have examples in the text.
I. THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD IS A WISDOM OF EXPEDIENCY.
1. It is not destitute of sagacity.
(1) It has its maxims of prudence.
(a) Ben-hadad's counsellors would not have him underrate his enemy. The army they advise him to raise for the invasion of Israel must not be inferior to that which had been lately vanquished (ver. 25). Let us not underrate our spiritual foes.
(b) Neither would they have him underrate the quality of his soldiers. They do not admit that his army was fairly beaten, but speak of "the army that thou hast lost," or "that fell from thee." In this also they were right, for if God had not helped Israel the Syrians would not have been routed. In all our spiritual conflicts let us fight under the banner of Jehovah.
(2) It has its lessons of experience.
(a) Ben-hadad's counsellors lay emphasis here - "And do this thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place." Why remove the kings? Because in the last war they were "drinking themselves drunk" when they should have been at their posts, and the army, without officers, became confused and demoralized. Trust not the kings again (see Psalm 118:9; Psalm 146:8).
(b) "Put captains in their rooms." Let the army be commanded by men of ability and experience. Pageants are of no use in times of exigency.
2. But its sagacity is mingled with folly.
(1) Because the motives of the wicked are vicious.
(a) In his former war Ben-hadad's impulse was pride. The insolence of his demands evidenced this (vers. 3, 6). But what wisdom is there in pride?
(b) Though mortified by defeat, that pride remained, and was now moved by the spirit of revenge: "Surely we shall be stronger than they." But what wisdom is there in resentment?
(c) Beyond these base feelings the desire for plunder seems to have moved the Syrian. But where is the wisdom in a king becoming a common robber?
(2) Because they put themselves into conflict with the Almighty.
(a) The Syrians formed an unworthy idea of the Elohim of Israel when they localized and limited Him to the hills. Palestine is a hilly country, and its cities and high places were generally on hills; and probably in the hill country of Samaria the cavalry and chariots of Syria were of little service. (See Psalm 15:1; Psalm 24:3; Psalm 87:1; Psalm 121:1.)
(b) In the proposal to give Israel battle in the plains the Syrians now set Jehovah at defiance.
II. THE WISDOM FROM ABOVE IS THE WISDOM OF TRUTH.
1. It is far reaching.
(1) God sees the end from the beginning. We should therefore seek His counsel and guidance.
(2) He forewarns His people. He sent His prophet to the king of Israel to inform him that the king of Syria would come up against him at the return of the year. He forewarns us of the things of eternity.
2. It is prudent.
(1) The prophet advised Ahab to prepare for the event. "Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest." We should ever deport ourselves as in the presence of spiritual foes.
(2) God helps those who help themselves.
3. It is unerring.
(1) Events foreshown by God will surely come to pass.
(2) According to the advice of the prophet, "at the return of the year," viz., "at the time when kings go forth to battle" (see 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Chronicles 20:1), probably answering to our March, which has its name from Mars, the god of war, Ben-hadad "went up to Aphek to fight against Israel." There were several cities of this name: one in the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:30); another in Judah (1 Samuel 4:1); a third in Syria (2 Kings 13:17). The last is probably that referred to here.
4. It is profitable.
(1) This follows from its other qualities. The guidance which is "prudent," "far reaching," and "unerring" must be "profitable."
(2) But further, those who follow that guidance so commend themselves to God that He directly interposes in their behalf. There was a faithful "seven thousand" in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).
(3) If in conflict with those who prefer a worldly policy, they not only have God on their side, but they have Him with them against their enemy.
(4) God helped Ahab against Ben-hadad, not that Ahab deserved it, but that Ben-hadad had to be punished (ver. 28. See also Ezekiel 36:22). The "two little flocks of kids" could not have slain in one day "one hundred thousand men" unless God had helped them. The hand of God also was in the falling of that wall by which "seven and twenty thousand" perished. Let us faithfully pursue the policy of right. Let us never permit the expediency of a moment to swerve us from this. Truth abides. - J.A.M.
Go, strengthen thyself
Israel had Just been at war with Syria, and had come off victorious. Naturally they were feeling very happy and triumphant and were congratulating themselves on their success. Then it was that God sent His prophet to the King of Israel with this sobering message. It was a call to wisdom. The king was reminded that life before him was a struggle, and that because he had won this victory he was not to take it for granted that he could live carelessly as though he had no enemies. A still greater struggle was ahead of him, and unless he strengthened himself by careful preparation he was sure to meet with defeat. Our theme is very plain. This is a message which God sends to every man and woman to-day. It should come to Christians with great emphasis. Perhaps you have had spiritual victory. God has been giving you gracious blessings. Nevertheless, I would come to you as God's messenger and say to you in the midst of your congratulation, "Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest: for on a day when you are not looking for it, at a time when you are least expecting it, Satan will come against you, and unless you have made yourself strong in the strength of God you will be overcome." God had given David many victories. But it was after all that, after David had congratulated himself a thousand times on the victories which God had given him, that Satan came against him with a new temptation, a temptation unexpected and insidious, which led him into a sin so terrible that he came near losing his soul. It was after Peter had had many victories and many marks of the signal favour and love of Jesus Christ; after he had been on the Mount of Transfiguration and had been permitted to look on the inner glory of the Son of God; after he had been chosen to go into the Garden of Gethsemane and witness the supreme agony of the atoning love; after he had sworn that though all men should forsake Jesus he would remain faithful; it was after all this that Peter, assaulted unexpectedly by Satan, was overcome and denied his Lord. Now these Syrians were idolaters and had no real conception of the true God in whom was the only strength of Israel. The officers of the King of Syria thought they had found a solution of the problem as to why Israel was able constantly to defeat them, although they had the superior numbers. They said to the King of Syria, "Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they." Let us see how that turned out. You see that, after all, the only thing Israel could do to prepare for the fight against the overwhelming numbers of the Syrians was to strengthen themselves in God. So long as they obeyed God, and had Him for their friend, they were stronger than all that could come against them. But without God they were weak and helpless and easily overthrown and destroyed. There is but one way to intrench yourself in the strength of God, and that is by repentance and obedience. We cannot fight God; we cannot make compromises with God; there is just one way open — we can surrender unconditionally at the mercy-seat.
It is said of Pitt that "he breathed his own lofty spirit into his country. No man ever entered his room who did not feel himself a braver man when he came out than when he went in." How much more true, and in the very highest sense, is this of our inspiring Lord. Fellowship with Him makes the timid strong, the fearful brave, the tempted mighty to resist.
PeopleAhab, Aram, Ben, Benhadad, Ben-hadad, Hadad, Israelites, Syrians
PlacesAphek, Damascus, Samaria, Syria
TopicsAdvised, Aram, Aram's, Attack, Certainly, Fight, Gods, Hills, Lowlands, Mountains, Officials, Plain, Plains, Plateau, Rather, Servants, Strong, Stronger, Surely, Syria, Yet
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 20:23
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
And the king of Israel answered and said. Tell him. Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.'--1 KINGS xx. 11. For the Young. Ahab, King of Israel, was but a poor creature, and, like most weak characters, he turned out a wicked one, because he found that there were more temptations to do wrong than inducements to do right. Like other weak people, too, he was torn asunder by the influence of stronger wills. On the one side he had a termagant of a wife, stirring …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Section Chap. I. -iii.
The question which here above all engages our attention, and requires to be answered, is this: Whether that which is reported in these chapters did, or did not, actually and outwardly take place. The history of the inquiries connected with this question is found most fully in Marckius's "Diatribe de uxore fornicationum," Leyden, 1696, reprinted in the Commentary on the Minor Prophets by the same author. The various views may be divided into three classes. 1. It is maintained by very many interpreters, …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament
The Letter of the Synod to the Emperor and Empress.
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 577.) To our most religious and most serene princes, Constantine and Irene his mother. Tarasius, the unworthy bishop of your God-protected royal city, new Rome, and all the holy Council which met at the good pleasure of God and upon the command of your Christ-loving majesty in the renowned metropolis of Nice, the second council to assemble in this city. Christ our God (who is the head of the Church) was glorified, most noble princes, when your heart, …
Philip Schaff—The Seven Ecumenical Councils
Nature of the Renderings
From the text we now turn to the renderings, and to the general principles that were followed, both in the Old and in the New Testament. The revision of the English text was in each case subject to the same general rule, viz. "To introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorised Version consistently with faithfulness"; but, owing to the great difference between the two languages, the Hebrew and the Greek, the application of the rule was necessarily different, and the results …
C. J. Ellicott—Addresses on the Revised Version of Holy Scripture
The Practice of Piety in Glorifying God in the Time of Sickness, and when Thou Art Called to Die in the Lord.
As soon as thou perceivest thyself to be visited with any sickness, meditate with thyself: 1. That "misery cometh not forth of the dust; neither doth affliction spring out of the earth." Sickness comes not by hap or chance (as the Philistines supposed that their mice and emrods came, 1 Sam. vi. 9), but from man's wickedness, which, as sparkles, breaketh out. "Man suffereth," saith Jeremiah, "for his sins." "Fools," saith David, "by reason of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities, …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
The Twelve Minor Prophets.
1. By the Jewish arrangement, which places together the twelve minor prophets in a single volume, the chronological order of the prophets as a whole is broken up. The three greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, stand in the true order of time. Daniel began to prophesy before Ezekiel, but continued, many years after him. The Jewish arrangement of the twelve minor prophets is in a sense chronological; that is, they put the earlier prophets at the beginning, and the later at the end of the …
E. P. Barrows—Companion to the Bible
Tiglath-Pileser iii. And the Organisation of the Assyrian Empire from 745 to 722 B. C.
TIGLATH-PILESER III. AND THE ORGANISATION OF THE ASSYRIAN EMPIRE FROM 745 to 722 B.C. FAILURE OF URARTU AND RE-CONQUEST Of SYRIA--EGYPT AGAIN UNITED UNDER ETHIOPIAN AUSPICES--PIONKHI--THE DOWNFALL OF DAMASCUS, OF BABYLON, AND OF ISRAEL. Assyria and its neighbours at the accession of Tiglath-pileser III.: progress of the Aramaeans in the basin of the Middle Tigris--Urartu and its expansion into the north of Syria--Damascus and Israel--Vengeance of Israel on Damascus--Jeroboam II.--Civilisation …
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 7
The book of Kings is strikingly unlike any modern historical narrative. Its comparative brevity, its curious perspective, and-with some brilliant exceptions--its relative monotony, are obvious to the most cursory perusal, and to understand these things is, in large measure, to understand the book. It covers a period of no less than four centuries. Beginning with the death of David and the accession of Solomon (1 Kings i., ii.) it traverses his reign with considerable fulness (1 Kings iii.-xi.), …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
Links1 Kings 20:23 NIV
1 Kings 20:23 NLT
1 Kings 20:23 ESV
1 Kings 20:23 NASB
1 Kings 20:23 KJV
1 Kings 20:23 Bible Apps
1 Kings 20:23 Parallel
1 Kings 20:23 Biblia Paralela
1 Kings 20:23 Chinese Bible
1 Kings 20:23 French Bible
1 Kings 20:23 German Bible
1 Kings 20:23 Commentaries