The Israelites also mobilized, gathered supplies, and marched out to meet them. The Israelites camped before them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside.
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.
And the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids1. With thirty-three kings intoxicated in one tent this chapter opens. They were allies plotting for the overthrow of the Lord's Israel. You know that if a lion roar a flock of kids will shiver and huddle together. One lion could conquer a thousand kids. The fact that throughout Christendom there are hundreds of printing-houses printing the word of God without the omission of a chapter or a verse, proves that the Bible is popular; and the fact that there are more being printed in this decade than any other decade proves that the Bible is increasing in popularity. I go through the courtrooms of the country; wherever I find a judge's bench or a clerk's desk I find the Bible. By what other book would they take solemn oath? What is very apt to be among the bride's presents? The Bible. What is very apt to be put in the trunk of the young man when he starts for city life? The Bible. Voltaire predicted that the Bible during the nineteenth century would become an obsolete book. Well, we are pretty nearly through the nineteenth century, the Bible is not obsolete yet; there is not much prospect of its becoming obsolete; but I have to tell you that the very room in which Voltaire wrote that prediction, some time ago, was crowded from floor to ceiling with Bibles for Switzerland.
2. Our antagonists say that Christianity is falling back in the fact that infidelity is bolder now and more blatant than it ever was. I deny the statement. Infidelity is not near so bold now as it was in the days of our fathers and grandfathers. There were times in this country when men who were openly and above board infidel and antagonistic to Christianity could be elected to high office. Now let some man wishing high position in the State proclaim himself the foe of Christianity and an infidel, how many States of the Union would he carry? How many counties? Infidelity in this day is not half so bold as it used to be. If it comes now it is apt to come under the disguise of rhetoric or moral sentimentality. Do you suppose such things could be enacted now as were enacted in the days of Robespierre, when the wife of one of the prominent citizens was elected to be goddess, and she was carried in a golden chair to a cathedral, and the people bowel down to her as a Divine being, and burned incense before her, she to take the place of the Bible, and of Christianity, and of the Lord Almighty? And while that ceremony was going on in the cathedral, in the chapels, and in the corridors adjoining the cathedral, scenes of drunkenness and debauchery and obscenity were enacted such as the world had never seen. Could such a thing as that transpire now? No, sirs. The police would swoop on it, whether in Paris or New York. Infidelity is not half as bold now as it used to be.
3. But, say our antagonists, Christianity is falling back because science, its chief enemy, is triumphing over it. Now, I deny that there is any war between science and revelation. There is not a fact in science that may not be made to harmonise with the statements of the Bible. Joseph Henry, the leading scientist of America, better known and honoured in the royal societies transatlantic than any other American, lived and died a believer in the religion of Jesus Christ. He knew, Joseph Henry knew, all the facts of geology, and yet believed the Book of Genesis. He knew all the facts of astronomy, and yet believed the Book of Joshua, the sun and moon standing still. Joseph Henry knew all the anatomy of man and fish, and yet believed the Book of Jonah. If the scientists of the day were all agreed, and they came up with solid front to attack our Christianity, perhaps they might make some impression upon it; but they are not agreed. Agassiz saw what we all see, that there are men who talk very wisely who know but very little, and that just as soon as a young scientist finds out the difference between the feelers of a wasp and the horns of a beetle, he begins to patronise the Almighty, and go about talking about culture as though it were spelled c-u-l-c-h-a-r — culchar!
4. But my subject shall no longer be defensive; it must be aggressive. I must show you that instead of Christianity falling back, it is on the march, and that the coming religion of the world is to be the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ ten thousand times intensified. It is to take possession of everything — of all laws, all manners, all customs, all cities, all nations. It is going to be so mighty, as compared with what it has been. so much more mighty, that it will seem almost like a new religion. I adopt this theory because Christianity has gone on straight ahead, notwithstanding all the bombardment, and infidelity has not destroyed a church, or crippled a minister, or rooted out one verse of the Bible, and now their ammunition seems to be pretty much exhausted. They cannot get anything new against Christianity, and if Christianity has gone on under the bombardment of centuries, and still continues to advance, may we not conclude that, as the powder and shot of the other side seem to be exhausted, Christianity is going on with more rapid stride? Beside that the rising generation are being saturated with Gospel truth as no other generation by these international series of Sunday-school lessons. Formerly the children were expected to nibble at the little infantile Scripture stories, but now they are taken from Genesis to Revelation, the strongest minds of the country explaining the lessons to the teachers, and the teachers explaining them to the classes, and we are going to have in this country five million youth forestalled for Christianity. Hear it! Hear it! Beside that you must have noticed, if you have talked on these great themes, that they are finding out that while science is grand in secular directions, worldly philosophy grand in secular directions, they cannot give any comfort to a soul in trouble. Talking with men on steamboats and in rail-ears, I find they are coming back to the comfort of the Gospel. They say, "Somehow human science don't comfort me when I have any trouble, and I must try something else"; and they are trying the Gospel. There is another reason why I believe that the religion of Jesus Christ is going to conquer the world, and that is, the Bible in fifty different places sets forth the idea that Emmanuel is to take possession of this whole world. If He is going to conquer the "whole world," that means also this country, the greater including the less.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
PeopleAhab, Aram, Ben, Benhadad, Ben-hadad, Hadad, Israelites, Syrians
PlacesAphek, Damascus, Samaria, Syria
TopicsAramaeans, Arameans, Camped, Countryside, Covered, Encamp, Encamped, Filled, Flocks, Full, Goats, Got, Inspected, Israelites, Kids, Marched, Meet, Mustered, Numbered, Opposite, Pitched, Present, Provisioned, Provisions, Ready, Sons, Supported, Syrians, Tents, Themselves, Victualled
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 20:27
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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