3 Kings xx.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. And. The Roman Septuagint and Josephus place this war after the account of Naboth, chap. xxi. But the Alexandrian copy follows the order of the Hebrew. (Haydock) — They style Benadad, “the son of Ader.” He succeeded (ver. 34.) the king who attacked Baasa, chap. xv. 18. We know not the time nor the occasion of this war. (Calmet) — Probably Achab had refused to pay tribute, and God had a mind to try if his obstinacy would yield to kindness, ver. 13., and 28. (Salien, the year before Christ 919.) — Kings. Almost every city had one.
Ver. 3. Mine. He had a desire to dispose of them, as he thought proper. Achab was willing to pay tribute, to remove the impending danger. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Have. Achab is not in earnest, but strives to pacify the barbarian. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Servants, or subjects. The king of Israel has thus a plea to interest all his people, as the danger was common. (Salien) — He assumes the character of disinterestedness, as if he had been willing to abandon all his private property; knowing that Benadad would not accede even to that hard proposal. (Haydock) — Thus “Nero consulted the first men of the city, whether they would prefer a doubtful war or a disgraceful peace.” (Tacitus, An. xv.)
Ver. 10. Handfuls. Hebrew shohal. The Septuagint, read “shuhal” and render it, “suffice for the foxes, for all the people, (even for) my infantry;” (Haydock) as if his forces were so numerous as to cover the whole land, and leave no room for even foxes to occupy. The hyperbole is equally great, supposing that his soldiers could by each taking a handful, or what might stick to his feet, (Chaldean) carry off all Samaria. Josephus intimates, that Benadad speaks of erecting terraces of equal height with the walls; others, that he would level the city with the ground, Ezechiel xxvi. 4. (Sanctius)
Ver. 11. Let not the girded, &c. Let him not boast before the victory: it will then be time to glory when he putteth off his armour, having overcome his adversary. (Challoner) — “Let not him who goes to battle, though well armed, boast; but the man who returns victorious.” (Chaldean) “Enough: let not the man with a crooked back boast, as one that is upright.” (Septuagint) “Let not him that girdeth, (Haydock) or is bound,” (Hebrew) or rather “shutteth up, boast, as he that openeth.” (Syriac) It is easy to besiege: but the city does not always fall. Neither people in arms, nor the unarmed, have reason to boast; as the former are often made prisoners, as soon as the latter. (Calmet) — A despised enemy sometimes proves most dangerous. (Haydock) — Those who distrust in themselves, and place their confidence in God, prevail: a necessary lesson both in temporal and spiritual warfare. (Worthington) — The fortune of war is very doubtful. (Tirinus)
Ver. 12. Pavilions, (umbraculis) or even under “the shade” of the trees, in full security. (Menochius) — Beset. Hebrew, “set, and they set against the city.” Chaldean, “hold yourselves in readiness, and they laid ambushes round the city.” The siege had not been yet commenced in form, as it was never expected that Achab would dare to make any resistance.
Ver. 13. Prophet. It does not appear who this and the other prophets were who address Achab so boldly during these wars; if indeed they were different persons: Elias is never mentioned. Did Jezabel leave the rest alone? or did these wars break out before she began to persecute them? (Calmet) — Many suppose that the prophet, who spoke on this occasion, was Micheas. (Menochius) — But Achab complains that he always brought him evil tidings, chap. xxii. 8. (Salien)
Ver. 14. Servants. Literally, “footmen.” (Haydock) — Hebrew means either “sons or servants.” The pages of honour, or the menial servants of the lords, were not likely to gain the victory. (Calmet) — There were 232 in number, ver. 15. Achab followed them, (ver. 19.) with 7000; and this army defeated the Syrians. — Thou, not in person; but thy men must begin the attack.
Ver. 18. Alive. This he said out of contempt, and too great confidence; (Menochius) and this gave occasion to his defeat. For, while his men were endeavouring to execute his orders punctually, the Israelites cut many in pieces, and routed the rest. (Salien)
Ver. 23. Hills. All the high places of Israel were covered with idols. Samaria, Bethel, Dan, &c., were built on eminences. (Menochius) — Altars had also been erected to the true God on the most famous mountains. The law had been given at Sinai, and promulgated at Garizim. The late miracle at Carmel was known to all. Hence the pagans, (Calmet) conformably to their notions of assigning different parts of the creation to different gods, suspected that the god of Israel might preside only over the mountains. (Haydock) — People are always ready to blame any but themselves. (Calmet) — They lay the fault on fortune, &c. (Tirinus) — The pride of Benadad could not bear to be told that his own temerity had brought on the defeat. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Stead, who may obey thy orders more implicitly. Rex unius esto. (Calmet) — Captains, who have been inured to warfare, would not so easily run away. (Menochius) — Thus, in the late French republic, commanders were chosen from the common ranks, while the nobles were neglected. (Haydock)
Ver. 26. Aphec, belonging to the tribe of Aser, though it does not appear that they ever obtained possession of it, Josue xix. 30. A subterraneous fire and earthquake have caused the city to sink; and a lake, nine miles in circumference, now occupies its place. The ruins may still be discerned in its waters. It is about two hours walk from the plains of Balbec, (Paul Lucas. Levant i. 20.) at the foot of Libanus. The waters must be very thick and bituminous, if what is related by the ancients be true; namely, that the presents, offered to the Aphacite goddess, were tried by them, and deemed agreeable to her, if they sunk; as wool would do, while tiles, and often metals, would swim. (Calmet) — Adrichomius places this Aphec on the great plain of Esdrelon, not far from Jezrahel. (Menochius)
Ver. 27. Victuals. Hebrew also, “they were all present.” Chaldean, “ready.” Syriac, “in battle array.” — Goats. They were comparatively so contemptible, ver. 15. (Haydock) — At the same time, Josaphat could muster above a million warriors; for piety makes kingdoms prosper. (Salien)
Ver. 28. Lord. Many favours were bestowed on Achab, but he died impenitent. (Worthington)
Ver. 29. Days. The Syrians durst not begin the attack. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Went, or had gone before, and commanded his men to defend the walls of Aphec. (Haydock) — But the slaughter of these 27,000 is joined to the preceding. (Menochius) — God caused the walls to fall, as he had done those of Jericho; or the Israelites beat them down with battering rams, and the defendants perished in the ruins. — Chamber. Josephus observes that it was under ground. Micheas told Benadad that he would have thus to hide himself again, chap. xxii. 25. (Calmet)
Ver. 31. Heads, or necks, to indicate that hey deserved to die. (Haydock) — The Syrians acted thus, when they came as supplicants. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] viii. 14.) — The son of Psammetichus, king of Egypt, was led in this manner to execution, with 2000 others. (Herodotus iii. 14.) — Bessus was conducted to Alexander with a chain round his neck. (Curt. vii.) (Calmet) — What a reverse of fortune do we here behold! (Salien)
Ver. 33. Men. Protestants, “Now the men did diligently observe whether any thing would come from him, and did hastily catch it, and they said.” They heard him mention the title of brother with joy, concluding that he was not so much irritated, as they might have expected. Allied kings style each other brother; those who are tributary, call themselves servants, (like Achaz, 4 Kings xvi. 7.; Calmet) as well as those who seek for favour; as Benadad does at present, ver. 32. (Haydock) — Luck. The pagans were accustomed to make vain observations. (Menochius)
Ver. 34. Thy father. Benadad did not know the changes which had taken place in the royal family of Israel. He speaks of the cities which his predecessor had wrested from Baasa, chap. xv. 20. — Streets, for merchants, of whom he would receive tribute: or military stations, as David had done, (2 Kings viii. 6.) to prevent any inroads. Benadad does not appear to have complied with these conditions, as the king of Israel had to take Ramath by force, chap. xxii. 2. — And having. These words seem to be the conclusion of Benadad’s proposition: but, according to the Hebrew, they contain Achab’s reply. (Calmet) — Protestants, “Then said Achab: I will send thee away with this covenant.” (Haydock) — How generous does the conduct of Achab appear to the world! Yet it displeased God. (Salien) — He severely punished this foolish pity towards a dangerous foe. (Worthington)
Ver. 35. In the word, or by the authority. The person who refused to comply, out of a false compassion, displeased God. The wound of the prophet was a symbol of what would happen to Achab. It was a prophetic action, chap. xi. 30. (Calmet)
Ver. 38. Dust. Chaldean and Septuagint, “he tied a veil,” &c. Apher has both meanings.
Ver. 39. One. Thus God delivered the proud and blasphemous Benadad to Achab. (Haydock)
Ver. 40. Decreed. Thou must either die or pay the money. (Menochius) — Thus the king pronounced sentence against himself, as David had done, 2 Kings xii. 1., and xiv. 4. The Rabbins assert, that Achab had received an express order from God to destroy and subjugate all the Syrians. He ought, at least, to have been consulted, as he had given the enemy into the hands of the Israelites; (Calmet) and thus insinuated, that he would have them punished, (ver. 28.; Rupert v. 13.) for restricting his power to the hills. (Tirinus)
Ver. 42. Worthy. Hebrew, “of my anathema;” or, “the man who has fallen into my snares.” (Vatable) Cherem is taken in this sense, Micheas vii. 2., &c. He was my prey, and you ought not to have disposed of him without my leave. (Calmet) — People. This was verified (chap. xxii.; Menochius) within three years. (Salien)
Ver. 43. Raging, (furibundus) full of indignation. Hebrew, “went to his house, heavy and displeased.” Septuagint, “confounded and fainting,” through rage; eklelumenos. (Haydock) — “Vexed at the prophet, he ordered him to be kept in prison; and confounded at what Micheas had said, he went to his own house.” (Josephus, [Antiquities?] viii. 14.)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The Syrians besiege Samaria: they are twice defeated by Achab; who is reprehended by a prophet for letting Benadad go.
1 And *Benadad, king of Syria, gathered together all his host, and there were two and thirty kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and going up, he fought against Samaria, and besieged it.
2 And sending messengers to Achab, king of Israel, into the city,
3 He said: Thus saith Benadad: Thy silver and thy gold is mine: and thy wives and thy goodliest children are mine.
4 And the king of Israel answered: According to thy word, my lord, O king, I am thine, and all that I have.
5 And the messengers came again, and said: Thus saith Benadad, who sent us unto thee: Thy silver and thy gold, and thy wives and thy children, thou shalt deliver up to me.
6 To-morrow, therefore, at this same hour, I will send my servants to thee, and they shall search thy house, and the houses of thy servants: and all that pleaseth them, they shall put in their hands, and take away.
7 And the king of Israel called all the ancients of the land, and said: Mark, and see that he layeth snares for us. For he sent to me for my wives, and for my children, and for my silver and gold: and I said not nay.
8 And all the ancients, and all the people said to him: Hearken not to him, nor consent to him.
9 Wherefore he answered the messengers of Benadad: Tell my lord, the king: All that thou didst send for to me, thy servant, at first, I will do: but this thing I cannot do.
10 And the messengers returning brought him word. And he sent again, and said: Such and such things may the gods do to me, and more may they add, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.
11 And the king of Israel answering, said: Tell him: Let not the girded boast himself as the ungirded.
12 And it came to pass, when Benadad heard this word, that he and the kings were drinking in pavilions, and he said to his servants: Beset the city. And they beset it.
13 And behold a prophet coming to Achab, king of Israel, said to him: Thus saith the Lord: Hast thou seen all this exceeding great multitude? behold I will deliver them into thy hand this day: that thou mayst know that I am the Lord.
14 And Achab said: By whom? And he said to him: Thus saith the Lord: By the servants of the princes of the provinces. And he said: Who shall begin to fight? And he said: Thou.
15 So he mustered the servants of the princes of the provinces, and he found the number of two hundred and thirty-two: and he mustered after them the people, all the children of Israel, seven thousand:
16 And they went out at noon. But Benadad was drinking himself drunk in his pavilion, and the two and thirty kings with him, who were come to help him.
17 And the servants of the princes of the provinces went out first. And Benadad sent. And they told him, saying: There are men come out of Samaria.
18 And he said: Whether they come for peace, take them alive: or whether they come to fight, take them alive.
19 So the servants of the princes of the provinces went out, and the rest of the army followed:
20 And every one slew the man that came against him: and the Syrians fled, and Israel pursued after them. And Benadad, king of Syria, fled away on horseback with his horsemen.
21 But the king of Israel going out overthrew the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.
22 (And a prophet coming to the king of Israel, said to him: Go, and strengthen thyself, and know, and see what thou dost: for the next year the king of Syria will come up against thee.)
23 But the servants of the king of Syria said to him: Their gods are gods of the hills, therefore they have overcome us: but it is better that we should fight against them in the plains, and we shall overcome them.
24 Do thou, therefore, this thing: Remove all the kings from thy army, and put captains in their stead:
25 And make up the number of soldiers that have been slain of thine, and horses, according to the former horses, and chariots, according to the chariots which thou hadst before: and we will fight against them in the plains, and thou shalt see that we shall overcome them. He believed their counsel, and did so.
26 Wherefore, at the return of the year, *Benadad mustered the Syrians, and went up to Aphec, to fight against Israel.
27 And the children of Israel were mustered, and taking victuals, went out on the other side, and encamped over-against them, like two little flocks of goats: but the Syrians filled the land.
28 (And a man of God coming, said to the king of Israel: Thus saith the Lord: Because the Syrians have said: The Lord is God of the hills, but is not God of the valleys: I will deliver all this great multitude into thy hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.)
29 And both sides set their armies in array one against the other seven days, and on the seventh day the battle was fought: and the children of Israel slew, of the Syrians, a hundred thousand footmen in one day.
30 And they that remained fled to Aphec, into the city: and the wall fell upon seven and twenty thousand men, that were left. And Benadad, fleeing went into the city, into a chamber that was within a chamber.
31 And his servants said to him: Behold, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful; so let us put sackcloths on our loins, and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: perhaps he will save our lives.
32 So they girded sackcloths on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said to him: Thy servant, Benadad, saith: I beseech thee let me have my life. And he said: If he be yet alive, he is my brother.
33 The men took this for good luck: and in haste caught the word out of his mouth, and said: Thy brother Benadad. And he said to them: Go, and bring him to me. Then Benadad came out to him, and he lifted him up into his chariot.
34 And he said to him: The cities which my father took from thy father, I will restore: and do thou make thee streets in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria, and having made a league, I will depart from thee. So he made a league with him, and let him go.
35 Then a certain man of the sons of the prophets, said to his companion, in the word of the Lord: Strike me. But he would not strike.
36 Then he said to him: Because thou wouldst not hearken to the word of the Lord, behold thou shalt depart from me, and a lion shall slay thee. And when he was gone a little from him, a lion found him, and slew him.
37 Then he found another man, and said to him: Strike me. And he struck him and wounded him.
38 So the prophet went, and met the king in the way, and disguised himself by sprinkling dust on his face and his eyes.
39 And as the king passed by, he cried to the king, and said: Thy servant went out to fight hand to hand: and when a certain man was run away, one brought him to me, and said: Keep this man: and if he shall slip away, thy life shall be for his life, or thou shalt pay a talent of silver.
40 And whilst I, in a hurry, turned this way and that, on a sudden he was not to be seen. And the king of Israel said to him: This is thy judgment, which thyself hast decreed.