1 KINGS 20

1 And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were 32 kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.

The invasion by Benhadad was not the first challenge to Israel by Syria. There was an earlier one at the direct instigation of Judah (1Kgs. 15:18-20). Later, in the time of Omri, cities were taken (20:34), and deference shown by Israel to its northern neighbour. The invasion of Syria by Assyria probably relieved the pressure on Israel by the former.


13 And, behold [hinei], there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel [one navi unto Ach'av Melech Yisroel], saying, Thus saith Yahweh, Hast thou seen all this great multitude [ hamon hagadol ]? Behold [Hineni], I will deliver it into thine hand [ yad] this day; and thou shalt know that I am Yahweh.

Hineni - I am here (and ready) - purposeful - fully attentive, and emotionally available, revealing one's whole self in the moment.

Behold I will deliver it into thine hand this day - is another instance of human action being divinely influenced. The matter in question was approaching battle, which proximately is a contest of natural force in which the stronger prevails. Battle ensued, and the Syrians fled: they did their best, but they could not succeed because of the paralysing effect of the divine purpose operating upon them. But there was a singular and suggestive exception. The king of Syria surrendering to Ahab and taking a very suppliant attitude, was spared by Ahab and dismissed with a treaty.

Ways of Providence Ch 19

35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets [Bnei HaNevi'im] said unto his neighbour [re'a] in the word [Devar] of Yahweh, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him [Strike me, now. The ish refused to strike him].

36 Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice [kol] of Yahweh, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion [aryeh] shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion [aryeh] found him, and slew him.

God can be very terrible in His swift and relentless visitations of justice. It is imperative that we are fully and constantly aware of both aspects of His nature - severity and goodness. The flesh will inevitably presume upon its position if God's awful majesty is not kept clearly in view. It is those who have least cause for fear in this respect that are most acutely aware of the necessity for fear in its proper sense and place.

Isaiah said, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips."

Daniel, the greatly beloved, in a vision that enacted the resurrection, stood trembling until the angel twice assured him, "Fear not, peace be unto thee, be strong."

When Paul says, "Be not highminded, but fear," he gives us an idea of what he means by fear. It is the opposite of highmindedness. It is not terror or cravenness, but the humble and intelligent recognition of the exalted majesty of God and the unworthiness and insecurity of man at his best estate.

If one sin could plunge the race into six thousand years of misery and death - if an entire lifetime under the tremendous strain of flawless perfection, followed by the most terrible of deaths, was necessary to establish a basis on which man could approach God - if we see around us and behind us the carcasses of millions wasting in the wilderness - then what other enlightened viewpoint is there for us than, as Paul says,

"Fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, we should come short of it?" *

42 And he said unto him, Thus saith Yahweh, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man [yad an ish ] whom I appointed to utter destruction [cherem], therefore thy life [ nefesh] shall go for his life [ nefesh], and thy people for [ instead of] his people.

Here is an apparent frustration of the ways of providence through human weakness. God meant the destruction of the king of Syria, and he escaped through Ahab's misplaced lenity [v13]. The case reveals the fact that there is no mechanical coercion of the human will in the working out of the divine purpose by means of men; cooperation of man in such a case is necessary, and that where the result aimed at is not attained through the failure of that cooperation, the purpose will be accomplished by another instrument, for divine purposes will never ultimately fail.

The Ways of Providence Ch 19.

43 And the king of Israel [Melech Yisroel] went to his house heavy and displeased [came to his bais sar veza'ef (sullen and dejected)], and came to Samaria [Shomron].

In 1 Kings 20 we see God working through and for an utterly wicked and ungodly man, one who did evil above all who were before him. God's use of a man to do His work is no indication of Divine acceptance. We may see in this an explanation of why some labour brilliantly in the Truth and then leave it. They are just scaffolding, unfit for the temple but temporarily useful in its construction. We can never put our faith in men.

Why did Ahab make a covenant with Benhadad and call him brother, after all he had done to God's people? Was it a misguided sense of mercy and kindness? Ahab's character would appear to preclude this, although he may have told himself it was. One thing is certain: his course was dictated by the natural thinking of the flesh, and it was very displeasing to God.

It was God who was fighting Benhadad, and yet Ahab took it upon himself in the midst of God's war to make a covenant of peace with the enemy. God decreed utter destruction. Ahab felt that because the enemy was weak he was harmless, and after the manner of the world he made a covenant that he felt would bring himself glory and profit.

God has decreed utter destruction to the flesh. The powers of this world are the flesh in political and social manifestation. The friends of God are the enemies of the world. There can be no private covenants of peace and calling them brethren while God is waging war.

When, through a faithful prophet, the God who had saved Ahab rebuked him, he went to his house heavy and displeased. The manner in which Ahab is led to condemn himself is very instructive. It was identical with Nathan's approach to David.

It is very difficult - almost impossible - to judge ourselves objectively, even when we are honestly making the effort, but if we mentally reverse the position, or look at our circumstances in the impersonal way it was presented to these kings, we often find our view of the matter is greatly altered and clarified. Few things are more instructive than to see others doing the same things that we ourselves have done, and to consciously compare our reactions. Viewed from that angle, determination is often revealed as stubbornness, kindness as weakness, self-reliance as pride, industry as ambition, thrift as greed.

Ahab felt a gratifying sense of magnanimity and benevolence. He had gloriously defeated this great king, and now he was demonstrating the nobility of his nature by treating his fallen enemy with kindness and restraint. From every point of view, he would be well satisfied with his day's work, greatly and comfortably impressed with himself, in a receptive mood for well-earned congratulations and respect.

How annoying, then, to have all this so rudely shattered, and in an unguarded moment to be led to publicly denounce himself in an obvious allegory. Little wonder that he went to his house heavy and displeased, disgusted with life and terribly hurt that he should be so misunderstood and unappreciated. How differently things can appear from different viewpoints!

How easy to pity and excuse ourselves! *

* Bro Growcott - Self Examination