Ben-Hadad and Ahab Go to War
1Ben-Hadad king of Aram gathered together all his army. There were thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots who went with him and surrounded Samaria and attacked it. 2The king sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel.
This was his message: “Ben-Hadad says, 3‘Your silver and gold belong to me, as well as the best of your wives and children.’ ”
4Ahab king of Israel answered, “My master and king, I agree to what you say. I and everything I have belong to you.”
5Then the messengers came to Ahab again. They said, “Ben-Hadad says, ‘I told you before that you must give me your silver and gold, your wives and your children. 6About this time tomorrow I will send my men, who will search everywhere in your palace and in the homes of your officers. Whatever they want they will take and carry off.’ ”
7Then Ahab called a meeting of all the elders of his country. He said, “Ben-Hadad is looking for trouble. First he said I had to give him my wives, my children, my silver, and my gold, and I have not refused him.”
8The elders and all the people said, “Don’t listen to him or agree to this.”
9So Ahab said to Ben-Hadad’s messengers, “Tell my master the king: ‘I will do what you said at first, but I cannot allow this second command.’ ” And King Ben-Hadad’s men carried the message back to him.
10Then Ben-Hadad sent another message to Ahab: “May the gods punish me terribly if I don’t completely destroy Samaria. There won’t be enough left for each of my men to get a handful of dust!”
11Ahab answered, “Tell Ben-Hadad, ‘The man who puts on his armor should not brag. It’s the man who lives to take it off who has the right to brag.’ ”
12Ben-Hadad was drinking in his tent with the other rulers when the message came from Ahab. Ben-Hadad commanded his men to prepare to attack the city, and they moved into place for battle.
13At the same time a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel. The prophet said, “Ahab, the Lord says to you, ‘Do you see that big army? I will hand it over to you today so you will know I am the Lord.’ ”
14Ahab asked, “Who will you use to defeat them?”
The prophet answered, “The Lord says, ‘The young officers of the district governors will defeat them.’ ”
Then the king asked, “Who will command the main army?”
The prophet answered, “You will.”
15So Ahab gathered the young officers of the district governors, two hundred thirty-two of them. Then he called together the army of Israel, about seven thousand people in all.
16They marched out at noon, while Ben-Hadad and the thirty-two rulers helping him were getting drunk in their tents. 17The young officers of the district governors attacked first. Ben-Hadad sent out scouts who told him that soldiers were coming from Samaria. 18Ben-Hadad said, “They may be coming to fight, or they may be coming to ask for peace. In either case capture them alive.”
19The young officers of the district governors led the attack, followed by the army of Israel. 20Each officer of Israel killed the man who came against him. The men from Aram ran away as Israel chased them, but Ben-Hadad king of Aram escaped on a horse with some of his horsemen. 21Ahab king of Israel led the army and destroyed the Arameans’ horses and chariots. King Ahab thoroughly defeated the Aramean army.
22Then the prophet went to Ahab king of Israel and said, “The king of Aram will attack you again next spring. So go home now and strengthen your army and see what you need to do.”
23Meanwhile the officers of Ben-Hadad king of Aram said to him, “The gods of Israel are mountain gods. Since we fought in a mountain area, Israel won. Let’s fight them on the flat land, and then we will win. 24This is what you should do. Don’t allow the thirty-two rulers to command the armies, but put other commanders in their places. 25Gather an army like the one that was destroyed and as many horses and chariots as before. We will fight the Israelites on flat land, and then we will win.” Ben-Hadad agreed with their advice and did what they said.
26The next spring Ben-Hadad gathered the army of Aram and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel.
27The Israelites also had prepared for war. They marched out to meet the Arameans and camped opposite them. The Israelites looked like two small flocks of goats, but the Arameans covered the area.
28A man of God came to the king of Israel with this message: “The Lord says, ‘The people of Aram say that I, the Lord, am a god of the mountains, not a god of the valleys. So I will allow you to defeat this huge army, and then you will know I am the Lord.’ ”
29The armies were camped across from each other for seven days. On the seventh day the battle began. The Israelites killed one hundred thousand Aramean soldiers in one day. 30The rest of them ran away to the city of Aphek, where a city wall fell on twenty-seven thousand of them. Ben-Hadad also ran away to the city and hid in a room.
31His officers said to him, “We have heard that the kings of Israel are trustworthy. Let’s dress in rough cloth to show our sadness, and wear ropes on our heads. Then we will go to the king of Israel, and perhaps he will let you live.”
32So they dressed in rough cloth and wore ropes on their heads and went to the king of Israel. They said, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says, ‘Please let me live.’ ”
Ahab answered, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”
33Ben-Hadad’s men had wanted a sign from Ahab. So when Ahab called Ben-Hadad his brother, they quickly said, “Yes! Ben-Hadad is your brother.”
Ahab said, “Bring him to me.” When Ben-Hadad came, Ahab asked him to join him in the chariot.
34Ben-Hadad said to him, “Ahab, I will give you back the cities my father took from your father. And you may put shops in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.”
Ahab said, “If you agree to this, I will allow you to go free.” So the two kings made a peace agreement. Then Ahab let Ben-Hadad go free.
A Prophet Speaks Against Ahab
35One prophet from one of the groups of prophets told another, “Hit me!” He said this because the Lord had commanded it, but the other man refused. 36The prophet said, “You did not obey the Lord’s command, so a lion will kill you as soon as you leave me.” When the man left, a lion found him and killed him.
37The prophet went to another man and said, “Hit me, please!” So the man hit him and hurt him. 38The prophet wrapped his face in a cloth so no one could tell who he was. Then he went and waited by the road for the king. 39As Ahab king of Israel passed by, the prophet called out to him. “I went to fight in the battle,” the prophet said. “One of our men brought an enemy soldier to me. Our man said, ‘Guard this man. If he runs away, you will have to give your life in his place. Or, you will have to pay a fine of seventy-five pounds of silver.’ 40But I was busy doing other things, so the man ran away.”
The king of Israel answered, “You have already said what the punishment is. You must do what the man said.”
41Then the prophet quickly took the cloth from his face. When the king of Israel saw him, he knew he was one of the prophets. 42The prophet said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You freed the man I said should die, so your life will be taken instead of his. The lives of your people will also be taken instead of the lives of his people.’ ”
43Then King Ahab went back to his palace in Samaria, angry and upset.