A STUDY OF 1 KINGS: Fight God’s Battles God’s Way 1 Kings 20

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


Within the context of this regional skirmish, the Holy Spirit wants us to observe how Ahab manages the threat it imposes upon his kingdom and himself personally. Daily life was filled with opportunity to bring glory to God just as it is today. In this instance, Ben hadad was a ruthless and arrogant king to the north east and calculated that he could increase his coffers by besieging Samaria and threatening Ahab along with 32 other vassal kings whom he now controlled. How does Ahab manage? I take this incident as a ‘lets get with it’ learning experience.



Verse 3'Your silver and your gold are mine; your most beautiful wives and children are also mine.'"— Ben Hadad, King of Aram (v 1) Israel’s antagonistic neighbor to the northeast, is besieging Samaria, the capitol of the Northern Kingdom. This was a formidable military attack against Israel. Though they were outwardly strong politically and militarily during the reign of Ahab, they were not strong enough to discourage such an attack. Now Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army, and there were thirty-two kings with him, and horses and chariots (v. 1). Ben-hadad’s demands called for Ahab to surrender and Israel to become his vassal state.

Verse 4The king of Israel replied, "It is according to your word, my lord, O king; I am yours, and all that I have."— Ahab’s response to Ben-Hadad fit his general personality. He was a man concerned with the luxuries and comforts of living, and so he did not have the character to stand in the face of such a threat. Ahab surrendered unconditionally to Ben-Hadad.

Verses 5-6Then the messengers returned and said, "Thus says Ben-hadad, 'Surely, I sent to you saying, "You shall give me your silver and your gold and your wives and your children," but about this time tomorrow I will send my servants to you, and they will search your house and the houses of your servants; and whatever is desirable in your eyes, they will take in their hand and carry away.'"He gave him twenty-four hours to consider of it. Ahab had agreed to his unreasonable request, but now he is not even satisfied with that. Ahab had offered to send what he had requested to him. He is not satisfied, but intends to send servants to search and make sure Ahab had done what he requested.

An Application— There will be times when we are faced with threatening ultimatums. Ever been given one? Could be from family. Associates. Employer. (Joel) Neighbor. Yeah. So what did you do with it? Maybe you’re still figuring that out. Life situations will naturally birth them. Sometimes we have leverage to control the outcome, but many times we are at the mercy of the other person. I suggest three things.

1. Take time to evaluate your response. Ahab seemed to arbitrarily react v 4. These things can come upon us so unexpectedly that we just react without thinking or unable to at the moment.

2. Don’t give everything away if it requires giving something they are demanding. Ahab had to come back around and after rethinking alter what he was willing to do.

3. Set appropriate boundaries that secure the limits of the outcome you are willing to accept. Ahab adjusted his response by denying Ben hadad his request for the people v 9.



Verse 8All the elders and all the people said to him, "Do not listen or consent."The elders of Israel rightly saw that such surrender to Ben-Hadad and the Syrians was the first step to a total loss of sovereignty for Israel. If they wanted to remain a kingdom at all, they had to resist this threat. Ahab was willing to give tribute to Ben-hadad as his vassal, but he refused to allow the Syrian king to plunder his palace. Ahab still wanted to settle this without a battle if possible. He still offers his own wealth, but will not allow the second request.

Verse 9'All that you sent for to your servant at the first I will do, but this thing I cannot do.'"Ahab told Ben-Hadad that he would do most of what he requested, but not all. But to deny a tyrant on every point. Ahab could expect a harsh reaction.

Verses 10-12"May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria will suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me."… king of Israel replied, "Tell him, 'Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.'"…Ben hadad he said to his servants, "Station yourselves." So they stationed themselves against the city. Jezebel swore a similar oath of vengeance against Elijah (1 Kings 19:2). Ben-hadad boasted that his army would level the hill of Samaria to dust, but his many men could carry it off by the “handfuls”. Though it was uncharacteristically bold speech from Ahab, it was also a wonderful piece of wisdom. They will see who prevails. The idea is that you should do your boasting after the battle, not before. The events of war are uncertain; the battle is not always to the strong. Syria and its allies readied, and the city of Samaria braced for a furious attack. They exchange insults here. Ben-hadad vows that he will leave Samaria as a heap of dust. In modern language, the king of Israel tells him to do whatever he is big enough to do. 

An Application— There will be moments when it is left up to us to strategize our life situation. It’s called …. work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). the free will of the believer, verse 13 is about the sovereignty of God. Here Paul gives us the other side of that coin. Verse 12 says it is you who should work. Verse 13 says it is God who works, and He works for His own good pleasure. So the work we do which will succeed is the work that accomplishes the good pleasure of God.



Verse 13"Thus says the Lord, 'Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the Lord.'"— The danger Ben-Hadad posed, as his demands on Ahab continued to escalate, made the Israelite king receptive to the directives of the Lord’s prophet. This nameless prophet does not seem to be either Elijah or Elisha. He was one of the 7,000 in Israel that were quietly faithful to the Lord. This was a generous promise of God towards Ahab and Israel. Their hardened idolatry and rejection of God deserved divine abandonment. God had every right to just leave them alone and let them perish without His help. Yet God is rich in mercy, and He showed that mercy to Ahab and Israel.

Verse 14Ahab said, "By whom?" So he said, "Thus says the Lord, 'By the young men of the rulers of the provinces.'— Ahab looked around at his army and military leaders and naturally wondered how God could bring a victory against a mighty enemy with them. Ahab wondered who would lead the battle and God told him, “You.” God wanted to win this victory by working through the unlikely people Ahab already had.

Verses 16-18They went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the temporary shelters with the thirty-two kings who helped him. The young men of the rulers of the provinces went out first; and Ben-hadad sent out and they told him, saying, "Men have come out from Samaria."Ben-hadad was an arrogant drunkard. He celebrated his victory before he had even begun the battle.

Then he said, "If they have come out for peace, take them alive; or if they have come out for war, take them alive."— He is just waiting for the booty to arrive. It’s like these young men are a nuisance. God blessed the army of Israel and the leaders that Ahab had, even blessing Ahab’s own leadership of the army. Despite great odds, they won the battle. The battle strategy appears to have been to send out the small but well trained advance party who could perhaps draw near to the Syrians without arousing too much alarm and then, at a given signal, initiate a charge that, joined by Ahab’s main striking force, would both catch the drunken Arameans off guard and throw them into confusion.

Verses 20-21They killed each his man; and the Arameans fled and Israel pursued them, and Ben-hadad king of Aram escaped on a horse with horsemen… and killed the Arameans with a great slaughter.  Ahab's army killed all of the Syrians they found. Ahab had remained inside of Samaria, until the Syrians began to run. He then came out with the men, and killed the remaining Syrians and their horses and chariots. God’s strategy resulted in victory for Israel.

An Application— There comes that moment when we then have to step out in faith and execute what we believe is the best strategy for the situation. You can follow this outline:

·         Just get involved in what God is doing and do not worry about the outcome

·         Stay hopeful, joyful, and righteous each step of the way

·         Act with the knowledge that everything going on is God’s plan until the end is revealed



Verse 22Then the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said to him, "Go, strengthen yourself and observe and see what you have to do; for at the turn of the year the king of Aram will come up against you."— The Lord further directed Ahab to prepare for the Aramean army’s return the next spring. The prophet directed Ahab to prepare for a Syrian attack in the coming spring. The prophet knew that God works through the careful preparation of His people.

Verse 23— Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, "Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we will be stronger than they.Late spring and early summer were seasons for military expeditions because then in the Middle East grass was readily available for the horses. Victory was certain, though perhaps not known to Ahab, because of the Arameans’ limited view of the Lord’s power. The idea of the localized deity was prominent in the ancient world. They felt that particular gods had authority over particular areas. Because the recent victory was won on hilly terrain, the servants of the king of Syria believed that the God of Israel was a localized deity with power over the hills, not the plains. Here they imagined that God could be molded into an image that they wanted or could relate to. The art of god-making is very common among men. Instead of going to revelation to see what God is, and humbly believing in him as he reveals himself, men sit down and consider what sort of God he ought to be.

Verses 26-27— At the turn of the year, Ben-hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. The sons of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went to meet them; and the sons of Israel camped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Arameans filled the country.The Arameans but the Arameans filled the country greatly outnumbered Israel who looked like two little flocks of goats (v. 27), but God promised Ahab victory so he and all Israel, as well as the Arameans, would know that the Lord was the true God (v. 28). God enabled the soldiers of Israel to defeat their enemy (v. 29), but He also used supernatural means to assist them and the wall fell on 27,000 men who were left. And Ben-hadad fled and came into the city into an inner chamber (v 30). Apparently, codes were non-existent. Jesus mentioned another wall in Luke 13:4 or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?

Verse 31—"Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings, please let us put sackcloth on our loins and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will save your life." Sackcloth and ropes expressed remorse and servitude. Not long before this, Ben-Hadad spoke severe threats against Ahab and the Kingdom of Israel. Now, he humbled himself as much as he could to win mercy and favor from the unexpectedly triumphant King of Israel.

Verse 34—Ben-hadad said to him, "The cities which my father took from your father I will restore, and you shall make streets for yourself in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria." Ahab said, "And I will let you go with this covenant." So he made a covenant with him and let him go. — Ahab welcomed Ben-Hadad into his chariot (v. 33). This was an honor. The Aramean king was quick to make concessions in return for his life. Ahab was willing to regard him as such rather than as a servant if Ben-Hadad agreed to make a treaty and concessions to him. Ahab’s plan was contrary to God’s Law that called for the deaths of Israel’s enemies (Deuteronomy 20:10-15). Ahab figured that it would be better for him and Israel to make a treaty than to obey God’s Law. The covenant the two men made involved the return of Israelite cities that Aram had previously taken and trade privileges for Israel with Damascus. Ahab had no business making this treaty. The victory was the LORD’s and did not belong to Ahab; he had no right to negotiate away the victory.

Verses 35-37— Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of the Lord, "Please strike me." But the man refused to strike him. Then he said to him, "Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you." And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and killed him. Then he found another man and said, "Please strike me." And the man struck him, wounding him.What happened to the man who refused to strike the prophet was exactly what would happen to Ahab and for the same reason, disobedience to the word of the Lord. Ahab condemned himself by what he said. God would kill Ahab for not killing Ben-Hadad.  

Verses 42-43— "Thus says the Lord, 'Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.'" So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and vexed, and came to Samaria.God intended that Ben-Hadad should be utterly destroyed, but He also intended that this happen by the hand of the army of Israel. Ahab did it all wrong and instead of conviction he is sullen and vexed—a cry baby.

NB— The entire point of studying the Bible is to discern what it is exactly that God is thinking and then putting that to use. Ahab had that information right in front of him but instead ignored it. It is this cavalier attitude toward His Word that incites Gods wrath. Ahab had it in boatloads.

God was interested in more than the mere death of Ben-Hadad, but also in the way that death came about. Ahab was sullen and displeased, but he was not repentant. “Heavy and displeased”: Ahab was resentful and angry because of the Lord’s reaction to his actions (21:4). The victory is a shallow one now, knowing that he and his people will die. Instead of being repentant, he was mad at God. He had the sorrow of being a sinner and knowing the consequences of sin, without having the sorrow for the sin itself.

An ApplicationWillful disobedience is a problem not a solution. Ahab wanted an outcome on his terms but not God’s. Listen, there is a better way.

1.      Go out knowing something God would do. Observation

2.      Look and see right thing to do then do it and God will work out the details. Interpretation

3.      Be assured God will honor these decisions even if it is not done perfectly. Application

4.      Act on the same desire God has and you will please God. Coordination



·         Well, how about focused on God’s interests, not only your own

·         Well, how about targeting the sin in your life to repent of it

·         Well, how about agreeing with God about what He says is true