Friday, March 18, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 47. Ben-Hadad Attacks Israel

Prophets And Kings
Day 47
Ben-Hadad Attacks Israel

Back in Chapter 15 we learned that Asa king of Judah became afraid of Baasha king of Israel because him hads such a large army. So Asa dids somethin that displeased the Lord. Instead of trustin in the Lord to deliver him from Baasha just as Him hads given deliverance from all other enemies, Asa took silver and gold and bribed Ben-Hadad king of Aram to switch sides. Ben-Hadad transferred hims loyalty from the king of Israel to the king of Judah out of greed. Now him turns back up to attack Israel under the rule of King Ahab.

1 KINGS 20:1-12
"Now Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria and attacked it." (1 Kings 20:1) Samaria is what Ahab's father named the hill upon which he built his palace and a great fortress wall. This is the location of Ahab's throne. Several commentaries state that the thirty-two kings are probably tribal chiefs, not rulers of large nations but rulers of small towns and villages.

"He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, 'This is what Ben-Hadad says: Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine.'" (1 Kings 20:2-3) This is a vile threat. It's bad enough to demand that Israel pay tribute to him, but taking women and children back to Aram in captivity is something that should bring Ahab to his knees in prayer for God's help. But Ahab is not that kind of man.

"The king of Israel answered, 'Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.'" (1 Kings 20:4) Ahab intends to surrender without a fight. He is outnumbered militarily but he wouldn't be with God on his side. Coming up against such an army as this, I believe a godly man like King David would have first prayed to the Lord for help and then he would have turned to fight. By ourselves we aren't much but with God all things are possible. We are never in the minority if God is with us. 

"The messengers came again and said, 'This is what Ben-Hadad says: 'I sent to demand your silver and gold, your wives and your children. But about this time tomorrow I am going to send my officials to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will seize everything you value and carry it away.'" (1 Kings 20:5-6) Ahab has already agreed to the first demand but now Ben-Hadad changes the terms of the agreement. He may think that Ahab has taken his greatest treasures out of the palace and has hidden them in the houses of his officials. Or it could be that Ahab seems like such a pushover that Ben-Hadad can demand anything he wants.

"The king of Israel summoned all the elders of the land and said to them, 'See how this man is looking for trouble! When he sent for my wives and my children, my silver and my gold, I did not refuse him.'" (1 Kings 20:7) What kind of man doesn't fight for his wives and children? He's already agreed to give Ben-Hadad what should have mattered most to him. But now, when Ben-Hadad threatens to search the palace and the houses of the officials, Ahab seeks the advice of the elders, something he should have done in the first place instead of giving in to the king of Aram.

"The elders and the people all answered, 'Don't listen to him or agree to his demands.'" (1 Kings 20:8) A man who is willing to sell out his own family will be willing to sell out all of Israel. The elders and the people are alarmed that they will become subject to the king of Aram and will lose their sovereign nation. If the troops are allowed in to do a house to house search, they will subdue the nation and take it over.

"So he replied to Ben-Hadad's messengers, 'Tell my lord the king, 'Your servant will do all you demanded the first time, but this demand I cannot meet.' They left and took the answer back to Ben-Hadad." (1 Kings 20:9) I wish Ahab had said, "You know what? We have decided not to agree to any of your demands. No, you can't have my wives and children. You can't have my silver and gold. And you can't send your soldiers in to search the houses." He still intends to stick to the original agreement, no matter what harm may come to his wives and children. At best, the women will become wives of the Arameans and the children will be assimilated into the foreign culture. At worst, the women will be used by the soldiers and the children will be made into slaves. Neither the best nor the worst scenario should be acceptable to Ahab or to any man. 

The king of Aram is enraged at Ahab's refusal to let the soldiers do the search. "Then Ben-Hadad sent another message to Ahab: 'May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dust remains in Samaria to give each man a handful.'" (1 Kings 20:10) Ben-Hadad can't believe the outnumbered king of Israel dares to stand against him. He says something like, "So help me, gods of Aram, if I don't destroy you, Ahab! When I get done with you, the men of Samaria will be lucky if I've left them a handful of dirt!"

"The king of Israel answered, 'Tell him: 'One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.'" (1 Kings 20:11) I'm not a fan of Ahab but I respect this statement. It's especially witty and bold. "The man who is just now putting on his armor to go out and fight shouldn't brag like a man who is taking his armor off after a successful battle." It's brilliant. It's out of character for Ahab, who won't even stand up to his pagan wife, to say something that will enrage Ben-Hadad to the point of murderous anger. 

"Ben-Hadad heard this message while he and the kings were drinking in their tents, and he ordered his men: 'Prepare to attack.' So they prepared to attack the city." (1 Kings 20:12) The king of Aram is so confident in his ability to conquer Ahab's capitol city that he and his men aren't even getting themselves in fighting condition. They are lying around in the tents getting drunk. Going into battle with a hangover is a bad idea, but this shows us how overly sure of himself Ben-Hadad is. He's trusting in the combined forces of his own army combined with the armies of the thirty-two kings. But he's forgotten that God fights on the side of Israel and tomorrow, when we continue on in Chapter 20, Ben-Hadad will be sorry he attacked the nation when he is forced to humbly beg for his life.

God is going to show an idolatrous nation that He is the Lord. They have fallen into Baal worship and have not repented even after seeing Elijah call fire down from heaven. Because of their stubborn refusal to turn back to the living God, He allows the current trouble to come upon them. Sometimes the Lord allows trouble in our lives because we stubbornly hang onto something He's told us to let go of. Sometimes we cling to harmful things in such a way that those things have become idols in our lives. That's when, for our own good, the Lord has to step in and show us where our true help and security lies: in Him. Israel has forgotten whose hand led them out of Egypt. She has forgotten who provided for her all those years in the wilderness. She has forgotten who drove out the pagan Canaanites and planted her in the promised land. When a fierce enemy like Ben-Hadad attacks, will Baal be any help? Can Israel trust in a foreign god to deliver her? No, it's the Almighty living God who will protect and deliver her. God will send a prophet to say to Ahab, "Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord." 

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