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1 Kings - Chapter 20

1 Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his whole army -- thirty-two kings were with him, and horses and chariots -- and marched on Samaria, to besiege it and take it by assault.

2 He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel to tell him, 'Ben-Hadad says this,

3 "Your silver and gold are mine. Your wives and children remain yours." '

4 The king of Israel replied, 'As you command, my lord king. Myself and all I have are yours.'

5 The messengers came again, this time they said, 'Ben-Hadad says this, "I have already sent you an order to hand over your silver and your gold, your wives and your children;

6 but I swear, this time tomorrow, I shall send my servants to ransack your house and your servants' houses and lay hands on everything that they value and take it away." '

7 The king of Israel summoned all the elders of the country and said, 'You can see clearly how this man intends to ruin us. He has already demanded my wives and my children, although I have not refused him my silver and gold.'

8 All the elders and all the people said, 'Take no notice. Do not consent.'

9 So he gave this answer to Ben-Hadad's messengers, 'Say to my lord the king, "All you first required of your servant I will do, but this I cannot do." ' And the messengers went back with the answer.

10 Ben-Hadad then sent him the following message, 'May the gods bring unnameable ills on me and worse ills too, if there is enough dust in Samaria for each of my followers to have a handful!'

11 But the king of Israel returned this answer, 'Say: the man who puts on his armour is not the one to boast, but the man who takes it off.'

12 When Ben-Hadad heard this message -- he was under the awnings drinking with the kings -- he gave orders to his servants, 'Take up position!' And they took up their positions against the city.

13 A prophet then arrived, looking for Ahab king of Israel. 'Yahweh says this,' he said. ' "You have seen this huge army? This very day I shall deliver it into your hands, and you will know that I am Yahweh." '

14 'By whose means?' Ahab asked. The prophet replied, 'Yahweh says this, "By means of the guards of the district governors." ' 'Who will co-ordinate the attack?' Ahab asked. 'You will,' the prophet replied.

15 So Ahab inspected the guards of the district governors: there were two hundred and thirty-two. After these he reviewed the army, all the Israelites: there were seven thousand.

16 They made a sortie at midday, when Ben-Hadad was drinking himself senseless under the awnings, he and the thirty-two kings who were allies.

17 The guards of the district governors led the sortie. A report was made to Ben-Hadad: 'Some men have come out of Samaria.'

18 He said, 'If they have come out for peace, take them alive; if they have come out for war, take them alive too.'

19 So they made a sortie from the city, the district governors' guards and behind them the army,

20 and each struck down his man. Aram took to flight and Israel pursued; Ben-Hadad king of Aram escaped on horseback.

21 The king of Israel then advanced, capturing horses and chariots and inflicting a great defeat on Aram.

22 The prophet then went to the king of Israel and said, 'Now is the time to be resolute and think carefully about what you should do, for at the turn of the year the king of Aram will march against you.'

23 The servants of the king of Aram said to him, 'Their gods are gods of the mountains; that is why they have proved stronger than we are. But if we fight them on level ground, we shall certainly beat them.

24 This is what you must do: remove all these kings from their commands and appoint professional soldiers in their place.

25 You, for your part, must recruit an army as large as the one which deserted you, with as many horses and as many chariots; then if we fight them on level ground, we shall certainly beat them.' He listened to their advice and acted accordingly.

26 At the turn of the year, Ben-Hadad mustered the Aramaeans and marched on Aphek to fight Israel.

27 The Israelites were already mobilised and provisioned, and marched out to meet them. Encamped opposite them, the Israelites looked like two herds of goats, whereas the Aramaeans filled the countryside.

28 The man of God then went to the king of Israel and said, 'Yahweh says this, "Since Aram has said that Yahweh is a god of the mountains and not a god of the plains, I shall put the whole of this huge army into your power, and you will know that I am Yahweh."'

29 For seven days they were encamped opposite each other. On the seventh day battle was joined and the Israelites slaughtered the Aramaeans, a hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day.

30 The rest fled to Aphek, into the citadel, but the city walls collapsed on twenty-seven thousand of the survivors. Now Ben-Hadad had fled and taken refuge in an inner room inside the citadel.

31 'Look,' his servants said to him, 'we have heard that the kings of Israel are faithful and kind kings. Let us put sackcloth round our waists and cords round our heads and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will spare your life.'

32 So they wrapped sackcloth round their waists and put cords round their heads and went to the king of Israel, and said, 'Your servant Ben-Hadad says, "Spare my life." '

33 'So he is still alive?' he replied. 'He is my brother.' The men took this for a good omen and quickly seized on his words. 'Yes,' they said, 'Ben-Hadad is your brother.' Ahab said, 'Go and fetch him.' Then Ben-Hadad came out to him and Ahab made him get up into his chariot.

34 Ben-Hadad said, 'I shall restore the towns which my father took from your father and you may set up a trading quarter for yourself in Damascus as my father did in Samaria.' 'With a treaty,' Ahab said, 'I shall set you free.' Granting him a treaty, Ahab let him go.

35 At Yahweh's command a member of the brotherhood of prophets said to a companion of his, 'Strike me,' but the man refused to strike him.

36 So he said to him, 'Since you have disobeyed Yahweh's order, the very moment you leave me a lion will kill you.' And no sooner had he left him than he met a lion, which killed him.

37 The prophet then went to find another man and said, 'Strike me,' and the man struck him and wounded him.

38 The prophet then went and stood waiting for the king on the road, disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes.

39 As the king passed, he called out to him, 'Your servant was making his way to where the fight was thickest when someone left the fighting to bring a man to me, and said, "Guard this man; if he is found missing, your life will pay for his, or else you will have to pay one talent of silver."

40 But your servant was busy with one thing and another, the man disappeared.' The king of Israel said, 'That is your sentence then. You have pronounced it yourself.'

41 At this the man quickly pulled off the bandage over his eyes, and the king of Israel recognised him as one of the prophets.

42 He said to the king, 'Yahweh says this, "Since you have let the man escape who was under my curse of destruction, your life will pay for his, your people for his people." '

43 And the king of Israel went home, gloomy and out of temper, back to Samaria.

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