1 Kings Chapter 20  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: 1 Kings 20
1Ki 20:1(top)
1Ki 20:2(top)
1Ki 20:3(top)
1Ki 20:4(top)
1Ki 20:5(top)
1Ki 20:6

“of your servants.” This is a case where the exact meaning of “servants” is ambiguous, and it has been suggested that Ahab’s “servants” are the people of wealth and power in Samaria, i.e., military and political leaders, or it could refer to the people of the city of Samaria, all who were technically servants of the king. Given the context, however, and the fact that many of the people of Samaria would have been poor, there would be no reason to search all their houses. [For more on “servants” being high officials, see commentary on 2 Sam. 11:1].

1Ki 20:7(top)
1Ki 20:8(top)
1Ki 20:9(top)
1Ki 20:10(top)
1Ki 20:11(top)
1Ki 20:12

“at Sukkoth.” The Hebrew can, and likely should, be translated as a place name, Sukkoth. The Hebrew text has the definite article before “Sukkoth,” which is often indicative of a place name. Furthermore, as Everett Fox points out in The Schocken Bible, the town of Sukkoth was just east of the Jordan River and was “used as a base of operations east of the Jordan.” It also makes sense because Ben-hadad, coming from Damascus in Syria, would likely encamp east of the Jordan, close to his home and not in the territory controlled directly by Samaria. Although most versions have “in tents,” these were armies in the field, so they would have been in tents, and likely would not have taken the time to build “sukkoth,” temporary shelters (“sukkoth” is the same word as “booths” in the “Feast of Booths” (“Tabernacles”). There is access to Samaria from Sukkoth. Robert Alter (“The Hebrew Bible) also sees “Sukkoth” as a place name, as does the JPS Tanakh.

1Ki 20:13(top)
1Ki 20:14(top)
1Ki 20:15

“7,000.” Interestingly, this is the number of people that Yahweh told Elijah had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). It is highly unlikely that none of these 7,000 warriors were among the 7,000 that God mentioned, and their purity of heart to follow Yahweh may have been why God wanted them to participate in the battle.

1Ki 20:16(top)
1Ki 20:17

“Now Ben-hadad had sent out scouts.” This shows that Ben-hadad was not in sight of the city. The distance between Samaria and Sukkoth could have been covered reasonably quickly by horseback (cp. 1 King 20:20).

1Ki 20:18

“take them alive.” The Hebrew uses a word that means “seize” or “grab.”

1Ki 20:19(top)
1Ki 20:20

“struck down.” That is, “killed.”

1Ki 20:21

“the horses and the chariots.” The Hebrew is a collective singular: literally, “the horse and the chariot.” This could be seeing the horse and chariot as one war weapon, or “chariot” could be a metonymy for the charioteer, or Israel could have destroyed the chariots as well as killed the soldiers.

“with a great slaughter.” The Hebrew is “with a great striking down,” so the verb “strike down” occurs three times in the verse for emphasis.

1Ki 20:22

“at the return of the year.” The exact time of the year that this phrase refers to is not known and is debated by scholars. However, both the prophet and king Ahab knew what the phrase meant.

1Ki 20:23

“servants.” In this context, “servant” refers to high officials and military commanders (see commentary on 2 Sam. 11:1).

“Their god is a god of the hills.” The belief at the time, and throughout most of the Old Testament, was that the various gods lived in specific places on earth. This belief shows up in a number of different verses in the Old Testament, and was even believed by many Israelites, even though God revealed that He was the only true God, and God over the whole earth. The belief that the gods lived in specific places developed because demons do indeed live in different places and so when they manifest themselves or influence a culture, they influence that culture in their own particular way. Demons are not omnipresent, and they control different places in different ways. Furthermore, the demons are in a hierarchy, with some being more powerful than others. That was the way God arranged the angelic world, and when some of the angels fell (those we now often refer to as demons), they maintained their hierarchy. Daniel 10:12-14 reveals a powerful demon that resisted the angel that God sent to answer Daniel’s prayer.

The belief that Yahweh was the God of Israel and lived in Israel explains a number of Bible verses. For example, it explains why when Jonah got a revelation from Yahweh that he did not want to obey, he left Israel. Jonah thought that by leaving the land of Israel he could get away from Yahweh (Jonah 1:3). Also, Naaman the Syrian wanted to worship Yahweh, but how could he do that in Syria? Naaman’s solution was to take some of the land of Israel back with him to Syria and worship Yahweh on the dirt from Israel (2 Kings 5:17). Also, when the king of Assyria moved people into Israel they did not know how to please Yahweh and so had troubles (2 Kings 17:26). It was in large part because of the belief that certain gods lived in certain places and could affect the weather, crops, and animals in that place that Israel was often drawn to worship the ancestral gods of the lands that they conquered (see commentary on Deut. 12:30).

One unknown in this verse is what the Syrians thought about the “god” or “gods” of Israel. The Hebrew word elohim is a plural form, and in the Bible it is used of “God,” “a god,” or “gods.” The debate between scholars as to how to understand the verse and translate it in this context has gone on for centuries. Did the Syrians recognize that Israel only had one God, or did they realize that in the northern kingdom of Israel the people worshiped Yahweh, Baal, Jeroboam’s golden calves, and other deities as well, in which case “gods” is more appropriate than “God” or “a god.” Because of the lack of clarity as to exactly what the Syrians were saying about Israel, some versions have, “Their god is a god of the hills” (ASV; CEB); others have, “Their God is a God of the hills” (CJB; JPS); others have, “Their gods are gods of the hills, (ESV; CSB; DBY; KJV; NAB; NASB; NIV; NLT; NRSV); and still others have “Their God is a god of the mountains” (NET). The REV has “Their god is a god of the hills,” which seems to fit best with what Yahweh said in 1 Kings 20:28.

1Ki 20:24

“commanders.” This is an Aramaic (or Assyrian) word for a person of authority. Technically a governor of some sort, but the title was applied to various kinds of leaders. These are Syrians speaking, which accounts in part for the different word for commanders.

1Ki 20:25(top)
1Ki 20:26

“Aphek.” There are three possible locations that have been suggested for Aphek. One is near Ein-gev on the Golan Heights, one is on the plain of Acco near the coast of Israel close to Phoenicia, and one is near the Yarkon River that runs through Tel Aviv. None of these locations is at the foot of Samaria, but are miles away from it.

1Ki 20:27

“two little flocks of goats.” The Hebrew is more literally, “two exposed (or “bare”) goats.” The word “flocks” is supplied from the Septuagint.

1Ki 20:28

“so that you may know that I am Yahweh.” This is the same phrase as occurs in 1 Kings 20:13. God gives people many chances to recognize who He really is: the One God of all the earth.

1Ki 20:29(top)
1Ki 20:30(top)
1Ki 20:31

“sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads.” The sackcloth around the waist would mean the upper body was exposed, as if they were stripped as prisoners, and because prisoners were usually tied with ropes, the ropes on their heads was an admission of defeat and being at the mercy of the Israelites. They removed all evidence of military clothing, showing that they were not in a position to fight, and had no desire to.

“go out to the king of Israel.” That is, go out to surrender.

1Ki 20:32

“He is my brother!” It seems that Ahab had wanted to have a tighter relationship with the Syrians, and saw this as his chance.

1Ki 20:33

“and they quickly picked it up from him.” The idea of the verse is that Ben-hadad’s men were looking for an omen or sign, and when Ahab said, “He is my brother,” they quickly picked that up as the omen they had been looking for. This translation also is quite close to the idea in the Septuagint (and see W. Maier III, Concordia Commentary, 1 Kings 12-22).

“Then he said.” That is, Ahab the king of Israel said.

1Ki 20:34

“I will set you free with this covenant.” Here the text abruptly changes and King Ahab of Israel is speaking (at that point Ben-hadad was still a prisoner of war). Ahab set Ben-hadad free, and that is why he was confronted by the prophet in 1 Kings 20:41-43 for letting Ben-hadad go. It is not uncommon for the text to switch speakers suddenly and without informing the reader.

1Ki 20:35

“said to another one.” In this verse, one prophet says to another one that God said to strike him, but the other prophet refused.

1Ki 20:36

“have not obeyed the voice of Yahweh.” This is a good example of the Jewish law of agency. The prophet is speaking, but it is called “the voice of Yahweh” (cp. Isa. 7:10).

“a lion found him and killed him.” In 1 Kings 13, the prophet who disobeyed the word of Yahweh was killed by a lion.

“struck him down.” That is, killed him.

1Ki 20:37

“another man.” This would be another one of the prophets, not just any person.

1Ki 20:38(top)
1Ki 20:39

“to weigh out a talent of silver.” Silver was in bars and such, not coins, and had to be weighed. An Israelite talent at this time was about 66 pounds.

1Ki 20:40

“That is your sentence; you yourself have decided it.” In other words, “You agreed to this so you decided your own sentence.”

1Ki 20:41(top)
1Ki 20:42(top)
1Ki 20:43

“went to his house.” So Ahab returned to his palace in Samaria.


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