Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 20

Ahab pretends to accept Ben-Hadad’s demands

1 Kings 20:2-4

Samaria was the capital city of northern and central Israel, which Ahab ruled as king. It was a new and beautiful city with splendid buildings – especially Ahab’s palace (22:39).

Now, however, perhaps for the first time, an enemy army was preparing to destroy Samaria. That army was under the control of Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram (also called Syria).

Ben-Hadad sent a message to Ahab to tell him how Ahab could save the city. Ben-Hadad would order his army not to attack if Ahab paid a great price to him. Ben-Hadad expressed this in a personal way: Ahab must hand over his own silver and gold, his wives and his best sons. However, Ben-Hadad probably meant that Ahab must hand over everything valuable in the country.

In the ancient world, people considered that everything in their country belonged, in the end, to the king. People used silver and gold as money then, so ‘your silver and gold’ meant ‘all your money’. The wives and children would become slaves in Aram, unless their families could pay for their freedom. In addition, Ben-Hadad would then control Israel, and its people would have to pay taxes to him.

Ahab thought that he could deal with this demand in a clever manner. He handed over nothing to Ben-Hadad. Instead, Ahab declared that he was giving his whole country to him. So, Ahab would collect taxes on behalf of Ben-Hadad and Israel’s soldiers would fight in Aram’s army. There would be peace between Israel and Aram, and Aram would support Israel against its enemies. In that way, Ahab pretended to accept Ben-Hadad’s demand. However, in reality Ahab was offering almost nothing to Ben-Hadad.

Next part: Ben-Hadad's officials will take away everything valuable (1 Kings 20:5-6)


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