Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 20

Ben-Hadad appeals to Ahab for his life

1 Kings 20:31-32

It astonishes us to see how wrong the king of Aram’s officials were in their advice. Previously, they were wrong in their advice about Israel’s God and his power (20:23). Now, they were wrong about the character of Israel’s kings.

They told Ben-Hadad that the kings from Israel’s royal family were kind. That was true about some of the kings from David’s family. David himself carried out some great acts of kindness (2 Samuel chapter 9) – although he dealt very firmly with evil people (Psalm 101). However, the kings from David’s family now ruled over a completely different country: Judah, or southern Israel. Aram was fighting against northern and central Israel, and its ruler was King Ahab. Ahab was a cruel and wicked man.

The officials of Aram decided that they must approach Ahab in a very humble manner. Like slaves, they wore only a piece of rough cloth round their bodies. They even put ropes round their own necks – that was what Ahab’s army would do to their prisoners. In that state, they went to Ahab to appeal for his kindness. They were asking him to allow them and Ben-Hadad, their king, to live. If Ahab agreed, they were willing even to be his slaves or his prisoners. That was how desperate they were.

Ahab was a cruel and evil man – but he saw an opportunity to gain from their weakness. Ben-Hadad ruled a great country; if Ahab killed him, then someone else would rule Aram (19:15). So Ahab much preferred to make a peace agreement with Ben-Hadad that was strongly for Ahab’s benefit. In such a desperate state Ben-Hadad would agree with everything that Ahab wanted.

Next part: Ahab's peace agreement with Ben-Hadad (1 Kings 20:33-34)


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