Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 20

Ben-Hadad orders his soldiers not to kill the young men

1 Kings 20:16-18

The 32 kings who joined together in Ben-Hadad’s army had been drinking wine early (20:12). That is evidence of lazy attitudes (Ecclesiastes 10:16-17). They thought that it would be easy to defeat Israel’s army. King Ahab of Israel was ready to begin his attack, by God’s command, at noon. By that time, the kings had already had too much alcohol to drink. They were not expecting that Israel’s army would attack first.

Ben-Hadad received a report about the 232 young men who were at the front of Israel’s army. God had said that they would be the heroes in this battle. Ben-Hadad did not know whether they had come out to fight, or to accept defeat. He ordered his soldiers not to kill them, but to bring them to him alive. He probably intended to make them suffer and then to laugh at them. He and the kings with him would consider that to be good entertainment.

The decision not to kill those young men was a problem for Ben-Hadad’s soldiers. Israel’s young men carried knives and other sharp tools as their weapons, to kill their enemies. Ben-Hadad’s soldiers, of course, had weapons too – but Ben-Hadad’s command meant that they could not use their weapons properly. Instead, they were trying to catch and to arrest these brave, fast young men who were trying to kill them. So, although Israel’s young men had much less experience, in this kind of battle they had a clear advantage.

Next part: God fights in support of Israel (1 Kings 20:19-20)


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