1 King Benhadad of Syria called his army together. He was joined by thirty-two other kings with their horses and chariots, and together they marched to Samaria and attacked.
2 Benhadad sent a messenger to tell King Ahab of Israel,
3 "Ahab, give me your silver and gold, your wives, and your strongest sons!"
4 "Your Majesty," Ahab replied, "everything I have is yours, including me."
5 Later, Benhadad sent another messenger to say to Ahab, "I already told you to give me your silver and gold, your wives, and your children.
6 But tomorrow at this time, I will send my officials into your city to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will take everything else that you own."
7 Ahab called a meeting with the leaders of Israel and said, "Benhadad is causing real trouble. He told me to give him my wives and children, as well as my silver and gold. And I agreed."
8 "Don't listen to him!" they answered. "You don't have to do what he says."
9 So Ahab sent someone to tell Benhadad, "Your Majesty, I'll give you my silver and gold, and even my wives and children. But I won't let you have anything else." When Benhadad got his answer,
10 he replied, "I'll completely destroy Samaria! There won't even be enough of it left for my soldiers to carry back in their hands. If I don't do it, I pray that the gods will punish me terribly."
11 Ahab then answered, "Benhadad, don't brag before the fighting even begins. Wait and see if you live through it."
12 Meanwhile, Benhadad and the other kings had been drinking in their tents. But when Ahab's reply came, he ordered his soldiers to prepare to attack Samaria, and they all got ready.
13 At that very moment, a prophet ran up to Ahab and said, "You can see that Benhadad's army is very strong. But the LORD has promised to help you defeat them today. Then you will know that the LORD is in control."
14 "Who will fight the battle?" Ahab asked. The prophet answered, "The young bodyguards who serve the district officials." "But who will lead them into battle?" Ahab asked. "You will!" the prophet replied.
15 So Ahab called together the two hundred thirty-two young soldiers and the seven thousand troops in Israel's army, and he got them ready to fight the Syrians.
16 At noon, King Ahab and his Israelite army marched out of Samaria, with the young soldiers in front. King Benhadad of Syria and the thirty-two kings with him were drunk when the scouts he had sent out ran up to his tent, shouting, "We just now saw soldiers marching out of Samaria!"
17 (SEE 20:16)
18 "Take them alive!" Benhadad ordered. "I don't care if they have come out to fight or to surrender."
19 The young soldiers led Israel's troops into battle,
20 and each of them attacked and killed an enemy soldier. The rest of the Syrian army turned and ran, and the Israelites went after them. Benhadad and some others escaped on horses,
21 but Ahab and his soldiers followed them and captured their horses and chariots. Ahab and Israel's army crushed the Syrians.
22 Later, the prophet went back and warned Ahab, "Benhadad will attack you again next spring. Build up your troops and make sure you have some good plans."
23 Meanwhile, Benhadad's officials went to him and explained: Israel's gods are mountain gods. We fought Israel's army in the hills, and that's why they defeated us. But if we fight them on flat land, there's no way we can lose.
24 Here's what you should do. First, get rid of those thirty-two kings and put army commanders in their places.
25 Then get more soldiers, horses, and chariots, so your army will be as strong as it was before. We'll fight Israel's army on flat land and wipe them out. Benhadad agreed and did what they suggested.
26 In the spring, Benhadad got his army together, and they marched to the town of Aphek to attack Israel.
27 The Israelites also prepared to fight. They marched out to meet the Syrians, and the two armies camped across from each other. The Syrians covered the whole area, but the Israelites looked like two little flocks of goats.
28 The prophet went to Ahab and said, "The Syrians think the LORD is a god of the hills and not of the valleys. So he has promised to help you defeat their powerful army. Then you will know that the LORD is in control."
29 For seven days the two armies stayed in their camps, facing each other. Then on the seventh day the fighting broke out, and before sunset the Israelites had killed one hundred thousand Syrian troops.
30 The rest of the Syrian army ran back to Aphek, but the town wall fell and crushed twenty-seven thousand of them. Benhadad also escaped to Aphek and hid in the back room of a house.
31 His officials said, "Your Majesty, we've heard that Israel's kings keep their agreements. We will wrap sackcloth around our waists, put ropes around our heads, and ask Ahab to let you live."
32 They dressed in sackcloth and put ropes on their heads, then they went to Ahab and said, "Your servant Benhadad asks you to let him live." "Is he still alive?" Ahab asked. "Benhadad is like a brother to me."
33 Benhadad's officials were trying to figure out what Ahab was thinking, and when he said "brother," they quickly replied, "You're right! You and Benhadad are like brothers." "Go get him," Ahab said. When Benhadad came out, Ahab had him climb up into his chariot.
34 Benhadad said, "I'll give back the towns my father took from your father. And you can have shops in Damascus, just as my father had in Samaria." Ahab replied, "If you do these things, I'll let you go free." Then they signed a peace treaty, and Ahab let Benhadad go.
35 About this time the LORD commanded a prophet to say to a friend, "Hit me!" But the friend refused,
36 and the prophet told him, "You disobeyed the LORD, and as soon as you walk away, a lion will kill you." The friend left, and suddenly a lion killed him.
37 The prophet found someone else and said, "Hit me!" So this man beat him up.
38 The prophet left and put a bandage over his face to disguise himself. Then he went and stood beside the road, waiting for Ahab to pass by.
39 When Ahab went by, the prophet shouted, "Your Majesty, right in the heat of battle, someone brought a prisoner to me and told me to guard him. He said if the prisoner got away, I would either be killed or forced to pay seventy-five pounds of silver.
40 But I got busy doing other things, and the prisoner escaped." Ahab answered, "You will be punished just as you have said."
41 The man quickly tore the bandage off his face, and Ahab saw that he was one of the prophets.
42 The prophet said, "The LORD told you to kill Benhadad, but you let him go. Now you will die in his place, and your people will die in place of his people."
43 Ahab went back to Samaria, angry and depressed.
The Contemporary English Version, Copyright © 1995 by the American Bible Society.
Selected texts provided for use with the Hypertext Bible Commentary