Ben-Hadad Attacks Samaria
20 Now Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria and attacked it. 2 He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: 3 ‘Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine.’”
4 The king of Israel answered, “Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.”
5 The messengers came again and said, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘I sent to demand your silver and gold, your wives and your children. 6 But about this time tomorrow I am going to send my officials to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will seize everything you value and carry it away.’”
7 The king of Israel summoned all the elders of the land and said to them, “See how this man is looking for trouble!When he sent for my wives and my children, my silver and my gold, I did not refuse him.”
8 The elders and the people all answered, “Don’t listen to him or agree to his demands.”
9 So he replied to Ben-Hadad’s messengers, “Tell my lord the king, ‘Your servant will do all you demanded the first time, but this demand I cannot meet.’” They left and took the answer back to Ben-Hadad.
10 Then Ben-Hadad sent another message to Ahab: “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dustremains in Samaria to give each of my men a handful.”
11 The king of Israel answered, “Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.’”
As I read this passage BH is insulting Ahab. He’s sure he’s got him in a corner and he’s trying to humiliate him. But Ahab is playing all this much the way Marc Antony did the death of Cesar, isn’t he? His first reply is meant to mollify BH, sort of. But I think even then he’s toying with him. Goading him to keep coming.
And then, when BH keeps laying it on, Ahab insults him back knowing it will infuriate him. And what’s better than an enemy that isn’t thinking straight? That’s acting from emotion? Didn’t Omri teach them to never act when they were angry? To wait till they had cooled off? Thought it over? Considered their options? That ol’ Omri was a pretty cagey dude.
12 Ben-Hadad heard this message while he and the kings were drinking in their tents,[a] and he ordered his men: “Prepare to attack.” So they prepared to attack the city.
Ahab Defeats Ben-Hadad
13 Meanwhile a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
14 “But who will do this?” asked Ahab.
The prophet replied, “This is what the Lord says: ‘The junior officers under the provincial commanders will do it.’”
“And who will start the battle?” he asked.
The prophet answered, “You will.”
15 So Ahab summoned the 232 junior officers under the provincial commanders. Then he assembled the rest of the Israelites, 7,000 in all. 16 They set out at noon while Ben-Hadad and the 32 kings allied with him were in their tents getting drunk. 17 The junior officers under the provincial commanders went out first.
Now Ben-Hadad had dispatched scouts, who reported, “Men are advancing from Samaria.”
18 He said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive; if they have come out for war, take them alive.”
19 The junior officers under the provincial commanders marched out of the city with the army behind them 20 and each one struck down his opponent. At that, the Arameans fled, with the Israelites in pursuit. But Ben-Hadad king of Aram escaped on horseback with some of his horsemen. 21 The king of Israel advanced and overpowered the horses and chariots and inflicted heavy losses on the Arameans.
If you go with this account as written, then Hiel and the gang (or O – whoever is in command of the surprise reserve force) IS going to get those chariots BH was so worried about. And that is why he will listen to his councilors who urge him to come back in the spring to punish Ahab for this further humiliation.
22 Afterward, the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, “Strengthen your position and see what must be done, because next spring the king of Aram will attack you again.”
And now Ahab is all ears when the YHWHist prophets speak. They promised him they would show him how to kick BH’s ass and by golly, it worked! So A & O will be preparing for Round II all winter.
23 Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they. 24 Do this: Remove all the kings from their commands and replace them with other officers. 25 You must also raise an army like the one you lost—horse for horse and chariot for chariot—so we can fight Israel on the plains. Then surely we will be stronger than they.” He agreed with them and acted accordingly.
And when the time comes, we’re going to have a ton of fun developing the strategy for this one b/c it’s going to be a big sweeping battle with chariots and horses and kings. Oh my!
But in the meantime, do notice some things that are crucial to the narrative you’re building right now:
1. BH DOES lose a lot of precious equipment in Round I. It’s humiliating and expensive. Getting it back now becomes his fixation.
2. Just as we’re portraying it, Round I was not the big, open field fight BH was hoping for and A & O were guarding against. It was fought on terrain that favored Ephraim b/c the guys had their heads in the game right from the start.
3. Give us a pat on the back. We’ve deceived BH into thinking YHWH is just the god of the hills. Surprise!
26 The next spring Ben-Hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 When the Israelites were also mustered and given provisions, they marched out to meet them. The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside.
28 The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will knowthat I am the Lord.’”
29 For seven days they camped opposite each other, and on the seventh day the battle was joined. The Israelites inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Aramean foot soldiers in one day. 30 The rest of them escaped to the city of Aphek, where the wall collapsed on twenty-seven thousand of them. And Ben-Hadad fled to the city and hid in an inner room.
Round II. We’ll get to all this later.