Ben-hadad, king of Aram, called up his entire army. Together with thirty-two kings and their assembled horses and chariots, he marched to besiege Samaria, to fight against it. He sent messengers to Ahab, king of Israel, in the city to tell him, “This is what Ben-hadad says: Your silver and gold belong to me now, and your best wives and children also belong to me!”
“It's as you say, my lord the king,” the king of Israel replied. “I am yours, as well as everything that belongs to me.”
The messengers returned and said, “This is what Ben-hadad says: I have sent you a message demanding you give me your silver, your gold, your wives, and your children. But around this time tomorrow I'm going to send my men to search your palace and the homes of your officials. They will take and carry away everything you see as valuable.”
The king of Israel called all the elders of the land and told them, “Look how this man is trying to cause trouble! When he demanded my wives and my children, my silver and my gold, I didn't say no.”
All the elders and all the people present responded, “Don't listen to him. Don't agree to his demands.”
So the king told Ben-hadad's messengers, “Tell my lord the king: Everything you demanded at first your servant will do, but I cannot agree to this latest demand.” The messengers took the reply back to him.
10 Ben-hadad responded to him, “May the gods do as much to me and more if there remains enough dust in Samaria to give my subjects a handful each!”
11 The king of Israel replied, “Tell him this: A man putting on his armor should not brag like one who is taking it off.”*
12 Ben-hadad received this message while he and the kings were drinking in their tents. He immediately gave the order to his officers, “Get ready to attack!” So they prepared to attack the city.
13 At the same time a prophet came up to Ahab, king of Israel, and told him, “This is what the Lord says: You see this massive army? Just watch, because I will make you victorious today, and you will be convinced that I am the Lord.”
14 But who's going to do this?” Ahab asked. The prophet answered, “This is what the Lord says: It will be the young officers under the district commanders.”
And who's going to start the battle?” he asked. The prophet replied, “You are!”
15 So Ahab called up the 232 young officers of the district commanders, and assembled the 7,000 soldiers that made up Israel's army. 16 They left at noon while Ben-hadad and the thirty-two kings with him were busy getting drunk in their tents. 17 The young officers of the district commanders took the lead. The scouts Ben-hadad had sent out came and reported to him, “Enemy soldiers are advancing from Samaria.”
18 If they're coming in peace, take them alive,” he ordered. “If they're coming to attack, take them alive.”
19 The young officers of the district commanders advanced from the city, followed by the army. 20 Each man killed his opponent, and the Arameans ran away. The Israelites chased them, but Ben-hadad, king of Aram, escaped on horseback with his cavalry. 21 Then the king of Israel came out and attacked the horses and chariots. He inflicted a great defeat on the Arameans.
22 Later on the prophet came to the king of Israel and told him, “Go and reinforce your defenses, and check what you need to do, because in the spring the king of Aram will come and attack you again.”
23 In the meantime the king of Aram's officers told him, “Their gods are gods of the mountains. That's why they could defeat us. But if we fight them in the lowlands, we can beat them. 24 You should do this: remove each of the kings from their positions and replace them with commanders. 25 You also have to raise another army to replace the one you losthorse for horse, chariot for chariot. Then we can fight them in the lowlands and we will definitely beat them.” Ben-hadad listened to their advice and did as they said.
26 When spring came Ben-hadad called up the Aramean army and went to attack Israel at Aphek. 27 The Israelite army was also called up and provided with supplies. They went to confront the Arameans. But when the Israelites set up their camp opposite the enemy they looked like couple of flocks of goats in comparison with the Aramean army that filled the whole land.
28 Then the man of God came to the king of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says: Because the Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is only a god of the mountains and not of the valleys,’ I will make you victorious over the whole of this massive army. Then you will be convinced that I am the Lord.”
29 The armies camped opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day the battle took place. The Israelites killed 100,000 of the Aramean infantry in one day. 30 The rest ran away to the town of Aphek, where a wall collapsed on 27,000 of those that remained. Ben-hadad also ran to the town and hid in an inside room.
31 Ben-hadad's officers said to him, “Look, we've heard that the Israelite kings are merciful. Let's surrender to the king of Israel, wearing sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads. Maybe he will let you live.”
32 So wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes on their heads, they went and surrendered to the king of Israel, and told him, “Your servant Ben-hadad asks, ‘Please let me live.’ ” The king repliedIs he still alive? I think of him as my brother.”
33 The men thought this was a good sign and they immediately took the king at his word, saying, “Yes, Ben-hahad is your brother.”
Go and fetch him!” said the king. So Ben-hadad came out of hiding and surrendered to Ahab, who pulled him up into his chariot.
34 Ben-hadad said to him, “I will return the towns my father took from your father, and you can organize your own places for trade in Damascus, like my father did in Samaria.”
By making this agreement I set you free,” Ahab replied. He made a treaty with Ben-hadad and let him go.
35 Following a message he received from the Lord, one of the sons of the prophets§ said to his colleague, “Please hit me.” But the man refused to hit him. 36 So the prophet told him, “Since you have not done what the Lord said, once you leave me a lion is going to kill you.” When the man left, a lion came and killed him.
37 The prophet found another man and said, “Please hit me!” So the man hit him, wounding him.
38 Then the prophet went and stood beside the road, waiting for the king. He had disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes.
39 As the king was passing by, he shouted out to the king: “Your servant had gone out fighting right in the middle of the battle, when all of a sudden a man came over with a prisoner and told me, ‘Guard this man! If for any reason he escapes, you will pay for his life with your life, or you will be fined a talent of silver.’ 40 But while your servant was busy with other things, the man got away.”
So that will be your punishment then,” the king of Israel told him. “You have sentenced yourself.”
41 Then the prophet quickly took off the bandage from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized he was one of the prophets. 42 He told the king, “This is what the Lord says: You have let go a man I had decided should die. Therefore you will pay for his life with your life, your people for his people.”
43 The king of Israel went home to Samaria, sulking and infuriated.
* 20:11 In other words, boasting should only be done when victory is won. 20:13 “Convinced”: literally, “know,” but this is more than simply being aware of something, rather a motivating belief. 20:34 See 15:20. § 20:35 “Sons of the prophets,” also referred to as “the school of the prophets” was a kind of institution of religious education and a center for the prophetic gift.