5.67 1 Kings -- Ben-hadad and Ahab
Increasingly, Israel began to be pressured by neighboring kingdoms. Ben-hadad of Aram moved against Israel, and Ahab, weak man that he was, capitulated (1 Kings 20:4). But Ben-hadad overplayed his hand. Not settling for a bribe, he wanted to plunder Samaria. Ahab resisted, and Ben-hadad threatened to destroy the city. At this point, God intervened through an unidentified prophet. He told Ahab to attack the Arameans. Ben-hadad and his subject kings were drunk in their tents, and Ahab routed them. Then the prophet warned Ahab that Aram would return in the spring.
Ben-hadad had his own spiritual advisers, who informed him that the God of the Israelites was a hill-god (1 Kings 20:23). The Arameans would be sure to overcome the Israelites if they fought on the plains. This advice belongs in the collection of "famous last words" of dead generals. Once more the prophetic voice told Ahab that God would deliver the multitude into his hand, so that
"you will know that I am the Lord" (1 Kings 20:4).
In the battle, over 100,000 Arameans soldiers were killed, and Ben-hadad surrendered to Ahab. Ahab, as easy-going in war as he was in religion, let bygones be bygones, and sent Ben-hadad home with a peace treaty. Shades of Saul and Agag! And again the Lord showed up, but not with words of praise:
"You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people" (1 Kings 20:42).
So Ahab managed to find defeat even in victory. It was his own fault, disregarding the Lord who had given him two victories: he never asked God before sparing Ben-Hadad or making the treaty.