Now King Ben-hadad of Aram mobilized his army, supported by the chariots and horses of thirty-two allied kings. They went to besiege Samaria, the Israelite capital, and launched attacks against it.
Ben-hadad sent messengers into the city to relay this message to King Ahab of Israel: "This is what Ben-hadad says:
'Your silver and gold are mine, and so are the best of your wives and children!'"
"All right, my lord," Ahab replied. "All that I have is yours!"
Soon Ben-hadad's messengers returned again and said, "This is what Ben-hadad says: 'I have already demanded that you give me your silver, gold, wives, and children.
But about this time tomorrow I will send my officials to search your palace and the homes of your people. They will take away everything you consider valuable!'"
Then Ahab summoned all the leaders of the land and said to them, "Look how this man is stirring up trouble! I already agreed when he sent the message demanding that I give him my wives and children and silver and gold."
"Don't give in to any more demands," the leaders and people advised.
So Ahab told the messengers from Ben-hadad, "Say this to my lord the king: 'I will give you everything you asked for the first time, but this last demand of yours I simply cannot meet.'" So the messengers returned to Ben-hadad with the response.
Then Ben-hadad sent this message to Ahab: "May the gods bring tragedy on me, and even worse than that, if there remains enough dust from Samaria to provide more than a handful for each of my soldiers."
The king of Israel sent back this answer: "A warrior still dressing for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won."
This reply of Ahab's reached Ben-hadad and the other kings as they were drinking in their tents. "Prepare to attack!" Ben-hadad commanded his officers. So they prepared to attack the city.
References for 1 Kings 20:12
Then a prophet came to see King Ahab and told him, "This is what the LORD says: Do you see all these enemy forces? Today I will hand them all over to you. Then you will know that I am the LORD."
Ahab asked, "How will he do it? "And the prophet replied, "This is what the LORD says: The troops of the provincial commanders will do it." "Should we attack first?" Ahab asked. "Yes," the prophet answered.
So Ahab mustered the troops of the 232 provincial commanders. Then he called out the rest of his army of seven thousand men.
About noontime, as Ben-hadad and the thirty-two allied kings were still in their tents getting drunk,
the troops of the provincial commanders marched out of the city. As they approached, Ben-hadad's scouts reported to him, "Some troops are coming from Samaria."
"Take them alive," Ben-hadad commanded, "whether they have come for peace or for war."
But by now Ahab's provincial commanders had led the army out to fight.
Each Israelite soldier killed his Aramean opponent, and suddenly the entire Aramean army panicked and fled. The Israelites chased them, but King Ben-hadad and a few others escaped on horses.
However, the other horses and chariots were destroyed, and the Arameans were killed in a great slaughter.
Afterward the prophet said to King Ahab, "Get ready for another attack by the king of Aram next spring."
After their defeat, Ben-hadad's officers said to him, "The Israelite gods are gods of the hills; that is why they won. But we can beat them easily on the plains.
Only this time replace the kings with field commanders!
Recruit another army like the one you lost. Give us the same number of horses, chariots, and men, and we will fight against them in the plains. There's not a shadow of a doubt that we will beat them." So King Ben-hadad did as they suggested.
The following spring he called up the Aramean army and marched out against Israel, this time at Aphek.
Israel then mustered its army, set up supply lines, and moved into the battle. But the Israelite army looked like two little flocks of goats in comparison to the vast Aramean forces that filled the countryside!
Then the man of God went to the king of Israel and said, "This is what the LORD says: The Arameans have said that the LORD is a god of the hills and not of the plains. So I will help you defeat this vast army. Then you will know that I am the LORD."
The two armies camped opposite each other for seven days, and on the seventh day the battle began. The Israelites killed 100,000 Aramean foot soldiers in one day.
The rest fled behind the walls of Aphek, but the wall fell on them and killed another 27,000. Ben-hadad fled into the city and hid in a secret room.
Ben-hadad's officers said to him, "Sir, we have heard that the kings of Israel are very merciful. So let's humble ourselves by wearing sackcloth and putting ropes on our heads. Then perhaps King Ahab will let you live."
So they put on sackcloth and ropes and went to the king of Israel and begged, "Your servant Ben-hadad says, 'Please let me live!'" The king of Israel responded, "Is he still alive? He is my brother!"
The men were quick to grasp at this straw of hope, and they replied, "Yes, your brother Ben-hadad!" "Go and get him," the king of Israel told them. And when Ben-hadad arrived, Ahab invited him up into his chariot!
Ben-hadad told him, "I will give back the towns my father took from your father, and you may establish places of trade in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria." Then Ahab said, "I will let you go under these conditions." So they made a treaty, and Ben-hadad was set free.
Meanwhile, the LORD instructed one of the group of prophets to say to another man, "Strike me!" But the man refused to strike the prophet.
Then the prophet told him, "Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, a lion will kill you as soon as you leave me." And sure enough, when he had gone, a lion attacked and killed him.
Then the prophet turned to another man and said, "Strike me!" So he struck the prophet and wounded him.
The prophet waited for the king beside the road, having placed a bandage over his eyes to disguise himself.
As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, "Sir, I was in the battle, and a man brought me a prisoner. He said, 'Guard this man; if for any reason he gets away, you will either die or pay a fine of seventy-five pounds of silver!'
References for 1 Kings 20:39
But while I was busy doing something else, the prisoner disappeared!" "Well, it's your own fault," the king replied. "You have determined your own judgment."
Then the prophet pulled the bandage from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets.
And the prophet told him, "This is what the LORD says: Because you have spared the man I said must be destroyed, now you must die in his place, and your people will die instead of his people."
References for 1 Kings 20:42
So the king of Israel went home to Samaria angry and sullen.