17 The commandos of the regional chiefs made up the vanguard. A report was brought to Ben-Hadad: "Men are on their way from Samaria."
18 He said, "If they've come in peace, take them alive as hostages; if they've come to fight, the same - take them alive as hostages."
19 The commandos poured out of the city with the full army behind them.
20 They hit hard in hand-to-hand combat. The Arameans scattered from the field, with Israel hard on their heels. But Ben-Hadad king of Aram got away on horseback, along with his cavalry.
21 The king of Israel cut down both horses and chariots - an enormous defeat for Aram.
22 Sometime later the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, "On the alert now - build up your army, assess your capabilities, and see what has to be done. Before the year is out, the king of Aram will be back in force."
23 Meanwhile the advisors to the king of Aram said, "Their god is a god of the mountains - we don't stand a chance against them there. So let's engage them on the plain where we'll have the advantage.
24 Here's the strategy: Remove each sheik from his place of leadership and replace him with a seasoned officer.
25 Then recruit a fighting force equivalent in size to the army that deserted earlier - horse for horse, chariot for chariot. And we'll fight them on the plain - we're sure to prove stronger than they are." It sounded good to the king; he did what they advised.
26 As the new year approached, Ben-Hadad rallied Aram and they went up to Aphek to make war on Israel.
27 The Israelite army prepared to fight and took the field to meet Aram. They moved into battle formation before Aram in two camps, like two flocks of goats. The plain was seething with Arameans.