Ben-hadad, king of Syria, is spoiling for a fight with Israel. He sends one message of surrender and Ahab agrees. But he pushes for more and finds the people unwilling to comply.
Ben-hadad has created a large coalition to attack Israel. Apparently he didn’t feel strong enough to do it on his own. He has 32 kings and all their resources with him. I’m wondering how big these individual nations were and am amazed that Israel had that many enemies living around them.
Ben-hadad was arrogant. He wanted a fight. His first demand of Ahab didn’t accomplish this. Ahab simply agreed to the terms. Why was that? Did he care so little for his silver, gold, wives and children? Was it only his resources in jeopardy? Was he usually averse to war? Or did he figure he had no choice but to surrender?
After Ahab ‘laid down’ Ben-hadad upped the ante. If this were a poker game Ben-hadad just raised. Now he wanted to send his servants in to ensure there was NOTHING left in Israel that was desirable. No longer just ‘the best’ but anything of value. Every nook and cranny would be searched. And EVERYONE would be included in this extortion.
Now Ahab turns to the people to get their opinion. He realizes that nothing he does will appease Ben-hadad. Ben-hadad wants to show off in front of the kings he brought with him. He is actively looking for a fight. I believe that if Ahab had agreed to these terms that Ben-hadad would have come back with even more demands. You can’t please a bully by giving in. He will keep coming back for more.
The people want Ahab to stand up to Ben-hadad. “Do not listen or consent” (verse 8b). They see the danger of surrender.
I find it interesting that the messenger from Ben-hadad was waiting in Israel for Ahab’s answer. Was he listening in on Ahab and the elders’ conversation? Was he ‘spying out the land’ while he waited? He was right there to bring Ahab and Israel’s answer back to his master.
Ahab did not rescind his original agreement of compromise. He was willing to give up HIS gold, silver, wives and children but NOT the peoples. His return message prompted an even more spiteful response from Ben-hadad. THIS would ultimately be his undoing, but that’s a story for another time.
Ben-hadad was no longer hiding behind false demands. Now he spelled it out for Ahab. He WANTED war. “The gods do so to me and much more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me” (verse 10). In other words, “I’m going to kill ALL of you and utterly destroy you.”
Ahab recognized this as bragging and over confidence. His reply is not one of cowering but one of warning. “Watch what you say because the battle isn’t over yet. You have no idea what lies in store.” “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off” (verse 11). Ahab has no idea at this point if God is going to fight for Israel. He hasn’t sought God’s counsel or even his gods. All he knows is that Ben-hadad is boasting without cause.
Ben-hadad’s response is to jump up and march into battle. He isn’t the least bit concerned about what opposition Israel might mount. He is confident that his forces will destroy Israel. He got his wish. It’s time to go to war.
I hate bullies! I’ve met a few of them in my lifetime. It is hard not to give in to their demands when you are the smaller person. But they will never be satisfied until they utterly humiliate you or are taken down themselves. More often than not, their words are just that, empty words meant to intimidate.
One of the BEST things about being God’s child is that I’m not in ANY fight alone. Jesus stands with me. Ahab didn’t have that assurance because of how he was living his life. He was following other gods. But God hadn’t abandoned him, which we shall see next time.
Father God, thank You that I am NEVER alone in any battle that I go through. You surround me! Your rod and staff guide me and Your shield protects me. I shall fear NO evil!