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THE DEFEAT OF THE SYRIANS.
BENHADAD, King of Syria, had been led by Asa to take his side and fight against Baasha; and ever since that the Syrians were enemies to Israel. Benhadad now gathered together a large army-thirty-two kings, or princes of the land, were with him, and a mighty host of chariots and horses. With all these Benhadad came up to Samaria, and besieged it. He sent an insolent message to King Ahab, saying,
Thy silver and gold is mine ; thy wives also. and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine.” Ahab hoped to soothe the wrath of this powerful king, so he sent back a humble answer, saying, “My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine and all that I have." So far, however, from being satisfied, Ahab's timid submission only made Benhadad bolder in his insolence. His messengers speedily came back, saying, that besides taking all Ahab's silver and gold, wives and children, his. Syrian servants should come and search the palace and all the place, and take away whatsoever they would.
Ahab's anger was stirred by this fresh demand, and with the advice of his elders, he
sent back a refusal. Then Benhadad sent a boastful defiance, to which Ahab answered, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.” This message reached the King of Syria while he was drinking himself drunk in his tents with the princes that were of his company. He gave orders for immediate battle. Meanwhile the LORD sent a prophet to tell Ahab that He would deliver the Syrians into his hand ; and it was so that Benhadad could only escape
with difficulty in the slaughter.
But God warned Ahab by His prophet that the Syrians would come upon him again the next year. Even so it came to pass. The Syrians said that Israel's God was LORD of the hills, but that if they fought in the valleys, He could not save His people. So they kept in the low country, and filled it with their countless hosts. Israel was pitched before them like two little flocks of kids. The LORD sent a message this time also to Ahab, saying, "Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord."
On the seventh day the two armies came to battle, and the children of Israel slew a hundred thousand Syrians; the rest fled to Aphek, and there a wall fell upon twenty-seven thousand more, and killed them. Benhadad hid himself, but he let some of his servants go to the King of Israel, and plead for his life. They came to Ahab wearing sackcloth, and with ropes on their necks, and made petition for the King of Syria's life. Now God had desired Ahab to destroy Benhadad, so that when Ahab made a covenant with him, and spared his life, it displeased the LORD greatly. And the LORD sent one of His prophets in disguise, who professed to be an Israelitish soldier. He told the king that a prisoner had been committed to his charge, life for life, but that he had let the man escape. What was to be done to him ? King Ahab gave judgment against him, and then the prophet told him how he had been speaking in a parable, and said, “Thus saith the LORD; Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people.”
Although Ahab was an idolater, he must have been conscious that the only Powerful
GOD was the God of Israel, after the many proofs he had seen; and now, though he was not moved to do better, and seek to win the Lord's favour, he trembled under fear of His wrath, and went back to Samaria, heavy and displeased in spite of his great victory and triumph over the Syrians.
“There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."
DEEPER and deeper the wretched King of Israel went on plunging into guilt and sin; urged forward in all his iniquities by his wicked
Close to the royal palace at Jezreel lay the vineyard of one Naboth, and Ahab coveted it for a garden of herbs. He began fairly enough, by offering to buy it, or to give Naboth a better vineyard elsewhere in exchange. But the Law of Moses forbade the Israelites to sell their inheritances, and Naboth refused to disobey this law. Ahab does not seem at first to have thought of taking what he coveted by violence; but he gave way to a peevish anger at his dis
appointment. He came home heavy and displeased; he would not eat, but lay down upon his bed, and turned away his face in sullen vexation.
Surely, if there be one sin more fearful and odious than another, it is when any person wilfully tempts and leads on their brother to wickedness, perilling two souls at once. But we know that, to those who do not resist the beginnings of evil, Satan is ever ready to send such tempters, from the day that he tempted Eve until this present moment. So now, while Ahab brooded over the disappointment of his covetous desires, his constant temptress Jezebel was ready at his side. She taunted him for fretting at such an unfulfilled wish, he, the king of Israel ! and bade him rise up, eat and be merry; for she would deliver Naboth's vineyard into his hand. Again we see the weakness of Ahab, for he must have known very well that Jezebel could only do this by foul means; yet he suffered her to take his royal seal, and use it as an authority to the letters which she wrote in his name. Without a moment's doubt or fear the wicked queen wrote orders that a fast be proclaimed, and Naboth set forth as a prisoner. She went on to direct