1 Kings 20-21
Syria Attacks Israel
20 King Benhadad of Syria[a] called his army together. He was joined by thirty-two other kings with their horses and chariots, and together they marched to Samaria and attacked. 2 Benhadad sent a messenger to tell King Ahab of Israel, 3 “Ahab, give me your silver and gold, your wives,[b] and your strongest sons!”
4 “Your Majesty,” Ahab replied, “everything I have is yours, including me.”
5 Later, Benhadad sent another messenger to say to Ahab, “I already told you to give me your silver and gold, your wives, and your children. 6 But tomorrow at this time, I will send my officials into your city to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will take everything else that you[c] own.”
7 Ahab called a meeting with the leaders of Israel and said, “Benhadad is causing real trouble. He told me to give him my wives and children, as well as my silver and gold. And I agreed.”
8 “Don’t listen to him!” they answered. “You don’t have to do what he says.”
9 So Ahab sent someone to tell Benhadad, “Your Majesty, I’ll give you my silver and gold, and even my wives and children. But I won’t let you have anything else.”
When Benhadad got his answer, 10 he replied, “I’ll completely destroy Samaria! There won’t even be enough of it left for my soldiers to carry back in their hands. If I don’t do it, I pray that the gods will punish me terribly.”
11 Ahab then answered, “Benhadad, don’t brag before the fighting even begins. Wait and see if you live through it.”
12 Meanwhile, Benhadad and the other kings had been drinking in their tents. But when Ahab’s reply came, he ordered his soldiers to prepare to attack Samaria, and they all got ready.
13 At that very moment, a prophet ran up to Ahab and said, “You can see that Benhadad’s army is very strong. But the Lord has promised to help you defeat them today. Then you will know that the Lord is in control.”
14 “Who will fight the battle?” Ahab asked.
The prophet answered, “The young bodyguards who serve the district officials.”
“But who will lead them into battle?” Ahab asked.
“You will!” the prophet replied.
15 So Ahab called together the two hundred thirty-two young soldiers and the seven thousand troops in Israel’s army, and he got them ready to fight the Syrians.
Israel Defeats the Syrians
16-17 At noon, King Ahab and his Israelite army marched out of Samaria, with the young soldiers in front.
King Benhadad of Syria and the thirty-two kings with him were drunk when the scouts he had sent out ran up to his tent, shouting, “We just now saw soldiers marching out of Samaria!”
18 “Take them alive!” Benhadad ordered. “I don’t care if they have come out to fight or to surrender.”
19 The young soldiers led Israel’s troops into battle, 20 and each of them attacked and killed an enemy soldier. The rest of the Syrian army turned and ran, and the Israelites went after them. Benhadad and some others escaped on horses, 21 but Ahab and his soldiers followed them and captured[d] their horses and chariots.
Ahab and Israel’s army crushed the Syrians.
22 Later, the prophet[e] went back and warned Ahab, “Benhadad will attack you again next spring. Build up your troops and make sure you have some good plans.”
Syria Attacks Israel Again
23 Meanwhile, Benhadad’s officials went to him and explained:
Israel’s gods are mountain gods. We fought Israel’s army in the hills, and that’s why they defeated us. But if we fight them on flat land, there’s no way we can lose.
24 Here’s what you should do. First, get rid of those thirty-two kings and put army commanders in their places. 25 Then get more soldiers, horses, and chariots, so your army will be as strong as it was before. We’ll fight Israel’s army on flat land and wipe them out.
Benhadad agreed and did what they suggested.
26 In the spring, Benhadad got his army together, and they marched to the town of Aphek to attack Israel. 27 The Israelites also prepared to fight. They marched out to meet the Syrians, and the two armies camped across from each other. The Syrians covered the whole area, but the Israelites looked like two little flocks of goats.
28 The prophet went to Ahab and said, “The Syrians think the Lord is a god of the hills and not of the valleys. So he has promised to help you defeat their powerful army. Then you will know that the Lord is in control.”
29 For seven days the two armies stayed in their camps, facing each other. Then on the seventh day the fighting broke out, and before sunset the Israelites had killed one hundred thousand Syrian troops. 30 The rest of the Syrian army ran back to Aphek, but the town wall fell and crushed twenty-seven thousand of them.
Benhadad also escaped to Aphek and hid in the back room of a house. 31 His officials said, “Your Majesty, we’ve heard that Israel’s kings keep their agreements. We will wrap sackcloth around our waists, put ropes around our heads, and ask Ahab to let you live.”
32 They dressed in sackcloth and put ropes on their heads, then they went to Ahab and said, “Your servant Benhadad asks you to let him live.”
“Is he still alive?” Ahab asked. “Benhadad is like a brother to me.”
33 Benhadad’s officials were trying to figure out what Ahab was thinking, and when he said “brother,” they quickly replied, “You’re right! You and Benhadad are like brothers.”
“Go get him,” Ahab said.
When Benhadad came out, Ahab had him climb up into his chariot.
34 Benhadad said, “I’ll give back the towns my father took from your father. And you can have shops in Damascus, just as my father had in Samaria.”
Ahab replied, “If you do these things, I’ll let you go free.” Then they signed a peace treaty, and Ahab let Benhadad go.
A Prophet Condemns Ahab
35 About this time the Lord commanded a prophet to say to a friend, “Hit me!” But the friend refused, 36 and the prophet told him, “You disobeyed the Lord, and as soon as you walk away, a lion will kill you.” The friend left, and suddenly a lion killed him.
37 The prophet found someone else and said, “Hit me!” So this man beat him up.
38 The prophet left and put a bandage over his face to disguise himself. Then he went and stood beside the road, waiting for Ahab to pass by.
39 When Ahab went by, the prophet shouted, “Your Majesty, right in the heat of battle, someone brought a prisoner to me and told me to guard him. He said if the prisoner got away, I would either be killed or forced to pay seventy-five pounds of silver. 40 But I got busy doing other things, and the prisoner escaped.”
Ahab answered, “You will be punished just as you have said.”
41 The man quickly tore the bandage off his face, and Ahab saw that he was one of the prophets. 42 The prophet said, “The Lord told you to kill Benhadad, but you let him go. Now you will die in his place, and your people will die in place of his people.”
43 Ahab went back to Samaria, angry and depressed.
Jezebel Has Naboth Killed
21 Naboth owned a vineyard in Jezreel near King Ahab’s palace.
2 One day, Ahab said, “Naboth, your vineyard is near my palace. Give it to me so I can turn it into a vegetable garden. I’ll give you a better vineyard or pay whatever you want for yours.”
3 Naboth answered, “This vineyard has always been in my family. I won’t let you have it.”
4 So Ahab went home, angry and depressed because of what Naboth had told him. He lay on his bed, just staring at the wall and refusing to eat a thing.
5 Jezebel his wife came in and asked, “What’s wrong? Why won’t you eat?”
6 “I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or to let me give him a better one,” Ahab replied. “And he told me I couldn’t have it.”
7 “Aren’t you the king of Israel?” Jezebel asked. “Get out of bed and eat something! Don’t worry, I’ll get Naboth’s vineyard for you.”
8-10 Jezebel wrote a letter to each of the leaders of the town where Naboth lived. In the letters she said:
Call everyone together and tell them to go without eating[f] today. When they come together, give Naboth a seat at the front. Have two liars sit across from him and swear that Naboth has cursed God and the king. Then take Naboth outside and stone him to death!
She signed Ahab’s name to the letters and sealed them with his seal. Then she sent them to the town leaders.
11 After receiving her letters, they did exactly what she had asked. 12 They told the people that it was a day to go without eating, and when they all came together, they seated Naboth at the front. 13 The two liars came in and sat across from Naboth. Then they accused him of cursing God and the king, so the people dragged Naboth outside and stoned him to death.
14 The leaders of Jezreel sent a message back to Jezebel that said, “Naboth is dead.”
15 As soon as Jezebel got their message, she told Ahab, “Now you can have the vineyard Naboth refused to sell. He’s dead.” 16 Ahab got up and went to take over the vineyard.
Elijah Condemns Ahab
17 The Lord said to Elijah the prophet, 18 “King Ahab of Israel is in Naboth’s vineyard right now, taking it over. 19 Go tell him that I say, ‘Ahab, you murdered Naboth and took his property. And so, in the very spot where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, they will lick up your blood.’”
When Elijah found him, 20 Ahab said, “So, my enemy, you found me at last.”
Yes, I did! Ahab, you have managed to do everything the Lord hates. 21 Now you will be punished. You and every man and boy in your family will die, whether slave or free. 22 Your whole family will be wiped out, just like the families of King Jeroboam and King Baasha. You’ve made the Lord very angry by sinning and causing the Israelites to sin.
23 And as for Jezebel, dogs will eat her body there in Jezreel. 24 Dogs will also eat the bodies of your relatives who die in town, and vultures will eat the bodies of those who die in the country.
25-29 When Ahab heard this, he tore his clothes and wore sackcloth day and night. He was depressed and refused to eat.
Some time later, the Lord said, “Elijah, do you see how sorry Ahab is for what he did? I won’t punish his family while he is still alive. I’ll wait until his son is king.”
No one was more determined than Ahab to disobey the Lord. And Jezebel encouraged him. Worst of all, he had worshiped idols, just as the Amorites[g] had done before the Lord forced them out of the land and gave it to Israel.
- 20.1 King Benhadad of Syria: This is probably not the same Benhadad mentioned in 15.18-21.
- 20.3 wives: Having more than one wife was allowed in those times.
- 20.6 you: Hebrew; three ancient translations “they.”
- 20.21 captured: One ancient translation; Hebrew “attacked.”
- 20.22 the prophet: See verse 13.
- 21.8-10 to go without eating: People sometimes came together to worship and to go without eating to show that they were sorry for their sins.
- 21.25-29 Amorites: A name sometimes used of the people who lived in Palestine before the Israelites.
24 God’s message kept spreading. 25 And after Barnabas and Saul had done the work they were sent to do, they went back to Jerusalem[a] with John, whose other name was Mark.
Barnabas and Saul Are Chosen and Sent
13 The church at Antioch had several prophets and teachers. They were Barnabas, Simeon, also called Niger, Lucius from Cyrene, Manaen, who was Herod’s[b] close friend, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and going without eating,[c] the Holy Spirit told them, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have chosen them.” 3 Everyone prayed and went without eating for a while longer. Next, they placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul to show that they had been appointed to do this work. Then everyone sent them on their way.
Barnabas and Saul in Cyprus
4 After Barnabas and Saul had been sent by the Holy Spirit, they went to Seleucia. From there they sailed to the island of Cyprus. 5 They arrived at Salamis and began to preach God’s message in the Jewish meeting places. They also had John[d] as a helper.
6 Barnabas and Saul went all the way to the city of Paphos on the other end of the island, where they met a Jewish man named Bar-Jesus. He practiced witchcraft and was a false prophet. 7 He also worked for Sergius Paulus, who was very smart and was the governor of the island. Sergius Paulus wanted to hear God’s message, and he sent for Barnabas and Saul. 8 But Bar-Jesus, whose other name was Elymas, was against them. He even tried to keep the governor from having faith in the Lord.
9 Then Saul, better known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit. He looked straight at Elymas 10 and said, “You son of the devil! You are a liar, a crook, and an enemy of everything that is right. When will you stop speaking against the true ways of the Lord? 11 The Lord is going to punish you by making you completely blind for a while.”
Suddenly the man’s eyes were covered by a dark mist, and he went around trying to get someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the governor saw what had happened, he was amazed at this teaching about the Lord. So he put his faith in the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia
13 Paul and the others left Paphos and sailed to Perga in Pamphylia. But John[e] left them and went back to Jerusalem. 14 The rest of them went on from Perga to Antioch in Pisidia. Then on the Sabbath they went to the Jewish meeting place and sat down.
15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets,[f] the leaders sent someone over to tell Paul and Barnabas, “Friends, if you have anything to say that will help the people, please say it.”
- 12.25 went back to Jerusalem: Some manuscripts have “left Jerusalem,” and others have “went to Antioch.”
- 13.1 Herod’s: Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great.
- 13.2 going without eating: The Jews often went without eating as a way of showing how much they loved God. This is also called “fasting.”
- 13.5,13 John: Whose other name was Mark (see 12.12,25).
- 13.5,13 John: Whose other name was Mark (see 12.12,25).
- 13.15 the Law and the Prophets: The Jewish Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.
A Prayer for Revenge
137 Beside the rivers of Babylon
we thought about Jerusalem,
and we sat down and cried.
2 We hung our small harps
on the willow[a] trees.
3 Our enemies had brought us here
as their prisoners,
and now they wanted us to sing
and entertain them.
They insulted us and shouted,
“Sing about Zion!”
4 Here in a foreign land,
how can we sing
about the Lord?
5 Jerusalem, if I forget you,
let my right hand go limp.
6 Let my tongue stick
to the roof of my mouth,
if I don’t think about you
above all else.
7 Our Lord, punish the Edomites!
Because the day Jerusalem fell,
“Completely destroy the city!
Tear down every building!”
8 Babylon, you are doomed!
I pray the Lord’s blessings
on anyone who punishes you
for what you did to us.
9 May the Lord bless everyone
who beats your children
against the rocks!
- 137.2 willow: Or “poplar.”
16 Why should fools have money
for an education
when they refuse to learn?