I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.
Today, I am reading and commenting on 1 Kings 20-22.
The story of Ben-hadad is a perfect example of the dangers of overreach. Ahab was willing to meet his initial demands of tribute to give up his siege of Samaria. When he heard this, Ben-hadad increased his demand. Perhaps because he felt that if Ahab capitulated that easily he would be willing to give up more, or perhaps because he never expected Ahab to meet his first demand and wanted an excuse to attack. In either case, he had overplayed his hand. The whole story reflects the dangers of hubris. Having lost the battle this first time, Ben-hadad decided that he had only lost because God was a god of the hills. This was taking hubris even further. Not only did Ben-hadad underestimate his human opponents, he dismissed God’s ability to act where and when He wanted.
Later, Ahab wanted to retake a town he had lost to Ben-hadad in these wars. When he asked Jehoshaphat to join him in this war, Jehoshaphat asked that they find out what God had to say. In response, Ahab summoned his 400 prophets. The similarity of this number to the number at the contest with Elijah on Mt Carmel suggests that these were prophets of Baal. Jehoshaphat certainly thinks something along that line because he asks for a prophet of God.* Ahab does not want to summon the prophet because Ahab never wants to abide by what he prophesies. Jehoshaphat tells Ahab that such a response is not how a king should act. After all of this, despite the prophet of God prophesying that Ahab would die if he went to this war, Ahab and Jehoshaphat go. Ahab thinks he knows how to “beat” God’s prophecy by going into battle dressed as a common soldier. By doing so, he avoids the attacks targeted for him as king, but falls victim to a random shot taken at the troops.
When I started the above paragraph I really meant for it to connect to the story of Ben-hadad from the first paragraph, but it just did not work out that way. My point was that in both stories, the king, Ben-hadad and then Ahab, thought he could go against God and win.
Now I want to go back and look at the middle of today’s passage. When Elijah confronted Ahab about what Jezebel had done to Naboth in Ahab’s name, which Ahab had been happy to take advantage of to get what he wanted, Ahab called Elijah his enemy. Previously, Ahab had called Elijah a troublemaker. In both cases this is an example of “blaming the messenger”. It was Ahab who had sinned and Elijah was delivering God’s message. Despite his initial dismissive reaction to Elijah, Ahab was repentant and humble upon hearing Elijah’s message. It was a start, but being sorry and mourning for having done wrong is not sufficient. Ahab refused to change his ways and turn from his idolatry. How often do we behave similarly?
*I want to note that every time I can think of when God sends a message through a prophet that prophet appears as a single individual, not as part of a group of prophets.