1 Kings 20:1-43

Daybreak for Students

1 Kings 20:1-43

1 Kings 20
And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the Lord, 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. — 1 Kings 20:28

One night, not long after starting work on a new shift, I began conversing with a co-worker who appeared to be knowledgeable about nearly everything. He was able to explain many topics with ease. The things we talked about were fascinating, and I was amazed by what I was learning.

Soon our discussion worked its way around to religion and God’s Word. He began to tell me how he had spent a year studying the Bible in a cottage out in the woods somewhere — just him, nature, and the Bible. He was very confident in his ability to expound upon the Scriptures and their meaning. Then it happened — he told me that he did not believe in the Trinity or any of the writings of Paul the Apostle. He proceeded to give me many “solid” reasons why he thought these portions of the Bible were wrong.

While my co-worker was quite confident about what he was saying, he was evidencing the fact that he had no real understanding of the things of God. Similarly, the Syrians in today’s text thought they had it all figured out. They were confident that they had the numbers, the strategy, and the skill to utterly defeat the Israelites, and made a judgment call that the Israelites’ God could work in the hills but not in the valleys. They supposed that victory would be theirs if they just moved the place of battle. How wrong they were! God was about to demonstrate in a most vivid way that He was not restricted to the hills as the Syrians had surmised. The wisdom of the Syrians came to naught, and the Lord proved His arm strong on behalf of His children. The sovereign God of all creation was fighting for Israel!

Every day our world finds new reasons why our faith is outdated, ineffective, or irrelevant, offering new ideas that challenge the very foundation on which we stand. Sometimes it is hard not to get angry over the blatant irreverence for God’s Word, or confused by the “eloquence” that is used. However, we can rest in the fact that God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. Ultimately, we don’t have to defend Him. The Creator of the universe is quite capable of defending Himself! God’s power will be fully revealed some day, and then those who doubted His existence or denied His Word will realize how tragically wrong they were. What an assurance is ours!


Having had two evil and two good kings, Judah wavered between following God and turning idolatrous. The northern kingdom of Israel, however, had eight wicked kings in succession.To punish both kingdoms for departing from Him, God allowed other nations to gain strength and fight against them. Three main enemies threatened Israel and Judah during the next two centuries: Syria, Assyria, and Babylon. In today’s text, Syria, the first to rise to power, was the immediate threat to Ahab and Israel.

The land of Israel had just been through a time of drought and was in a weakened state. Benhadad, King of Syria, decided to take advantage of this and secure Israel as his kingdom. His demands in verse 3 may indicate that Israel was already somewhat subservient to Syria when the events in this chapter occur.

Opinions differ as to whether the Benhadad in this chapter is the Benhadad in 1 Kings 15. There were three Syrian kings with this name. This Benhadad is believed by most commentators to be the second.

A prophet came to Ahab, king of Israel, with important news about how to handle the Syrian army. When Ahab followed the instructions from the Lord, the Syrians were delivered into the hands of Ahab and the Israelites.

Ahab appears to have been affected by the outcome of Elijah’s “God contest” (1 Kings 18), because he began to make good decisions about following the Lord’s commands. Twice, he did what the prophets told him and the Lord won the victories for them. Then, true to his history, he made a very poor decision and let Benhadad go, contrary to God’s will. Ahab followed his pride and greed instead of the Lord.

Since the time of Joshua, Israel’s soldiers had proved to be superior fighters in the hills, but ineffective in the plains because they did not use chariots in battle. Horse-drawn chariots, which were useless in hilly territory, could easily overtake great numbers of foot soldiers on level ground. What Benhadad’s soldiers did not understand was that it was God, not the chariots, that made the difference in the battle.


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel
     K.   The reign of Ahab of Israel
           3.   The conflict between Ahab and Benhadad (20:1-43)
                 a.   Benhadad’s attack of Samaria (20:1-21)
                       (1)   Benhadad’s demands (20:1-6)
                       (2)   Ahab’s refusal of the demands (20:7-12)
                       (3)   A prophet’s promise of deliverance (20:13-15)
                       (4)   Ahab’s rout of the Syrians (20:16-21)
                 b.   Benhadad’s defeat at Aphek (20:22-43)
                       (1)   The prophet’s prediction of Benhadad’s return (20:22-25)
                       (2)   Ahab’s victory at Aphek (20:26-30)
                       (3)   Ahab’s release of Benhadad (20:31-34)
                       (4)   Ahab’s actions condemned (20:35-43)


  1. What did Benhadad pledge to Ahab when Ahab refused to give him Israel?

  2. If Ahab had killed Benhadad, what do you think would have been the future of Israel?

  3. How can you make sure that your “defense” is secure?


We serve an almighty, invincible, and eternal God. Someday those who deny His Word or His power will realize the truth about Him!