May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely…

Then Ben-Hadad sent another message to Ahab, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dust remains in Samaria to give each of my men a handful.”  The king of Israel answered, “Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.'”  Ben-Hadad heard this message while he and the kings were drinking in their tents, and he ordered his men: “Prepare to attack.” So they prepared to attack the city. (1 Kings 20:10-12, NIV)

Can’t you just see it? The messenger running back to Ben-Hadad as he drinks wine from a goblet — he hears the king of Israel’s reply, and spewing out wine onto the ground, he bangs the goblet down on the table and barks, “Prepare to attack”!

Remember that last time we saw Ben-Hadad change his tune from “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine’” in 1 Kings 20:3 (NIV) to “Your servant Ben-Hadad says: ‘Please let me live’” 29 verses later.  This is between those two messages — before that humbling from the Lord.

Escalating Messages

When Ben-Hadad sent his original demand, Ahab had answered meekly: “Just as you say, my lord the king.  I and all I have are yours” (v. 4).  But Ben-Hadad isn’t satisfied with this.  He sends another message.

The messengers came again and said, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘I sent to demand your silver and your gold, your wives and your children.  But about this time tomorrow I am going to send my officials to search your palace and the houses of your officials.  They will seize everything you value and carry it away'” (vv. 5-6).

This gets Ahab and the elders of the Northern Kingdom riled up, and they say “No” to this second set of demands, but still in a meek way:

Tell my lord the king, ‘Your servant will do all you demanded the first time, but this demand I cannot meet.’ (v.9)

This is where Ben-Hadad sends back that great quote we started with.

Can’t you see those messengers running back and forth between the king of Aram and the king of Israel?  Imagine that last trip as they carry the message back to Ben-Hadad — they must have known there would be fireworks!

In the end, God gives Israel a spectacular victory over Ben-Hadad (though surely not because of Ahab’s righteousness before the Lord!)  Isn’t our God a great and gracious God, who delivers us though we’re evil and who uses even the foolishness of pagan kings to bring glory to his Name?

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