Sunday, August 8, 2010

1 Kings, Chapter 20

War and death. Death and war.

Benhadad, king of Syria, makes war on Samaria. He sends Ahab a taunting letter, threatening to take away his wives and gold. Ahab is sufficiently intimidated that he surrenders his own children. Best father since Abraham! Or Jepthah. Benhadad is a bastard on the scale of David, however, and sends his servants to search the house and make sure they didn't miss anything Ahab likes.

Finally, Ahab calls his advisors together. They tell him to ignore the bully. Yeah, cuz that always works. He tells the servants to go home empty-handed and tell their boss to stop being a bully. Unfortunately, the news reaches Benhadad when he's drinking, and the Dutch courage makes him attack the Israelites. But never fear, yet another prophet tells Ahab that god will help him prevail.

Ahab drafts an army of 7000, which is still pretty high, about the same size as modern-day Latvia, but a real let-down compared to the millions in Numbers. The head for Syria, where Benhadad is drinking himself into a stupor. He instructs his scouts to take them hostage. They slay his entire army, though he manages to escape on a horse, which much have been quite the feat considering how drunk he was.

Sadly, this isn't enough, as the prophet returns and predicts that the Syrians will be back by the end of the year. The Syrian captives say they expected to win because the Israelite god is a hill god and theirs are plains gods, so they figured if they fought in the plains, they'd win. That is some shitty logic, there. They advise him to replace his noblemen with seasoned officers (exceptionally good advice that would not be followed again for centuries) and replace his army.

Sure enough, Benhadad attacks again. This time the Israelites only have to camp to drive them home. A prophet informs Ahab that the Syrians are now being told that the Israelite god works in the mountains, but not in the valleys. Silly Syrians. A hundred thousand of them die in just one day. The survivors flee into the city of Aphek, where a wall falls down and crushes 27 000 people. Benhadad escapes yet again. His officers beg him to surrender. He agrees and they go. Their captors ask for Benhadad.

Benhadad comes out all contrite and promises to restore the Israelites' territories to them.

Somewhere, in a complete non-sequitur a prophet asks his neighbour to smite him. The neighbour refuses, like any sane person, and is killed by a lion. Remember that the next time your crazy neighbour asks you to do that. The same prophet goes to another man and asks him to smite him. This one is more willing, because of the lion, and injures him. Then the prophet goes along to Ahab with ashes on his face. He hails the king, saying he was in the battle when someone handed him a captive and told him to look after him or he'd have to pay some silver as a penalty. But with this that and the other, the man managed to escape. Ahab tells him to pay the money. He wipes his face and Ahab recognizes him. He informs Ahab that he's going to be killed for letting Benhadad go back there. The king leaves for Samaria, displeased.

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