The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Third Book of Kings
After this, Benadad king of Syria mustered his whole army, with thirty-two princes at its head, mustered all his horses and chariots, and would take Samaria by siege.
Achab, king of Israel, was within the city;
and to him Benadad sent messengers demanding the surrender of his silver and gold, his wives, too, and all the likeliest of his sons.
My lord king, answered Achab, I accept thy terms; all that I have is at thy disposal.
But now the messengers came back to him with a fresh demand from Benadad, Silver and gold, wives and sons, thou must hand over to me;
and meanwhile, at this time tomorrow, envoys of mine shall visit thee, to search thy palace and thy courtiers’ houses; to these thou must give up all they have a mind to carry away with them.
Thereupon the king of Israel summoned all the elders of his land; Mark well, he said, how craftily this man deals with us; this is my reward for consenting to give up wives and sons, silver and gold, at his demand.
Elders and people had but one thought; there must be no listening to Benadad, no granting his will.
Achab, then, thus answered Benadad’s messengers, Tell my lord the king, I am thy servant, and ready to carry out that first demand of thine; but this I cannot grant.
And he, when the answer was reported to him, sent them back with this message, May the gods punish me as I deserve, and more than I deserve, if I do not beat Samaria to dust! I have more than enough warriors here at my back to carry it away in handfuls.
To that, the king of Israel made reply, Boast he may who ungirds, not he who girds for battle.
This taunt came to the ears of Benadad when he sat drinking with his princes in his royal pavilions. Besiege me the city, he told his men, and besiege it they did.
And now a prophet came with a message from the Lord to Achab, king of Israel: Thou canst see for thyself what a great multitude of warriors is here; over all that multitude I mean to give thee victory this day, and prove to thee that I am the Lord.
Victory? said Achab. And who shall win it for us? Whereupon the prophet gave him this answer from the Lord, It shall be the lackeys the chiefs have brought with them. And when Achab asked who should lead them, he told him, Thou thyself.
So he took count of the lackeys the chiefs had in their retinue, and found there were two hundred and thirty-two of these; then he took count of his army, the whole army of Israel, seven thousand strong.
When it was high noon, they sallied out from the city, while Benadad still drank deep in his pavilion, with the princes that had come to aid him;
and the lackeys marched at their head. Benadad, when his scouts told him that a sally was being made from Samaria,
gave orders that the men should be taken alive, came they out peaceably or for battle.
So on they went, the lackeys in the van, and the rest of the army at their heels,
and none but slew the first enemy he met; so that the Syrians were routed, and Israel went in pursuit of them. Benadad king of Syria escaped on horse-back among his cavalry,
and still horse and chariot fell before the king of Israel’s sally, till he won a great victory over the men of Syria.
But the prophet sought him out again and warned him, Go back and strengthen thy forces; take good heed what thou art doing; in this next year the king of Syria will be marching against thee.
In Syria, the king’s advisers told him, If the Israelites have defeated us, that is because their gods are gods of the hills; best to offer them battle on the low-lying ground, where we shall have them at our mercy.
Meanwhile, something remains to be done; remove the princes, one and all, from their posts, and appoint commanders of thy own in place of them.
Then fill up the gaps in the ranks of thy army, muster as many horses and chariots as thou hadst of old, and we will fight them in the plains; see if we do not get the mastery of them. Benadad was won over by their advice, and took it;
when a year had passed, he marshalled the Syrian forces and led them out to Aphec, where he offered Israel battle.
The men of Israel marshalled their forces too, provided themselves with food for the march and went out to meet the enemy. Where they lay encamped opposite, they seemed like two little herds of goats, while the Syrians swarmed over the country-side.
To the king of Israel God sent out one of his servants with this message: Thus says the Lord, Thinks Syria that I am God of the hills, and not of the valleys too? Over all this great array I will give thee victory; such proof you shall have that I am the Lord.
So, for seven days, the armies stood threatening one another, and on the seventh battle was joined; on that one day the men of Israel routed a hundred thousand Syrians that fought on foot.
Those who survived took refuge in the city of Aphec, where the wall fell on them, twenty-seven thousand in number. As for Benadad, when he made his way into the city he took refuge in an inner room;
and there his courtiers told him, This is the tale we have heard about the kings of Israel, that they are merciful men. Let us put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes on our heads, and give ourselves up to the king of Israel; it may be he will spare our lives.
So, with sackcloth on their loins and ropes on their heads, they betook themselves to the king of Israel; Thy servant Benadad, they told him, pleads for his life. And Achab answered, Lives he yet, he is my brother.
Whereupon, seizing from his lips that word of welcome augury, they cried, Benadad! He is thy brother! So Achab bade them fetch him; and when Benadad came out, would have him mount his own chariot.
And now Benadad promised, I will give thee back the cities my father took from thine, and thou shalt have streets in Damascus, as my father had in Samaria, and I will go home at peace with thee. So Achab made peace with him, and let him go his way.
But now the Lord sent his inspiration to a disciple in the schools of the prophets. He bade one of his fellow disciples strike him a blow, and when he refused,
told him, Thou shalt be punished for disobeying the Lord’s voice thus. Thou shalt be mauled by a lion, said he; and they had barely parted when his fellow disciple met a lion, and was mauled by it.
Meanwhile, his fellow disciple sought out another; Strike me a blow, he asked of him, and strike he did, leaving a wound on him.
So the prophet went out to meet the king on the open road, first smearing his face and eyes with dust;
and as the king passed, he cried out to him, My lord, a word with thee! I was lately in the thick of the battle, and one brought a fugitive to me, bidding me mount guard over him; did he slip through my hands, it was my life for his, or else I must pay a talent of silver.
And then, as I looked this way and that in the press, all at once he was gone. Why then, said the king of Israel, thou must pay the forfeit that was named.
With that, he wiped the dust from his face, so that the king of Israel knew him for one of the prophets;
and he gave him this message from the Lord, And thou, hast thou not let a man worthy of death slip through thy hands? Thy life shall pay for his life, thy people for his people.
A sullen man was the king of Israel and an ill man to cross when he reached his home in Samaria.
The Holy Bible