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Thus again, in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul refers to these seven thousand as showing that, however evil the times, God is never without a holy remnant whom He has chosen to Himself; and thus we need never fear to be utterly alone and friendless.
In effect, Elijah only actually called Elisha as he was ploughing in his field in the Jordan valley. He must have been a rich man, since he had twelve yoke of oxen together at plough ; but when the wild-looking wanderer from the desert cast his coarse hairy mantle on him, he was ready to leave all and follow the call of God. He made a solemn feast of sacrifice to his family and servants, and gave up everything, feeling, as he said later in life, that this was no time for planting and building, caring for vineyards and oliveyards, when each good man had to strive to the utmost for his God. So Elisha, the wealthy landowner, went forth into the wilderness with the rough man of the desert, and ministered unto him, not knowing whither he went.
THE SYRIAN INVASION.
· B.C. 901.-1 KINGS xx. 1--21. And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together : and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots : and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.
And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Ben-hadad,
Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine.
And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have.
And the messengers came again and said, Thus speaketh Ben-hadad, saying, Although I have sent unto thee, saying, Thou shalt deliver me thy silver, and thy gold, and thy wives, and thy children ;
Yet I will send my servants unto thee to-morrow about this time, and they shall search thine house, and the houses of thy servants; and it shall be, that whatsoever is pleasant in thine eyes, they shall put it in their hand, and take it away. '
Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land, and said, Mark, I pray you, and see how this man seeketh mischief : for he sent unto me for my wives, and for my children, and for my silver, and for my gold; and I denied him not.
And all the elders and all the people said unto him, Hearken not unto him, nor consent.
Wherefore he said unto the messengers of Ben-hadad, Tell my lord the king, All that thou didst send for to thy servant at the first I will do : but this thing I may not do. And the messengers departed, and brought him word again.
And Ben-hadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.
And the king of Israel answered and said, Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness * boast himself as he that putteth it off.
And it came to pass, when Ben-hadad heard this message, as he was drinking, he and the kings in the pavilions, + that he said unto his servants, Set yourselves in array. And they set themselves in array against the city.
And, behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? And he answered, Thou.
Then he numbered the young men of the princes of the provinces, and they were two hundred and thirty-two : and after them he numbered all the people, even all the children of Israel, being seven thousand,
And they went out at noon. But Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings, the thirty and two kings that helped him.
And the young men of the princes of the provinces went out first; and Ben-hadad sent out, and they told him, saying, There are men come out of Samaria.
And he said, Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive ; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive.
So these young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed them.
And they slew every one his man : and the Syrians fled ; and Israel pursued them : and Ben-hadad the king of Syria escaped on an horse with the horsemen.
And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.
COMMENT. After the fire, a still small voice. The judgment had had its course ; now God was about to grant a signal deliverance in mercy. Would this reclaim Israel ? The appointing of Hazael as the avenger must have sounded strange to Elijah, for the * Armour.
+ Bowers of branches.
reigning dynasty in Syria were always called Benhadad, and one of these, coming forth with a mighty force of chariots and horses, besieged Omri's new capital of Samaria, and called on Ahab to deliver up to him a contribution of gold, silver, and slaves, out of his own family and household. To this Ahab would have submitted ; but a still more insolent message followed, the Syrians claiming to help themselves to whatever they pleased throughout Israel. This goaded Ahab into resistance. He seems to have been one of the indolent princes who frequently grow up in Eastern palaces-not actively wicked nor enterprising, but fairly brave when stirred up, and in general only too ready to let others act for them. This last insult roused him : he sent a defiance, and when Benhadad threatened him again, he returned a dignified, proverbial answer, “ Let not him who is putting on his armour boast himself like him who putteth it off : "-wait till the battle is over before you settle what to do to the vanquished. Benhadad was before Samaria, drinking himself drunk in an arbour made with green boughs, when he received this answer. He bade the army be drawn out in order of battle. Meanwhile a prophet had come to Ahab, promising him deliverance from all this great multitude. Through whom ? he asked. Then he was answered, through the young men, namely the armour-bearers of the chiefs of his provinces. There were about two hundred and thirty of these youths, and the great disproportion of their numbers with the huge Syrian host would be a signal proof that victory to them must come from the God of battles.
They went forth first, and behind them went the army of Israel, reduced by terror and distress to only seven thousand. When Benhadad, who was feasting with his thirty-two tributary kings, heard that the Israelites were coming forth, he bade them be surrounded and taken alive; but at their advance the mighty Syrian army was utterly defeated, and Benhadad himself was forced to flee on horseback at his utmost speed. Surely this might again teach Israel that the Lord He is the God, the Lord He is the God!
And the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said unto him, Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest : for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come up against thee.
And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.
And do this thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place, and put captains in their rooms :
And number thee an army, like the army that thou hast lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot : and we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. And he hearkened unto their voice, and did so.
And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Ben-hadad numbered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel.
And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, and went against them : and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids ; but the Syrians filled the country.
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.
And they pitched one over against the other seven days. And so it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined: and the children of Israel slew of the Syrians an hundred thousand footmen in one day.
But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and there a wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left. And Ben-hadad fled, and came into the city, into an inner chamber.
And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings : let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life.
So they girded sackcloth on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said, Thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live. And he said, Is he yet alive? he is my brother.
Now the men did diligently observe whether any thing would come from him, and did hastily catch it: and they said, Thy brother Ben-hadad. Then he said, Go ye, bring him. Then Ben-hadad came forth to him ; and he caused him to come up into the chariot.
And Ben-hadad said unto him, The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will restore ; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria. Then said Ahab, I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with him, and sent hin away.
And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.
Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him, and slew him.
Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him.
So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face.
And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king : and he said, Thy servant went out into ihe midst of the battle ; and, behold, a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man : if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver.
And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it.
And he hasted, and took the ashes away from his face; and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets.
And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people.
And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.
COMMENT.—The great notion of the old heathen world was, that every nation had its own patron-god, and that each god fought for his own people. The other nations did not disbelieve that the Lord JEHOVAH existed, but they thought Him the God merely of the Israelites ; and in Jezebel's case she regarded it as a handto-hand fight between Him and Baal for the possession of Israel. But in spite of Elijah's despondency it is plain that, after the great challenge on Mount Carmel, the people, and Ahab himself, were less devoted to the new worship than before, and Ahab listened to the prophet who bade him prepare for another attack from the Syrians next year. The Syrians fancied that the power of the gods of Israel was in the hills, and therefore chose to fight in the plains, and lest there should have been treachery in the thirty-two tributary kings, all the commands were given to native