1 Kings 20

Aramean Conflict


Then Ben-hadad the king of Aram gathered together all his army (1 Kings 20:1).

From 853 to 845 BC, Ben-hadad led a twelve-king coalition that opposed Shalmaneser III’s incursion into the southern Levant. The most well-known of these battles was the Battle of Qarqar (853 BC), which is recorded on the Kurkh Stele. This stele also mentions the participation of “Ahab the Israelite.” According to the Black Obelisk, Ben-hadad also headed a similar coalition in 849, 848, and (probably) 845 BC against Shalmaneser III. This stele was photographed at the British Museum.

Siege of Samaria

And he besieged Samaria and fought against it (1 Kings 20:1).

Samaria had been founded as a new city, and the capital of the nation of Israel, by the father of Ahab, Omri (1 Kgs 16:24). It is easily defended because of its height and isolation from the surrounding hills. Samaria was the capital of Israel until it was conquered by the Assyrians in 723 BC. However, it is thought that the city continued to be occupied during the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian periods, and it reached the peak of its greatness and splendor during the Roman period.


Thus says Ben-hadad, “You shall give me your silver, gold, your wives, and your children” (1 Kings 20:5).

Coinage had not yet been invented in the Iron Age, and silver was traded by weight. It was often kept and exchanged in small pieces that could be easily sorted to produce the necessary amount. Silver in this form is sometimes referred to as hacksilver. Based on chemical analysis, the silver in this hoard is thought to have come from Sardinia and Anatolia, even though it was discovered at Tel Dor on the Mediterranean coast of Israel.

The Battle of Aphek

In the spring, Ben-hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight Israel (1 Kings 20:26).

The Aphek mentioned here should not be confused with the better-known Aphek located at the headwaters of the Yarkon River in Philistine territory (1 Sam 4:1; 29:1). Eusebius states that there was a “large village called Apheka of the town of Hippos” (Onom 22.6). Hippos is located at Qal‘at el-Husn (the prominent hill on the right side) and the nearby site of Fiq seems to preserve the name of Aphek and represent the Roman-Byzantine town of Apheka. In light of the fact that no Iron Age remains were found at Fiq, two proposals have been suggested for identifying Aphek: Khirbet el-‘Asheq and Tel Soreq. Since Khirbet el-‘Asheq seems to be the larger site and was inhabited during the 9th century BC, it seems to be a better candidate for Aphek.

Damascus Markets

You shall set up marketplaces for yourself in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria (1 Kings 20:34).

The word “marketplaces” is often rendered more generically “out/outside;” however, in this context it should probably be understood to refer to streets with open stalls that could be used for commerce. This not only restored trade relations between Israel and Aram but gave the advantage to Israel. This American Colony photo of a horse market in Damascus was taken between 1900 and 1920.

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