Following the Israelites’ declaration that “the LORD, he is God” and the slaughter of all the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:39-40), Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, attacked king Ahab’s capital city of Samaria. At the time, Israel’s army consisted of 7000 soldiers led by 232 “young men of the princes of the provinces” (1 Kings 20:15). The exact size of the Syrian army is unknown, but it says in 1 Kings 20:21 that the king of Israel “slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.”
The following year, the king of Syria decided to try again and came against the Israelites with an army the same size he had the previous year. It says in 1 Kings 20:27 that “the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country.” On the seventh day of the battle, “the children of Israel slew of the Syrians an hundred thousand footmen in one day” (1 Kings 20:29).
King Ahab’s defeat of the Syrians was a miraculous deliverance by God designed to increase Ahab’s dependence on the LORD (1 Kings 20:28). Ahab demonstrated obedience during the first battle when he was instructed to fight rather than surrender to king Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:14). During the second battle, Ahab’s courage increased and he was able to endure a six-day standoff in which the Syrian army flowed into the Jordan Valley and covered the land like locusts overtaking a vineyard.
In spite of God’s deliverance, Ahab’s heart remained divided. When he had the opportunity to capture and kill Ben-hadad, Ahab chose to make a covenant with his enemy (1 Kings 20:34). Ahab was not willing to stand alone. He was too wrapped up in the world around him to disassociate himself from his secular way of life. One of the chief signs that king Ahab could not stand on his own two feet was his treatment of Ben-hadad after God annihilated his army. At a time when Ahab should have cut himself off from the king of Syria, Ahab chose instead to become his business partner.