Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Ever wonder about this?

I've been reading through Samuel–Kings lately. I love that section of the Old Testament; when I was a kid, I used to sit in church on Sunday mornings and read through it in my trusty RSV. But, as I was reading the other day, this struck me as strange. In 1 Kings 20:12, Ben-Hadad is drinking and he orders his men to get ready to attack—so they do. But, a bit later, they are still drinking! The commentaries I consulted don't say anything about it. Well, that's not quite true, one said that because Ahab didn't attack until around noon, they would be good and drunk. But that doesn't answer the question! Another one commented that we have Assyrian reliefs depicting drinking scenes like this. Again, it ignores the issue of why they are drinking in the first place. Here's the text:
Ben–Hadad heard this message while he and the kings were drinking in their tents, and he ordered his men: “Prepare to attack.” So they prepared to attack the city.

Meanwhile a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

“But who will do this?” asked Ahab.

The prophet replied, “This is what the LORD says: ‘The junior officers under the provincial commanders will do it.’”

“And who will start the battle?” he asked.

The prophet answered, “You will.”

So Ahab summoned the 232 junior officers under the provincial commanders. Then he assembled the rest of the Israelites,7,000 in all. They set out at noon while Ben–Hadad and the 32 kings allied with him were in their tents getting drunk. The junior officers under the provincial commanders went out first.

Now Ben–Hadad had dispatched scouts, who reported, “Men are advancing from Samaria.”

He said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive; if they have come out for war, take them alive.”

The junior officers under the provincial commanders marched out of the city with the army behind them and each one struck down his opponent. At that, the Arameans fled, with the Israelites in pursuit. But Ben–Hadad king of Aram escaped on horseback with some of his horsemen. The king of Israel advanced and overpowered the horses and chariots and inflicted heavy losses on the Arameans. 1 Kings 20:12–21 TNIV

<idle musing>
So, here's my extremely tentative answer...Ben-Hadad checked the omens—no battle ever took place in the ancient world without checking the omens!—and the omens were good. In fact, they were so good that they decided to celebrate before the battle. Why else would Ben-Hadad be so hubristic as to tell his soldiers to take the attackers alive?

So, what do you think? Am I off the wall? Just an
</idle musing>

No comments: