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1 Kings 20:31 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, we 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.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— 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.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— His servants said to him, “Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings, please let us put sackcloth on our loins and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will save your life.”
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— And his servants said to 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: it may be he will save thy life.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— And his servants said to 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; perhaps he will save thy life.
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— And his servants said unto him, Lo! we pray thee, we have heard, of the kings of the house of Israel, that, kings known for lovingkindness, they are. Let us, we pray thee, put sackcloth upon our loins, and ropes about our head, and let us go forth unto the king of Israel, peradventure he will save alive thy soul.
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— And his servants say unto him, 'Lo, we pray thee, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel—that they are kind kings; let us put, we pray thee, sackcloth on our loins, and ropes on our heads, and we go out unto the king of Israel; it may be he doth keep thee alive.'
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— And his servants said to him: Behold, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful; so let us put sackcloths on our loins, and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: perhaps he will save our lives.
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— And his seruants said vnto him, Behold now, wee haue heard that the kings of the house of Israel are mercifull kings: let vs, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loines, and ropes vpon our heads, and goe out to the king of Israel; peraduenture he will saue thy life.
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— And he said to his servants, I know that the kings of Israel are merciful kings: let us now put sackcloth upon our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and let us go forth to the king of Israel, if by any means he will save our souls alive.
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Yisrael [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 Yisrael: peradventure he will save thy life.

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
And his servants 5650
{5650} Prime
עֶבֶד
`ebed
{eh'-bed}
From H5647; a servant.
said 559
{0559} Prime
אָמַר
'amar
{aw-mar'}
A primitive root; to say (used with great latitude).
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
unto x413
(0413) Complement
אֵל
'el
{ale}
(Used only in the shortened constructive form (the second form)); a primitive particle, properly denoting motion towards, but occasionally used of a quiescent position, that is, near, with or among; often in general, to.
him, Behold x2009
(2009) Complement
הִנֵּה
hinneh
{hin-nay'}
Prolonged for H2005; lo!.
now, x4994
(4994) Complement
נָא
na'
{naw}
A primitive particle of incitement and entreaty, which may usually be rendered I pray, now or then; added mostly to verbs (in the imperative or future), or to interjections, occasionally to an adverb or conjugation.
we have heard 8085
{8085} Prime
שָׁמַע
shama`
{shaw-mah'}
A primitive root; to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc.; causatively to tell, etc.).
z8804
<8804> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Perfect (See H8816)
Count - 12562
that x3588
(3588) Complement
כִּי
kiy
{kee}
A primitive particle (the full form of the prepositional prefix) indicating causal relations of all kinds, antecedent or consequent; (by implication) very widely used as a relative conjugation or adverb; often largely modified by other particles annexed.
the kings 4428
{4428} Prime
מֶּלֶךְ
melek
{meh'-lek}
From H4427; a king.
of the house 1004
{1004} Prime
בַּיִת
bayith
{bah'-yith}
Probably from H1129 abbreviated; a house (in the greatest variation of applications, especially family, etc.).
of Yi$rl יִשׂרָאֵל 3478
{3478} Prime
יִשְׂרָאֵל
Yisra'el
{yis-raw-ale'}
From H8280 and H0410; he will rule as God; Jisrael, a symbolical name of Jacob; also (typically) of his posterity.
[are] merciful 2617
{2617} Prime
חֶסֶד
checed
{kheh'-sed}
From H2616; kindness; by implication (towards God) piety; rarely (by opprobrium) reproof, or (subjectively) beauty.
kings: 4428
{4428} Prime
מֶּלֶךְ
melek
{meh'-lek}
From H4427; a king.
let us, I pray thee, x4994
(4994) Complement
נָא
na'
{naw}
A primitive particle of incitement and entreaty, which may usually be rendered I pray, now or then; added mostly to verbs (in the imperative or future), or to interjections, occasionally to an adverb or conjugation.
put 7760
{7760} Prime
שׂוּם
suwm
{soom}
A primitive root; to put (used in a great variety of applications, literally, figuratively, inferentially and elliptically).
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
sackcloth 8242
{8242} Prime
שַׂק
saq
{sak}
From H8264; properly a mesh (as allowing a liquid to run through), that is, coarse loose cloth or sacking (used in mourning and for bagging); hence a bag (for grain, etc.).
on our loins, 4975
{4975} Prime
מָתֶן
mothen
{mo'-then}
From an unused root meaning to be slender; properly the waist or small of the back; only in plural the loins.
and ropes 2256
{2256} Prime
חֶבֶל
chebel
{kheh'-bel}
From H2254; a rope (as twisted), especially a measuring line; by implication a district or inheritance (as measured); or a noose (as of cords); figuratively a company (as if tied together); also a throe (especially of parturition); also ruin.
upon our heads, 7218
{7218} Prime
רֹאשׁ
ro'sh
{roshe}
From an unused root apparently meaning to shake; the head (as most easily shaken), whether literally or figuratively (in many applications, of place, time, rank, etc.).
and go out 3318
{3318} Prime
יָצָא
yatsa'
{yaw-tsaw'}
A primitive root; to go (causatively bring) out, in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively, direct and proximate.
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
to x413
(0413) Complement
אֵל
'el
{ale}
(Used only in the shortened constructive form (the second form)); a primitive particle, properly denoting motion towards, but occasionally used of a quiescent position, that is, near, with or among; often in general, to.
the king 4428
{4428} Prime
מֶּלֶךְ
melek
{meh'-lek}
From H4427; a king.
of Yi$rl יִשׂרָאֵל: 3478
{3478} Prime
יִשְׂרָאֵל
Yisra'el
{yis-raw-ale'}
From H8280 and H0410; he will rule as God; Jisrael, a symbolical name of Jacob; also (typically) of his posterity.
peradventure x194
(0194) Complement
אוּלַי
'uwlay
{oo-lah'ee}
From H0176; if not; hence perhaps.
he will save 2421
{2421} Prime
חָיַה
chayah
{khaw-yaw'}
A prim root (compare H2331, H2424); to live, whether literally or figuratively; causatively to revive.
z8762
<8762> Grammar
Stem - Piel (See H8840)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 2447
x853
(0853) Complement
אֵת
'eth
{ayth}
Apparently contracted from H0226 in the demonstrative sense of entity; properly self (but generally used to point out more definitely the object of a verb or preposition, even or namely).
thy life. 5315
{5315} Prime
נֶפֶשׁ
nephesh
{neh'-fesh}
From H5314; properly a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental).
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

See commentary on 1 Kings 20:27-31.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

1 Kings 20:31-43

_ _ Here is an account of what followed upon the victory which Israel obtained over the Syrians.

_ _ I. Ben-hadad's tame and mean submission. Even in his inner chamber he feared, and would, if he could, flee further, though none pursued. His servants, seeing him and themselves reduced to the last extremity, advised that they should surrender at discretion, and make themselves prisoners and petitioners to Ahab for their lives, 1 Kings 20:31. The servants will put their lives in their hands, and venture first, and their master will act according as they speed. Their inducement to take this course is the great reputation the kings of Israel had for clemency above any of their neighbours: “We have heard that they are merciful kings, not oppressive to their subjects that are under their power” (as governments then went, that of Israel was one of the most easy and gentle), “and therefore not cruel to their enemies when they lie at their mercy.” Perhaps they had this notion of the kings of Israel because they had heard that the God of Israel proclaimed his name gracious and merciful, and they concluded their kings would make their God their pattern. It was an honour to the kings of Israel to be thus represented, as indeed every Israelite is then dressed as becomes him when he puts on bowels of mercies. “They are merciful kings, therefore we may hope to find mercy upon our submission.” This encouragement poor sinners have to repent and humble themselves before God. “Have we not heard that the God of Israel is a merciful God? Have we not found him so? Let us therefore rend our hearts and return to him.” Joel 2:13. That is evangelical repentance which flows from an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ; there is forgiveness with him. Two things Ben-hadad's servants undertake to represent to Ahab: — 1. Their master a penitent; for they girded sackcloth on their loins, as mourners, and put ropes on their heads, as condemned criminals going to execution, pretending to be sorry that they had invaded his country and disturbed his repose, and owning that they deserved to be hanged for it. Here they are ready to do penance for it, and throw themselves at the feet of him whom they had injured. Many pretend to repent of their wrong-doing, when it does not succeed, who, if they had prospered in it, would have justified it and gloried in it. 2. Their master a beggar, a beggar for his life: Thy servant Ben-hadad saith,I pray thee, let me live, 1 Kings 20:32. Though I live a perpetual exile from my own country, and captive in this, yet, upon any terms, let me live.” What a great change is here, (1.) In his condition! How has he fallen from the height of power and prosperity to the depths of disgrace and distress, and all the miseries of poverty and slavery! See the uncertainty of human affairs; such turns are they subject to that the spoke which was uppermost may soon come to be undermost. (2.) In his temper — in the beginning of the chapter hectoring, swearing, and threatening, and none more high in his demands, but here crouching and whining and none more low in his requests! How meanly does he beg hi life at the hand of him upon whom he had there been trampling! The most haughty in prosperity are commonly most abject in adversity: an even spirit will be the same in both conditions. See how God glorified himself when he looks upon proud men and abases them, and hides them in the dust together, Job 40:11-13.

_ _ II. Ahab's foolish acceptance of his submission, and the league he suddenly made with him upon it. He was proud to be thus courted by him whom he had feared, and enquired for him with great tenderness: Is he yet alive? He is my brother, brother-king, though not brother-Israelite: and Ahab valued himself more upon his royalty than on his religion, and others accordingly. “Is he thy brother, Ahab? Did he use thee like a brother when he sent thee that barbarous message? 1 Kings 20:5, 1 Kings 20:6. Would he have called thee brother if he had been the conqueror? Would he now have called himself thy servant if he had not been reduced to the utmost strait? Canst thou suffer thyself to be thus imposed upon by a forced and counterfeit submission?” This word brother they caught at (1 Kings 20:33), and were thereby encouraged to go and fetch him to the king. He that calls him brother will let him live. Let poor penitents hear God, in his word, calling them children (Jeremiah 31:20), catch at it, echo to it, and call him Father. Ben-hadad, upon his submission, shall not only be honourably conveyed (he took him up into the chariot), but treated with as an ally (1 Kings 20:34): he made a covenant with him, not consulting God's prophets, or the elders of the land, or himself, concerning what was fit to be insisted on, but, as if Ben-hadad had been conqueror, he shall make his own terms. He might now have demanded some of Ben-hadad's cities, when all of them lay at the mercy of his victorious army; but was content with the restitution of his own. He might now have demanded the stores, and treasures, and magazines of Damascus, to augment the wealth and strength of his own kingdom, but was content with a poor liberty, at his own expense, to build streets there, a point of honour and no advantage, or no more than what the kings of Syria had had in Samaria, though they had never had so much power as he had now to support the demand of it. With this covenant he sent him away, without so much as reproving him for his blasphemous reflections upon the God of Israel, for whose honour Ahab had no concern. Note, There are those on whom success is ill bestowed; they know not how to serve God, or their generation, or even their own true interests, with their prosperity. Let favour be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness.

_ _ III. The reproof given to Ahab for his clemency to Ben-hadad and his covenant with him. It was given him by a prophet, in the name of the Lord, the Jews say by Micaiah, and not unlikely, for Ahab complains of him (1 Kings 22:8) that he used to prophesy evil concerning him. This prophet designed to reprove Ahab by a parable, that he might oblige him to condemn himself, as Nathan and the woman of Tekoa did David. To make his parable the more plausible, he finds it necessary to put himself into the posture of a wounded soldier. 1. With some difficulty he gets himself wounded, for he would not wound himself with his own hands. He commanded one of his brother prophets, his neighbour, or companion (for so the word signifies), to smite him, and this in God's name (1 Kings 20:35), but finds him not so willing to give the blow as he is to receive it; he refused to smite him: others, he thought, were forward enough to smite prophets, they need not smite one another. We cannot but think it was from a good principle he declined it. “If it must be done, let another do it, not I; I cannot find it in my heart to strike my friend.” Good men can much more easily receive a wrongful blow than give one; yet because he disobeyed an express command of God (which was so much the worse if he was himself a prophet), like that other disobedient prophet (1 Kings 13:24), he was presently slain by a lion, 1 Kings 20:36. This was intended, not only to show, in general, how provoking disobedience is (Colossians 3:6), but to intimate to Ahab (who no doubt was told the story) that if a good prophet were thus punished for sparing his friend and God's, when God said, Smite, of much sorer punishment should a wicked king be thought worthy, who spared his enemy and God's, when God said, Smite. Shall mortal man pretend to be more just than God, more pure or more compassionate than his Maker? We must be merciful as he is merciful, and not otherwise. The next he met with made no difficulty of smiting him (Volenti non fit injuriaHe that asks for an injury is not wronged by it) and did it so that he wounded him, 1 Kings 20:37. He fetched blood with the blow, probably in his face. 2. Wounded as he was, and disguised with ashes that he might not be known to be a prophet, he made his application to the king in a story wherein he charged himself with such a crime as the king was now guilty of in sparing Ben-hadad, and waited for the king's judgment upon it. The case in short is this — A prisoner taken in the battle was committed to his custody by a man (we may suppose one that had authority over him as his superior officer) with this charge, If he be missing, thy life shall be for his life, 1 Kings 20:39. The prisoner has made his escape through his carelessness. Can the chancery in the king's breast relieve him against his captain, who demands his life in lieu of the prisoner's? “By no means,” says the king, “thou shouldst either not have undertaken the trust or been more careful and faithful to it; there is no remedy (Currat lexLet the law take its course), thou hast forfeited thy bond, and execution must go out upon it: So shall thy doom be, thou thyself hast decided it.” Now the prophet has what he would have, puts off his disguise, and is known by Ahab himself to be a prophet (1 Kings 20:41) and plainly tells him, “Thou art the man. Is it my doom? No, it is thine; thou thyself hast decided it. Out of thy own mouth art thou judged. God, thy superior and commander-in-chief, delivered into thy hands one plainly marked for destruction both by his own pride and God's providence, and thou hast not carelessly lost him, but wittingly and willingly dismissed him, and so hast been false to thy trust, and lost the end of thy victory; expect therefore no other than that thy life shall go for his life, which thou hast spared” (and so it did, 1 Kings 22:35), “and thy people for his people, whom likewise thou hast spared,” and so they did afterwards, 2 Kings 10:32, 2 Kings 10:33. When their other sins brought them low, this came into the account. There is a time when keeping back the sword from blood is doing the work of the Lord deceitfully, Jeremiah 48:10. Foolish pity spoils the city. 3. We are told how Ahab resented this reproof. He went to his house heavy and displeased (1 Kings 20:43), not truly penitent, or seeking to undo what he had done amiss, but enraged at the prophet, exasperated against God (as if he had been too severe in the sentence passed upon him), and yet vexed at himself, every way out of humour, notwithstanding his victory. He who by his providence had mortified the pride of one king, by his word cast a damp upon the triumphs of another. Be wise therefore, O you kings! and be instructed to serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling, Psalms 2:10, Psalms 2:11.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

1 Kings 20:31

He will save thy life — This encouragement have all poor sinners, to repent and humble themselves before God. The God of Israel is a merciful God; let us rend our hearts and return to him.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

1 Kings 20:31

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 (n) loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life.

(n) In sign of submission and that we have deserved death, if he will punish us with rigour.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance
his servants:

1 Kings 20:23 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.
2 Kings 5:13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, [if] the prophet had bid thee [do some] great thing, wouldest thou not have done [it]? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

merciful kings:

Proverbs 20:28 Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.
Isaiah 16:5 And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.
Ephesians 1:7-8 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; ... Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

I pray thee:
Six of the citizens of Calais are reported to have acted nearly in the same manner, when they surrendered their city to Edward the Third, king of England, in 1346. See the whole story circumstantially related by Sir John Froissart (who lived in that time), with that simplicity and detail that give it every appearance of truth.

put sackcloth:

1 Kings 21:27-29 And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. ... Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: [but] in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.
Genesis 37:34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
2 Samuel 3:31 And David said to Joab, and to all the people that [were] with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David [himself] followed the bier.
2 Samuel 14:2 And Joab sent to Tekoah, and fetched thence a wise woman, and said unto her, I pray thee, feign thyself to be a mourner, and put on now mourning apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil, but be as a woman that had a long time mourned for the dead:
2 Kings 19:1-2 And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard [it], that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. ... And he sent Eliakim, which [was] over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.
Esther 4:1-3 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; ... And in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, [there was] great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
Isaiah 22:12 And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:
Isaiah 37:1 And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard [it], that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.
Jonah 3:5-6 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. ... For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered [him] with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
Revelation 11:3 And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

peradventure:

2 Kings 7:4 If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine [is] in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
Esther 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which [is] not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
Job 2:4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.
Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
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Gn 37:34. 2S 3:31; 14:2. 1K 20:23; 21:27. 2K 5:13; 7:4; 19:1. Es 4:1, 16. Jb 2:4. Pv 20:28. Is 16:5; 22:12; 37:1. Jna 3:5. Mt 10:28. Ep 1:7. Rv 11:3.

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