Hurlbut's Story of the Bible  by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

The Wounded Prophet and His Story

I Kings xx: 1 to 43.

dropcap image HE country nearest to Israel on the north was Syria, of which the chief city and capital was Damascus; and its king was named Ben-hadad. His kingdom was far greater and stronger than Israel; and when he went to make war upon King Ahab, such was the fear of the Israelites for the Syrians, that Ahab could bring only seven thousand men against the Syrian army. The host of the Syrians filled all the valleys and plains around Samaria; but Ben-hadad and his chief rulers were drinking wine when they should have been making ready for the battle; and the little army of Israel won a great victory over the Syrians, and drove them back to their own land.

Again the Syrians came against Israel, with an army as large as before; but again God gave to Ahab and the Israelites a victory, and the Syrian army was destroyed. King Ben-hadad fled away to his palace, and King Ahab might easily have taken him prisoner and conquered all Syria. If he had done this, all danger from that land might have been forever removed. But Ben-hadad dressed himself in sackcloth, and put a rope around his waist, and came as a beggar to Ahab, and pleaded with him for his life and his kingdom. Ahab felt very proud to have so great a king as Ben-hadad come kneeling before him. He spared his life, and gave him back his kingdom. This was not wise; and God soon showed to Ahab what a mistake he had made.

By this time, through the teaching of Elijah and Elisha, there were many prophets of the Lord in Israel. The word of the Lord came to one of these prophets, and he said to a fellow-prophet, "Strike me, and give me a wound."

But the man would not strike him, and the prophet said, "Because you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, as soon as you go away from me, a lion shall kill you."

And as the man was going away, a lion rushed out upon him, and killed him. Then the prophet said to another man, "Strike me, I pray you!"

The man struck him, and wounded him, so that the blood flowed. Then the prophet, all bloody, with his face covered, stood by the road as King Ahab passed by, and he cried out to the king. The king saw him, and stopped, and asked him what had happened to him. Then the prophet said, "O king, I was in the battle; and a soldier brought to me a prisoner, and said to me, ‘Keep this man; if you lose him, then your life shall go for his life, or you shall pay me a talent of silver for him.' And while I was busy here and there, the prisoner escaped. Now, O king, do not let my life be taken or the man's life."

But the king said, "You have given sentence against yourself, and it shall be as you have said. Your life shall go for your prisoner's life."

Then the prophet threw off the covering from his face, and the king saw that he was one of the prophets. And the prophet said to the king, "Thus saith the Lord, 'Because you have let go the king whom I willed to have destroyed, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.' "

When Ahab heard this he was greatly troubled and displeased. He went to his palace in Samaria full of alarm, for he saw that he had not done wisely for his kingdom in sparing his kingdom's greatest enemy.


The prophet makes himself known to the king