1 Kings 20:10
And Benhadad sent to him, and said, The gods do so to me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.
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(10) The dust of Samaria—when razed to the ground. The phrase probably implies a threat of destruction, as well as a boast of overwhelming strength. Josephus (Ant. viii. 14, 2) has a curious explanation—that, if each of the Syrians took only a handful of dust, they could raise a mound against the city, higher than the walls of Samaria.

The historian, with a touch of patriotic scorn, paints Ben-hadad as a luxurious and insolent braggart. He receives the message at a feast, “drinking himself drunk,” and, stung by its tone of sarcasm, does not condescend to bestir himself, but orders his servants to an instant attack. The command is given, with a haughty brevity, in a single word (“Set”), which may be “Array troops,” or “Place engines,” as in the margin. The LXX. translates, “Build a stockade” (for attack on the walls).

20:1-11 Benhadad sent Ahab a very insolent demand. Ahab sent a very disgraceful submission; sin brings men into such straits, by putting them out of the Divine protection. If God do not rule us, our enemies shall: guilt dispirits men, and makes them cowards. Ahab became desperate. Men will part with their most pleasant things, those they most love, to save their lives; yet they lose their souls rather than part with any pleasure or interest to prevent it. Here is one of the wisest sayings that ever Ahab spake, and it is a good lesson to all. It is folly to boast of any day to come, since we know not what it may bring forth. Apply it to our spiritual conflicts. Peter fell by self-confidence. Happy is the man who is never off his watch.If the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls ... - In its general sense this phrase is undoubtedly a boast that the number of Ben-hadad's troops was such as to make resistance vain and foolish. We may parallel it with the saying of the Trachinian at Thermopylae, that the Persian arrows would darken the light of the sun. Probably the exact meaning is, "When your town is reduced to ruins, as it will be if you resist, the entire heap will not suffice to furnish a handful of dust to each soldier of my army, so many are they." There was a threat in the message as well as a boast. 2-12. Thus said Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine—To this message sent him during the siege, Ahab returned a tame and submissive answer, probably thinking it meant no more than an exaction of tribute. But the demand was repeated with greater insolence; and yet, from the abject character of Ahab, there is reason to believe he would have yielded to this arrogant claim also, had not the voice of his subjects been raised against it. Ben-hadad's object in these and other boastful menaces was to intimidate Ahab. But the weak sovereign began to show a little more spirit, as appears in his abandoning "my lord the king" for the single "tell him," and giving him a dry but sarcastic hint to glory no more till the victory is won. Kindling into a rage at the cool defiance, Ben-hadad gave orders for the immediate sack of the city. If I do not assault thy city with so potent and numerous an army, that shall turn all thy city into a heap of dust, and shall be sufficient to carry it all away, though every soldier take but one handful of it: see the like boast 2 Samuel 17:13. And Benhadad sent unto him, and said,.... That is, to Ahab:

the gods do so unto me, and more also; bring greater evils upon me than I can think or express:

if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me, signifying that he made no doubt of it of reducing it to dust by numbers of men he should bring with him, which would be so many, that if each was to take an handful of dust of the ruins of Samaria, there would not enough for them all; which was an hectoring and parabolical speech, uttered in his wrath and fury.

And Benhadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the {e} dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.

(e) Much less will there be found any prey that is worth anything, when they are so many.

10. if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me] i.e. I will bring such a host that if each man were but to take with him a handful of earth, Samaria would be all carried away. The boastful tone is quite of a piece with all Ben-hadad’s previous conduct.

The LXX. has read שֻׁעָלִים instead of שְׁעָלִים and so instead of ‘handfuls’ it gives ταο͂ς ἀλώπεξι = ‘for the foxes (or jackals).’ Josephus explains Ben-hadad’s threat to have meant, that the Syrian army, bringing each man his handful of earth, would make a mound against Samaria higher than the present walls. Thus contemptuously hinting at the ease with which he could overthrow the Israelitish fortifications. The original text is incapable of such a sense.Verse 10. - And Ben-hadad sent unto him, and said [These words would be quite superfluous, if the oaths of which we now hear were the "word" of ver. 9], The gods do so unto me, and more also [see notes on 1 Kings 2:23; 19:2], if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls [The meaning of שְׁעָלִים pugilli, is fixed by Isaiah 40:12, and Ezekiel 13:19] for all the people that follow me. [Heb. that are in my feet. Same expression Judges 4:16; Judges 5:15; 1 Samuel 25:27; 2 Samuel 15:17, etc. This thoroughly Oriental piece of bluster and boasting, which was intended, no doubt, to strike terror into the hearts of king and people, has been variously interpreted, but the meaning appears to be sufficiently clear. Ben-bahad vows that he will make Samaria a heap of dust, and at the same time affirms that so overwhelming is his host, that this dust will be insufficient to fill the hands of his soldiers. Rawlinson compares with it the well-known saying of the Trachinian to Dieneces, that the Median arrows would obscure the sun (Herod. 7:226), but 2 Samuel 17:18 is still more apposite.] During the siege Benhadad sent messengers into the city to Ahab with this demand: "Thy silver and thy gold are mine, and the best of thy wives and thy sons are mine;" and Ahab answered with pusillanimity: "According to thy word, my lord king, I and all that is mine are thine." Benhadad was made still more audacious by this submissiveness, and sent messengers the second time with the following notice (1 Kings 20:6): "Yea, if I send my servants to thee to-morrow at this time, and they search thy house and thy servants' houses, all that is the pleasure of thine eyes they will put into their hands and take." אם כּי does not mean "only equals certainly" here (Ewald, 356, b.), for there is neither a negative clause nor an oath, but אם signifies if and כּי introduces the statement, as in 1 Kings 20:5; so that it is only in the repetition of the כּי that the emphasis lies, which can be expressed by yea. The words of Ahab in 1 Kings 20:9 show unquestionably that Benhadad demanded more the second time than the first. The words of the first demand, "Thy silver and thy gold," etc., were ambiguous. According to 1 Kings 20:5, Benhadad meant that Ahab should give him all this; and Ahab had probably understood him as meaning that he was to give him what he required, in order to purchase peace; but Benhadad had, no doubt, from the very first required an unconditional surrender at discretion. He expresses this very clearly in the second demand, since he announces to Ahab the plunder of his palace and also of the palaces of his nobles. כּל־מחמד עניך, all thy costly treasures. It was from this second demand that Ahab first perceived what Benhadad's intention had been; he therefore laid the matter before the elders of the land, i.e., the king's counsellors, 1 Kings 20:7 : "Mark and see that this man seeketh evil," i.e., that he is aiming at our ruin, since he is not contented with the first demand, which I did not refuse him.
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