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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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BENHADAD, the king of Damascus and Syria, declared war against Ahab. Thirty-two other kings assisted Benhadad, and they invaded the kingdom of Israel with a mighty army. Ahab retreated into the city of Samaria, and shut himself up in it with all his men. And Benhadad sent messengers to Ahab, who said,—

"Thy riches and thy children and thy wives are Benhadad's, and if thou wilt give him leave to take of these all he may want, Benhadad will withdraw his army and leave off the siege."

Ahab was afraid, and he bade the messengers go back and say that Benhadad might take all those things.

But Benhadad was not satisfied, and again he sent messengers to Ahab, who said,—

"Since thou dost admit that all thou hast is Benhadad's, he will to-morrow send his servants to search through thy house [193] and the houses of all thy people, and they shall take whatever they find to be valuable and good of its kind."

Then Ahab gathered together the people and told them what Benhadad had said. And the people declared that Ahab should not consent to this, but should fight against Benhadad.

When the messengers returned with his answer, Benhadad sent word to Ahab that he would besiege the city, and that his army was so large that if every man took only a handful of earth, they would raise a bank higher than the walls of Samaria, to which Ahab trusted. But Ahab replied that he should not boast until he had won the victory. Benhadad was feasting with the thirty-two kings when this answer reached him. He was very angry, and bade his army prepare for battle. Ahab, meanwhile, was in great fear on account of the multitude of the enemy. But the Lord sent a prophet to Ahab, who told him not to fear, for he would win the victory. While Benhadad and the other kings were drinking themselves drunk in their tents, Ahab and a few thousand Israelites fell upon the Syrian army and put them to flight. Benhadad himself escaped from the field with difficulty.

The prophet spoke a second time to Ahab, warning him that Benhadad would return again next year. Ahab kept himself in readiness, and when Benhadad came again at the head of another large army, he went out to meet him; and though his army was a very small one, God gave him the victory again. More than one hundred thousand of the Syrians were slain in this battle, and the rest fled away to a city called Aphek, but just as they had reached it the walls around the city fell down with a great noise, and buried twenty-seven thousand of the fugitives in the ruins.

Benhadad, with some of his faithful servants, fled into the city and hid himself in a cellar. Then Benhadad's servants spoke to him, and said that the kings of Israel were merciful [194] men, and that if they went out to Ahab and humbled themselves before him, he would spare the life of Benhadad. Benhadad allowed them to go, and Ahab received them kindly, and bade them bring Benhadad to him. And Ahab took that wicked king into his chariot, and because he promised to give him some cities he spared his life and sent him back into his own country.

But a prophet called Micaiah came to one of the Israelites and said, "Smite me on the head, for by so doing, you will please God." When the Israelite refused, Micaiah foretold that, because he had disobeyed God, he should meet a lion who would destroy him. And it happened as the prophet had said. Then Micaiah came to another Israelite and repeated his command, and this Israelite smote him and wounded him in the skull. Micaiah bound up the wound with a handkerchief, so that his face was partly hidden, and he came before Ahab and said,—

"O king, I am a soldier in thy army, and a prisoner was committed to my care by an officer, and I suffered the prisoner to escape. Wherefore I am in great fear of death, for the officer threatens to slay me."

Ahab answered sternly that he deserved death for his disobedience. Then Micaiah uncovered himself, and Ahab recognized him. And Micaiah said,—

"Because thou hast suffered Benhadad to escape, whom the Lord meant thee to destroy, thou shalt be punished, and the Lord will so bring it about that thou wilt die by means of Benhadad, and thy army shall be defeated by his army."

Upon which Ahab was angry with the prophet and commanded that he should be thrown into prison.


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