Pictorial Language Series
1 Kings 20:11 “The one who puts on his armor should not boast about himself like one who takes it off.” (Other translations)
War was imminent. The boastful and arrogant king of Syria (Benhadad) made unreasonable demands on King Ahab of Israel. At first, Ahab was willing to comply with the initial demands in order to keep the peace. However, when Behadad mistook Ahab’s compliance as weakness, Benhadad upped the ante and made demands that would bring financial ruin the Israelites. When Ahab declined to comply with the second demands, Behadad sent a messenger back to Ahab and bragged that he would level the Israelite city and leave it a burnt-up heap of ashes.
In response, Ahab sent Benhadad’s messenger back with the message shown above in verse 11. What in the world did he mean by that? When I first read this some 40+ years ago, I must admit that I had no clue. But as I regularly do, I wrote the passage down in a binder and filed it away until I could do more research.
In 1976 Thomas Nelson Publishers (Nashville, NY) released the “Good News Bible, Today’s English Version” When I read the passage there, a light immediately came on. “Of course!” I declared. “That seems so simple now. Why didn’t I see it before?” See what? Stop and think to yourself, “When does a warrior gird (or, “put on”) armament and when does he take it off?" Timing and circumstance are everything in this case. If you reasoned inside yourself, “Well, a warrior puts on his gear before a battle and, only if he lives to tell about it, does it take it off after a battle,” you are 100% correct.
And so it is that the Good News bible rendered that reply as: “A real soldier does his bragging after a battle, not before it.” Yes, Benhadad wasn't entitled to claim any victory until he actually engaged the Israelites and proved victorious. Curious how it turned out? Admittedly, Israel was greatly outnumbered. Benhadad had brought along 32 other kings and their armies. (There is nothing like stacking the cards in one’s own favor.) So you might be surprised to read the actual results: 1 Kings 20:21. How was this possible? Ahab had a card of his own up his sleeve -- Jehovah his God.
It is a very good lesson for all believers today. In the face of insurmountable odds, having God on our side is all we need.