Elijah starts a drought, gets fed by ravens, takes on Baal and wins, calls Elisha, enrages Jezebel and Ahab and flees to Sinai. Ben-hadad besieges Samaria and loses, but Ahab makes a treaty with him: 1 Kings 17−20)
Ben-hadad’s alliance with Judah enriched him and, no doubt, left him in a position to invade Samaria (capital of Israel). His contempt for Ahab is clear: first demanding all his wives, wealth and children, and then demanding the people’s valuables too. It was too much, and Ahab refused.
Ben-hadad’s response invoked his own gods, making it close to a direct challenge to God:
1 Kings 20:10 May the gods strike me and even kill me if there remains enough dust from Samaria to provide even a handful for each of my soldiers.
Even though Ahab was king, God still showed an interest in His people, sending an unnamed prophet to tell him:
1 Kings 20:13 This is what the Lord says: Do you see all these enemy forces? Today I will hand them all over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
Ahab’s forces won the first battle, but there was a second battle in the following spring that showed Ben-hadad’s reliance on his own gods more clearly:
1 Kings 20:23-24 After their defeat, Ben-hadad’s officers said to him, ‘The Israelite gods are gods of the hills; that is why they won. But we can beat them easily on the plains…. Give us the same number of horses, chariots, and men, and we will fight against them on the plains. There’s no doubt that we will beat them.’ So King Ben-hadad did as they suggested.
God didn’t let that pass: His desire was for Ahab and all of Israel/Samaria to know that He is the Lord of the hills and the plains.
God won, but Ahab made a new treaty with the defeated Ben-hadad rather than destroying him. The original Hebrew doesn’t make it clear what sort of destruction was intended—it could have been death or political annihilation. A treaty between equals certainly wasn’t the plan. We know this because God sent another prophet to rebuke Ahab for making the deal.
Ahab’s response wasn’t the type of humble repentance we have seen in David or even Rehoboam:
1 Kings 20::43 So the king of Israel went home to Samaria angry and sullen.