II Kings 6:8–23. Elisha and the Seige at Dothan.
Key Notes: A Syrian posse to capture Elisha. Chariots of fire around Dothan. Partial truths. A modern version of Elisha's rescue.
This episode in the life of Elisha contains four miracles and several lessons. There is also an ethical question and a couple of memorable verses.
6:8–14 The Syrian raiders were often thwarted in their attacks. Israel always seemed to be prepared. The king of Syria wanted to know who the spy was. One of his courtier said Elisha, the prophet in Israel, knew everything the king of Syria did, even in his bedroom. Doubtless that was a humorous exaggeration.
Benhadad knew only one way to deal with spies: capture and destroy. He was a politician and a warrior. A big army was sent to Dothan to capture Elisha.
6:9–19 Elisha’s servant was disturbed to wake up to a siege, but Elisha was able to see another army between him and the Syrians, the army of the Lord of Hosts—-chariots and horses of fire. He prayed and the servant could see them also. The Syrians advanced and Elisha asked God to blind them. He told them they were not in the right way or the right place. He led them 7 miles away to Samaria.
6:20–23 Inside Samaria, and probably now surrounded by the Israelite army, the king of Israel asked Elisha‘s permission to destroy the Syrians. Elisha’s reply suggests that there were rules of warfare which protected captured warriors. He had the Syrians fed, watered and sent back to their country.
That stopped the raids, although war continued.
Words to live by:
“Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (6:16).
“Open his eyes, O Lord, I pray you, that he may see. “ (6:17)
Q. Elisha knew a lot about the king of Syria. Where did he get his information?
A. Spies like the little Israelite servant or Naaman? Or God’s power? Everything else about Elisha suggests that God's power was at work in him.
Q'.Since Elisha had no respect for Jehoram, king of Israel (IIK.3:4) and he knew Israel was under God's judgment, why should the prophet help him?
A. We think that God’s mercy was being expressed, but we also believe there are lessons meant to our benefit.
Q. Benhadad’s method of dealing with Elisha was typical military thinking. Was it reasonable?
A. Yes. But Elisha is powerful, more powerful than Benhadad imagines; but he has no other choice. The chariots of fire, the army of God, however, did not move. We guess that it was there to comfort the servant and protect Elisha.
Q. The Syrian army was miraculously blinded and led to Samaria. Did Elisha lie to them?
A. Many commentators say he did. “Ruse de guerre”, they call it. This was the city of Dothan and the way led directly to Elisha.
What is a lie? “An expression of any sort by which we convey to another something contrary to what we think, for the purpose of deceiving”. Elisha' action meets the formal definition of the word. However, Scripture gives us unfolding or progressive revelation. The truth of that period will be elaborated and clarified in future times. As revelation unfolds, the context and the information changes, always to the advantage of the seeker.
For example, Jesus said “He who is not against us is for us” (Mk.9:38–41)
He also said “He who is not with me is against me…” (Matt.12:30). Since they seem mutually exclusive, one must be untrue. Far from it.
The first is said in support of one who is casting out demons in Jesus name.
The second is spoken after the Pharisees said Jesus used Satan’s power to cast out demons. Both statements are true in their contexts.
Again Jesus said “Where I am going you cannot come.” (Jn.13:33). A little later he said, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now by you shall follow afterward.” (Jn.13:36). Which is true ? Both are true. The second statement elaborates the first.
Jesus said “And you know the way I am going.” (Jn.14:4) The immediate reply was “Lord, we do not know where you are going.” They do not understand what He said was true and so He elaborates. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the LIfe; no one comes to the Father, but by me." Jn.14:6.
What Jesus often does is to lead the disciples from one position to another with incomplete information. All teaching is done with incomplete information. It is not misleading; it is leading with language.
I think Elisha was leading the Syrians with incomplete information, not misleading them. They were helpless and suggestible and he was leading them to their advantage.
•"This is not the way" says that attacking the prophet was wrong.
•"This is not the city" says that Samaria is my home and the place where you will be fed and cared for. They were drawn away from an attack against the prophet and against God. They were not killed, either by the Israelite army or the fire of God. They were sent home fed and in peace.
If you were Jehoram , what would you have done with these tormentors of Israel? He could have defied Elisha. But Elisha is in favor with Israel (“my father”) in a way that Elijah was not.
The word of instruction is from Proverbs 25:21:
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
For you will heap coals of fire on his head,
And the Lord will reward you. “
Paul adds from Rom.12:19: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the will of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord’”
What is God doing? Is He for Israel or for the raiders? He is for both and neither. He is sovereign and acting in His wisdom with both sides. The Syrians must learn that their war-god Rimmon is helpless before the God of Israel. The Israelites must return to God, the Lord of Hosts.
We must beware of thinking that God “takes sides” between us and the Islamists, for example, as we expect our allies to do. He has work to do on both sides.
In this text, a prophet of God was supernaturally protected.
Dan Harrison told a similar story during an opening session of an Urbana Missionary Convention.
A missionary to Africa was reporting back to his home church. He was talking to the men’s fellowship and told them a remarkable story. He said “ I was visiting patients in a hospital in Nairobi. One patient suddenly recognized me, made an ugly face and said ‘ I know you. You are the one we tried to kill. But we couldn’t. There was an armed guard of ten strong warriors around you. We wanted your bicycle and gear.’"
"When was that?" The missionary asked.
‘Three weeks ago. You were camped out in the bush with your bicycle. But there were ten warriors and they frightened us away and we left.’
The missionary remembered that he had made a two-day trek on his bicycle and that he had camped overnight in the bush. But he had spent a quiet night, undisturbed. No attackers. No guard.
‘What day was that?’ a man in the church audience asked. When he said the date the man got excited.'‘We have a regular prayer group for missionaries,’ he said. ‘One Saturday, the day you mentioned, we were all called together to pray for you. It seemed urgent and we prayed hard, although we did not know what for.’
‘How many are in your group’, the missionary asked.
‘There are eleven.’ Then another man spoke up.
‘There were only ten. I couldn’t get there that day.’"
God is at work in the world today, using His angels to protect his servants as he did Elisha 2500 years ago.