WE ALL NEED GOD TO OPEN OUR EYES TO HIS TRUE CHARACTER
Elisha performs his function here as the man of God, as the prophet of God, in pointing people to the true character of God in every situation. Despite the pressure from the attacks against God’s people and the desperate outward circumstances, Elisha remains calm and confident due to his vision of faith. Once our blindness is removed, we too can see the power of God at work protecting His people. God’s enemies receive surprising kindness and mercy as the goodness of God seeks the repentance of the pagan nation.
Whitcomb: Long before the healing of Naaman, while Benhadad I was still king of Syria (II Kings 6:24), a most remarkable thing happened: an entire Syrian army was captured alive by Elisha the prophet!
John Schultz: We could treat this story as a parable of Jesus’ teaching about spiritual blindness. We read: “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” But this does not mean that it is not a report of a real incident that happened in Israel’s relationship with Aram, which made raids into Israeli territory.
Donald Wiseman: The record of miraculous incidents with moral lessons continues, vision contrasts with blindness, spiritual resources with man-made tactics (vv. 15–16), etc. It is a prelude to the dealings of Elisha with the court and his conduct in the Aramean war (6:24–7:20). Elisha had close relations with the unnamed king of Israel for whom he provided an efficient intelligence service.
William Barnes: Physical sight and spiritual blindness can often occur together, but rarely are these phenomena juxtaposed so dramatically as in the present text of 2 Kings. Elisha can see, spiritually—and sometimes literally—heavenly realities, and for a brief instance, so can his servant (6:16–17). Elisha can also pray for supernatural blindness to fall upon his foes (6:18), so that the enemies of God’s people Israel can be led helplessly into the very center of the Israelite capital. Finally, Elisha can ask that Yahweh open the enemies’ eyes (6:20), so that they could see immediately what predicament they were in and be moved to reach an amicable military solution with a minimum of bloodshed. In sharp contrast to the next several sections of 2 Kings, the present passage ends with a peaceful resolution between Arameans and Israelites, including a “great feast” celebrating the onset of that very status. Equally surprisingly, hints are given concerning continued peaceful relations between Israelite prophet and king (see 6:9–10, 21), with the latter following the advice of the former, and even calling him “my father”. When God’s leadership stands united, absolutely amazing things can happen.
Mordechai Cogan: The prophet’s unique powers are again at stage center in the present story, as in the other stories of the Elisha cycle. Here Elisha shows himself to be the possessor of “second sight.” He has the ability to see hidden things: the ambush of the Aramaeans planned in the private quarters of the king of Aram (vv. 10–12); the fiery cavalry of yhwh (v. 17). At his command, the eyes of his enemies are closed and opened (vv. 18, 20).
I. (:8-14) GOD’S COMPLETE OMNISCIENCE AND SOVEREIGNTY — FUTILITY OF FIGHTING AGAINST GOD
A. (:8-10) Futility Because the Omniscient God Protects Against All Attacks
1. (:8) God’s Enemies Make Strategic Plans to Attack God’s People
“Now the king of Aram was warring against Israel; and he counseled with his servants saying, ‘In such and such a place shall be my camp.’”
2. (:9) God is Always a Step Ahead with Divine Counter Intelligence
“And the man of God sent word to the king of Israel saying, ‘Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Arameans are coming down there.’”
Guzik: Elisha did not support the corrupt monarchs of Israel, but he knew that it was even worse for Israel to be conquered and subjugated under Syria. Therefore, he gave the king of Israel information from divinely inspired espionage.
3. (:10) God’s People are Able to Defend Themselves and Avoid Disaster
“And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God had told him; thus he warned him, so that he guarded himself there, more than once or twice.”
MacArthur: Elisha, receiving supernatural revelation, continually identified to Jehoram the Israelite towns which the king of Aram, or Syria, planned to attack. Jehoram then took the proper precautions and appropriately fortified those towns so as to frustrate the Syrian plan.
John Schultz: quoting Pulpit Commentary — it agrees better with the prophet’s injunction, “Beware that thou pass not such a place,” to suppose that he merely sent out scouts to see if the place were occupied or no, and finding, in each ease, Elisha’s warning true, he avoided the locality.
B. (:11-12) Futility Because God is Always in Complete Control
1. (:11) Anger Over Lack of Control
“Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, ‘Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?’”
2. (:12) Awareness of God’s Invincible Control
“And one of his servants said, ‘No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.’”
C. (:13-14) Futility Because New Plans Have No Greater Chance of Success
1. (:13) New Strategy
“So he said, ‘Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.’ And it was told him, saying, ‘Behold, he is in Dothan.’”
MacArthur: A town in the hill country of Manasseh located about 10 mi. N of Samaria and 12 mi. S of Jezreel. Dothan commanded a key mountain pass along a main road that connected Damascus and Egypt (cf. Ge 37:12).
Wiersbe: The logical solution then was to eliminate Elisha. Once again you see the ignorance of the king, for if Elisha knew every scheme the king planned for the border raids, surely he would know this scheme as well – and he did!
2. (:14) Numbers Don’t Determine the Outcome
“And he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.”
MacArthur: In contrast to the smaller raiding parties (vv. 8, 23), the king of Syria sent a sizable force, including horses and chariots, to take Elisha prisoner. Arriving at Dothan, the army encircled the town.
Peter Pett: The king’s evil intent was made clear when he sent a large host with chariots and horsemen in order to abduct Elisha. And they came and surrounded Dothan by night. It was an indication of Elisha’ reputation that such a large force was felt to be necessary, and that they recognized that they would have to take him by surprise.
II. (:15-20) GOD’S AWESOME POWER AND ILLUMINATION –
ONLY ILLUMINATION FROM GOD CAN REMOVE BLINDNESS
A. (:15-17) Removing the Blindness of Believers
1. (:15) Focusing Only on Outward Circumstances Leads to Panic
“Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’”
2. (:16) Focusing on Spiritual Forces Removes Our Fear
“So he answered, ‘Do not fear,
for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’”
3. (:17) Blindness Must Be Removed and Our Eyes Opened to God’s Power
“Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
Guzik: Elisha did not pray that God would change anything in the situation. His only request was that his servant could actually see the reality of the situation. Yet, Elisha also did not try to persuade the servant of the reality of those who are with us. The servant could not have this explained to him nor could he be persuaded into it. He had to see it.
Peter Pett: This extraordinary vision is of great importance, for it is a reminder to us also that the invisible forces of God are ever watching over and protecting His own. It is a reminder to us that as Christians we live in a sense in two places. In our bodies we live in, and are limited to, the physical world, but in our spirits we live in, and have contact with, ‘the heavenlies’ (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 6:10-18), where we are seated with Christ, and under His personal protection, and where we engage in warfare against the forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-18). We can compare this with the temple in Ezekiel 40 onwards. That too had come down from YHWH and was invisibly present in Israel so that although the returned exiles appeared only to have a rough altar which they had built in Jerusalem at which to worship, they could be sure that it served a huge invisible temple which had ‘come down’ from YHWH on a mountain outside Jerusalem, and already provided an assurance that He was with them. In the same way as ‘heirs of salvation’ we are watched over by ‘ministering spirits’ (Hebrews 1:14) and protected by His chariots and horses of fire.
Morgan: Faith is never the imagining of unreal things. It is the grip of things which cannot be demonstrated to the senses, but which are real. The chariots of horses and fire were actually there.
Dale Ralph Davis: How might this revelation of Yahweh’s unseen protection have come across to Israel in later years? Remember that this is not simply an incident that occurred in the ninth century bc; but this account is part of 1–2 Kings, which, as a book, was originally directed at Israel in exile, after the Babylonians had decimated Jerusalem and Judah (see 2 Kings 24–25). How would such exiles in Babylon 300 years after the event read 6:8–23? Especially the repentant remnant? Cut off from their homeland, under a pagan superpower, were they to be swallowed up as a chunk of ethnic trivia and be flushed down the stool of history? No, for ‘those who are with us are more than those who are with them’ (v. 16). But they probably didn’t see the horses and chariots of fire.
B. (:18-20) Removing the Blindness of Unbelievers
1. (:18) Blindness Exposes the Inability of Unbelievers
“And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, ‘Strike this people with blindness, I pray.’ So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.”
MacArthur: “blindness” – This word occurs only here and in Ge 19:11. The term is related to “light” and seems to mean “a dazzling from bright light” (note the “chariots of fire” in v. 17). Both biblical uses of the term involve a miraculous act with angelic presence and both are used in the context of deliverance from danger.
2. (:19) Blindness Makes One Dependent on Others
“Then Elisha said to them, ‘This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.’ And he brought them to Samaria.”
Wiersbe: The soldiers weren’t made totally blind, otherwise they couldn’t have followed Elijah; but their sight was clouded in such a way that they were able to see but not comprehend. They were under the delusion that they were being led to the house of Elisha, but Elisha was leading them to the city of Samaria!
3. (:20) Blindness Must Be Removed by the Lord to Accurately See One’s Position
“And it came about when they had come into Samaria, that Elisha said, ‘O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.’ So the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.”
Dale Ralph Davis: That is not the sort of ‘care’ one expects between enemies. It is rather exceptional. And the Syrians knew this all too well. One can almost hear their hearts thud when Yahweh opened their eyes after Elisha’s prayer: ‘they looked and—ah!—in the middle of Samaria!’ (v. 20b). They knew it was ‘curtains’. And yet they were spared. If then the Syrians really had eyes to see they would understand that they had come under Yahweh’s protection; it was offered to the likes of them. For here Yahweh not only protected Elisha and Israel by disabling the Syrians but protected the Syrians by restraining Israel’s king. Not only Israel but unwashed gentiles can have Yahweh as sun and shield. What an opportunity this was for these Syrians if they had had eyes to see it. This text is joyful news we can bring to all: it’s not just for churchy folks—the shelter of the Lord is open to you. One is tempted to tamper with Joseph Hart’s marvelous hymn—‘Come, ye Syrians, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore.’
III. (:21-23) GOD’S SURPRISING KINDNESS AND MERCY –
GOD TREATS HIS ENEMIES WITH KINDNESS AND MERCY
A. (:21) Bloodthirsty Vengeance is the Cry of Natural Man Toward His Enemies
“Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha,
‘My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?’”
Constable: King Jehoram referred to Elisha respectfully as his father (v. 21) because he realized this great victory had come from Elisha, who was superior to him for accomplishing it.
August Konkel: In the final episode the king of Israel believes he has an opportunity to inflict a debilitating defeat on the Aramean army (6:21–23). Matters, however, are not in his control; he has not been responsible for taking the soldiers captive and requires permission from the prophet, respectfully and unusually addressed as “father” (v. 21). The prophet instead follows the wisdom of a proverb: “If your enemy hungers, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov. 25:21–22). These soldiers are not to be slain or taken captive as the spoils of war and made slaves; instead, they are treated lavishly with food and drink and sent on their way. The result is a halt of the border wars.
B. (:22) Kindness and Mercy Towards Enemies Are a Surprising Strategy
“And he answered, ‘You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.’”
Wiersbe: Had Joram defeated this army in battle? No! If he had, he could kill his prisoners; but if he hadn’t, then whoever captured the prisoners would decide what to do. These were not prisoners of war; they were Elisha’s guests, so the king’s responsibility was to feed them. Joram knew that having a meal with them was the same as making a covenant with them (Gen. 26:26-31), but he obeyed. In fact, he went beyond the prophet’s request for bread and water and prepared a great feast for the soldiers.
C. (:23) Kindness and Mercy Proved to be Israel’s Best Defense
“So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.”
Whitcomb: this would be one more opportunity to confirm in the thinking of the Syrians that “the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings” (I Kings 20:31, because their God is a merciful God. The Syrians must have been greatly impressed, not only with Jehovah’s mercy, but also with Elisha’s superhuman insight, “for the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel” (II Kings 6:23).
House: Elisha counsels leniency, so the Israelites feed the Syrians and send them home, obviously humbled. In effect, then, Elisha brings peace through divine intervention. Everyone concerned receives safety from their enemies because of the prophet’s ministry.
Guzik: Instead of killing these enemy soldiers, Elisha instead commanded the king of Israel to treat them with kindness and generosity. This practice of answering evil with good successfully changed the policy of free-lance raiders from Syria.