Verses 13–23

Here is, 1. The great force which the king of Syria sent to seize Elisha. He found out where he was, at Dothan (2 Kgs. 6:13), which was not far from Samaria; thither he sent a great host, who were to come upon him by night, and to bring him dead or alive, 2 Kgs. 6:14. Perhaps he had heard that when only one captain and his fifty men were sent to take Elijah they were baffled in the attempt, and therefore he sent an army against Elisha, as if the fire from heaven that consumed fifty men could not as easily consume 50,000. Naaman could tell him that Elisha dwelt not in any strong-hold, nor was attended with any guards, nor had any such great interest in the people that he needed to fear a tumult among them; what occasion then was there for this great force? But thus he hoped to make sure of him, especially coming upon him by surprise. Foolish man! Did he believe that Elisha had informed the king of Israel of his secret counsels or not? If not, what quarrel had he with him? If he did, could he be so weak as to imagine that Elisha would not discover the designs laid against himself, and that, having interest enough in heaven to discover them, he would not have interest enough to defeat them? Those that fight against God, his people, and prophet, know not what they do.

II. The grievous fright which the prophet’s servant was in, when he perceived the city surrounded by the Syrians, and the effectual course which the prophet took to pacify him and free him from his fears. It seems, Elisha accustomed his servant to rise early, that is the way to bring something to pass, and to do the work of a day in its day. Being up, we may suppose he heard the noise of soldiers, and thereupon looked out, and was aware of an army compassing the city (2 Kgs. 6:15), with great assurance no doubt of success, and that they should have this troublesome prophet in their hands presently. Now observe, 1. What a consternation he was in. He ran straight to Elisha, to bring him an account of it: “Alas, master!” (said he) “what shall we do? We are undone, it is to no purpose to think either of fighting or flying, but we must unavoidably fall into their hands.” Had he but studied David’s Psalms, which were then extant, he might have learnt not to be afraid of 10,000 of people (Ps. 3:6), no, not of a host encamped against him, Ps. 27:3. Had he considered that he was embarked with his master, by whom God had done great things, and whom he would not now leave to fall into the hands of the uncircumcised, and who, having saved others, would no doubt save himself, he would not have been thus at a loss. If he had only said, What shall I do? it would have been the more excusable, and like that of the disciples: Lord, save us, we perish; but he needed not to include his master as being in distress, nor to say, What shall we do? 2. How his master quieted him, (1.) By word. What he said to him (2 Kgs. 6:16) is spoken to all the faithful servants of God, when without are fightings and within are fears: “Fear not with that fear which has torment and amazement, for those that are with us, to protect us, are more than those that are against us, to destroy us—angels unspeakably more numerous—God infinitely more powerful.” When we are magnifying the causes of our fear we ought to possess ourselves with clear, and great, and high thoughts of God and the invisible world. If God be for us, we know what follows, Rom. 8:31. (2.) By vision, 2 Kgs. 6:17. [1.] It seems Elisha was much concerned for the satisfaction of his servant. Good men desire, not only to be easy themselves, but to have those about them easy. Elisha had lately parted with his old man, and this, having newly come into his service, had not the advantage of experience; his master was therefore desirous to give him other convincing evidence of that omnipotence which employed him and was therefore employed for him. Note, Those whose faith is strong ought tenderly to consider and compassionate those who are weak and of a timorous spirit, and to do what they can to strengthen their hands. [2.] He saw himself safe, and wished no more than that his servant might see what he saw, a guard of angels round about him; such as were his master’s convoy to the gates of heaven were his protectors against the gates of hell—chariots of fire, and horses of fire. Fire is both dreadful and devouring; that power which was engaged for Elisha’s protection could both terrify and consume the assailants. As angels are God’s messengers, so they are his soldiers, his hosts (Gen. 32:2), his legions, or regiments, (Matt. 26:53), for the good of his people. [3.] For the satisfaction of his servant there needed no more than the opening of his eyes; that therefore he prayed for, and obtained for him: Lord, open his eyes that he may see. The eyes of his body were open, and with them he saw the danger. “Lord, open the eyes of his faith, that with them he may see the protection we are under.” Note, First, The greatest kindness we can do for those that are fearful and faint-hearted is to pray for them, and so to recommend them to the mighty grace of God. Secondly, The opening of our eyes will be the silencing of our fears. In the dark we are most apt to be frightened. The clearer sight we have of the sovereignty and power of heaven the less we shall fear the calamities of this earth.

III. The shameful defeat which Elisha gave to the host of Syrians who came to seize him. They thought to make a prey of him, but he made fools of them, perfectly played with them, so far was he from fearing them or any damage by them. 1. He prayed to God to smite them with blindness, and they were all struck blind immediately, not stone-blind, nor so as to be themselves aware that they were blind, for they could see the light, but their sight was so altered that they could not know the persons and places they were before acquainted with, 2 Kgs. 6:18. They were so confounded that those among them whom they depended upon for information did not know this place to be Dothan nor this person to be Elisha, but groped at noon day as in the night (Isa. 59:10; Job 12:24, 25); their memory failed them, and their distinguishing faculty. See the power of God over the minds and understanding of men, both ways; he enlightened the eyes of Elisha’s friend, and darkened the eyes of his foes, that they might see indeed, but not perceive, Isa. 6:9 For this twofold judgment Christ came into this world, that those who see not might see, and that those who see might be made blind (John 9:39), a savour of life to some, of death to others.

2. When they were thus bewildered and confounded he led them to Samaria (2 Kgs. 6:19), promising that he would show them the man whom they sought, and he did so. He did not lie to them when he told them, This is not the way, nor is this the city where Elisha is; for he had now come out of the city; and if they would see him, they must go to another city to which he would direct them. Those that fight against God and his prophets deceive themselves, and are justly given up to delusions. 3. When he had brought them to Samaria he prayed to God so to open their eyes and restore them their memories that they might see where they were (2 Kgs. 6:20), and behold, to their great terror, they were in the midst of Samaria, where, it is probable, there was a standing force sufficient to cut them all off, or make them prisoners of war. Satan, the god of this world, blinds men’s eyes, and so deludes them into their own ruin; but, when God enlightens their eyes, they then see themselves in the midst of their enemies, captives to Satan and in danger of hell, though before they thought their condition good. The enemies of God and his church, when they fancy themselves ready to triumph, will find themselves conquered and triumphed over. 4. When he had them at his mercy he made it appear that he was influenced by a divine goodness as well as a divine power. (1.) He took care to protect them from the danger into which he had brought them, and was content to show them what he could have done; he needed not the sword of an angel to avenge his cause, the sword of the king of Israel is at his service if he please (2 Kgs. 6:21): My father (so, respectfully does the king now speak to him, though, soon after, he swore his death), shall I smite them? And, again, as if he longed for the assault, Shall I smite them? Perhaps, he remembered how God was displeased at his father for letting go out of his hands those whom he had put it in his power to destroy, and he would not offend in like manner; yet such a reverence has he for the prophet that he will not strike a stroke without his commission. But the prophet would by no means suffer him to meddle with them; they were brought hither to be convinced and shamed, not to be killed, 2 Kgs. 6:22. Had they been his prisoners, taken captive by his sword and bow, when they asked quarter it would have been barbarous to deny, and, when he had given it to them, it would have been perfidious to do them any hurt, and against the laws of arms to kill men in cool blood. But they were not his prisoners; they were God’s prisoners and the prophet’s, and therefore he must do them no harm. Those that humble themselves under God’s hand take the best course to secure themselves. (2.) He took care to provide for them; he ordered the king to treat them handsomely and then dismiss them fairly, which he did, 2 Kgs. 6:23. [1.] It was the king’s praise that he was so obsequious to the prophet, contrary to his inclination, and, as it seemed, to his interest, 1 Sam. 24:19. Nay, so willing was he to oblige Elisha that, whereas he was ordered only to set bread and water before them (which are good fare for captives), he prepared great provision for them, for the credit of his court and country and of Elisha. [2.] It was the prophet’s praise that he was so generous to his enemies, who, though they came to take him, could not but go away admiring him, as both the mightiest and kindest man they ever met with. The great duty of loving enemies, and doing good to those that hate us, was both commanded in the Old Testament (Prov. 25:21, 22, If thy enemy hunger, feed him, Exod. 23:4, 5) and practised, as here by Elisha. His predecessor had given a specimen of divine justice when he called for flames of fire on the heads of his persecutors to consume them, but he have a specimen of divine mercy in heaping coals of fire on the heads of his persecutors to melt them. Let not us then be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

IV. The good effect this had, for the present, upon the Syrians. They came no more into the land of Israel (2 Kgs. 6:23), namely, upon this errand, to take Elisha; they saw it was to no purpose to attempt that, nor would any of their bands be persuaded to make an assault on so great and good a man. The most glorious victory over an enemy is to turn him into a friend.