Open and Shut: a Study in 2 Kings 6:8-23
The king of Syria frustrated verses 8-12
The king of Syria took steps to encroach on the territory of and defeat his enemy the king of Israel. In counsel with his servants, he planned encampments in which his army would lay a trap for the armies of Israel. These “best laid plans” came to naught, however. God revealed to Elisha the plans, and Elisha relayed the plans to the king of Israel (cf. Amos 3:7). By the Lord’s revelation, the king of Israel saved himself, his armies, and his kingdom. Jehoram of Israel was a wicked king who “wrought evil in the sight of the Lord.” Though he did not serve Baal, he condoned and practice the worship of the calf idols that king Jeroboam had made 2 Kings 3:1-3. Elisha, nevertheless, remained a dutiful citizen of his country, both serving God and honoring the king (1 Peter 2:17).[i]
His plans were frustrated with such consistency that the king of Syria suspected a spy in his midst. There was no spy among them – just a prophet in Israel to whom God revealed “the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.”
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. (Job 5:12)
The man of God protected verses 13-17
If the prophet is the problem, then the king must send an army to fetch him. He sent horses, chariots, and a great host of soldiers to Dothan to capture Elisha. Perhaps the king never considered that the prophet, who knew his private words in planning military ambushes, might also know his secret plans to capture him! Alternatively, perhaps he just thought he had to try something. They surrounded the city, under cover of darkness, preparing to take Elisha.
Elisha’s servant awoke early, saw the siege of soldiers, and was struck with fear. Elisha was not awash in the same fear. His spiritual eyes saw the protection of God, and he prayed for the same for his servant. When the servant’s spiritual eyes were opened, he saw a host of angels surrounding and defending them (cf. Psalms 34:7; Hebrews 1:7,14). He saw them as comparable to (horses and chariots), as well as more powerful than (of fire) the host of the Syrians.
Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. (cf. 1 John 4:4)
The army of Syria maneuvered verses 18-20
The prophet who prayed to God to open his servant’s eyes now prayed to God to close the Syrians’ eyes – “Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness.” God answered Elisha’s prayer. Elisha then told the soldiers to follow him and he would reveal the man whom they sought. The Syrians were confused and confounded, but apparently not aware that they were blind. They could “see” to follow Elisha away from Dothan to Samaria. This sort of blindness Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown called “a mental hallucination.” The blind are easily deceived – yet all too often, the spiritually blind think they see the most and see the best! Elisha had maneuvered them just where he wanted them.
Once in Samaria, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Open the eyes of these men.” God answered. They saw. What they saw was they were in in the midst of the capital city of Israel, Samaria, in the presence of the king of Israel and his host. No doubt, it is they who are now surrounded!
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Ephesians 4:18)
The army of Syria protected verses 20-23
The king of Israel displays the glee of a child rather than the composure of a king. He wished to enjoy that on which he had not laboured (Jonah 4:10). He wished to smite an army he had not captured, even asking twice. Elisha quickly remonstrated, reminding the king he would not normally execute those he has captured in battle.[ii]
Elisha went beyond expectations. He demonstrated compassion to the very host intent on capturing him. He helped the helpless; he saved those without strength (Job 26:2; Romans 5:6). Elisha saw to it that the Syrians were protected, provided for, and eventually even liberated Proverbs 25:21). “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.”[iii]
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44)
The sovereign creator God of the Bible reveals secrets unto his servants the prophets; forsakes not his saints; opens & none shall shut and shuts & none shall open; and has mercy on whom he will have mercy.
[iii] Matthew Henry, in his commentary on II Kings.