Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” He answered, “You shall not kill. 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.” 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.
2 Kings 6:21-23
The situation: The king of Aram kept plotting to come into Israel and kill the king of Israel (northern kingdom, not Judah), but Elisha kept telling the king of Israel what was going to happen so that it looked like there was a spy in the court of the king of Aram. When the king of Aram found out it was Elisha, he brought the army down to surround and capture the prophet. Elisha prays that the army would be made blind, then leads this blind army up to the king of Israel and this morning’s verse is where things from there.
I know folks who read through the OT and see only a God of mayhem. They see God commanding that this or that people be wiped out for their wickedness. They see God siding with Judah or Samaria (northern kingdom) or a united Israel in wars. They see all the violence and none of the humor or mercy. This morning’s verse is an example of both. Elisha asks for something that, in other places, would result in the battle going for Israel and the enemy being slaughtered. Doesn’t happen here. Elisha, the guy this blind army came to capture, then leads the blind army right into the middle of their enemy’s strongest position; surrounded by their enemy; without chance of escape or victory. But the enemy army isn’t killed. Instead, Elisha tells the king to feed these guys and send them on their way.
There are people who say that war is not the answer; that violence doesn’t solve anything. Truly, whether or not war is the answer depends on the question and violence is sometimes marvelously effective in solving problems. I was given swats as a child and I learned that certain things were not done because of it. It was a mild bit of violence, but it solved the problem of my disobedience with a quickness. Hitler’s regime would not have been stopped by diplomacy. That was tried and failed. War was the only option left to a world that had tried the peaceful option. All of that to say that the folks who parrot these inane statements have obviously missed the point of history. These same folks are the ones who claim that God is violent and whatever else they want to lay to His account. I’m not clear on all of it, I think He’s pretty darn awesome on every day ending in -y. God is completely justified in doling out violence when He determines that it is the only valid solution.
That’s not what He does here. Here, He doles out some old fashioned, ultra non-violence. Why “ultra”? I cannot think of a non-violence that would have been more likely to make the Arameans soil themselves than this. There are times when non-violence can be so much more frightening than violence. I mean, these guys just got marched right into the heart of the enemy. They walked blindly (literally) into a life-threatening situation. Instead of death, they are fed and sent home. The result: And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel. That is impressive.
How can I apply this to myself? Well, God tells me that I’m engaged in a spiritual war and that my enemies are not physical enemies, but spiritual ones. Paul writes that I [n]ever take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath [of God], for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21) My job is to leave room for God to handle business; to do good even, maybe especially, to those who harm me. Jesus said it, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) A little old fashioned, ultra non-violence can sometimes go a long way.