2 Kings 6:21
And the king of Israel said to Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?
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(21) My father.—Comp. 2Kings 2:12; 2Kings 8:9 (“Thy son Ben-hadad”), 2Kings 13:14.

Shall I smite them,? shall I smite them?—Or, May I smite? may I smite, my father? The repetition expresses the king’s eagerness to slay his powerless enemies. He asks the prophet’s permission. (Comp. 2Kings 4:7.)

2 Kings 6:21-22. Shall I smite them? shall I smite them? — This repetition of the question shows his eager desire to fall upon them and kill them. Perhaps he remembered how God was displeased at his father for dismissing out of his hands those whom he had put it into his power to destroy, and he would not offend in like manner: yet such reverence has he now for the prophet, that he will not lift a hand against them without his permission. He answered, Thou shall not smite them — It is against the laws of humanity to kill captives, though thou thyself hadst taken them with thy own sword and bow, which might seem to give thee some colour to destroy them; but much more unworthy will it be in cold blood to kill these, whom not thy arms, but God’s providence hath put into thy hands. Set bread before them — Give them meat and drink, which may refresh and strengthen them for their journey. This was an action of singular piety and charity, in doing good to their enemies, which was much to the honour of the true religion, and of no less prudence; that hereby the hearts of the Syrians might be mollified toward the Israelites. Elijah had given a specimen of divine justice, when he called for flames of fire on the heads of his persecutors to consume them: but Elisha here gave a specimen of divine mercy, in heaping coals of fire on the heads of his persecutors to melt them.6:13-23 What Elisha said to his servant 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 they that are with us, to protect us, are more than they that are against us, to destroy us. The eyes of his body were open, and with them he saw the danger. Lord, open the eyes of our faith, that with them we may see thy protecting hand. The clearer sight we have of the sovereignty and power of Heaven, the less we shall fear the troubles of earth. Satan, the god of this world, blinds men's eyes, and so deludes them unto their own ruin; but when God enlightens their eyes, they see themselves in the midst of their enemies, captives to Satan, and in danger of hell, though, before, they thought their condition good. When Elisha had the Syrians at his mercy, he made it appear that he was influenced by Divine goodness as well as Divine power. Let us not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. The Syrians saw it was to no purpose to try to assault so great and so good a man.My father - A term of respect used by Jehoram in his joy at seeing an army of Syrians delivered up to him by the prophet. That the king's character was not changed appears from 2 Kings 6:31-32.

Shall I smite them? shall I smite them? - The repetition of the words mean, "Shall I utterly smite them?" Compare similar repetitions with similar meanings in Genesis 22:17; Luke 22:15.

19-23. This is not the way, neither is this the city—This statement is so far true that, as he had now left the place of his residence, they would not have got him by that road. But the ambiguity of his language was purposely framed to deceive them; and yet the deception must be viewed in the light of a stratagem, which has always been deemed lawful in war.

he led them to Samaria—When they were arrived in the midst of the capital, their eyes, at Elisha's request, were opened, and they then became aware of their defenseless condition, for Jehoram had received private premonition of their arrival. The king, so far from being allowed to slay the enemies who were thus unconsciously put in his power, was recommended to entertain them with liberal hospitality and then dismiss them to their own country. This was humane advice; it was contrary to the usage of war to put war captives to death in cold blood, even when taken by the point of the sword, much more those whom the miraculous power and providence of God had unexpectedly placed at his disposal. In such circumstances, kind and hospitable treatment was every way more becoming in itself, and would be productive of the best effects. It would redound to the credit of the true religion, which inspired such an excellent spirit into its professors; and it would not only prevent the future opposition of the Syrians but make them stand in awe of a people who, they had seen, were so remarkably protected by a prophet of the Lord. The latter clause of 2Ki 6:23 shows that these salutary effects were fully realized. A moral conquest had been gained over the Syrians.

Elisha had doubtless sent notice of his intentions to

the king of Israel, that he might accordingly prepare himself.

My father: now he gives him this title of reverence and affection, because of a great and present benefit he received from him; though otherwise he hated him, and would not hearken to his counsel.

Shall I smite them? the repetition of the question shows his great desire to smite them, and that with utter destruction. And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them,.... The Syrian army thus in his hands:

my father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them? he speaks with great reverence and respect to the prophet, whom at other times he neglected and despised; and the repetition of his words shows the eagerness of his mind to fall upon his enemy when they where at a disadvantage.

And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, {l} My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?

(l) The wicked use reverent and grave words toward the servants of God, when they think to have any blessing from them, though in their heart they cannot abide them.

21. My father] The form of address is strange from the mouth of the king even though he be described (2 Kings 3:2) as better than his father and his mother. It is however one more token of the great influence exercised in Israel by the prophets Elijah and Elisha. In the present instance Jehoram could hardly undertake to smite the prisoners brought into his hands by the prophet without Elisha’s consent, though his repeated question ‘Shall I smite them? Shall I smite them?’ shews how eager he was to destroy them.Verse 21. - And the King of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father. In his joy at the deliverance of so large a force of the enemy into his hands, Jehoram forgets the coldness and estrangement which have hitherto characterized the relations between himself and the prophet (2 Kings 3:11-14; 2 Kings 5:8), and salutes him by the honorable title of "father," which implied respect, deference, submission. Compare the use of the same expression by Joash (2 Kings 13:14), and the employment of the correlative term "son" (2 Kings 8:9) by Berthadad. Shall I smite them? shall I smite them? The repetition marks extreme eagerness, while the interrogative form shows a certain amount of hesitation. It is certain that the Israelites were in the habit of putting to death their prisoners of war, not only when they were captured with arms in their hands, but even when they surrendered themselves. When a city or country was conquered, the whole male population of full age was commonly put to death (Numbers 31:7; 1 Samuel 15:8; 1 Kings 11:15; 1 Chronicles 20:3, etc.). When a third part was spared, it was from some consideration of relationship (2 Samuel 8:2). The Law distinctly allowed, if it did not even enjoin, the practice (Deuteronomy 20:13). Jehoram, therefore, no doubt, put his prisoners of war to death under ordinary circumstances. But he hesitates now. He feels that the case is an extraordinary one, and that the prophet, who has made the capture, is entitled to be consulted on the subject. Hence his question. When Elisha's servant went out the next morning and saw the army, which had surrounded the town in the night, he said to the prophet, "Alas, my lord, how shall we do?" But Elisha quieted him, saying, "Fear not, for those with us are more than those with them." He then prayed that the Lord might open his servant's eyes, whereupon he saw the mountain upon which Dothan stood full of fiery horses and chariots round about Elisha. Opening the eyes was translation into the ecstatic state of clairvoyance, in which an insight into the invisible spirit-world was granted him. The fiery horses and chariots were symbols of the protecting powers of Heaven, which surrounded the prophet. The fiery form indicated the super-terrestrial origin of this host. Fire, as the most ethereal of all earthly elements, was the most appropriate substratum for making the spirit-world visible. The sight was based upon Jacob's vision (Genesis 32:2), in which he saw a double army of angels encamped around him, at the time when he was threatened with danger from Esau.
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