Saturday, June 20

“Do we kill prisoners of war?”

Scripture: 2 Kings 6-7, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Timothy 3

2 Kings 6:21–23 When the king of Israel saw them, he shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?” 

22 “Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.” 

23 So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master. After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel.


There was so much to pick from in today’s reading…I’m going with the first thing that struck me.

Israel was at war with Aram and suffered from regular raids by Aramean armies.  The one bright spot for Israel was that God often spoke to the prophet Elisha and warned him of Aramean military plans so they could be prepared.  The king of Aram thought there was a traitor in his midst, but someone pointed out that God was speaking to Elisha, revealing the king’s plans.  So the king sent a military detachment to arrest Elisha.  

When Elisha discovered that he was surrounded and trapped, he prayed and God struck the Arameans blind.  Elisha led the Aramean soldiers to Samaria, Israel’s capital, where the king of Israel wanted to kill them.  But Elisha said, “No, that’s not how we treat prisoners of war.  Feed them and send them home.”  And that was the end of the raids.

I believe the raids ended because of the kindness Elisha showed to his enemies.  Rather than answering violence with more violence and thus perpetuating the cycle of violence and retribution, Elisha interrupted the cycle with kindness.  

I also believe the raids ended because the presence of a prophet changed the balance of power.  This incident may have convinced the king of Aram that the raids were futile as long as Elisha lived in Israel.  A genuine Christian witness could change things in our nation.


Two Scriptures come to mind when I read this story.

Matthew 5:43–44  “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”  

Romans 12:17–21 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. 20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. 

If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap 

burning coals of shame on their heads.” 21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Elisha lived out the gospel ethic of love for enemies—he refused easy revenge and instead fed his enemy and gave him drink.  He conquered evil with good.