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SHALL I SMITE ?
BY REV. GEORGE W. MONTGOMERY.
“And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, my father, shall I smite them ? - shall I smite them ? ” —2 KINGS vi. 21.
THESE words are connected with a portion of ancient history, that presents features of extraordinary interest, and affords a lesson replete with delightful instruction. It will, therefore, be useful to trace its noble incidents, and observe carefully its important results.
It appears that war was raging between Israel and Syria. In the prosecution of this war, the Syrian king devised various schemes to destroy his foes by surprise. But no sooner were his plans formed, than they were communicated to Jehoram, the King of Israel, who thereby es
caped destruction. The King of Syria became angry, because his intentions were thus frustrated. Suspecting treachery, he inquired of his servants, who among them had aided the cause of his enemy. One of them answered, “ None, my Lord, O King! but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the King of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bed-chamber. (verse 12.)
His next place was to remove Elisha out of his way. Having ascertained that the prophet was in Dotham, the King of Syria sent there a strong force, which availed itself of the darkness of the night, to surround the city. In the morning, when the servant of the prophet went forth, and beheld the array of the enemy, he was filled with fear, and said, “ Alas, my master, how shall we do ? ” (verse 15.) The answer was, “ Fear not; for they that be with us, are more than they that be with them.” (verse 16.) The servant soon became satisfied of this fact, because, in accordance with the prayer of the prophet, his spiritual eyes were opened, and he saw, as it were, a mountain full of horses, and chariots of fire, representing the invisible forces of God, which held Elisha in their protection.
The man of God then prayed, that the Syrian host might be smitten with blindness. It was done. Elisha then went to them, and without their knowing him, led them into Samaria, under the delusion, that they would there find the man whom they sought. On arriving in the city, their sight was restored to them. They at once discovered their helplessness, surrounded, as they were, by an irresistible force. On seeing his enemies, they who had stood in array against his dominions, so completely in his power, the King of Israel said to the prophet, “ My Father, shall I smite them? — shall I smite them?” How perfectly this repeated question harmonizes with the violent passions excited by war-furies ! How exactly it coincides with the voices that speak from the iron lips of force and revenge! These Syrians were the enemies of Israel. They were now completely in the king's power. His troops were at hand, and, by his order, they would at once slaughter the helpless Syrians, who could then give him no more trouble. In what manner could he more readily relieve himself of their fierce enmity? It is true, that it would be a work of cruelty : that it would make Syria trem
ble with the wail of anguish, which would burst from the hearts of its widows and orphans; that out of the blood thus shed, fiercer, and more unrelenting foes, might arise, to exact from him a terrible retribution for his revenge. But yet, these Syrians were in his power, and why not smite them ?
What answer gave the prophet to the king's repeated question ? It is a remarkable answer, worthy of profound regard, and comes to us from that old time, sweeping through the terrible tempests of human passions, like an angelic song, becoming the “still, small voice” of God amid the storm, the fire, and the earthquake. Turning to the king, he said, “Thou shalt not smite them. Would'st thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword, and with thy bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.” (verse 22.) This must have been a new mode to the warrior
ng, of treating his enemies. Did the worldly wisdom, of which we hear so much in our day, suggest the idea to him, that if, instead of crushing his foes, he should obey the prophet, and treat them kindly, they would lose all the good