Elisha’s wisdom and the rules of war – Chuck Stevens

Long before the Geneva Conventions, timeless standards of warfare prevailed. In the era of the Old Testament, Israel’s prophet Elisha held a strategic role, aiding the king of Israel against perennial foe, Aram. When Aram’s king sought to eliminate Elisha, divine intervention blinded the enemy soldiers. Elisha’s mercy prevailed as he hosted a feast for them. This historical lesson illustrates that even in conflict, humanity can uphold fundamental rules of engagement, a stark contrast to modern transgressions such as using civilians as shields. The need for redefined conventions is evident in today’s world.

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Conventions of War

By Chuck Stephens 

Long before the Geneva conventions, there were common standards of warfare…

Nor is this the first time that Israel has been feuding with a sworn enemy next door.  It happened repeatedly in Old Testament times.  One such occasion was at the time of the prophet Elisha.

Israel’s perennial enemy at that time was the king of Aram (Syria).  The king of Israel kept getting intel from Elisha.  The prophet’s town of Dothan was about ten kilometers north of Samaria, at a strategic viewpoint monitoring roads to and from the north.  He seemed to have a close working relationship with the king.  Elisha’s vantage point took the surprise element out of the king of Aram’s surprise attacks.

So the king of Aram decided to go after Elisha and take him out.  He sent an army to Dothan to eliminate the prophet.  When that army arrived, Elisha prayed to God that all the soldiers would be blinded.  To the sightless army he spoke: â€śYou are wrong.  This is the wrong path and the wrong city.  I will lead you to the person you are really after.” (II Kings 6:19).  They followed him on to Samaria, where their sight was restored.

Elisha had led them right into harm’s way.  Humbled by the prophet’s awesome powers, the king of Israel asked: â€śDo you want me to slaughter these men, my father?  Shall I slaughter them?” (II Kings 6:21)

Elisha replied; â€śNo, do not slaughter them.  Would you really slaughter men whom you have captured with your sword and with your bow?  Set the table and fill it with bread and water.  Let them eat and drink and return to their own master.”  (II Kings 6:22)

Here is how they lived happily ever after: â€śIsrael’s king had the table set and offered the Arameans a great feast.  After they ate and drank, Israel’s king told them to leave.  They returned to their own master, and the Arameans stopped sending raiding parties into Israel.” (II Kings 6:23)

Here endeth the first lesson…

There are rules to warfare.  For example, the way that prisoners of war are treated.  When your opponents are disarmed – or unarmed – you have no right to harm them or hold them hostage.

When armies engage one another, fighting, injury and even death are expected.  But attacking civilians or using them as human shields is beyond all the red lines.  Even the sacred principles of Islam do not allow this.  Conventions going back three thousand years are opposed to this.

Siege warfare and scorched earth policies are not unheard of, when armies hide behind city walls and mingle with the civilian population.

Hamas has stepped far out of bounds.  To be proportionate, Israel’s response will be severe.  Prospects of a two-state solution are fading.  Annihilation is not an option.  But we may see re-occupation or annexation.  For even the conventions of war must be reconstituted.

He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.

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