In II Kings 6, we read of a thrilling display of God’s supernatural help and protection. Elisha had foiled the attempts of the Syrian king to invade Israel, and the king had found out where Elisha could be found, and dispatched an army to deal with him. Elisha’s servant, fearful of the Syrian display of strength, was given a glimpse of God’s own army, sent to protect them, and greater by far than the Syrian band (vv. 14-17). The place where this happened was Dothan (v. 13).
Dothan was also the scene of another biblical event, many centuries before. Joseph had been sent by his father to check up on his brothers as they kept the family’s sheep. He eventually caught up with them at Dothan. It was here that they, being envious of him, cast him into a pit and sold him to passersby, later leading their father to believe that he had been killed (Genesis 37). This was the beginning of the saga of Joseph’s trials, all a part of God’s plan to preserve the family of Jacob, in continuing fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1ff.). Joseph would later inform his brothers of God’s providential hand in both the hardships and subsequent triumphs of his life in Egypt (Gen. 50:20).
Both events were instances of God’s providence. In both cases, God was acting on behalf of His people, including the individuals involved in the respective incidents. One had an immediate outcome; the other was the beginning of a long period of hardship. Still, God was there in His providence (Gen. 39:2, 21).
Sometimes God’s help has been immediate; at other times, it is hidden until such a time as we can look back over a period of time and reflect. While we will not see the things Elisha saw, all Christians can likely recall difficult times when God’s help came in a relatively short time. Likewise those times when God seemed slow to act. This is the difference between the Dothan of Elisha and the Dothan of Joseph. In fact, are we not tempted to find God’s response to Elisha more appealing than God’s work in Joseph’s life? More often than not, however, it seems we find ourselves at Joseph’s “Dothan,” rather than Elisha’s.
Remember Dothan. Remember that, if you are a faithful child of God, whether God works immediately, or your experience is more like that of Joseph, God is there, caring for you, perhaps on behalf of others as well.