At a time of good news like this, we shouldn't keep it to ourselves.
(2Ki 7:9 CJB)
SETTING THE STAGE
It was after Ben Hadad the king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel to be healed from his leprosy. King Joram thought that Ben-Hadad only sought for a pretext for war. Elisha the prophet took control of the situation and ordered Naaman to go immerse seven times in the Jordan River. HaShem healed Naaman who was at that time an officer in the hostile armies of Ben-Hadad.
Some time later, during a famine so severe that people were cannibalizing their young ones, Ben-Hadad decides to lay siege against Samaria. As he had successfully done in the past, King Joram seeks Elisha's advice. Should he surrender the city? Elisha told the king not to surrender the city, but to surrender himself to HaShem in repentance.
But some time afterwards, Ben-Hadad king of Aram gathered all his army, went up and laid siege to Shomron. At the time, there was a severe famine in Shomron; and they maintained their siege until a donkey's head sold for eighty pieces of silver and half a pint of doves' dung for five pieces of silver. As the king of Isra'el was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, "Help, my lord, king!" He said, "If Adonai isn't helping you, how do you expect me to help you? There isn't any grain, and there isn't any wine." Then the king asked her, "What's troubling you?" She answered, "This woman said to me, 'Give me your son, so that we can eat him today; and we'll eat my son tomorrow.' So we boiled my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, 'Give your son, so that we can eat him,' but she has hidden her son." When the king heard what the woman said, he tore his clothes. At the time, he was passing by on the wall; and when the people looked, they saw him there with sackcloth against his skin.
(2Ki 6:24-30 CJB)
As the siege dragged on, King Joram's anger turned toward Elisha:
Then he said, "May God do terrible things to me, and worse ones too, if the head of Elisha the son of Shafat remains on his body by day's end."
(2Ki 6:31 CJB)
A messenger came to warn Elisha:
Elisha was sitting in his house, and the leaders were sitting there with him. The king sent a messenger ahead, but before he arrived, Elisha said to the leaders, "Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent someone to remove my head? Look, when the messenger comes, close the door and keep it shut against him. You can hear his master's footsteps following right behind him!" While he was still speaking, the messenger arrived with this message from the king: "Here, this evil is from Adonai. Why should I wait for Adonai any longer?"
(2Ki 6:32-33 CJB)
Elisha prophecies a reassuring prophecy to the king:
"Listen to the word of Adonai. Here is what Adonai says: 'Tomorrow, by this time, six quarts of fine flour will sell for only a shekel, and half a bushel of barley for a shekel [in the market] at the gate to Shomron."
(2Ki 7:1 CJB)
But a counsellor of the king mocks Elisha's prophecy:
The servant on whose arm the king was leaning answered the man of God: "Why, this couldn't happen even if Adonai made windows in heaven!" Elisha answered, "All right, you yourself will see it with your own eyes; but you won't eat any of it!"
(2Ki 7:2 CJB)
THE FOUR LEPERS AND THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM
Our companion haftarah to Parasha Metzorah about the laws of purification for leprosy starts with a story concerning four dejected, rejected, and desperate lepers and their role in ending the siege.
Due to their state of leprosy, the four lepers in our story remained outside the gates of Samaria. They couldn't go inside, and outside was the Syrian army. They literally were between a rock and a hard place.
Now there were four men with tzara`at at the entrance to the city gate, and they said to each other, "Why should we sit here till we die? If we say, 'We'll enter the city, then the city has been struck by the famine, so we'll die there. And if we sit still here, we'll also die. So let's go and surrender to the army of Aram; if they spare our lives, we will live; and if they kill us, we'll only die."
(2Ki 7:3-4 CJB)
With the city bankrupt, they felt that they had nothing to lose. They decided to take their chances with the Syrian who might take pity on them. To their surprise, the Syrian camp was empty. It had suffered an auditory delusion sent by the HaShem to deliver Samaria and vindicate Elisha.
They got up during the twilight to go to the camp of Aram. But when they reached the outskirts of the camp of Aram, they saw no one! For Adonai had caused the army of Aram to hear the sound of chariots and horses; it sounded like a huge army; and they said to each other, "The king of Isra'el must have hired the kings of the Hitti and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us." So they jumped up and fled in the twilight, leaving their tents, horses, donkeys and the whole camp just as it was, and ran for their lives.
(2Ki 7:5-7 CJB)
Our starving lepers started looting the camp and filling their bellies from the foods left behind by the Syrians.
When these men with tzara`at reached the outskirts of the camp, they entered one of the tents, ate and drank; then took some silver, gold and clothing; and went and hid it. Next they returned and entered another tent, took stuff from there, and went and hid it. (2Ki 7:8 CJB)
Conviction sets in. These poor lepers who had been rejected by the people of the city feel compassion for those who mistreated them.
But finally they said to each other, "What we are doing is wrong. At a time of good news like this, we shouldn't keep it to ourselves. If we wait even till morning, we will earn only punishment; so come on, let's go and tell the king's household." (2Ki 7:9 CJB)
HEBREW NOTE: The Hebrew word translated as "good news" in the English text of 2 Kgs 7:9, is actually the word "besorah?בשרה", which is actually the word used for "Gospel." Though in English texts the word "Gospel" only appears in the Brit haChadasha, in the Hebrew text of the Tanach, it appears several times.
Our four lepers then become the proclaimers of the "Good News" to the city of Samaria.
So they came and shouted to the gatekeepers of the city and told them the news: "We went to the camp of Aram, and no one was there, no human voice -- just the horses and donkeys tied up, and the tents left in place." The gatekeepers called and told it to the king's household inside. (2Ki 7: 10-11 CJB)
Though Elisha had prophesied deliverance (2 Kgs 7:1), pragmatic King Joram wanted to be sure. Like Gideon, he wanted to believe, but in a true spirit of pragmatism, needed some sort of assurance. This teacher believes that in this day and age of rampant false prophecies of doom or happiness, we should learn form this attitude. The king expresses his thoughts to his servants who gave him sensible advice.
Then the king got up in the night; he said to his servants, "I'll tell you what Aram has done to us. They know that we're hungry, so they've gone outside the camp and hidden in the countryside, saying, 'When they come out of the city, we'll take them alive and then get inside the city.' " One of his servants answered, "I suggest letting some men take five of the remaining horses that are left in the city -- they're like everything else in Isra'el that remains, like everything else in Isra'el, practically finished -- and we'll send and see."
(2Ki 7:12-13 CJB)
King Joram agreed with his servants.
So they took two chariots with horses, and the king sent after the army of Aram, saying, "Go, and see." They went after them all the way to the Yarden, and found the entire distance strewn with clothing and other articles Aram had thrown away in their haste. The messengers returned and told the king.
(2Ki 7:14-15 CJB)
TRUE PROPHET VINDICATED AND FALSE PROPHET PUNISHED
Elisha, the true messenger of God, is now vindicated through fulfilled prophecy:
Then the people went out and ransacked the camp of Aram -- with the result that six quarts of fine flour was sold for only a shekel and half a bushel of barley for a shekel, in keeping with what Adonai had said.
(2Ki 7:16 CJB)
But the false messenger of doubt and doom is trampled by the crowds of joyful believers.
The king put the servant on whose arm he had leaned in charge of the gate, and the people trampled him down in the gateway, so that he died, as the man of God had said he would, who spoke when the king came to him. For the man of God had said to the king, "Tomorrow by this time six quarts of barley will sell for only a shekel and half a bushel of fine flour for a shekel [in the market] at the gate of Shomron"; the servant had answered the man of God, "Why, this couldn't happen even if Adonai made windows in heaven!" and Elisha had said, "All right, you yourself will see it with your own eyes; but you won't eat any of it!" That is exactly what happened to him, because the people trampled him down in the gateway, so that he died.
(2Ki 7:17-20 CJB)
NOT AMONG THE MOCKERS.
MAY WE BE FOUND TO BE AMONG THE BELIEVERS OF THE PROPHETS WHOSE PROPHECIES COME TO PASS,
NOT OF THOSE WHOSE PROPECIES ARE LIKE CLOUDS WITHOUT RAIN!