LEPERS SAVE THE DAY 2Ki 7:3-20
CONTEXT: This story is one of a series of miracle stories centered around Elisha, successor to Eliyhu in the 9th century BCE. Among other wondrous acts, the prophet has fed a lot of people with a few loaves of bread, revived a dead child, and caused a lost a lost iron axe head to float. At the time Aram (Syria) was a perennial opponent of Yisrael. Shomron, capitol of the northern kingdom, was experiencing a terrible drought/famine–the price of food had become impossible. And that’s when King Ben Hadad, II, of Aram, has gathered his forces to attack the city and camped not far from its gate. Y’horam, King of Yisrael, walking the city wall at night encounters a woman who calls out: “Help me O King!” He replies: “If Yah has not helped you from where can I? What’s the matter?” “This woman said to me give up your son and we shall eat it today and my son we shall eat tomorrow. We cooked my son and ate him. Days later when I said to her give up your son and we shall eat it, she hid her son.” The king is distraught, tears his clothes, and mourns. Perhaps out of impotent madness he turns on the prophet: “Damn me if I don’t have Elisha’s head this day.” Elisha, at home surrounded by the leaders of his disciples of course knows what is going on, tells his men to grab the messenger from the king and in his hearing declares an incredibly hopeful prediction: “At this time tomorrow, at the Shomron gate, flour will sell for a shekel a bushel and two bushels of barley will go for a shekel.” The official sarcastically jibes back: “God’s going to open the heavens? Could such a thing happen?” Elisha replies; “You’ll live to see it but not to eat of it!”
One more detail, Leviticus 13:46 provides, that a person with plague, being impure, must dwell alone, his dwelling outside the camp.
There were four men, m’tsoraim, at the door of the gate. One said to the other, “For what are we sitting here till our death? If, say, we enter the city and there’s famine, we die there. And if we stay here we die. So let’s go drop into the Aram camp: if they revive us we live and if they kill us we die.”
So they rose in the dark to enter the Aram camp and when they reached the perimeter, look, not a man there. What had happened was that my Lord had sounded in the Aram camp the noise of chariot and horse, the noise of a great army. One man said to the other, “Hey, the king of Yisrael has hired against us the Chiti kings and the Mitsrayim kings to attack us.” They had risen and fled in the dark and left their gods and their horses and their donkeys in the camp as it was. They had fled for their lives. So these m’tsoraim entered the camp perimeter and went into one tent and they ate and drank and bore off from there silver and gold and clothing. The went and buried it and then returned, entering another tent, bearing off from there and burying it.
Then one said to the other, “We’re not doing the right thing. Today is a day of good news and we’re keeping quiet. If we wait till morning we’ll be found out and guilty. Let’s go tell it at the king’s house.”
So they arrived and called out to the city gatekeeper: “We came to the Aram camp and, hey, there wasn’t a man or the sound of a man. Just the horses and donkeys tied up. And the tents just as they were.”
The gatekeepers sent the call inward, telling it at the king’s house. The king got up and said to his servants, “I’ll tell you what Aram has done to us. They knew we were hungry so they left the camp to hide in the field, saying: “When they leave the city we’ll capture them alive and enter the city.’”
One of his servants replied, “Take five of our remaining horses. They’re like the hoards of Yisrael who have already died. Let’s send and see.”
So they took two chariots with horses and the king sent them to the Aram camp. “Go see.” And they went after them all the way to the Yarden. Look, the entire way was full of clothing and vessels that Aram had thrown in their hurry. The messengers returned and reported to the king.
The people went out and looted the Aram camp. And it was that just as the word of Yah, a seah bushel of flour brought a shekel and two seah bushels of barley brought a shekel. The king took care of the third officer, his right hand man, by placing him at the gate. The people trampled him and he died, just as the man of God had spoken when the king had come down to him.