Following on the message of 2nd Kings 6, with leaders of Israel who were supposed to be able to see God’s actions actually being “blind” to them, 2nd Kings 7 through the saving actions of four lepers — the rejected of society — also points us to the actions of Messiah Yeshua, Who was rejected by the people He came to save.
Today’s reading actually starts in 2 Kings 6:24. 2 Kings 7 is just a continuation of the story of this siege. 2 Kings 6 was about what people could see or not see. In 2 Kings 7 is more about what one hears and what one refuses to hear.
During this part of Elisha’s life, the land of Israel and its capital, Samaria, were in the grips of a drought and famine. Samaria was under siege by Aram and Aram was try to starve the city into capitulation. The king of Israel, the son of Ahab, was more angry at Elisha for this turn of events than he was at Aram. Why?
Elisha had advised the king not to kill the Aramean soldiers the last time they were engaged in strife. If the King of Israel had killed those soldiers, they wouldn’t have been able to turn around and siege Samaria later.
The king is very despondent, telling Elisha in 2 Kings 6:33 “Behold, this evil is from the LORD; why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”
The cost of food was at a premium as recorded in 2 Kings 6:25, “a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.”
But Elisha had a word from the Lord and assures the King, “Then Elisha said, ‘Listen to the word of the LORD; thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.'”
The royal captain accompanying the king scoffed and Elisha told him that he would see it but not eat of it. Why did God strike this officer dead? Others have scoffed at the messages of a prophet and not being killed? He changes the storyline from blindness v. sight to belief v. non-belief. The captain is not challenging Elisha, he’s challenging God.
In 2 Kings 6, we (and the people of Israel) also see for the first time an Israelite king in repentance before the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had tried to hide it under his clothes but it was discovered. Even though he was praying for some kind of deliverance, most of Israel didn’t believe that deliverance could or would come. The royal captain just voiced what most of Israel probably thought. The royal captain scoffed and said in 2 Kings 7:2, “Behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” In other words, even if manna, quail and all the other foods that God brought down from heaven to the children of Israel in the wilderness were brought down now, it would not help their situation. Their situation was too difficult for God to handle. He didn’t believe that God could take Samaria from starvation, where food was so expensive and rare that people were succumbing to cannibalism, to a situation where barley and wheat would be cheap and easy to find within 24 hours.
After this is where we meet our four lepers. They were not allowed to come into the city limits, they could not be touched. They were quarantined away from the population. These lepers were suffering under the same conditions as the people were in the city. They had no food and certainly the people in the city wouldn’t feed them when they couldn’t feed themselves. If the lepers went into the city for refuge, they would have been cast out or killed. They would have no quarter there. If they stayed as they were, they would starve to death. They didn’t know if the Arameans would have mercy or kill them but they took the chance and went to the Aramean camp because they had nothing to lose anyway and their other two options meant certain death while the Aramean camp offered possible death. Slim odds but better than none.
They left for the Aramean camp near twilight. In the twilight, God caused the Aramean soldiers to hear the footsteps of horses and chariots when all they were actually hearing were the footsteps of the four lepers. This should remind you of something Moses said in the Torah that if you obey God, that one Israelite can chase away 10 enemies, 10 will chase 100 and 100 will chase 1000. The enemy would be horrified of them if they lived in obedience to God. Elisha’s prophesy happened just the way God wanted. God prompted the lepers to go to the Aramean camp sooner rather than later. God blessed the little smidgen of the leper’s hope and multiplied it. He used them to chase away the Aramean army.
The lepers first ate a lot of food and then took some clothing and spoils and hid them. I will not fault them for that. As being outcasts, they were the poorest of the poor. You have nothing, given nothing, and they were dying. I will not fault them for being a little greedy when the opportunity came their way. They did think better of their actions.
“Then they said to one another, ‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household.'” (2 Kings 7:9)
The people in the city were starving just as much as they were. If they waited until morning to tell Samaria, more people could die of starvation overnight because people were already dying of starvation.
The go to the city to tell the king and no one really believed them. They thought it was a trap so they sent out 2 spies to check it out. The horses were in just as bad shape as the people.
What was the point of this chapter? What was God’s objective? If we have good news, we can’t keep it to ourselves. We have a responsibility to share what we know. In 2 Kings 6 the people were either blind to or could see their need for salvation. In 2 Kings 7, it’s similar, what do they need to be saved? What is missing?
On the outside, the King of Israel wanted to the people to see him as a pagan king. Pagan deities don’t ask for repentance, they don’t ask for sackcloth and ashes. The king didn’t want the people to see his repentance. He wanted to hide it.
The King of Israel still wants everyone to worship him. If the King of Israel had publicly repented with sack cloth and ashes, the people would know that they needed to worship whatever god their king was worshiping rather than worshipping the king himself and Jehoram wasn’t ready to give up the adulation. But once his repentance was revealed, the people knew that the king knew there was someone above him. That is why he wanted Elisha killed. The blindness of Baal worship had to be taken away. Jehoram wasn’t blind, he knew enough about God that he should repent but he didn’t want the people to repent because he wanted the worship.
The reason this calamity had come on Israel is because of their wholesale rejection of God. The reason they were rescued is because of the publication of the king’s brief show of repentance. The king had wanted to kill Elisha because he blamed Elisha for this calamity rather than himself and the people’s rebellion against God. Killing Elisha would not quell their rebellion against God, it would have simply made it worse.
Elisha wanted the people to understand that the Baal and the king were not worthy of worship that the God who was worshipped in Judah was the only one worthy of worship.
But let’s go back to the scoffing royal captain. He was acting the part of a dutiful Baal/King worshiper. The captain leaned on and treated the king with great honor. For the captain to acknowledge that the God of Judah was greater than the king of Israel, would have been almost treasonous but certainly unthinkable in his throughly pagan mind. He died because of that stubbornness.
The lepers recognized that the king couldn’t save them so they looked for another way.
In 2 Kings 6-7, we see a process of curing blindness. There is a chaiastic structure in these chapters as well. The center of the chaiastic structure is the leper’s repentance. That is the primary point of this chapter.
The blind are now allowed to see. They were allowed to see the true God who would actually save them. In Yeshua’s life, when He healed the 10 lepers, He told all of them to go show themselves to the High Priest. When all 10 of them came to the realization that they were healed, only one came back to say thank you. The one who came back was a Samaritan, a non-Jew, a foreigner. It was only this foreigner who saw that Yeshua was the real High Priest. The other nine, who were Jewish and should have seen their Messiah and High Priest, had no clue and kept going towards Jerusalem.
As we continue into Elisha’s life, we will begin to see less of His first coming and more clues about His second coming. When Yeshua was alive, there was no New Testament so the only way they could see the Messiah was in the TaNaKh. Messiah Himself said that all the scriptures point to him. We need to look for Him in all the scriptures.
Banner Photo: This is a 14th century marble carving of Franciscan mystic and miracle worker, Saint Elzear of Sabran (1285-1323). Here he is depicted curing three lepers. Photo via Wikipedia Commons.
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