The Word Made Fresh
1Elisha said, “Hear the LORD’s word: the LORD says that this time tomorrow at the city’s gate, several gallons of flour will sell for a single coin, and twice that amount of barley can be had for the same price.”
2The attendant the king was leaning on said, “Even if the LORD poured out these things from the sky, that could never happen.”
Elisha replied, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat any of it.”
3There happened to be four lepers outside the gate who were talking. One said, “Why should we just sit out here? 4There’s nothing to eat in the city, but if we sit here, we’ll die. Let’s go to the Aramean camp. If they let us live, we live. If they kill us, well, we’re going to die anyway.”
4They left after sundown to go, but at the edge of the camp they realized there was no one there. 5The LORD had made the Arameans hear the sound of horses and chariots and a huge army, and they cried, “The king of Israel has hired the kings of the Hittites and the Egyptians to attack us!” 7They ran as the sun was going down, abandoning everything – tents, horses, donkeys – and fled for their lives.
8The lepers entered the camp. They went into a tent, and there they ate and drank. They found gold and clothing and carried them away and hid them. Then they returned and entered another tent and carried off its treasures and hid them. 9Then they said, “This is not right. This is a day of rejoicing. It would be wrong even to keep this quiet until the morning. We should go and tell the king and his family.” 10They returned to the city and called out to the gate keepers. They said, “We went to the enemy’s camp, but no one was there, just the horses and donkeys and tents.”
11The gatekeeper called out the news, and it reached the king’s house. 12The king arose in the middle of the night. He said to his attendants, “This is the enemy’s strategy: they know we’re starving, so they have left their camp and are hiding in the countryside. They think they’ll capture us when we leave, and then take the city.”
13One of his attendants said, “Send some men to find out. Let them take five of the horses that are left. The worst that can happen is that they will suffer the same fate as the rest of us.”
14The king sent two men on horseback to reconnoiter. 15They followed the enemy army as far as the Jordan. Clothing and weapons the Arameans had dropped in their haste to escape littered the landscape everywhere. So, they returned to inform the king what they had found.
16Then the people went out and plundered the enemy camp, and suddenly a measure of flour sold for a single coin and two measures of barley for the same, just as the man of God had said.
17The king had posted his attendant, the man on whose arm he had been leaning, at the gate, and the people trampled him to death as they rushed out, just as the man of God had said would happen. 18When the man of God had said, “Two measures of barley, or a measure of flour, will sell for a coin this time tomorrow,” 19that attendant had doubted. He had said, “Even if the LORD put windows in the sky, that could never happen.” Elisha had answered, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat any of it.” 20And that is exactly what happened. The people trampled him to death at the gate.
1-2: Elisha insists on giving the king the word of the LORD whether he trusts in the LORD or not. Tomorrow, he says, prices for food will be even less than normal. We see now that the king is leaning on an attendant; he has indeed suffered with his people through this ordeal. The attendant doesn’t think Elisha’s prediction is possible, and Elisha replies that he would see it but not benefit from it, an ominous saying if I ever heard one.
3-8: People with leprosy or skin conditions that mimicked leprosy were not permitted in public places, and now we join four of them who are lingering outside the city gates. They reason that their only chance of surviving is to throw themselves on the mercy of the Arameans. When they arrive at the Aramean camp, however, they find it deserted. In the night the whole camp had heard strange sounds that convinced them Egyptian and Hittite reinforcements were imminent, and they had fled in panic. The four lepers have a blast, going into one tent after another, sampling the food, taking the valuables.
9-15: But they are good men, and decide they really should share the good news. So back to the city they go and call to the gatekeeper news of what they have found. The gatekeeper alerts the king’s guards who arouse the king. The king is convinced it is a trap; you can’t trust those tricky Arameans, can you? One of them suggests they send some men to find out, so two of them take some horses and follow the trail of the Aramean army all the way to the Jordan River and find the way littered with equipment left by the hastily retreating enemy. They return to the city and tell the king.
16-20: Word is spread, and the people swarm out of the city and plunder the enemy camp. True to the word Elisha had given them, food now was available for a song. The officer who had not believed it the night before was trampled to death by the mob rushing to the enemy camp, fulfilling what Elisha had said would happen to him. I think that if I lived in those times, I would believe everything Elisha told me.
Typical of God, to choose four lepers who had no standing in society, to sound out the good news to the others (and to reward them with some of the spoils of battle). Never discount anyone; God does not choose people by the same standards we too often use.