By Jay T. Robertson, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Mobile
2 Kings 7:1–15
King Ben-hadad of Aram had his army besiege Israel’s capital city of Samaria. Everyone who lived in the city, soldier and civilian alike, felt the impact of the siege. The effect was gradual, but after a period of time, there was a great famine in the city. People were starving. Others paid inflated prices for worthless food. Some people had resorted to cannibalism (6:28–29). Israel’s king, likely Jehoram, blamed Elisha for Samaria’s problems.
God sent a promise through His prophet declaring an end to the siege. Elisha announced edible food would be cheap and plentiful the next day. The idea of quality food at low prices within the next 24 hours seemed unbelievable.
That was the reaction of the king’s captain. He doubted Elisha’s word from the Lord. He mocked the prophet’s message. He did not think there was any conceivable way for such a thing to come to pass. Elisha then pronounced a judgment on the cynic. Elisha told the captain he would indeed see the plentiful food, but he would not eat any of it. Doubting the promises of God has serious consequences.
Four lepers with nothing to lose became the first to enjoy the fulfillment of Elisha’s prophecy. These lepers were not allowed in the city (Lev. 13:46), but they stayed near the city gate to beg for food. These men knew the Arameans would kill them if the siege was successful, so they cast themselves on their enemy’s mercy. They had nothing to lose.
But at twilight, as the lepers set out for the Aramean’s camp, the Lord caused the soldiers to hear the sound of chariots, horses and a large army. The Arameans jumped to the conclusion the king of Israel had hired an army from the north and the south to surround and attack them. Overcome with fear, they panicked and ran for their lives. They left behind everything that would slow their escape, including horses, donkeys and food.
When the lepers reached the Aramean camp, they found it abandoned and loaded with supplies. They had no idea what had happened, but they began to loot the tents and satisfy their hunger. The starving lepers could hardly believe their blessing. They ate their fill, plundered the camp like a great four-man army and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
With the sudden reversal of their fortunes, the lepers remembered the crisis back in Samaria. They could not keep this abundant provision secret. This day of good news was not just for them. They were convicted in their consciences. They feared what the king would do to them if they did not share this good news with him.
So they returned to the city gate and announced what they had discovered. The Arameans had left their camp intact with their horses, donkeys and food. Their message of good news spread from the city gate to the royal palace. The king was informed of the good news in the middle of the night. These lepers became the bearers of good news and hope.
Due to the harsh realities of the siege and the king’s previous dealings with Aram, it was not surprising he feared a trap. He believed this was a clever tactic of the Arameans. His skepticism was deep-seated, and only an appeal by one of his servants could budge him. The servant suggested the king send five men with horses to go and see. They had nothing to lose except a few horses, chariots and men, but the few might save the city.
The king sent two chariots with horses to go and see. They were to locate the Aramean army and report back to him. These scouts discovered the Aramean army had retreated across the Jordan River. Elisha’s prophecy had come true. The people went out and plundered the enemy’s camp. God had provided for them.