A. God’s promise and what the lepers discovered.
1. (1-2) God’s promise and the doubt of the king’s officer.
Then Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: ‘Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’“ So an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, “Look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” And he said, “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”
a. Hear the word of the Lord: Though the King of Israel blamed the Lord for the calamity that came upon Israel and Samaria, God still had a word for the king and the nation – and it was a good word.
b. Tomorrow about this time: God’s promise through Elisha was that in 24 hours the economic situation in Samaria would be completely reversed. Instead of scarcity, there would be such abundance that food prices would radically drop in the city.
i. “The gate was the market-place as well as the local court of justice.” (Wiseman)
ii. By the standards of that time, the prices listed were not cheap; but they were nothing compared to the famine conditions associated with the siege. “By the next day conditions would so improve that good products would be available again, even though at a substantial price.” (Patterson and Austel)
c. Look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could this thing be? The king’s officer doubted the prophecy, and his doubt was based on several faulty premises.
i. First, he doubted the power of God. If God willed it, He certainly could make windows in heaven and drop down food from the sky for the hungry, besieged city of Samaria.
ii. Second, he doubted the creativity of God. In the mind of the king’s officer, the way food could come to the city was from above, because the city was surrounded by a hostile, besieging army. He had no idea that God could bring provision in a completely unexpected way. “How often faith breaks down in this way! It knows that God is, and that He can act. But it only sees one way, and refuses to believe that such a way will be taken. The supply came without the opening of heaven’s windows.” (Morgan)
iii. Third, he doubted the messenger of God. Though the promise was admittedly hard to believe, the king’s officer could have and should have believed it because it came from a man with an established track record of reliability.
iv. All in all, the officer well illustrates the conduct of unbelief:
· Unbelief dares to question the truthfulness of God’s promise itself.
· Unbelief says, “This is a new thing and cannot be true.”
· Unbelief says, “This is a sudden thing and cannot be true.”
· Unbelief says, “There is no way to accomplish this thing.”
· Unbelief says, “There is only one way God can work.”
· Unbelief says, “Even if God does something, it won’t be enough.”
d. In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it: Through Elisha, God pronounced a harsh judgment upon the king’s doubting officer. He would see the word fulfilled, but not benefit from its fulfillment.
i. “Unbelievers do not really enjoy the things of this life. The mass of them find that wealth does not yield them satisfaction, their outward riches cannot conceal their inner poverty. To many men it is given to have all that heart can wish, and yet not to have what their heart does wish. They have everything except contentment.” (Spurgeon)
2. (3-5) Four lepers come upon the deserted Syrian camp.
Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.” And they rose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians; and when they had come to the outskirts of the Syrian camp, to their surprise no one was there.
a. Now there were four leprous men: These men stayed at the entrance of the gate because they were not welcome in the city. Their leprous condition made them outcasts and untouchables.
i. “If you were to take out of the Scriptures all the stories that have to do with poor, afflicted men and women, what a very small book the Bible would become, especially if together with the stories you removed all the psalms of the sorrowful, all the promises for the distressed, and all the passages which belong to the children of grief! This Book, indeed, for the most part is made up of the annals of the poor and despised.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Unfounded Jewish traditions says these four were actually Gehazi and his three sons. Gehazi was afflicted with leprosy because of his greed towards Namaan (2 Kings 5:27).
b. Why are we sitting here until we die? Their logic was perfect. They would soon die from the famine if they stayed in the city. If any food became available, they would certainly be the last to receive it. So they decided that their chances were better if they surrendered to the Syrians.
i. “Now you perceive that there are just two courses open to you; you can sit still, but then you know that you must perish; or you can go to Christ, and your fear is that you will perish then. Yet you can but die if you go to him, and he rejects you; whereas, if you do not go to him, you must surely perish.” (Spurgeon)
c. When they had come to the outskirts of the Syrian camp, to their surprise no one was there: This huge army surrounded the city of Samaria for many months, and was the home and supply center for thousands of men. When the lepers came upon it that morning, they discovered an empty army camp – fully supplied, but empty of men.
i. The words, to the outskirts of the Syrian camp imply that they came not only to the edge of the camp, but that they walked around to the furthermost part of the Syrian camp, the part away from the city. They came to the camp as someone from afar would approach, not as someone from Syria. They figured that this was their best chance, coming as if they were not from the besieged city and to the least fortified positions of the camp.
ii. This approach of the lepers to the camp “May provide the occasion for the miracle itself; perhaps the Lord had in some way magnified the stumbling footsteps of the men as they made their way around the camp’s opposite end.” (Patterson and Austel)
3 (6-7) How God caused the Syrians to abandon their camp.
For the Lord had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and the noise of horses; the noise of a great army; so they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us!” Therefore they arose and fled at twilight, and left the camp intact; their tents, their horses, and their donkeys; and they fled for their lives.
a. For the Lord had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots . . . the noise of a great army: Israel was powerless against this besieging army, but God wasn’t powerless. He attacked the Syrian army simply by causing them to hear the noise of an army.
i. Perhaps God did this by putting the noise into the air; perhaps He simply created the perception of the noise in the minds of the Syrian soldiers. However God did it, it happened.
ii. The same God who struck one Syrian army so they could not see what was there now struck another Syrian army so that they heard things that were not there.
b. And left the camp intact: Everything was left behind, leaving the unlikely lepers to spoil the camp. As a result, the siege for Samaria was over – even though no one in the city knew it or enjoyed it.
i. “Everybody who went to bed that night felt that he was still in that horrible den where grim death seemed actually present in the skeleton forms of the hunger-bitten. They were as free as the harts of the wilderness had they known it: but their ignorance held them in durance vile.” (Spurgeon)
4 (8-9) After enjoying it all, the lepers realize their responsibility.
And when these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them; then they came back and entered another tent, and carried some from there also, and went and hid it. Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.”
a. They went into one tent and ate and drank: Of course they did. After the long period of famine, this was the answer to every hope and prayer they had.
b. And went and hid it: They knew that their discovery of the camp could not remain secret forever, so they hid some of the valuables so they could profit by them even when the camp was discovered by others.
c. We are not doing right . . . come, let us go and tell: The lepers rightly enjoyed the miracle God provided. But they also realized that the gift gave them a responsibility to share it with others. They understood that to remain silent and to selfishly enjoy their blessings would be sin. They had a responsibility to share the good news.
i. “If the only result of our religion is the comfort of our poor little souls, if the beginning and the end of piety is contained within one’s self, why, it is a strange thing to be in connection with the unselfish Jesus, and to be the fruit of his gracious Spirit. Surely, Jesus did not come to save us that we might live unto ourselves. He came to save us from selfishness.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Yet, they enjoyed the feast first before they told others about it. We cannot properly share the good news of Jesus Christ unless we ourselves are enjoying it.
B. The plundering of the camp of the Syrians.
1. (10-15) The king discovers the empty camp of the Syrian army.
So they went and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and told them, saying, “We went to the Syrian camp, and surprisingly no one was there, not a human sound; only horses and donkeys tied, and the tents intact.” And the gatekeepers called out, and they told it to the king’s household inside. So the king arose in the night and said to his servants, “Let me now tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry; therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.’” And one of his servants answered and said, “Please, let several men take five of the remaining horses which are left in the city. Look, they may either become like all the multitude of Israel that are left in it; or indeed, I say, they may become like all the multitude of Israel left from those who are consumed; so let us send them and see.” Therefore they took two chariots with horses; and the king sent them in the direction of the Syrian army, saying, “Go and see.” And they went after them to the Jordan; and indeed all the road was full of garments and weapons which the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. So the messengers returned and told the king.
a. They went and called to the gatekeepers of the city: Since the lepers were not welcome in the city, they could only communicate with the gatekeepers. There were many people they could not speak to, but they were faithful to speak to the ones whom they could speak to.
b. And the gatekeepers called out, and they told it: The good news from the lepers was communicated in the simplest way possible. It went from one person to another, until the news reached the king himself.
c. So let us send them and see: This was the sensible reaction to the good news that started with the report of the lepers. The report might be true or it might not be; it only made sense to test it and see.
2. (16) The fulfillment of Elisha’s prophecy.
Then the people went out and plundered the tents of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord.
a. Then the people went out and plundered the tents of the Syrians: When the good news that started with the report of the lepers was found to be true, there was no stopping the people. Because they knew their need, they were happy to receive God’s provision to meet that need.
i. The king’s officer “derided the possibility of the prophet’s prediction; and no doubt had plenty of adherents. But the leper’s report swept away all his words to the winds. They had known, tasted, and handled.” (Meyer)
b. According to the word of the Lord: Through Elisha, God announced the exact prices in the Samarian markets, and the prophecy was proven to be precisely true.
3. (17-20) The death of the king’s doubting officer.
Now the king had appointed the officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. But the people trampled him in the gate, and he died, just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. So it happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, “Two seahs of barley for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, shall be sold tomorrow about this time in the gate of Samaria.” Then that officer had answered the man of God, and said, “Now look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate, and he died.
a. The king had appointed the officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate: Perhaps the king did this to rebuke his officer. The man would have to personally supervise the people responding to the provision he said could never come, because he could not understand how God could bring the supply despite the siege.
b. For the people trampled him in the gate, and he died: The prediction regarding the officer proved just as true and the prediction regarding the prices of food in the markets of Samaria. Because of his unbelief, he saw others enjoy God’s blessings but he did not.
© 2006 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission