2 Kings 7
Syria’s army runs for home
Elisha promises food for the starving1Elisha told the king, “Listen to this because it comes from the LORD. By this time tomorrow, you’ll be able to go to Samaria’s front gate. And with just one silver coin you’ll be able to buy a seven-pound  sack of the best flour, or twice as much barley.”
2The military officer standing with the king told Elisha, “Fat chance! Even if the LORD opened the sky right now and sent rain for the crops, it couldn’t happen. How could it?” Elisha said, “It can and you will see it, but you won’t get to eat any of it.”
Four hungry Israelites go to Syrian camp3Four Israelite men stayed outside the city, near the gates. They weren’t wanted inside because they had a skin disease,  and they would ritually contaminate  anyone they touched. One of the men said, “Why should we sit here any longer, waiting to die. 4We can’t go inside the city because they’ve run out of food. We would starve to death. But if we keep sitting here in between two armies, we’ll die. Let’s go seek asylum in the Syrian camp. At least there’s a chance they’d let us live.”
5They walked toward the camp as the sun was going down. When they reached the perimeter, they were surprised that there were no guards to stop them.
Mysterious noise scares off the Syrian army6Syrians had run away in a panic, fooled by God. They thought they heard the thunder of a massive army of cavalry and chariots attacking. They guessed it might be the Hittites and the Egyptians, both coming to save Israel. 7So they fled at dusk, just before the Israelite men arrived. Syrians left nearly everything they had brought, including their tents and livestock such as horses and donkeys.
8All four diseased men walked into a tent at the edge of the camp and started eating and drinking. They loaded up on silver, gold, and clothing, which they hid. Then they made a second run, taking more of whatever they wanted, and then hiding it.
Time to wake the king9Finally, one of the men said, “Guys, this is wrong. We can’t keep this to ourselves. This is a day for everyone to celebrate. Let’s go tell the king.”
10The men went to guards at the city gate and said, “We just came from the Syrian camp. It’s empty. We didn’t see or hear anyone. They left their tents still standing, with horses and donkeys tied up. Go tell the king’s people.” 11The guards took the news to the king’s house.
12The king got out of bed, but he was skeptical about the news. He told his officials, “This is a trap. The Syrians know we’re starving. If they make it look like they’ve abandoned their camp, they think we’ll rush in to take their food. That’s when they’ll jump us.”
Israel’s scouts follow Syria’s fast retreat13One of the king’s officials said, “Let’s send a patrol to scout the camp. They could take five of the few horses we have left. The worst that could happen is that they’ll die like all those who have already died, and like we’ll die, too.”
14So they rounded up two chariots and two soldiers and sent them into the Syrian camp with orders to find out what was going on.
15Israel’s two scouts followed the trail of the retreating Syrian army all the way to the Jordan River. It was an easy trail to follow, littered with discarded equipment and clothes tossed aside on the run. The scouts reported this to the king.
Stampeding to the food16When the people in Samaria found out the Syrians were gone, they rushed into the camp and took whatever they could carry. They found so much that suddenly the price of food dropped, as the LORD said it would. One silver coin bought a seven-pound sack of the best flour, or twice as much barley.
17The king told the military officer who was standing beside him earlier to take charge of the city gate. But the stampeding people trampled him to death. The LORD’s prophet had said he wouldn’t eat any of the Syrian food.
18Elisha had predicted, “With just one silver coin you’ll be able to buy a seven-pound sack of the best flour, or twice as much barley.” 19That officer who got trampled is the one who argued and said, “Fat chance! Even if the LORD opened the sky right now and sent rain for the crops, it couldn’t happen. How could it?” And Elisha answered, “It can, and you will see it, but you won’t get to eat any of it.”
20That’s what happened. The people trampled him to death at the city gate.
That’s about 7 kilograms. The ancient Hebrew text more literally says a shekel coin will buy a seah of flour and twice as much barley. A shekel weighed about half an ounce, 11 grams. That’s a little more than a 7-gram American quarter or an 8-gram Euro coin.
The original Hebrew word has often been translated as leprosy. But writers used that same Hebrew word to talk about a lot of different skin disorders, most of which are far less critical than leprosy, known today as Hansen’s disease. Hansen’s disease is an infection caused by bacteria, which produces light patches on the skin and numbs the nerves to pain. Skin diseases reported in the Bible may often have been what we know today as a simple rash or perhaps eczema or psoriasis.
A person with a skin problem was considered ritually unclean (Leviticus 13:2-3). They weren’t supposed to touch another person or go to the worship center because they ritually defiled whatever they touched. Israelites were able to get ritually clean again by following a set of procedures that included bathing, washing their clothes, getting sprinkled with “water of purification” (Numbers 19), and waiting for a stretch of time, often seven days. But people with some lingering physical problems—like skin sores or extended menstrual bleeding—might remain unclean for years, or for the rest of their lives. Only a priest could declare them healed (Leviticus 13:3).
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