2 Kings 7:1-20 – The Lepers at the City Gate of Samaria

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2Kings 7:1-2

  1. The background to this incident is that Israel and Aram are fighting with eachother. In the previous chapter, Elisha, through God’s intervention, managed to put an end to the Aramean raids inside Israel, but now the Aramean king Ben-Hadad comes with his entire army and lays siege to the Israelite capital of Samaria. The siege becomes so difficult that the Israelites engage in cannibalism (2 Kings 6:26-30).
  2. King Jehoram of Israel blames God for the extremely difficult situation and sends an officer to arrest the prophet Elisha so that the king can execute him. But even though the king blames God for his own failure, God still has a prophetic word of hope for King Jehoram.
  3. God’s prophetic word to King Jehoram is that within 24 hours the situation will be completely reversed; from siege and starvation to freedom and an abundance of food. Within a day there would be so much food in Samaria that the price of flour and barley would drop dramatically.
  4. The officer who hears this prophetic message does not believe the word of God. Since Samaria is under siege, the officer believes that food can only enter the city from above, and does not believe that God can perform such a great miracle.
    1. When God gives us a word of hope and a promise of a solution to the problems we face, it can be easy to doubt God because it is hard to imagine how God will solve the situation. But the good thing is that a person of faith does not have to understand everything that God does, but only trust in God’s promises.
      1. Many times I have met people who face a “mountain” of problems, yet trust that God will somehow solve the problem, even if they don’t yet know exactly how. At first you might think these people are naïve and spiritually exaggerated, but often it turns out that their faith held and could move mountains.
      2. I have also met people who give up at the first sight of a mountain. They don’t understand how the problems can be solved so they are not even willing to try. They don’t trust that they have a God who can move mountains. Oh how much good they miss out on.
  5. One can have some understanding if the officer doubted that God WILL help Israel, but the officer’s unbelief goes further; he even doubts that God CAN do anything. Because of this unbelief, Elisha conveys a judgment on the officer: he will see God’s promises fulfilled, but he will not share in its blessings.
    1. In the same way, all those who do not believe in Jesus on the Day of Judgment will learn that God’s promises of salvation are indeed true, but they themselves will not share in the blessings of heaven.

2Kings 7:3-4

  1. If you took away all the stories in the Bible about small, weak, sick, outcast or poor people, there wouldn’t be many stories left. If the ordinary history books are the book of kings and heroes, then the Bible is the book of the small and weak.
  2. These leprous men were outside the city gate of Samaria because they were not allowed inside the city.
    1. In the past, leprosy was thought to be a highly contagious and incurable disease, so people isolated the sick in leprosy colonies outside towns. Leprosy is a chronic infection that can lead to loss of sensation, which in turn can lead to more frequent injuries. Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 contain the Old testament laws concerning leprosy.
  3. The four lepers realise they have two choices: either stay at the city gate and die of starvation, or hand themselves over to the Arameans and hope for their mercy. Since the chances of survival in option one are zero, they choose option two, even though the chances of survival there are also very slim.
    1. In the same way, the chances of eternal salvation are zero without Jesus, but if you go to Jesus and ask for grace, the chances are at least a little better. And just as the four lepers in this story experience God’s grace, so too does everyone who comes to Jesus receive grace and salvation.
    2. When a person faces death, most people begin to pray to God, even if they have not believed in God during their lifetime. If you know that you are going to die soon anyway, then you might as well start getting religious because you are going to die anyway and it is better to be on the safe side.

2Kings 7:5-7

  1. When the four lepers arrive at the Aramean camp, it is empty. The army that has been besieging Samaria for months is now suddenly completely gone! God had worked a miracle and made the Arameans flee.
    1. Israel’s army was no match for the Arameans. But God is so powerful that he defeated the Arameans only by the sound of an army.
  2. While God had defeated Israel’s enemies, the Israelites are hiding inside Samaria, trapped, afraid and hungry. Because of their fear, they don’t know what miracles God has done outside the walls.
    1. In the same way, the Christian life can be like this. Because of fear, ignorance or something else, we don’t know the miracles God has done for us. God has defeated the enemy outside our “church” walls, but we are too afraid to go out and look.

2Kings 7:8-9

  1. After months of starvation, the lepers gorge themselves on all the food left behind. They also stash away some valuables that they think will come in handy in time. The lepers don’t know if the Arameans will be back soon, so they watch out as best they can.
  2. But after a while they realize that it would be wrong of them not to let more people share in these miraculous blessings of God. More people need to hear the good news that the siege is over and that there is an abundance of food! After all, the king and the Samaritans would have eventually discovered that the Aramaeans were gone sooner or later, and by then the lepers would probably have been punished for not telling the city. The lepers realise that they would probably rather be seen as heroes than criminals.
    1. It was right for the lepers to enjoy God’s blessings, but they also had a responsibility to share it with others. To remain silent about this miracle and selfishly keep it to oneself would be a sin.
    2. In the same way, we who have experienced God’s salvation today are not right if we keep the “good news” to ourselves. Certainly we Christians should enjoy God’s blessings and spiritual gifts in the church, but we also have a responsibility to share what God has given to us.
      1. “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” (D.T. Niles)

2Kings 7:10-15

  1. The lepers tell the first person what they have been through, nothing more. Then the word spreads like wildfire until it reaches the king. The lepers didn’t mess up the message and didn’t try to tell the guards what to do.
    1. In the same way, we should evangelize. It is enough for us to tell those around us about what we have experienced, what we have seen and heard. We don’t have to make things complicated, we don’t have to explain to those who are listening how they should think. The best testimony is simply to tell what you have experienced.
    2. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” (1John 1:1)
      1. See also Luke 7:22, John 3:32, Acts 4:20, Acts 22:15, Phil 4:9, 1 John 1:3, Rev 22:8.
  2. When the king hears that the Arameans are gone, he first suspects that it is a trap. He thinks that since the Arameans have not been able to get into Samaria, they are now trying to trick the Samaritans into coming out.
    1. The first thing the king thinks when he hears the good news is that it must be the enemy’s trap. Similarly, when some people hear the gospel, they refuse to believe the good news and instead claim that the message comes from the devil.
    2. But although the king didn’t take the good news immediately, he decided to try it anyway. The king sends out some servants and when they return, the lepers’ good news is confirmed to be true.

2Kings 7:16

  1. When there was no longer any obstacle between the people and the food, nothing could stop the Israelites from rushing out of Samaria and into the deserted camp of the Arameans. They knew very well their problem; they were hungry, and now they also knew God’s solution; the empty camps of the Arameans.
    1. In the same way, many people react when they understand that the good news of salvation in Jesus is true; they rush to receive God’s salvation and blessings!
    2. When we realize that we are sinners and hear that forgiveness is in Jesus, we rush to receive salvation!

2Kings 7:17-20

  1. The same officer who was sent by King Jehoram to capture Elisha is now given the task of keeping order at the city gate. But in the midst of the chaos, he is trampled to death. In this way, Elisha’s prophetic judgment on his life is fulfilled; he saw God’s miracles but did not share in the blessings himself.
    1. The tragic fate of the officer shows us how serious the gospel is. People hearing about Jesus and the Good News is a matter of life and death.
  2. This story shows us two different reactions when faced with the threat of imminent death: either, like the officer, to lose faith in God altogether and start persecuting the believers, or, like the four lepers, to throw themselves on the mercy of God in the hope that God can save.
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