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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 7

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-11

Second Kings - Chapter 7

Lepers’ Discovery - Verses 1-11

There is no natural break between chapters six and seven. At the end of six the king has come with his messenger to arrest and put to death Elisha as the cause of the judgment of God on Samaria. In the beginning of this chapter Elisha gives king and elders God’s prediction. Within twenty-four hours the situation will be completely changed. Where people were eating children and garbage and manure they would be able to get good wheat and barley flour at reasonable prices in the very gates of Samaria. The measure was the Hebrew seah, and amounted to a little over two bushels. A seah of wheat flour would be selling for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel. These were reasonable prices (amounting to about $7.28 in today’s values).

This was such a preposterous and unlikely prediction from the viewpoint of the king’s Counselors that one of them scoffed that such would not be possible though the Lord opened the windows of heaven. It is such unbelievers today who deny God and mock His coming (2 Peter 3:3-4). Elisha promptly added to his prediction that the mocker would indeed see this with his eyes, but would eat none of it.

The scene now shifts outside the starving city of Samaria, where sit four starving lepers in the entering of the gate. These men probably were usually supplied by considerate relatives or others out of the city, and there was nothing coming to them now. They asked themselves why they should just sit there and die. In their condition they had little to lose and much to gain. They might somehow slip unseen inside the city, where they were excluded, but were they able to do this they would just go on starving there. So it was death whatever they choose at Samaria. They might therefore make a desperate move by going to the Syrian camp and asking for food. If they were killed they would be no deader than if they stayed where they were and starved. It was their last hope.

Many a preacher has used this text of the lepers as an analogy sermon to the lost. The unsaved can continue in his lost condition, skeptical and unbelieving, concerning the power of Jesus to save his soul. He will gain nothing by continuing in his unbelief, and he has everything to gain by repenting and calling on the Lord for salvation. Of course the analogy may be applied to the saved who waste their lives in worldliness, forfeiting the reward they might have for faithful service. What is gained in the world will be left at death, and they will stand at the judgment seat of Christ void of any reward, saved, "but so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15).

So the lepers went out to the Syrian camp at twilight, just before dark, and found it deserted. Elisha’s God had begun to fulfill his pre­diction. The Syrians had been made to hear the sound of mighty armies on the move. It came from north and south of them, and the Syrians con­cluded that somehow the king of Israel had hired help from Egypt on the south and the Hittites from the north. They were about to be trapped be­tween two mighty forces, they thought. So urgently did they flee that they took not time to untie the horses and donkeys that they might ride them. Instead they simply began running on foot, attempting to get back to their own land of Syria. The Lord had told Israel generations earlier how He would make their enemies fear and flee, but they turned from Him. He shows them His verity and faithfulness in caring for them in spite of their disobedience (Proverbs 28:1; Job 15:21).

The lepers went into the first tent they came to, first appeasing their hunger from the foodstuff left behind, then stripping it of its valuables, which they took and hid. They proceeded then to the second tent, but after a while they began to think of the people in the starving city of Samaria. Not perhaps that they were so considerate of those there, but they were considerate of what might happen to them if the people of Samaria found out the Syrians had fled and that the lepers had served themselves without apprising the hungry folk there. They reasoned that it was a day of good tidings, that should they delay till morning the divulgence of it, they were likely to come to mischief.

Here is another good sermon by analogy. God’s people do not well if they serve themselves instead of spreading the good news of salvation. Their lifetime on earth as God’s children is a day of good tidings, and yet many hold their peace, or remain quiet as though they wish to keep it secret. If they do not spread the good news of salvation many will be lost, and they will suffer mischief in the chastisement and rebuke of the Lord who has told them to go with the gospel (Matthew 28:19­-20).

So the lepers returned to Samaria and called for the porter of the gate. They told him what they had found, and he summoned the other porters, who relayed the message inside to the palace of the king.

Verses 12-20

Bread A plenty! verses 12-20

King Joram was surely one of the most pessimistic, sin-hardened men who ever lived, when it came to acknowledging the power of God. Somehow he had backed away from execution of Elisha, perhaps because of the prophet’s prediction of a better day to come. Yet here he is, aroused from his bed, having evidently already forgotten the prediction of the man of God, never once thinking that this astounding report concerning the Syrian camp would bring the very kind of condition Elisha foretold. However, even with the Syrians gone, not many would have thought that they would leave their food, and there certainly was precious little food left in the environs of Samaria.

The king thought it was some sinister plot, by which the Syrians were taking advantage of the starved Samaritans, luring them out of their walls while they hid in ambush to rush in the open gates and take the city. But one of his men besought the king to allow him to take five of the horses which still survived the famine and go out to investigate the lepers’ report. It appears from the man’s words that Joram had been trying to preserve his warhorses, but the man argued that the horses and the men in Samaria all alike faced starvation. Even though it might be a trick on the part of the Syrians the horses, left in the city, were going to starve just like the people. So what matter if the Syrians take them in this proposed venture?

In the end two chariot horses were taken. The route of the Syrians’ flight was easily traced, all the way to the Jordan River, on the other side of which the Syrians would be well within reach of their city of Damascus. In their haste to escape the supposed armies of Hittites and Egyptians they had cast off garments all along the way, and had thrown away vessels they may have carried for food or water. So back the investigators went to Samaria and reported to the king that the story of the lepers was indeed true.

In their spoiling of the Syrian camp fine flour and barley were found in abundance, and those who secured it set up market in the gate and sold a seah of flour for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel, just as Elisha foretold. The hungry people swarmed to the gate to get food, creating such turmoil that the king sent the man who had scoffed at Elisha to keep order there. The press of the throng was so great that the contemptuous fellow was thrown down, and the people trampled him to death under their feet. He had, as Elisha said, seen the flour and barley selling at the prices of the prophet’s prediction, but he did not live to appease his hunger with any of it.

Here is another good analogy. This doubting courtier of King Joram wanted bread, certainly knew he needed it, but refused to believe it could be had so readily. When it was too late to do anything about it he saw the salvation, but died without it. His condition is quite well portrayed in Jesus’ account of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man had little concern for his need until he lifted up his eyes in hell. Across in Abraham’s bosom he could see Lazarus enjoying the things he had spurned (Lu 16:19-31).

Many lessons have been pointed out in the course of comments, but they will be re-emphasized here: 1) most people today continue to scoff and discredit the predictions of the Lord’s word; 2) it is foolish to settle for certain death though skeptical of the alternative for good; 3) God will call to account those of His children who do not bear witness of His saving grace; 4) sin-blinded men never recognize the hand of God in events, even when they are blessed by them; 5) too late people will lift up their eyes in torment and see all the good things they might have had.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 7". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-kings-7.html. 1985.
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