Elisha and the four lepers who discover the abandoned camp of Aram which ends the famine

Melachim 2 Chapter 7

Elisha promises an abundance of food:

  • Elisha prophesizes that the famine will end: When Elisha [heard that the assassin and king had remorse against killing him due to fear of heaven[1]] said, “Listen to what Hashem has related to me in prophecy, So said Hashem, that the famine will end tomorrow: “At this time tomorrow, a seah of fine flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley will sell for a shekel in the gate of Shomron.”
  • An officer responds in disbelief: One of the ministers of the king did not believe the wild prophecy of Elisha and exclaimed to Elisha in disbelief, “Will God make windows in the sky through which the grain will fall? Is such a thing really possible to happen?” Elisha responded to him that indeed he will witness it with his own eyes however he will not be able to partake in the eating [as God will punish him for doubting the prophecy].

2.      The four lepers find the camp of Aram empty in their search for food:

  • The desperate state of starvation of the four lepers: There were four men [i.e. Geichazi and his three sons[2]] who were stricken with leprosy who sat at the entrance gate of the city [as those stricken with leprosy had to be in seclusion and were not allowed to enter the camp[3]]. They said to each other, “Why should we sit here until we die [from starvation]. Whether we enter the city we will die of starvation being that even in the city there is a famine, and if we remain here, we will also die [from starvation], so what do we have to lose? Let us now go and defect to the Aramean camp. If they spare us, we will live, and if they kill us, we will anyways die.”
  • The four lepers’ defect to the Aramean camp and find it empty: The four lepers arose in the evening to defect to the Aramean camp. They came to the edge of the Aramean camp, and behold, no one was there.
  • Hashem miraculously caused the Aramean camp to flee in fear: Now, what had caused the Arameans to flee and dessert their camp? Hashem made the sound of chariots, horses, and the sound of a great army be heard by the Arameans. When they heard this imagined sound, they said to each other that surely the king of Israel had hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack them. So, they picked themselves up and fled at dusk, leaving behind their tents, their horses, and their donkeys. The camp was left in the exact state as it was when they were still there, as they fled for their lives [in a panic without time to take anything with them, not even their horses[4]].
  • The lepers enter the camp and eat and drink and help themselves to the spoils: The four lepers walked up to the edge of the camp and entered into one of the tents [which they found to be empty]. They helped themselves to the food and drink that was there and ate and drank to their full. They also carried off from the tent silver, gold, and clothing that they found, and they went and hid them [somewhere outside the camp]. They then returned to the camp and entered another tent which was also empty, and looted it as well, and they went and hid the loot that they found.
  • The lepers decide to tell the Jewish people of deserted camp and the food and spoils: The leper said to one another, “We are not doing a proper thing [by keeping this information to ourselves and not informing the king]. This is very good news that we must bring to the king’s attention, and if we wait until the morning will be liable for capital punishment. So, let us go and inform the king’s palace as to what we have discovered.”
  • The lepers informed the gatekeepers who inform the king: The lepers returned to the Jewish camp called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them what had happened and that they had arrived to the Aramean camp, and behold it was empty without any man there. “It contained no sound of a human. The horses and donkeys were left about still tied to their stalls, and the tents were left as if the people are still living there [without having anything packed up].” The gatekeepers related all of this to the king’s palace.
  • The king of Israel suspects that the Arameans created a trap to ambush them: The king arose at night and was informed of the above information. He responded to his servants cautiously, paranoid that this was a trick on the part of the Arameans to ambush them. He claimed that the Arameans were well aware that they were starving, so they left their camp to hide in the field, in wait for the Jewish people to leave the city to enter their camp in search of food and then seize them alive and enter the city to take it over. In response to the king’s claim, one of his servants suggested to him as follows, “Let us take five of the remaining horses that have survived the famine, and send them with riders to the camp and see for ourselves what has happened. Worse comes to worse, they will be killed by the Arameans and meet the same fate as everyone else in the city who is dying of starvation.”
  • Riders are sent to survey the Aramean camp: The king accepted the advice of his servant, and sent two riders of horses, to survey the Aramean camp.
  • The riders report that the Arameans have indeed fled in panic: The horse riders rode up until the Jordan, and throughout their ride they saw garments and vessels of the Arameans thrown onto the ground because of their fleeing in a panic [and their desire to lessen their weight so they can flee faster[5]]. The messengers returned and related all this to the king [and the king became assured that in truth they had fled, and the food in their camp was available for the Jewish people to eat].

3.      The people help themselves to the food and spoils left over by Aram:

  • When the people were informed that the Arameans fled, they went out into their camp and plundered from it all the food and spoils.
  • The price of flour and barley: Due to the newly found great abundance of grain, a seah of fine flour was sold in the market for a shekel, and likewise two seahs of barley was sold in the market for a shekel, just as Elisha had prophesized would occur.
  • The king’s ministers trampled and killed: The king appointed his minister who expressed disbelief of the prophecy to watch over the gate of the city, and the people [in their great haste to get some food] trampled over him and he died, just as Elisha had prophesized would occur when the king visited him the day before. You see, on the previous day when Elisha told the king that by the next day two seahs of barley will be sold for a shekel and a seah of fine flour will be sold for a Shekel in the gates of Shomron, the above-mentioned officer replied to Elisha in disbelief saying that he does not expect God to make windows in the sky for the food to fall through. Elisha then replied to him saying that he will indeed witness the miracle of the abundance of food but will not get to partake in it, and this is exactly what happened to him, as the people trampled him in the gate, and he died.

[1] Metzudos Dovid 7:1

[2] Rashi 7:3; Sotah 47a

[3] Rashi 7:3

[4] Radak 7:6

[5] Metzudos Dovid 7:15

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