The Four Lepers: Outcasts sharing good news (2 Kings 7:3-20)

 Read 2 Kings 7:3-20 on Bible Gateway

The situation in Samaria, the capital of Israel, was bleak. The city was under siege from the invading Aramean army and 2 Kings 6:24-33 describes the situation. There was a famine (v25) and so the price of anything that could be eaten rocketed. This included extortionate prices for delicacies such as a donkey’s head for 80 shekels[1] (a live horse cost 150 shekels in 1 Kings 10:29) and of dove’s dung for 5 shekels (v25). However, worse than that was the fact that the residents had resorted to cannibalism, illustrated by the two women who agreed to eat each other’s sons but after the first son had been boiled and eaten the second mother changed her mind (vv28,29).

Samaria was simply waiting for her long, slow and painful end to arrive. Hope had long since fled the scene.

Meanwhile, 2 Kings 7 begins by telling us of four lepers were living outside the city.[2] Lepers were outcasts. They were the dregs of society; the lowest of the low. Once diagnosed with leprosy a person had to live outside of the main community so as not to endanger anyone else. However, the real stigma came from the fact that they were regarded as being unclean. They had to call out ‘Unclean’ as they moved around in order to warn of their approach. As God’s people being unclean meant that a person was not acceptable to God and therefore unable to participate in any acts of worship. The rejection by society was simply a picture of the rejection by God.

These four lepers, then, were in a difficult situation. They were sat in the gate of the city (v3) as that was the place where they could beg. However, due to the siege no-one was going in or out of the city and so that was a hopeless task. In discussion with each other they realised they had three options:

  1. They could wait at the gate until they died;
  2. They could re-enter the besieged city and die; or
  3. They could go over to the Arameans.

This third option was highly likely to result in death since the invading army were trying to kill all who lived in the city. However, there was a slim chance that the army would have mercy on them and so they decided it was worth a shot.

It was this decision that led to the salvation of many.

As the four lepers approached the camp it appeared much quieter than they had anticipated. They encountered no hostile guard. No-one challenged them as they approached the nearest tents. There was no lookout or sentry blocking their path. They heard no voices of soldiers laughing or shouting or passing the time with each other. All they heard was the neighing of horses and the braying of donkeys, all of which had been abandoned in the camp.

They could not believe what was happening! They cautiously entered a tent on the edge of the camp and found some food and drink and hungrily gorged themselves on what they found (v8). These were men who in good times had been living on the scraps from the city but during the siege would have received nothing at all. Once they had satisfied their immediate desire for something to fill their stomachs they looked around and realised that the tent contained silver, gold and clothes. They couldn’t believe their luck and so gathered up the items and ran off to hide them (v8). Having done that, they moved to another tent and did the same thing.

It was at this point that the realisation dawned on them that they had stumbled upon the aftermath of a miracle!

God had invaded the enemy camp and scattered the army so that no man was left.

He had provided the besieged and hopeless city with food, drink and plunder.

God had brought salvation to the city!

The lepers realised that this was good news for them and also good news for the people. This was not a victory God had brought about just for four lepers. This was good news for all the people! ‘We are not doing right’, they said, ‘This day is a day of good news…let us go and tell’ (v9).

And so they did! They went back to the city and shouted out the news to the gatekeepers (v10) who told the king’s household (v11). Following some careful checking as to the reliability of the testimony of the lepers the people were told ‘and the people went out and plundered the camp’ (v16). Donkey head and dove dung was no longer on the menu and instead ‘a measure (just over 7 litres) of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel’ (v16).

The city was saved!

And it was four outcasts who were entrusted with the good news that released a whole city from bondage.

It was four lepers who realised they were in possession of good news that simply HAD to be shared.

And so what about you? What are you doing with the good news you have heard?

[1] A shekel weighed about 11 grams and was approximately an average wage for a month

[2] Thank you to for the idea for this post

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