The Difference Between Good News and the Gospel

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The Torah reading this next Shabbat is double, Tazria and Metzora. The reading starts from Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33, from the prophets we read 2 Kings 7:3-20, and from the New Testament from John 6:8-13, 8:1-17. The reading from the prophets this Shabbat is one of my favorite texts in the second book of Kings. The reason that it is my favorite text is because it deals like our Torah reading with people who are sick with leprosy.

Leprosy is one of the most feared illnesses in the Bible. Leprosy was highly infectious and was incurable. People who were sick with leprosy were outcasts and feared and sent out of town to a leper colony outside the cities.

I grew up in Jerusalem not far from the leper colony of Jerusalem. It was a large compound surrounded with high stone walls. The gate to the compound was like a normal small metal door to any apartment in Jerusalem.

Inside there was a farm with goats and sheep, and vegetable gardens, four freshwater wells that draw the water from the ground. There were only a few doctors who also lived on the same closed compound and a few nurses.

No one could go in or come out of that leprosy hospital whose name was the Hansen Hospital. Hansen’s disease is the modern name for leprosy.

Our reading from 2 Kings chapter 7 is dealing with four men who were sick with leprosy. They were, like all the lepers, sick outside the walls of the city of Samaria.

The city of Samaria was under military siege for six months. The Assyrian army was parked around the city of Jerusalem. No one could go out or come into that city.

Of course, a siege is one of the most cruel and difficult military tactics to overcome. Because a city under siege has no incoming food, no incoming trade, no incoming or outgoing people. Starvation, hunger, and desperation take over.

This is so clear from chapter 6 of 2 Kings. The case is described with two women that decided to eat their babies in order to survive. There couldn’t have been a worse situation in the city of Samaria.

The city of Samaria was in deep trouble and hunger was taking over. One morning the elders of Samaria were seating at the gates of the city having a cup of a hot drink with Elisha.

Elisha is well known not to be a politician. He pipes up and states the impossible:

“…Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: ‘Tomorrow about this time a seah [a measure of wheat] of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’” – 2 Kings 7:1b [NKJV]

The elders and a general that was there guarding the gate hears Elisha speak and says, “Old man Elisha is crazy! Even if the windows of Heaven are opened, Elisha’s dream can’t happen! Even if the siege ends tomorrow morning it takes months to plow the fields and sow the seed and wait for the crop to grow and only after that, the food will be ready.”

Elisha hears this officer and says to him: “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”

Well, four leprous men early in the morning discuss their situation and they know that inside the city they have no hope because the hunger was just as bad or even worst. So, the only hope that these four men with leprosy had was to go and see if they could get some mercy and charity from the Assyrian enemy camp. So, here you have it – four men with leprosy start dragging their feet walking like sick lepers toward the Assyrian camp.

As they get close to the camp of the enemy, they hear no sound, no one is there, the tents are empty, food is on the tables and the cooking pots in the kitchen of the officers are hot and full of food. Those four leprous men eat as much as they can. After they finish eating they start filling their pockets with the loot that the Assyrians had gathered on their march to Samaria.

They take and they take and in chapter 7:9, this is what one of the leprous men said to the others:

“We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.” – 2 Kings 7:9b [NKJV]

“The day of good news” in English is the day of “besorah” in Hebrew. In the Greek it is the day of the “evangelias” – the very same word that is translated in the New Testament with the word Gospel, not with the word good news.

There are near 20 times in the so-called “Old Testament” (Hebrew bible), in the Christian translations, that the same word, “evangelia” in Greek and “besorah” in Hebrew, is always translated as “good news.” The same word is translated in the New Testament as “gospel”. The question is why the difference in the translation of the same word between the Old Testament and the New Testament?

The answer to this question for me is simple. The Christian translators invented a word, “gospel”, that is not even English, in order to make a distinction between the Hebrew bible and the New Testament.

The end of the story in 2 Kings 7 is that the four men sick with leprosy wake up the king and the next morning the gates of Samaria opened and the people of Samaria rush out of the city, trampling the officer that made fun of Elisha, who dies, and the people of Samaria can buy a bushel of wheat for one shekel. Just as Elisha the prophet had spoken 24 hours earlier.

God’s word was fulfilled!

There is so much more that we can learn from this text and from the Torah and the New Testament text in this week’s reading. I encourage you to read it all every week and allow the word of God to be a special vitamin for your soul and spirit.

There is no replacement for reading the word of God. It is the most important thing that you can do for yourselves and for your souls.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah is reposted with permission.