The Torah reading this Shabbat is from the portion Metzora (“leper”), Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33. The Haftarah (portion from the prophets) is from 2 Kings 7:3-20, and from the New Testament, Romans 6:8-23.
The issue of leprosy in the Torah is very important, and we can see this from the number of chapters that are dealing with this issue. In fact it is also important in the New Testament, and we see stories dealing with leprosy there as well.
Here are the stories from the Gospels that deal with leprosy and lepers:
“And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’” – Matthew 8:2
“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” – Matthew 11:5
“Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’” – Mark 1:40
“Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.” – Luke 17:12
I would like to concentrate this Shabbat on the Haftarah. The reading portion from the prophets that will be read in all the synagogues around the world.
The unique thing about this story from 2 Kings 7:3-20 has several very interesting things relevant to us today, especially as disciples of Yeshua. This story is related to the word “gospel” in English, the word “evangelion” in Greek, and the word “bessorah” in Hebrew.
The time is when the king of Israel was Jehoram son of Ahab, and the Assyrians besieged the city of Shomron (Samaria). Siege was one of the most cruel instruments of war in the ancient world. Because the royal cities were walled, and usually up on a hill, there were two major challenges in time of war: water and food. After a few weeks the cities were starving and thirsty.
We must remember that there was no refrigeration, and fresh food and water were usually outside the walls of the city, because the city was up on the hill, and the spring of water was usually in the valley. This is why Hezekiah did the digging of the tunnel from the Siloam to the inside the walls of the city, and created the pool of Siloam.
So, the king of Assyria besieged the city of Samaria for months, and the people inside the city were starving. The hunger was so bad that two women decided to eat their babies (see 2 Kings 6). After eating the baby of the first woman, and no longer being hungry, the second woman refused to give her baby to be eaten.
The scene is very hard, because the king meets these two women and they complain to him about the unfair situation that the second woman refused to give her baby to be eaten, after the first was actually eaten. Of course the king can’t help these two women!
From there the biblical text takes us inside the gates of the city of Samaria. There the elders of the city meet to discuss the situation and have a kind of parliament for breakfast, but not much food.
Well, that morning Elisha the prophet woke up early and received a word from the Lord:
“Then Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: “Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.”’ So an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, ‘Look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?’ And he said, ‘In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.’” – 2 Kings 7:1,2 [NKJV]
What Elisha said is actually impossible, because even if the Siege of Samaria would stop today, it would take months to work the land and allow the crops to grow so that they would have food again. The officer at the gate of Samaria doubted the words of Elisha the prophet, and made fun of the old prophet Elisha.
Elisha was a prophet of God that you would not want to mess with. He was a very kind man, but also a very demanding and harsh man at times, and with people who doubted the word of the Lord. So, Elisha curses this officer (“you will see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it!”).
In 2 Kings 7:4, the scene changes and takes us to the leper colony outside the gates of the city. There are four lepers sitting in their misery and discussing their situation: “If we stay here we will die from starvation! But if we go into the city the situation inside is not better than from what we have here outside the gate.”
These four lepers are in a predicament that has no way out. What will they do?
They decided to do the only thing that has the potential to provide some food for them and give them a chance to survive. They decided to go to the camp of the Assyrian army that was encamped not far from the city of Samaria.
If the Assyrians kill them, well, they will be out of their misery of leprosy, hunger, and social rejection. If the Assyrian army has mercy on them and gives them food, they will survive for a few more days.
Well, these four lepers start walking and dragging their feet on the gravel of the road. They arrive in the camp of the Assyrians – the place is abandoned.
The Assyrian soldiers are not there, their food is hot on their tables, and their tents are intact. The wealth that the Assyrian army plundered on the way to Samaria was all there in their luggage.
The first thing that these four lepers do is eat, and eat, and eat some more. The second thing they do is take as much of the wealth of the Assyrians as possible, filling their pockets and clothing.
They take so much that there have no room for more. They start digging in the ground and hiding more of the wealth of the Assyrian plunder.
At this point, already late at night, these four lepers have eaten their fill. And they have taken much gold and wealth from the Assyrian camp, and some they have hidden under the ground.
Suddenly, these four lepers say the following:
“Then they said to one another, ‘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 7:9 [NKJV]
The phrase that interests me is “this day is a day of good news”. The Hebrew word that is used here is “besora”, translated in the Greek Bible as “evangelion”. And in English in the New Testament, it is translated as “gospel”.
The word “gospel” is not even an English word. It is a word made up from the Germanic languages which means “God’s story”.
The question is, why does the same word in the Old Testament appear as “good news” (“evangelion” from the Septuagint translation from the 2nd Century B.C.), and then in the New Testament as a different, made-up word: “gospel”?
So, the same word in Hebrew, “besora”, is in the Greek Bible “evangelion” in both the Old and New Testaments, but in English and other languages a new word is invented: “gospel”.
The results of this tactical translation is that in the Old Testament you have “good news” and no “gospel”. In the New Testament you have no “good news” but you have “Gospel.”
This, of course, creates a disconnect between the Old and the New Testaments. And it is done on purpose by the translators of the Holy Bible.
Back to the four lepers. After they are filled with food and wealth, they realize that they must share this good news with the king and the people of Samaria.
They realize that it is not easy for lepers to enter the city and communicate with the authorities, especially with the king and the rulers. However, these four lepers realize that if they don’t share this important and good news with the starving people inside the city, something terrible will happen to them.
So, they realize the importance of this good news. And their imperative is to do everything possible to wake up the king and share this good news.
The final scene of this story is that the king is awakened and he sends four horsemen to investigate if the report of these four lepers is correct. The king’s men find out that the story of the four lepers is true.
In the morning the news reaches the gates of the city, and the gates of the city open up! The crowd rushes out of the gate to get the food from the abandoned camp of the Assyrian army.
On their way out of the city to get food from the Assyrian camp, they trample the general that made fun of Elisha’s proclamation, and Elisha’s prophecy is fulfilled. The general could see the words of Elisha fulfilled. And a bushel of wheat was indeed one shekel!
The moral of this story is that everyone that has tasted of the “besora”, “the good news”, “the gospel”, “the evangelion”, the wealth of God’s grace, must share it with the people who are starving for the good news of salvation. To have that desire to share the good news, the gospel, with the people who are starving spiritually, because they are besieged in the culture and value system of the world.
If you got the good news and don’t share, it soon it will become like cheese that you have been keeping in your refrigerator. It will rot and spoil and make your refrigerator smell bad.
If you have discovered from this story of the besieged city of Samaria and the four lepers that saved it, you must realize that God can use you too and give you opportunity to bring good news to your friends and family that are still behind the closed gates of the city and suffering from hunger for God’s wealth and generous provision of food for our souls, and salvation from our condemnation in God’s judgment.
Share! Share! Share! Don’t miss the opportunities to share the good news!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.