“Why sit here until we die?” That question is at the heart of one of the Bible’s most incredible stories, 2 Kings 7:1-20, and it’s a question that still has relevance in a multitude of situations today. Let’s talk about the story.
The army of Ben Hadad, the King of Syria, has laid siege to Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. Either as a result of the siege, or perhaps in addition to it, severe famine conditions now prevail in the city (2 Kings 6:24-25). People are literally dying of starvation. A donkey’s head is selling for eighty pieces of silver, and a pint of dove droppings (commentators believe this was a nickname for a certain type of plant) is selling for five pieces of silver (2 Kings 6:25). Some of the citizens are even resorting to cannibalism (2 Kings 6:26-29). Yes, the situation has gotten that extreme.
As bad as the conditions are inside the city, they are even worse for the lepers who are forced to live in designated areas outside it. So, there comes a day when four of the lepers who live just beyond the city’s gate engage in a serious conversation. The conversation begins with the logical question, “Why sit here until we die?” (2 Kings 7:3). Then they discuss their possible courses of actions.
One option is to stay where they are and die there from starvation. A second option is to enter into the city and die there from starvation. Since neither of those options offer any glint of hope, the lepers decide upon a third option. They will make their way out to the Syrian army, surrender, and hope the Syrians will not only mercifully spare their lives but also pity them enough to give them something to eat. Even if the Syrians kill them, nothing will really be lost because death seems inevitable anyway (2 Kings 7:4).
At dusk, as darkness falls, the lepers make their way to the Syrian camp. But when they reach the outskirts of the camp, they are surprised to find no one there (2 Kings 7:5). What the lepers don’t know is that God has just seriously messed with the Syrian army.
What has God done? He has caused the Syrian soldiers to falsely hear the noises of a massive approaching army’s horses and chariots. Upon hearing those noises in the dark, the Syrians have deduced that Israel’s King Jehoram has hired an allied army of Hittites and Egyptians to go to battle against them and that the allied army is about to attack (2 Kings 7:6). Despite the fact that the Syrians haven’t actually seen an army in the darkness, they have certainly heard it and have consequently dropped everything and fled their camp in fear (2 Kings 7:7).
The Syrian soldiers have left behind tents, horses, donkeys, clothing, silver, gold, and plenty of food and drink. Can you imagine the sight of four emaciated lepers, their skin barely hanging from their bones, having free run of the entire Syrian camp? The lepers go into one tent and there they eat and drink. They go into another and there they claim silver and gold. They go into another and there they claim even more silver and gold (2 Kings 7:8). They are like kids having free run in a candy store!
The bounty is so great that the lepers actually begin to feel bad for their selfishness. This prompts them to leave the camp and report the situation to the gatekeepers of Samaria. Because King Jehoram suspects the whole thing is a setup to lure his citizens out to a slaughter, he sends a couple of soldiers in chariots to survey the situation firsthand (2 Kings 7:11-15). When the soldiers return with the news that what the lepers have said is true, the citizens of Samaria stampede out to the camp and plunder it (2 Kings 7:16). They actually trample to death the officer that King Jehoram has placed in charge as Samaria’s gatekeeper (2 Kings 7:17-20).
You talk about a story! But let’s get back to those lepers and their question, “Why sit here until we die?” How many individuals should be asking that question right now? How many businesses should be asking it? How many schools should be asking it? How many churches should be asking it?
I mean, it’s one thing if you are doing what God wants you to be doing and He hasn’t given you a peace about changing. In that case, you need to stick with what you are doing and trust that God has a plan. On the other hand, though, if the only reason why you aren’t making a needed change is because you are being foolish, illogical, cowardly, or just downright stubborn, then you can learn something from those four lepers. Think about it. If no one else comes off looking good from this story, those lepers do. This in itself proves that God was pleased with not only their actions but, perhaps even more importantly, the attitude that led to their actions.