Ben-hadad’s Siege of Samaria
Some time later King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army; he marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. As the siege continued, famine in Samaria became so great that a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver. Now as the king of Israel was walking on the city wall, a woman cried out to him, “Help, my lord king!” He said, “No! Let the LORD help you. How can I help you? From the threshing floor or from the wine press?” But then the king asked her, “What is your complaint?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son; we will eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son and we will eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” When the king heard the words of the woman he tore his clothes—now since he was walking on the city wall, the people could see that he had sackcloth on his body underneath— and he said, “So may God do to me, and more, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat stays on his shoulders today.” So he dispatched a man from his presence.
Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Before the messenger arrived, Elisha said to the elders, “Are you aware that this murderer has sent someone to take off my head? When the messenger comes, see that you shut the door and hold it closed against him. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?” While he was still speaking with them, the king came down to him and said, “This trouble is from the LORD! Why should I hope in the LORD any longer?” But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a measure of choice meal shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “Even if the LORD were to make windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat from it.”
The Arameans Flee
Now there were four leprous men outside the city gate, who said to one another, “Why should we sit here until we die? If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; but if we sit here, we shall also die. Therefore, let us desert to the Aramean camp; if they spare our lives, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.” So they arose at twilight to go to the Aramean camp; but when they came to the edge of the Aramean camp, there was no one there at all. For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “The king of Israel has hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to fight against us.” So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys leaving the camp just as it was, and fled for their lives. When these leprous men had come to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent, ate and drank, carried off silver, gold, and clothing, and went and hid them. Then they came back, entered another tent, carried off things from it, and went and hid them.
Then they said to one another, “What we are doing is wrong. This is a day of good news; if we are silent and wait until the morning light, we will be found guilty; therefore let us go and tell the king’s household.” So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and told them, “We went to the Aramean camp, but there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied, the donkeys tied, and the tents as they were.” Then the gatekeepers called out and proclaimed it to the king’s household. The king got up in the night, and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Arameans have prepared against us. They know that we are starving; so they have left the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’” One of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, since those left here will suffer the fate of the whole multitude of Israel that have perished already; let us send and find out.” So they took two mounted men, and the king sent them after the Aramean army, saying, “Go and find out.” So they went after them as far as the Jordan; the whole way was littered with garments and equipment that the Arameans had thrown away in their haste. So the messengers returned, and told the king.
Then the people went out, and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a measure of choice meal was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD. Now the king had appointed the captain on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; the people trampled him to death in the gate, just as the man of God had said when the king came down to him. For when the man of God had said to the king, “Two measures of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a measure of choice meal for a shekel, about this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,” the captain had answered the man of God, “Even if the LORD were to make windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?” And he had answered, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat from it.” It did indeed happen to him; the people trampled him to death in the gate.
1. This is a rather gruesome story! It starts with cannibalism of a woman’s son and ends with the king’s captain being trampled. I find it hard to get beyond these two facts. This is a story of desperation. At first the desperation is the lack of food then the desperation is for each person to get his/her share. Is the desperation at the end of the story born out of greed? Have you ever felt desperate for something? When the “drought” in your life was over, did the desperation turn to greed?
2. The heroes of this story are four outcasts, considered by society to be dirty and unworthy of consideration. Again God uses unlikely people to be the heroes! They start off greedy and selfish planning on keeping everything for themselves, but realize it is wrong so they share the good news with the king’s household. What good news do you need to share with others?