Haftarah Metzorah: Reading the Text IV
“They arrived and called out to the gatekeepers of the city and declared to them, saying, ‘We came to the Aramean camp and behold! Not a man or a human sound is there, only the horses are tethered, and the tents are as they were.’
The Gatekeepers announced it; and it was related inside the king’s palace (II Kings 7:10-11).”
If I were there, I would have yelled out, “There’s food! The siege is over!” I would not have declared that, “We came to the Aramean camp,” which will eventually raise the question of, “Why did you go there?”
If they had decided to, “report to the King’s palace (Verse 9),” why did they not ask to be allowed entry and/or for an audience with the King?
We can tell from the text that the scene described is incomplete: Why did the gatekeepers announce the news before confirming the information? Why did they not send a message directly to the palace, rather than waiting for, “and it was related inside the king’s palace”?
They announced the news, word spread, and eventually reached the palace.
I would imagine that the minute it was announced that the people inside would be clamoring to open the gates and get out, or at least gather before the palace to await confirmation.
Did they allow the four men/metzoraim to enter? Did they risk opening the gate?
If the city is under siege, why have gatekeepers rather than watchmen? Was there no one on the wall keeping the Aramean army under observation? Did no one notice the four men entering the Aramean camp?
An earlier verse (Background Text II) hints that the walls were abandoned; the King went up on the wall to look out. The famine had reached such devastating proportions that the people inside the city gave up. Perhaps they had so given up that no one could believe the report.
This is the way I imagine the scene: The four metzoraim approach the city and request entry and an audience with the king, only to be ignored. They want to offer just enough information to earn them entry, without sharing all the good news.
However, “We came to the Aramean camp,” caused the gatekeepers to suspect the four, and “announce” the news to mock it. No one takes it seriously, but they talk about it until the rumor reaches the King’s palace. They don’t trust the news, as we see in verses 12-13, but they do recall Elisha’s prophecy; there is enough of a hint of hope that the palace must consider the information.
The minute that the palace just considers the news because of Elisha’s prophecy, they are acknowledging his words, something the King had already done when he didn’t follow through on his promise to kill Elisha the previous day. It was the King’s slight belief that triggered the miracle, and it was his refusal to seriously acknowledge Elisha’s words that delayed access to the miracle’s benefits.
Imagine people so desperate for food, and yet, almost equally desperate to deny the truth of Elisha’s promise!
If Elisha was correct, they would have to consider that all the suffering was caused by their sins. A part of them hesitated to get food because they could not afford such a consideration; how would they look at all the corpses of the people who died because of their sins? How would they explain that their sins led to women cooking and eating their children?
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