1Elisha said, “Listen! God’s word! The famine’s over. This time tomorrow food will be plentiful—a handful of meal for a shekel; two handfuls of grain for a shekel. The market at the city gate will be buzzing.”
2 The attendant on whom the king leaned for support said to the Holy Man, “You expect us to believe that? Trapdoors opening in the sky and food tumbling out?”
“You’ll watch it with your own eyes,” he said, “but you will not eat so much as a mouthful!”
3-4 It happened that four lepers were sitting just outside the city gate. They said to one another, “What are we doing sitting here at death’s door? If we enter the famine-struck city we’ll die; if we stay here we’ll die. So let’s take our chances in the camp of Aram and throw ourselves on their mercy. If they receive us we’ll live, if they kill us we’ll die. We’ve got nothing to lose.”
5-8 So after the sun went down they got up and went to the camp of Aram. When they got to the edge of the camp, surprise! Not a man in the camp! The Master had made the army of Aram hear the sound of horses and a mighty army on the march. They told one another, “The king of Israel hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to attack us!” Panicked, they ran for their lives through the darkness, abandoning tents, horses, donkeys—the whole camp just as it was—running for dear life. These four lepers entered the camp and went into a tent. First they ate and drank. Then they grabbed silver, gold, and clothing, and went off and hid it. They came back, entered another tent, and looted it, again hiding their plunder.
9 Finally they said to one another, “We shouldn’t be doing this! This is a day of good news and we’re making it into a private party! If we wait around until morning we’ll get caught and punished. Come on! Let’s go tell the news to the king’s palace!”
10 So they went and called out at the city gate, telling what had happened: “We went to the camp of Aram and, surprise!—the place was deserted. Not a soul, not a sound! Horses and donkeys left tethered and tents abandoned just as they were.”
11-12 The gatekeepers got the word to the royal palace, giving them the whole story. Roused in the middle of the night, the king told his servants, “Let me tell you what Aram has done. They knew that we were starving, so they left camp and have hid in the field, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we’ll capture them alive and take the city.’”
13 One of his advisors answered, “Let some men go and take five of the horses left behind. The worst that can happen is no worse than what could happen to the whole city. Let’s send them and find out what’s happened.”
14 They took two chariots with horses. The king sent them after the army of Aram with the orders, “Scout them out; find out what happened.”
15 They went after them all the way to the Jordan. The whole way was strewn with clothes and equipment that Aram had dumped in their panicked flight. The scouts came back and reported to the king.
16 The people then looted the camp of Aram. Food prices dropped overnight—a handful of meal for a shekel; two handfuls of grain for a shekel—God’s word to the letter!
17 The king ordered his attendant, the one he leaned on for support, to be in charge of the city gate. The people, turned into a mob, poured through the gate, trampling him to death. It was exactly what the Holy Man had said when the king had come to see him.
18-20 Every word of the Holy Man to the king—“A handful of meal for a shekel, two handfuls of grain for a shekel this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,” with the attendant’s sarcastic reply to the Holy Man, “You expect us to believe that? Trapdoors opening in the sky and food tumbling out?” followed by the response, “You’ll watch it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat so much as a mouthful”—proved true. The final stroke came when the people trampled the man to death at the city gate.