In the haftorah portion of Tazria-Metzora, we find the people in great distress! There is a siege in Samaria and there is a great famine in the land. The people are desperate for food, and that’s when we meet the four lepers in 2Kings 7:3-4: “Now there were four leprous men at the ntrance of the gate; and they said to one another, ‘Why do we sit here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city’, then the famine is in the city and we shall die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.”
When we look at the lepers, let’s remember that they were complete outcasts. They were feared and hated because it was thought that they were contagious. The lepers were believed to be under a divine curse and were not trusted. So, these poor lepers lived a horrible life! They were extremely poor, usually subsisting off of other people’s garbage. But, this was a siege and the people had been driven to cannibalism so there was nothing for them. They were starving! The lepers had no options left and they decided to go to the camp of the Arameans. Many times when we are desperate, it drives us to action, and this is what happened to the four lepers.
The story continues, that when the lepers arrived at the camp of the Arameans they had fled! The Arameans had heard the sound of chariots and a sound of horses, and even the sound of a great army. They were so fearful that they abandoned their camp containing food, wine, tents and horses. The four lepers must have been ecstatic! When they entered the first tent, they ate and drank. They also carried gold and silver and clothes and hid their spoil. They entered another tent and then they came to a realization. In v.9 it says, “Then they said to one another, ‘we are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household.’” The lepers had been thinking only of themselves, grabbing food, drink, spoil, clothes and now they are at a crossroad. Commentators argue whether or not they decided to do the right thing because of fear of being found out or because of their conscience. But, I believe that there is a clue that can help us when we look at the Hebrew. In the Art Scroll commentary it reads: “If we wait until the light of dawn we will be considered sinful.” The word translated as punishment in my bible is the word aw-vone . The word is perversity, meaning moral evil; fault, iniquity, mischief, punishment of iniquity, sin. This word aw-vone is spelled with two vavs indicating that the sin is very serious. In this case the sin would be considered grave because the surviving people in Samaria were severely weakened with hunger.
The four lepers knew that it would be a great sin to not do the right thing. They knew what hopelessness, fear, despair and hunger were like. They had lived with it long before the siege and probably would live with it after the siege. The leper’s had a choice to make either do the right thing or try to hide the blessing that God had given them.
We are no different than these lepers. Many of us are hanging outside the gates with our leprosy. We are wounded, scared, isolated and can’t find someone to touch us with tenderness and kindness. These lepers touched the city with kindness and tenderness. They became a blessing even though they were thought of as a curse. This is our challenge in this portion to become a blessing even though we might feel as if we are living under a curse. No matter what our circumstances, God can use our circumstances to bring forth a blessing for you and the people around you.