II Kings – Chapter 7

Better Than a Donkey's Head!

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Elisha said “Listen up! At this time tomorrow, a single shekel will buy a seah of flour or two seah of barley!” (A seah is a measure between three and four gallons. Contrast this with the previous chapter in which a half gallon container of pigeon dung for fuel cost five silver pieces and a donkey’s head cost eighty silver pieces!) One of the king’s officers mocked this prophecy, saying, “Even if G-d opened windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?” Elisha replied, “You will see it, but you will not benefit from it.”

There were four lepers outside the city gates. (Traditionally these were Gechazi and his sons – see Talmud Sotah 47a.) They said, “Why sit here until we starve to death? Let’s go to the camp of Aram – they’ll either save us or kill us quickly.” They entered the camp at twilight and found it empty. G-d had caused the army of Aram to hear the sound of a great invading force and they had run away. The lepers ate and drank and helped themselves to valuables, which they hid. (You know: typical Gechazi behavior.) Then one of them said, “You know, it’s only a matter of time before people find out about this. We should go and report it so we don’t get in trouble.” They went and reported it to the authorities. Yehoram suspected a trap. “They’re hiding. They’re waiting for us to come for food, then they’ll ambush us.” So, they sent two horsemen to check it out. The soldiers followed the tracks of the army of Aram all the way to the Jordan; they found the way littered with equipment that Aram had discarded in their haste to escape. They reported to the king that things were indeed as they seemed. The people looted the camp of Aram and, sure enough, a seah of flour and two seah of barley went for a shekel each.

The officer who mocked the prophecy was assigned duty at the gate and was trampled by the people in their haste for food. As Elisha said, he saw the prophecy come true, but he did not live long enough to enjoy it himself.

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