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In memory of HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein, zt”l, on the occasion of his sixth yahrtzeit.

2 Kings 7:3-20

The Northern Kingdom of Israel fought a long, unresolved war of attrition against its northwestern neighbor, the kingdom of Aram (in modern Syria). The events of the Haftarah occur during an Aramean siege of Israel’s capital, Samaria, and its resulting famine and mass starvation. Desperate mothers squabble about the terms of their agreement to slaughter and share the flesh of their own children - a Divine punishment foretold in Deut. 28:53. Helpless, Israel’s king grieves, lashing out at the failure of God and His prophet, Elisha, to bring salvation. Disregarding the king’s threat against his life, Elisha tells a servant of the king that God will alleviate the siege, and that food supply and prices will return to normal within one day. In response to his mocking reply, Elisha further predicts that the servant will witness the abundant food - but not eat it. The Haftarah opens outside Samaria’s gate. Four leprous men, excluded from the city as commanded in the Parashah (Lev.13:46), make a momentous decision that ultimately portends the siege’s end and the fulfillment of Elisha’s prophecies.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 3-4: Facing death by famine, the four lepers decide to leave Samaria’s gate to join the Aramean camp.

II Kings 7:4

If we say, “We will enter the city” - the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; if we dwell here, we will [also] die. Therefore, let us go and submit to Aram’s camp: if they let us live, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall die.

אִם־אָמַרְנוּ֩ נָב֨וֹא הָעִ֜יר וְהָרָעָ֤ב בָּעִיר֙ וָמַ֣תְנוּ שָׁ֔ם וְאִם־יָשַׁ֥בְנוּ פֹ֖ה וָמָ֑תְנוּ וְעַתָּ֗ה לְכוּ֙ וְנִפְּלָה֙ אֶל־מַחֲנֵ֣ה אֲרָ֔ם אִם־יְחַיֻּ֣נוּ נִֽחְיֶ֔ה וְאִם־יְמִיתֻ֖נוּ וָמָֽתְנוּ׃

Verses 5-8: They discover that the camp had been hurriedly abandoned, and plunder it for personal gain. The narrator explains that God scattered the camp overnight.

II Kings 7:6

The Lord made Aram’s camp hear a sound of chariots, a sound of horses, a sound of a great army. The [Arameans] said to one another, “Israel’s king hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to attack us!”

וַאדֹקי הִשְׁמִ֣יעַ ׀ אֶת־מַחֲנֵ֣ה אֲרָ֗ם ק֥וֹל רֶ֙כֶב֙ ק֣וֹל ס֔וּס ק֖וֹל חַ֣יִל גָּד֑וֹל וַיֹּאמְר֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ אֶל־אָחִ֗יו הִנֵּ֣ה שָֽׂכַר־עָלֵינוּ֩ מֶ֨לֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶת־מַלְכֵ֧י הַחִתִּ֛ים וְאֶת־מַלְכֵ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם לָב֥וֹא עָלֵֽינוּ׃

Verses 9-11: The lepers realize the impropriety of their selfish reaction, and inform the king that the Arameans abandoned their camp.

II Kings 7:9

They said to one another, “We do not behave correctly. Today is a day of good tidings [yet] we are silent. [If] we tarry till the morning light, punishment will come upon us. Therefore, let us go, enter [the city area], and tell the king’s household.”

וַיֹּאמְרוּ֩ אִ֨ישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵ֜הוּ לֹֽא־כֵ֣ן ׀ אֲנַ֣חְנוּ עֹשִׂ֗ים הַיּ֤וֹם הַזֶּה֙ יוֹם־בְּשֹׂרָ֣ה ה֔וּא וַאֲנַ֣חְנוּ מַחְשִׁ֗ים וְחִכִּ֛ינוּ עַד־א֥וֹר הַבֹּ֖קֶר וּמְצָאָ֣נוּ עָו֑וֹן וְעַתָּה֙ לְכ֣וּ וְנָבֹ֔אָה וְנַגִּ֖ידָה בֵּ֥ית הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

Verses 12-15: Fearing the report is an Aramean ruse to flush them from the city, the king dispatches a small party to investigate. The report is found to be true.

II Kings 7:15

[The king’s men] followed [the Arameans] as far as the Jordan. Lo, the entire path was full of garments and vessels which Aram had cast away in their haste. The messengers returned and told the king.

וַיֵּלְכ֣וּ אַחֲרֵיהֶם֮ עַד־הַיַּרְדֵּן֒ וְהִנֵּ֣ה כָל־הַדֶּ֗רֶךְ מְלֵאָ֤ה בְגָדִים֙ וְכֵלִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־הִשְׁלִ֥יכוּ אֲרָ֖ם בהחפזם [בְּחָפְזָ֑ם] וַיָּשֻׁ֙בוּ֙ הַמַּלְאָכִ֔ים וַיַּגִּ֖דוּ לַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

Verses 16-20: The claim of the lepers, and by extension, the prophecy of Elisha are proven true.

II Kings 7:18

It came to pass as the man of God had said to the king, saying, “Two measures of barley for a shekel, and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, shall be tomorrow at this time in Samaria’s gate.”

וַיְהִ֗י כְּדַבֵּר֙ אִ֣ישׁ הָאֱלֹקים אֶל־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ לֵאמֹ֑ר סָאתַ֨יִם שְׂעֹרִ֜ים בְּשֶׁ֗קֶל וּֽסְאָה־סֹ֙לֶת֙ בְּשֶׁ֔קֶל יִהְיֶה֙ כָּעֵ֣ת מָחָ֔ר בְּשַׁ֖עַר שֹׁמְרֽוֹן׃


The Talmud tells of another leprous savior at a city gate who brings redemption - the Messiah.

Sanhedrin 98a

[R. Yehoshua ben Levi] said to [Elijah]: “When will the Messiah come?” [Elijah] responded, “Go ask him.”

He asked, “Where does he dwell?” [Elijah responded,] “At the entrance of the city.”

[He asked] “What is his identifying sign?” [Elijah responded,] “He sits among the poor who suffer from illnesses [Rashi: afflicted with tzara’at; cf. Lev. 13:2]. They all loosen and tie their bandages all at once. [But] he [the Messiah] loosens one bandage and ties each one [separately], reasoning, ‘Perhaps I will be needed [for the redemption], so I must not be delayed.’”

אמר ליה אימת אתי משיח אמר ליה זיל שייליה לדידיה

והיכא יתיב אפיתחא דקרתא

ומאי סימניה יתיב ביני עניי סובלי חלאים [רש"י: מנוגעים] וכולן שרו ואסירי בחד זימנא איהו שרי חד ואסיר חד אמר דילמא מבעינא דלא איעכב

By contrast, famed Israeli poet, “Rachel” (Bluwstein; 1890-1931), objects to the Haftarah’s mode of redemption in her poem, “יום בשורה / Day of Tidings” (see verse 9, above.)

For a long while the dreadful enemy / Brought Shomron to siege;

Four lepers to her brought tidings. / To her brought the tidings of freedom.

A Shomron under siege - the entire land, / The famine is unbearable.

But I do not want to receive news of redemption / From the lips of a leper.

The pure will bring news and the pure will redeem / And if his hand won’t be there to redeem -

Then I will choose to die from the suffering of the siege / On the eve of the day of the great tidings.

בְּשֶׁכְּבָר הַיָּמִים הָאוֹיֵב הַנּוֹרָא / אֶת שֹׁמְרוֹן הֵבִיא בְּמָצוֹר;

אַרְבָּעָה מְצֹרָעִים לָהּ בִּשְּׂרוּ בְּשׂוֹרָה. / לָהּ בִּשְּׂרוּ בְּשׂוֹרַת הַדְּרוֹר.

כְּשֹׁמְרוֹן בְּמָצוֹר – כָּל הָאָרֶץ כֻּלָּהּ, / וְכָבֵד הָרָעָב מִנְּשׂא.

אַךְ אֲנִי לֹא אֹבֶה בְּשׂוֹרַת גְּאֻלָּה, / אִם מִפִּי מְצֹרָע הִיא תָבוֹא.

הַטָּהוֹר יְבַשֵּׂר וְגָאַל הַטָּהוֹר, / וְאִם יָדוֹ לֹא תִמְצָא לִגְאֹל –

אָז נִבְחָר לִי לִנְפֹּל מִמְּצוּקַת הַמָּצוֹר/אוֹר לְיוֹם בְּשׂוֹרָה הַגָּדוֹל.

With emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org. To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email haftarahhelper@gmail.com.