by JESSE C. LONG JR. In his Who Knew What When post, Gary Yamasaki correctly understands the account of the four lepers in 2 Kings 7 as crafted so that the implied reader experiences the event through the point of view of the characters in the story. On the informational point of view plane, the narrator withholds from the reader that the Arameans had taken flight before the arrival of the four lepers (vv. 6-7), which has the effect of allowing the reader to discover the deserted camp with the lepers. The storyteller even provides an inside view of their discovery (v. 5) with hinneh (an indicator of psychological point of view; Berlin 1983, 62-63): “Behold [hinneh], there was no one there!”
On the ideological point of view plane (which can range from world view/assumptions to direct or indirect communication with the implied audience), the narrator in the above-mentioned flashback (vv. 6-7) claims that Yahweh caused the Aramean retreat with the sound of a great army. Moreover, in the narrative discourse the storyteller with repetition, wordplay, and irony subtly intimates that the lepers also played a role in Yahweh’s victory.
To accomplish this, the narrator situates the lepers’ advance on the Aramean camp and the Aramean flight “at dusk” (vv. 5, 7) indicating that the two events were simultaneous. Provan (1995, 201-202) adds that there is wordplay here with mitsorayim (“lepers,” vv. 3, 8) and mitsrayim (“Egypt,” v. 6). Ironically, when the Arameans in dialogue express the view that their enemies are upon them, including the “kings of Egypt,” a careful reader also thinks of the approaching lepers. This reading is reinforced with verbal irony in verse four when the lepers say, “Let us go and fall upon [from naphal, “desert to” in NRSV] the Aramean camp.” A Hebrew idiom for “attack,” the initial ambiguity in “fall upon” diminishes when the lepers approach a deserted military camp (see Long 2002, 342).
In this well-crafted narrative, these features communicate indirectly in discourse to an implied reader. There is convergence on the informational point of view plane between the points of view of the characters in the story world and the reader; however, on the ideological point of view plane, the narrative discourse creates divergence through dramatic irony, which Uspensky (1973, 103) describes as “the nonconcurrence of point of view on different levels.” While the characters in the story are unaware of the effect of their actions, the storyteller ironically conveys that Yahweh has delivered Israel with four lepers!
Berlin, Adele. 1983. Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative. Bible and Literature Series, vol 9. Sheffield: The Almond Press. Repr., Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1999.
Long, Jesse C., Jr. 2002. 1 & 2 Kings. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press.
Provan, Iain W. 1995. 1 and 2 Kings. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
Uspensky, Boris. 1973. A Poetics of Composition: The Structure of the Artistic Text and Typology of a Compositional Form. Translated by Valentina Zavarin and Susan Wittig. Berkeley: University of California Press.