Comic Heroes: The Lepers of 2 Kings 6:24-7:20
This passage contains comic heroes, and like all comic heroes, they are unlikely. They are a group of lepers, barely clinging to life when we meet them.
In a sermon on 2 Kings 6, Spurgeon paints the picture of their lives:
These poor diseased beings were compelled to live in shanties outside the city gate, and to keep themselves apart from all others. Fed from day to day with food passed over the wall, so long as there was any to pass over, they rotted away in horrible loathsomeness. They were not allowed inside the city walls: their wretched hospital was without the gate.
And these are our heroes? We might ask what they are even doing in the narrative. Aren’t there great characters (the King, Elisha, soldiers, etc) that deserve more narrative attention? Yet, these are the lowly, and only the lowly are primed for exaltation, “Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Criswell reflects a fairly common response to God’s choice of heroes, “I thought when I picked up the Bible, and looked at the title of these volumes, that when it spoke of Kings, that I would read of the great and the mighty, the magnificent and the illustrious.”
Yes, these are our heroes. They do the one thing comic heroes always do, and the one thing the king of Israel is notable for not doing. They act. As they reason on the edge of starvation and death, they conclude, “The worst they can do is kill us.” Then, they move from reason to action. Their action pays off, and they are the first to discover that the active word of God, present in Elisha is true truth (2 Kings 7.8).
We may be surprised that these characters gain heroic status. If we are familiar with the genre of comedy, we won’t be. Comedy is usually about average man – actually, the less than average man. The loser. The nobody. The geek. The nerd. There is a comedic type across films: Awkward Teenager (American Pie); Nerd (Revenge of the Nerds); Poor Kids (Meatballs). Each of these characters has one thing in common: they are common.
So, why is it that the comic hero is always the average – or less than average – character?
Because you must be low to rise. A character that is already high up (like the king of Israel) only has one place to go: down. In tragedy, Jesus’ words are proved true: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” In comedy, they are also proved true, “Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”