The Facts of Life before God and the Prophetic Peculiarity. Three Illness Narratives of the Hebrew Bible

Josef Forsling

Abstract


The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is a canonical text for many including its portrayals of illness. This article explores the narrative representation of illness in three longer narratives in the Hebrew Bible by means of a close reading. The narratives are all legends of some sort and involve terminal or impossible illnesses and the prophet. In 2 Kings 4 the story revolves around illness as an enigma and involves the motifs of hospitality, responsibility, and empowerment in an ever expanding plot. In 2 Kings 5 leprosy as an incurable disease stands at the center and the story develops through several contrasting motifs including greatness, simplicity, and humility. In 2 Kings 20/Isaiah 38 illness is a death warrant leading to bitterness, and the story probes the necessity and honesty of prayer. Two common traits in the narratives are prayer and argument as a response to illness, and the status of the prophet as a health care consultant.