The rule was that lepers were to stay out of the city, so they had no right to enter. Still they decided to go in. There was no food in the city. The lepers themselves had no food. They reasoned that whatever they did they would die – outside the city, inside the city, it made no difference.
The inhabitants of the city were in a state of nerves, and when the lepers entered they thought it was “the noise of a great host” and they panicked and ran away. The result is that when the lepers entered the city, “behold, there was no man there” (verse 5).
The question we ask is why the citizens exaggerated so much, stampeded, and thought the enemy was at the door and that they were doomed.
The answer is an exercise in human psychology. Turning molehills into mountains is something that happens. It is no use telling people to use their brains and not lose their balance. Good leadership should be capable of seeing the signs as they really are, but often there is a lack of good leadership and there is a fear amongst the people that the leaders are appeasers who can’t see reality.
In our own day, the demagogues constantly exploit situations like this to the eternal detriment of everybody concerned. We could all learn from my French teacher at high school who had a habit of shaking a boy by the shoulders and saying, “Have some sense, boy, have some sense!”
Teachers dare not shake their students any more, but “Have some sense, boy, have some sense!” is still good advice.