Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 5
The Healing Of Naaman, The General Of Aram (Syria) And The Smiting Of Gehazi, The Servant Of Elisha (2 Kings 5:1-27).
This is not only a remarkable story in that it recounts the healing by YHWH of an Aramaean general, but also because it indicates the acceptance by YHWH of a foreigner who truly believed, without circumcision. It is a reminder of the unlimited nature of God’s mercy towards all who truly respond to Him. It is also a story of contrasts which demonstrates that God treats all alike, for in contrast to the reception and healing of this foreigner the servant of Elisha was smitten for his great sin of deceit and avarice, in spite of who he was. The greatness of his sin must not be underestimated, for it misrepresented YHWH to one who would have little further contact with the truth, and it was committed by a man of unusual privilege. Furthermore when faced with it he failed to repent, which exacerbated his sin. Repentance and open confession might well have saved him from his fate.
The illness in question was probably not leprosy. Had Naaman had leprosy he would probably not have been able to have such close contact with people, nor enter the king’s presence (compare Leviticus 13:42-46). It was rather some skin disease that was disfiguring, while still allowing close communication. For Gehazi it would mean being disfigured, and being excluded from close contact with the sanctuary. He obtained his wealth at a cost. It is not certain whether he continued in his favoured position. His presence with the king in 2 Kings 8:4-5 may suggest so, but he may have been at court precisely because he was the ex-servant of Elisha.
In the whole account only three people are mentioned by name, Naaman, Elisha and Gehazi. Even the kings are not named. This was in order to put the limelight on the three main characters, without politicising the incident. It was the story of three people.
Overall it is a picture of salvation, for it is a reminder that however spiritually disfigured we may be, God is able and willing to make us wholly clean.
a Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him YHWH had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty warrior, but he was skin diseased (2 Kings 5:1).
b And the Aramaeans (Syrians) had gone out in raiding bands, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maiden, and she waited on Naaman’s wife (2 Kings 5:2).
c And she said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then would he recover him of his skin disease.” And someone went in, and told his lord, saying, “Thus and thus said the maiden who is of the land of Israel” (2 Kings 5:3-4).
d And the king of Aram (Syria) said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment (2 Kings 5:5).
e And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, “And now when this letter is come to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may recover him of his skin disease.” And it came about, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends to me to recover a man of his skin disease? But consider, I pray you, and see how he seeks a quarrel against me” (2 Kings 5:6-7).
f And it was so, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8).
g So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha (2 Kings 5:9).
h And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will come again to you, and you will be clean” (2 Kings 5:10).
i But Naaman was angry, and went away, and said, “See, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of YHWH his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the skin disease (2 Kings 5:11).
j “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage (2 Kings 5:12).
i And his servants came near, and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had bid you do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather then, when he says to you, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:13).
h Then he went down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, in accordance with the saying of the man of God, and his flesh came again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (2 Kings 5:14).
g And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him, and he said, “Look, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel. Now therefore, I pray you, take a present from your servant” (2 Kings 5:15)
f But he said, “As YHWH lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. And Naaman said, “If not, yet, I pray you, let there be given to your servant two mules’ burden of earth, for your servant will henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice to other gods, but to YHWH” (2 Kings 5:16-17).
e “In this thing YHWH pardon your servant, when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, YHWH pardon your servant in this thing.” And he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a little way (2 Kings 5:18-19).
d But Gehazi the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not receiving at his hands what he brought. As YHWH lives, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw one running after him, he alighted from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?” And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Behold, even now there are come to me from the hill-country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Give them, I pray you, a talent of silver, and two changes of clothing.” And Naaman said, “Be pleased to take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants, and they bore them before him (2 Kings 5:20-23).
c And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand, and placed them in the house, and he let the men go, and they departed. But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, “From where have you come, Gehazi?” And he said, Your servant went nowhere” (2 Kings 5:24-25).’
b And he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive clothing, and oliveyards and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and men-servants and maid-servants?” ’(2 Kings 5:26).
a “The skin disease therefore of Naaman will cleave to you, and to your seed for ever.” And he went out from his presence skin diseased, as white as snow (2 Kings 5:27).
Note that in ‘a’ Naaman was skin diseased, and in the parallel the skin disease was affected Gehazi. In ‘b’ the Aramaeans had obtained a maid-servant of Israel, and in the parallel it was not a time for seeking maid-servants (among others). In ‘c’ the maid went to her mistress with a message of truth, and in the parallel Gehazi went to his master with a lie. In ‘d’ Naaman took with him a large gift, and in the parallel a handsome gift was given to Gehazi. In ‘e’ the king of Israel considered the approach in order to cure Naaman to be an attempt to make war, and in the parallel Naaman was sent away cured in peace. In ‘f’ Naaman was to know that there was a genuine prophet in Israel, and in the parallel he demonstrated that he had learned it by his request for the means of worshipping YHWH. In ‘g’ Naaman and his entourage stood at Elisha’s door, and in the parallel he and his entourage again stood at the prophet’s door. In ‘h’ Elisha commanded Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan, and in the parallel he did so. In ‘i’ Naaman was angry and rode off with no intention of doing what Elisha had said, and in the parallel his servants persuaded him to do it. Centrally in ‘j’ he considered that his country’s own rivers were superior to the Jordan, indicating his view that the gods of Aram were superior.
2 Kings 5:1
‘Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Aram (Syria), was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him YHWH had given victory to Aram (Syria). He was also a mighty warrior, but he was a leper.’
As we have already seen the kingdom of Aram had grown strong and powerful and a constant threat to its neighbours. The kingdom consisted of a small number of petty kings over cities under the control of the king in Damascus, plus a good number of tribal chieftains over tribes which had their own semi-independent way of life, but were responsive to the call of the king of Aram whenever he needed men for his warfare.
Naaman was commander over all the hosts of Aram. He was thus a great man, and highly respected because of his continual victories over other nations. To be ‘honourable’ meant literally ‘to have his face lifted up’, something permitted by the king only to those whom he honoured. And he was a great warrior. But he had one problem. He had a disfiguring skin disease. His name was a common local name as testified to at Ugarit.
It is noteworthy that the prophetic author, or his source, imputes his victories to YHWH, just as Isaiah would impute Assyria’s victories to YHWH (e.g. Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 10:15), while Jeremiah would see Nebuchadnezzar as His servant (Jeremiah 27:6). All saw YHWH as God over all the earth.
2 Kings 5:2
‘And the Aramaeans had gone out in raiding bands, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maiden, and she waited on Naaman’s wife.’
These raiding bands would be operating even while there was a period of peace between Israel and Aram, probably being bands from the semi-independent tribes referred to above, who would raid over the border, taking spoils and captives whom they would then sell in the street markets of Damascus. One such captive was a little Israelite maiden who had become servant to Naaman’s wife.
We are left to imagine the sufferings of this young girl. Snatched away from her family, finding herself bundled among strangers, in fear of her life, and sold as a slave in the Damascus street markets. She might well have asked, ‘Why God?’ But God had had a purpose in it which was about to unveil. It was through her witness that the second greatest man in Aram would come to know YHWH, while throughout history her willing helpfulness and love has been an inspiration for millions.
2 Kings 5:3
‘And she said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then would he recover him of his leprosy.” ’
One day, the maiden, who was clearly on conversational terms with her mistress, told her how much she wished that ‘her lord’ could be with the prophet in Samaria, who would recover him of his distressing skin disease. It was clearly a great cause of distress, and it was a testimony to Naaman that even his slaves wished him well.
The maiden was clearly familiar with the stories of Elisha’s different miracles and healings, for she was assuming no light thing. It is remarkable evidence of the fame that Elisha had even during his lifetime. Her term for him as a ‘prophet’ (nabi), and she was aware that he was often to be found in Samaria. He appears to have had a house there, from which he would travel to perform his duties to YHWH. This had probably been provided by the king, but he was clearly not a member of the royal court, nor sought to be so. He was YHWH’s man. Indeed the king was seemingly less aware of Elisha’s powers than the common people (2 Kings 5:3; 2 Kings 8:4), which was to be expected, because it was mainly among the ‘common people’ that he operated.
2 Kings 5:4
‘And someone went in, and told his lord, saying, “Thus and thus said the maiden who is of the land of Israel.” ’
The remark was overheard by another well-wisher of Naaman, and that wellwisher went to Naaman and told him what had been said.
2 Kings 5:5
‘And the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.’
Naaman then clearly went to the king (possibly Benhadad III) who on hearing what he had to say informed him that he should go to Israel with a letter from him to the king of Israel (possibly Jehoram). His assumption was that, as in Aram, prophets would be at the court of the king, and that the king of Israel would know immediately who could do this thing. But he recognised that such prophets did not come cheap (compare Balaam in Numbers 22:16-17). The deliberate non-mention of the names of the kings confirms that the account comes from prophetic sources, and that the aim was to stress the personal aspect of the incident. The kings are being side-lined.
The gift he took was huge, as befitted a king seeking a huge favour from another king with whom he was at peace (compare the gifts of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon). Omri had bought the hill of Samaria for two talents of silver (1 Kings 16:24), thus the silver alone was five times that paid for the hill. (On the other hand it had only seemingly been grazing land). And there was also a lesser amount of gold, presumably coming to less than a talent, and ten changes of expensive clothing (or rolls of cloth for making such clothing). The king recognised that he was asking for ‘supernatural powers’ to be exercised, and knew that they did not come cheap. But the amount was not too exorbitant considering what was being asked for.
Correspondence like this between kings has been well evidenced by the Amarna letters, while inter-state letters on medical matters, often connected with the giving of gifts, have been discovered at Mari, and in Hittite and Assyrian archives.
2 Kings 5:6
‘And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, “And now when this letter is come to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may recover him of his skin disease.” ’
The ‘he’ was presumably Naaman, while the ‘saying’ refers to the contents of the letter. The king of Aram was assuming that a prophet who could do such wonders would be a leading figure at court, and fully known to the king of Israel. He thus requested that the should arrange (with the prophet) to ‘recover’ Naaman of his leprosy. In his experience, given sufficient payments, such prophets would be quite happy to oblige in whatever was asked of them, assuming that they could.
‘My servant.’ In other words a high official at court.
The word for ‘recover’ (’asaph) was an unusual one to use of healing (compare 2 Kings 5:3) and in the letter of a foreign king probably had in mind the asipu, the Mesopotamian ritual physicians.
2 Kings 5:7
‘And it came about, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends to me to recover a man of his skin disease? But consider, I pray you, and see how he seeks a quarrel against me.” ’
But the king of Israel, on receiving Naaman and on receiving the letter, was distraught, and ripped his clothes symbolically indicating intense feeling. He did not even think of Elisha, (demonstrating how little the Yahwistically unorthodox court knew about him), and therefore could not see how he could possibly oblige his fellow-king. But he knew that he was not God, ‘to kill and to make alive’ (the reader remembers what Elijah and Elisha had done), how then could he cure a man of severe skin disease? He could only see it as an attempt to pick a quarrel with him in order to justify an invasion.
Royalty had in fact a reputation for having healing powers, and no doubt some were psychologically healed by their touch. But it was a gift rarely seen in action, and certainly not one that could be called on at will. He thus felt that the king of Aram was taking things too far.
2 Kings 5:8
‘And it was so, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” ’
The news of what had happened reached Elisha in his house in Samaria, probably through an orthodox Yahwist at court (compare 1 Kings 18:3). And when he learned that he had torn his royal robes he sent him a message asking him why he had done so, pointing out that if only Naaman would come to him he would soon know that there was a genuine prophet in Israel.
2 Kings 5:9
‘So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.’
Accordingly Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house with his horses and chariots. He wanted to overawe with his splendour. There was nothing about him that remotely approached a humble seeker after God. The fact that he could do so indicated that Samaria was unusually well laid out, and that Elisha lived near the king’s palace in an ‘expensive’ area where there were wide roads. In most cities of the day chariots and horses would have been unable to move among the houses, which would be straggled together haphazardly. But Samaria had been built by a king who had had horses and chariots in mind, at least with regard to the approach to his own palace. Thus Naaman’s whole entourage found itself at Elisha’s door.
We can see from what follows what Elisha’s thinking was. This great man was arriving in royal authority, he would high-handedly pay a large sum of money, the healing would take place, and he would leave as arrogantly as he came, feeling that he had given YHWH all that He required so that that was the end of the matter (this was why Gehazi’s sin was so serious). Everyone was satisfied.
But Elisha was determined that he should humble himself before YHWH, and that he should go away aware of the gratitude and worship that he owed to Him.
2 Kings 5:10
‘And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will come again to you, and you will be clean.” ’
So Elisha did not come out himself but sent word through a messenger. Elisha was no man-pleaser. And he was concerned that all the glory for what was about to happen should go to YHWH. And that Naaman should recognise that while he, Naaman, was a servant of the king of Aram, he, Elisha was a servant of the Supreme King, YHWH of Hosts, and was therefore no whit inferior to Naaman. So instead of coming out and bowing obsequiously, or even as an equal, he sent a note telling Naaman to go to the River Jordan and wash in it seven times. Then his flesh would be restored, and he would be ritually clean. .It was deliberately given as a command from a superior, YHWH of Hosts, with Elisha simply as His messenger. And it was an indication that Naaman must not look to him, but to the God of Israel whose river (in Naaman’s terms) was the Jordan, which lay within His inheritance. The fact that he was called on to do it seven times gave the dipping a deliberately supernatural connection, and was an important part of the message. It would make Naaman recognise that he was dealing with the divine.
2 Kings 5:11
‘But Naaman was angry, and went away, and said, “Look, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of YHWH his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the skin disease.” ’
Naaman was livid. He felt that he was not being treated properly at all. He had assumed that like all good soothsayers and magicians Elisha would come out, stand in front of him, mutter incantations, wave his hands over him, and heal him of his skin disease. And instead he had dismissed him with a message to go and wash in Israel’s dirty, sluggish river. He did not as yet make the connection between YHWH and the river as His inheritance, and he did not yet realise that Elisha served the living God and had no part in such rituals.
2 Kings 5:12
“Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.’
Indeed he was greatly insulted. Were not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better far that all the waters in Israel? Why could he not wash in them? (The answer unspoken was that then he would give the credit to the gods of Damascus). How dared the prophet send him to wash in a measly Israelite river? And he turned away from Elisha’s house in a rage.
These rivers flowed from the snow covered Amanus mountains (named in Assyrian records) and/or from Mount Hermon. There are still today two ‘rivers of Damascus’. It is true that the particular names used here are unknown, having clearly been altered at a later date, but there is no reason to doubt that they are correct, although the alternative Amana for Abana is possible. The Abana is probably modern Barada. The name of the river Pharpar (now el-‘Awaj) may well have been carried on in a tributary river still called the Wadi Barbar.
2 Kings 5:13
‘And his servants came near, and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had bid you do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather then, when he says to you, Wash, and be clean?” ’
Fortunately for Naaman his followers were wiser than he (they of course did not feel that they had been insulted). They pointed out to him that if Elisha had called on him to perform some difficult feat in order to obtain healing he would have done it. How much rather then should he follow the command to, ‘Wash and be clean.’
The address ‘my father’ is unusual for a man in such a position, but it may indicate the unusual respect and loyalty he received from his followers. Or the speaker may have been a close body servant.
2 Kings 5:14
‘Then he went down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, in accordance with the saying of the man of God, and his flesh came again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.’
So reluctantly, and still seething, Naaman humbled himself and did what Elisha, ‘the man of God’, had commanded. He dipped himself seven times in the Jordan. And to his amazement, and the amazement of all his servants (even granted their superstitious belief in prophets) his flesh became as smooth as a child’s and he was made ritually clean. For years he had been the talking point of men and women, and had been self-conscious about his appearance, and now it was all over. No one would ever sneer at, or point at, his disfigurement again. It wrought within him a complete transformation. Fury had changed into gratitude, arrogance into humility, confidence in the gods and rivers of Damascus into faith in YHWH. He was a new man.
2 Kings 5:15
‘And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him, and he said, “Look, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel. Now therefore, I pray you, take a present from your servant.” ’
What a different man it was who returned to the house of ‘the man of God’. It was the same entourage, but arriving in a totally different manner. It was now he who stood before the man of God, recognising his superiority. Here was a man who was in touch with God. And he cried, “Look, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel.” And he begged him to accept a present from one who was now his ‘servant’, because he, Elisha, represented YHWH. He wanted to demonstrate his wholehearted gratitude liberally.
His words indicate a recognition of at least the superiority of YHWH, as the one who had done this might miracle, and as thus the only God Who counted in all the earth. He had no doubt sought to many gods, but there had been no answer. Here, however, was a God Who answered.
2 Kings 5:16
‘But he said, “As YHWH lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.’
But in spite of Naaman’s continuing urging Elisha refused to accept any gift. To have done so would have served to destroy the new relationship between Naaman and YHWH. Elisha knew how quickly such a relationship might die once Naaman felt that he as YHWH’s prophet had been ‘paid off’. On the other hand while he was the recipient of YHWH’s freely dispensed goodness his heart would remain faithful to YHWH.
2 Kings 5:17
‘And Naaman said, “If not, yet, I pray you, let there be given to your servant two mules’ burden of earth, for your servant will henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice to other gods, but to YHWH.” ’
Naaman responded by indicating that he would continue to express his gratitude by worshipping YHWH as the only true God. And in order that he might do this he asked Elisha for two mules’ burden of earth. This request might not be as strange as it first seems. It did not arise because he felt that YHWH the God of the whole earth, could only be worshipped on the soil of Israel (a rather naive idea believed nowhere in Israel. Israelites prayed to Him wherever they were). It was rather because he was aware that the only altar that could be acceptable to YHWH according to Israelite Law, was an altar of earth built where YHWH had recorded His Name (Exodus 20:24). And while there was nowhere in Aram where YHWH had recorded His Name, the next best thing would be to worship at an altar built of the material from the earth of the place where YHWH had recorded His Name. This idea no doubt came to him as a result of the teaching that Elisha had given him in their conversation together. (And one of the reasons for Elisha’s later visits to Aram may well have been in order to educate Naaman more fully in the things of YHWH - 2 Kings 8:7).
Thus Naaman had the idea of building an altar of Israelite earth which had been taken from the land of YHWH’s inheritance, just as he had been healed by water in the same land.
2 Kings 5:18
“In this thing YHWH pardon your servant, when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, YHWH pardon your servant in this thing.”
The depths of Naaman’s ‘conversion’ comes out in this request. He was aware that he must worship only YHWH. But his duties demanded that he stand next to the king of Aram as his supporter when he was worshipping in the Temple of Rimmon (compare how to some extent Obadiah might have had a similar problem - 1 Kings 18). He asked therefore that he might be forgiven if at such a time he bowed his head so as to show respect to his earthly master. It was not to be seen as really bowing to Rimmon, something which he could now never do, but to YHWH, and he requested that YHWH might pardon him for even appearing to bow to Rimmon. It is clear that Naaman had been thinking things through as he travelled.
Rimmon is probably a variation of Ramman (from Assyrian ‘Ramanu’ - the thunderer), which was a title of the Damascene god Hadad. Note how Ben-hadad I’s father was called Tab-rimmon (1 Kings 15:18).
2 Kings 5:19
‘And he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a little way (literally ‘a region of land’).’
We may presumably assume from the reply given (‘go in well-being’) that YHWH recognised the genuine dilemma and indicated that He would see such an attitude for what it really was, an act of etiquette, and would thus pardon it. The idea behind ‘go in peace’ is that it represents the confirmation of a covenant. All was well between them. And the result was that Naaman went on his way with his heart full of praise to YHWH.
But he had not gone far when he was to witness the duplicity of someone who claimed to be a servant of YHWH.
2 Kings 5:20
‘But Gehazi the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramaean, in not receiving at his hands what he brought. As YHWH lives, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.” ’
For Gehazi’s thoughts were full of greed. He felt that Elisha had spared Naaman, (‘this Naaman the Aramaean’ indicating his contempt for foreigners) by not accepting the gifts that Naaman had brought, and he thought how nice it would be if he himself could benefit by it. After all Naaman would not miss it. He did not consider the fact that such an act might have a bad effect on Naaman’s new found faith, nor that Naaman was now a new found ‘brother in YHWH’. There is an irony in his words, ‘As YHWH lives’, while at the same time he thought that he could get away with sinning, by keeping it from the same ‘living God’. There was a contradiction in his ideas (and yet how often we do the same). He should have known that there could only be one consequence. But he dismissed such a thought and decided to run after Naaman and ask for a gift.
2 Kings 5:21
‘So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw one running after him, he alighted from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?” ’
Naaman, moving along at a leisurely pace (the roads were often not suitable for chariots), saw Gehazi running after them and alighted from his chariot to meet him. Gone was the old arrogant Naaman. Now he was the new concerned Naaman. And he was concerned lest something had gone wrong with Gehazi’s master.
2 Kings 5:22
‘And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Behold, even now there are come to me from the hill-country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Give them, I pray you, a talent of silver, and two changes of clothing.” ’
Gehazi assured him that all was well and then began to spin a story about the unexpected arrival of two young men of the sons of the prophets, who had seemingly come in need. Could Naaman let them have a talent of silver and two changes of clothing?
2 Kings 5:23
‘And Naaman said, “Be pleased to take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants, and they bore them before him.’
The unsuspicious Naaman pressed on him two talents of silver, one for each of the fictitious men, as well as the two changes of clothing. He also supplied two men to carry the silver and clothing for Gehazi (‘talent’ is a weight, not a type of coin. Thus the silver would be heavy).
Some see the two men as being servants of Gehazi, but the above seems a more likely scenario to us.
2 Kings 5:24
‘And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand, and placed them in the house, and he let the men go, and they departed.’
Once they came to the hill of Samaria Gehazi took the goods from their hands and sent them on their way. It would never do for Elisha to spot them. And so they departed. We note that Gehazi’s sins are mounting up. First greed. Then taking YHWH’s Name in vain. Then despising a foreigner. Then lying and fraud. And now duplicity. This will be followed by lying to a prophet. But the worst thing of all was that he had interfered in the prophetic process, and misrepresented Elisha. He had been building up judgment on himself.
2 Kings 5:25
‘But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, “From where have you come, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” ’
Having bestowed the goods in a safe place hiding place Gehazi went to face his master, secure in the knowledge that he knew nothing. Then Elisha asked where he had been. He was providing an opportunity for Gehazi to confess his fault. But Gehazi replied glibly, “Your servant went nowhere.” He had missed his opportunity.
2 Kings 5:26
‘And he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive clothing, and oliveyards and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and men-servants and maid-servants?” ’
Then Elisha looked at him sternly. He pointed out that prophetically he had been with him ‘in his heart’ when Naaman had climbed down from his chariot. He therefore knew everything that he had done.
Then he asked him whether he really thought that this was a time to be thinking of accumulating wealth and servants, when it was a time when YHWH had wrought a great miracle and an important man’s life had been transformed. It meant that a man had come to know YHWH , and also that Israel would from now on have a firm friend in the counsels of Aram (Syria). The wide sphere covered by his words indicated that they were meant not just for Gehazi, but for all whose emphasis was on increasing wealth. (The prophetic author regularly brings out the dangers of wealth). Elisha’s mind was reaching out beyond Gehazi to the behaviour and attitude of many in Israel (compare Amos 2:6-8; Isaiah 5:8).
Note the parallel with the maid-servant in 2 Kings 5:2. It was indicating that it was not a time for tit for tat. Deeper purposes were at work.
2 Kings 5:27
“The skin disease therefore of Naaman will cleave to you, and to your seed for ever.” And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.’
The chapter began with a man badly skin diseased, and now it ends with a man badly skin diseased. For YHWH’s judgment on Gehazi was that, because of the awful nature of his sin, and the privileged position that he had enjoyed and abused, he would experience Naaman’s skin disease and that it would be passed on in his family continually. And sure enough Gehazi went out from his presence as white as snow. The vividness of the description is taken from Exodus 4:6.
It is perhaps possible that the clothing which Naaman had passed on to him had also been a means of his infection with Naaman’s skin disease, and that his family were especially prone to it, although if so the process was speeded up in Gehazi’s case. It is important to recognise that his punishment arose because, being in a privileged position he had allowed his avarice to persuade him to misrepresent YHWH. And that at a crucial time in Israel’s history. No sin could be worse than that.
The Lord Jesus Christ would take this example of Elisha’s healing of Naaman the Aramaean as an illustration of the fact that God’s love reached out to the nations as well as to the Jews (Luke 4:27). It is a reminder to us that God’s love is open to us no matter what our background.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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