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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 5

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.

Naaman ... was a great man with his master - highly esteemed for his military character and success.

And honourable, [ uwnsu' (H5375), exalted, looked up to; Septuagint, tethaumasmenos].

Because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria [ la-'Araam (H758); Septuagint, Suria, the name given in the time of the kings to the country north of Canaan]. Yahweh, the God of Israel, is here represented as guiding the destinies of a pagan kingdom-not a mere local deity, as idolaters placed some one or other of their numerous divinities over certain provinces; but the Great Being whose superintending providence is over all the nations of the earth.

But he was a leper. This leprosy, which in Israel would have excluded him from society, did not affect his free contact in the court of Syria.

Verse 2

And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.

A little maid - who had been captured in one of the many predatory incursions which were then made by the Syrians on the northern border of Israel (see the notes at 1 Samuel 30:8; 2 Kings 13:21; 2 Kings 24:2). By this young Hebrew slave of his wife, Naaman's attention was directed to the prophet of Israel as the person who would remove his leprosy. Naaman, on communicating the matter to his royal master, was immediately furnished with a letter to the king of Israel, and set out for Samaria, carrying with him, as an indispensable preliminary in the East, very costly presents.

Verses 3-4

And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 5

And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto 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.

Ten talents of silver - 3,421 pounds sterling.

Six thousand pieces of gold - a large sum, of uncertain value.

Ten changes of raiment - splendid dresses for festive occasions; the honour being thought to consist not only in the beauty and fineness of the material, but in having a variety to put on one after another in the same night.

Verse 6

And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 7

And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.

When the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes. According to an ancient practice among the Eastern people, the main object only was stated in the letter that was carried by the party concerned, while other circumstances were left to be explained at the interview. This accounts for Jehoram's burst of emotions-not horror at supposed blasphemy, but alarm and suspicion that this was merely made an occasion for a quarrel.

Am I God, to kill and to make alive? All this show of offended piety was only a pretence, for Jehoram himself was an idolater, and he assumed a zeal for the divine glory merely to excite a fiercer rage against a monarch whom he supposed to be meditating his ruin. But how did he not think of Elisha? A moment's reflection on the character, association, and habits of this king of Israel will suffice to convince any one that such a prince as he was would not readily think of Elisha, or, perhaps, have heard of his miraculous deeds.

Verse 8

And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.

Elisha ... sent to the king, saying ... let him come now to me. Through indirect channels the prophet learned what had passed in the palace, and he took in immediate care to relieve the king of all anxiety, by requesting that the Syrian captain might be directed to him. This was the grand and ultimate object to which, in the providence of God, the journey of Naaman was subservient. On the Syrian general, with his imposing retinue arriving at the prophet's house, Elisha sent him a message to "go and wash in Jordan seven times." This apparently rude reception to a foreigner of so high dignity, incensed Naaman to such a degree that he resolved to depart, scornfully boasting that 'the rivers of Damascus were better than all the waters of Israel.'

Verses 9-10

So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 11

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

Strike his hand over the place - i:e., wave it over the diseased parts of his body. It was anciently, and still continues to be, a very prevalent superstition in the East, that the hand of a king, or person of great reputed sanctity, touching, or waved over a sore, will heal it.

Verse 12

Are not Abana and Pharpar, 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.

Abana and Pharpar - the Abana (strong); the Greek Chrysorrhoas (golden stream), now Barrada (gold river). Taking its rise in Anti-Lebanon at a height of 3,340 feet above the sea, and at least 1,000 feet above Damascus, it waters about 311 square miles of arable land. The Barrada and one of its five tributaries, most probably the 'Awaj. Joseph Schwarz (in 'Geography of Palestine') says that the Jews resident in Damascus describe Damascus still as 'situated on the two rivers Abana and Pharpar' (Wilson's 'Lands, of the Bible,' 2:, 325, note; Ritter's 'Erdkunde,' 117:, p. 1303; Porter's 'Five Years in Damascus,' 1:, pp. 159, 162, 394, 395; 2:, 11, 248, 249, 358; Lord Lindsay, 'Holy Land,' p. 330). The waters of Damascus are still as highly extolled by their inhabitants for their purity and coldness.

Verse 13

And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 14

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan. Persuaded by his calmer and more reflecting attendants to try a method so simple and easy, he followed their instructions, and was cured. The cure was performed on the basis of God's covenant with Israel, by which the land, and all pertaining to it, was blessed. Seven was the symbol of the covenant (Keil).

Verse 15

And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.

He returned to the man of God. After the miraculous cure, Naaman returned to Elisha, to whom he acknowledged his full belief in the sole supremacy of the God of Israel, and offered him a liberal reward.

Take a blessing of thy servant [ bªraakaah (H1293)] - a gift or present, in token of good-will, and usually offered with an expression of good wishes. But to show that he was not actuated by the mercenary motives of the pagan priests and prophets, Elisha, though he accepted presents on other occasions (2 Kings 4:42), respectfully but firmly declined them on this, being desirous that the Syrians should see the piety of God's servants, and their superiority to all worldly and selfish motives in promoting the honour of God and the interests of true religion.

Verse 16

But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 17

And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD.

Two mules' burden of earth - with which to make an altar (Exodus 20:24) to the God of Israel. What was his motive or his purpose in this proposal-whether he thought that God could be acceptably worshipped only on his own soil, or he wished, when far away from the Jordan, to have the earth of Palestine to rub himself with, which the Orientals use as a substitute for water; and whether, by making such a request of Elisha, he thought the prophet's grant of it would impart some virtue, or whether, like the modern Jews and Mohammedans, be resolved to have a portion of this holy earth for his nightly pillow, it as not easy to say. It is not strange to find such notions in so newly a converted pagan.

Verse 18

In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.

Goeth into the house of Rimmon - a Syrian deity, probably the sun, or the planetary system, of which a pomegranate (Hebrew Rimmon) was the symbol.

Leaneth on my hand - i:e., meaning the service which Naaman rendered as the attendant of his sovereign. It is quite clear that Naaman, as a convert to the faith of the true God, meant to perform no act of religion in the temple of Rimmon, and hoped that his official attendance there upon his royal master would be pardoned, as not done by his consenting will. In regard to the privilege of toleration to worship the true God, there is no reason to believe that it would not be enjoyed by Naaman, as by Joseph, Daniel latterly, Nehemiah, and others. In regard to Naaman's remark about 'bowing in the house of Rimmon,' Elisha's prophetic commission not extending to any but the conversion of Israel from idolatry, he makes no remark, either approving or disapproving, on the declared course of Naaman, but simply gives (2 Kings 5:19) the parting benediction. But another view has been given of Naaman's and Elisha's words, by rendering them in the past tense, which is perfectly admissible. 'In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master went into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaned on my hand, and I worshipped in the house of Rimmon; in that I have worshipped in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.'

Verse 19

And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.

And he said unto him, Go in peace - i:e., God will accept of thy repentance. The Septuagint, however, does not support the interpretation in our version (see fully in Poli Synopsis).

So he departed from him a little way, [ kibrat (H3530) 'aarets (H776), a piece of ground or way (see the notes at Genesis 35:16; Genesis 48:7); Septuagint, eis Debratha tees gees]. The name in this Aramaic form was probably used in the days of the Greek translators as a definite measure of length. [In the last-cited passage they accompany Chabratha (the form used there), with the explanatory clause, kata ton hippodromona, race-course, the distance a horse should be made to go for daily exercise, probably three or four miles (see Rosenmuller's 'Bible Geography,' 1:, p. 24).]

Verse 20

But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.

I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. The respectful courtesy to Elisha, shown in the person of his servant, and the open-handed liberality of his gifts, attest the fullness of Naaman's gratitude; while the lie, the artful management in dismissing the bearers of the treasure, and the deceitful appearance before his master, as if he had not left the house, give a most unfavourable impression of Gehazi's character.

Verses 21-22

So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 23

And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him.

In two bags. People in the East, when traveling, have their money, in certain sums, put up in bags.

Verse 24

And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed.

When he came to the tower [ haa`opel (H6076), the hill, rising ground; some particular tumulus or eminence at the entrance into the city. The Septuagint has: eelthen eis to skoteinon, he came to the dark (secret) place].

Verse 25

But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 26

And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?

Is it a time to receive money ... [The Septuagint renders, You have now received money and garments, and may obtain oliveyards and vineyards, etc., yet the leprosy of Naaman (notwithstanding all your wealth) will cleave to you, etc.] 'Nor,' says Poole, 'was this punishment too severe for Gehazi's wickedness, which was great and various; horrid covetousness, which is idolatry; the profanation of God's name by a wicked oath; downright theft; deliberate and impudent lying, and that to a prophet, which was in a manner a lying to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3); a desperate contempt of God's omniscience, justice, and holiness; a horrible reproach fastened upon the prophet and his religion; and a mischievous scandal given to Naaman, and to all other Syrians who might hear of it.'

Verse 27

The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.

Leper as white as snow - (see the notes at Leviticus 13:3.) This heavy infliction was not too severe for the crime of Gehazi. For it was not the covetousness alone that was punished; but at the same time the ill use made of the prophet's name to gain an object prompted by a mean covetousness, and the attempt to conceal it by lying (Keil).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-kings-5.html. 1871-8.
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