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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Kings 5

Verse 5

2 Kings 5:5. He—took with him ten talents of silver, &c.— See on 1Ki 14:3 concerning the presents of eatables; besides which, in other cases the presents that anciently were, and of late have been, wont to be made to personages eminent for study and piety, consisted of large sums of money or vestments. Thus we find here, that the present which a Syrian nobleman would have made to an Israelitish prophet, with whom he did not expect to stay any time, or indeed to enter his house, (see 2 Kings 5:11.) consisted of ten talents of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. It is needless to mention the pecuniary gratifications which have been given to men of learning in the east in later times; but as to vestments, D'Herbelot tells us, that Bokhteri, an illustrious poet of Cufah in the ninth century, had so many presents made him in the course of his life, that at his death he was found possessed of a hundred complete suits of clothes, two hundred shirts, and five hundred turbans. An indisputable proof of the frequency with which presents of this kind are made in the Levant to men of study; and at the same time a fine illustration of Job's description of the treasures of the east in his days, as consisting of raiment as well as silver. Job 27:16-17. Observations, p. 238.

Verse 6

2 Kings 5:6. That thou mayest recover him of his leprosy Or, "That by thy command the prophet who is with thee may cleanse him." See 2 Kings 5:3. Kings are often said to do those things which they command to be done; in which view, there is no ambiguity in the letter of the king of Syria. But the king of Israel thought himself mocked by it. The king's expression in the next verse, Am I a God, &c.? refers to what we have had occasion to remark in the notes upon Leviticus, that the leprosy was always esteemed a disease immediately inflicted by God, and only to be cured by him.

REFLECTIONS.—Elisha's greatness continues still the subject of the history. It is a pleasing episode, and a relief from the uniform tenor of evil which was in Israel and her kings.

1. Naaman, by means of a captive girl, hears of the prophet's miracles. He was a great general, successful in war, a high favourite with his master, but a leper. The captive girl, though a child when taken, remembered the great prophet in Samaria, and, as a good servant, tells her mistress of him, and wishes her master could see him: he could do more for him than all the physicians of Damascus. Note; (1.) A little child, if taught the knowledge of Jesus, the great prophet, may be a successful preacher; and by the mouths of babes and sucklings God can perfect his praise. (2.) Every good servant must seek the welfare of the family he is in. (3.) Greatness is no protection from the sorest calamities incident to human life. Disease and death find as easy access to the palace as the cottage. (4.) Say all you can of a man's worldly felicity, success, or honour, one but spoils the whole. If he have the uncured leprosy of sin upon him, all besides is but splendid misery.

2. Naaman is eager to improve the hint, though given by so mean a person, and instantly prepares to wait on this great prophet, having mentioned the matter to the king of Syria, and received a strong recommendation to Jehoram, presuming that his authority with the prophet would facilitate the application and cure. With a great retinue, and loaded with suitable presents for the occasion, he hastens on his journey, and, being arrived at Samaria, delivers the letter to the king of Israel. Note; How willing are men to try every expedient, and grudge no expence or trouble, to obtain a cure of their bodily diseases! Who shews such eagerness to bring their diseased souls to the great physician, though the cure there is infallible, and also without money, and without price?

3. Jehoram no sooner read the letter, than he rent his clothes, whether shocked at the blasphemy that he supposed it contained, enjoining him the cure of a leper, which was God's work alone, or terrified with the apprehension that this was done with a design to quarrel with him, in order to invade his country. He had so little concern with God's prophets himself, that he had no idea of a Syrian's coming so far to court their assistance. Note; They who are conscious of their own ill deserts, are ready to terrify themselves at every shadow, and put the worst constructions on what has not the least ill design.

4. Elisha heard the king's distress, and the cause of it; and, though he had just reason to complain of being neglected, yet when the glory of Israel's God is concerned, unsought he proffers his service, and will do for this Syrian what Israel's king cannot, that he may know there is a prophet in Israel. Note; Though wicked men have forfeited every mercy, yet God for his own glory will sometimes help them beyond all that they have reason to expect.

Verse 9

2 Kings 5:9. And stood at the door of the house of Elisha Elisha's not appearing to receive the Syrian general, is ascribed by some to the retired course of life which the prophets led; but then, why did he see him and enter into conversation with him, when he returned from his cure? We should rather think that it was not unbecoming the prophet upon this occasion to take some state upon him, and to support the character and dignity of a prophet of the most high God; especially since this might be a means to raise the honour of his religion and ministry, and to give Naaman a more just idea of his miraculous cure, when he found that it was neither by the prayer nor presence of the prophet, but by the divine power and goodness, that it was effected. In conformity to the law, which requires that lepers, in order to their cleansing, should be sprinkled seven times, Leviticus 14:7; Lev 14:57 the prophet ordered Naaman to dip himself as often in Jordan, 2 Kings 5:10. But Jordan, as the Syrian rightly argued, had no more virtue in it than other rivers; nor could cold water of any kind be a proper means of curing this distemper; nay, rather it was contrary to the disease. But the prophet's design in it was, doubtless, to render the miracle more conspicuous, and fully to convince Naaman of the divinity of the God of Israel.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here,

1. Naaman, in all his pomp and splendor, an humble suitor at the prophet's door: and he receives an answer plain and satisfactory, which required only his obedience, and ensured his cure. Note; They who are found waiting upon God, may expect from him an answer of peace.

2. Naaman's pride could not bear either the reception that he met with, or the prescription ordered him; and in a rage he departs. He had promised himself deep respect, some immediate application to his disease, and prayer over him for his cure; and was indignant when, instead of seeing the prophet himself, he only received a message by a servant; and such a message, so foolish in his eyes, so useless! were not the waters of Syria as good as Jordan; and need he have come so far to wash, when he might have the nobler rivers of Abana and Pharphar at home? Note; (1.) A proud spirit interprets the least suspected slight into a heinous affront. (2.) The self-righteous heart, like Naaman, wise in its own conceits, with pride refuses to apply the simple balm of a Saviour's blood, and fancies that something beside is necessary to its cure. (3.) They who turn away from God's methods of grace reject their own mercies.

3. His servants, when his first rage was subsided, presume, with submission, to reason with him on the case. If he would have submitted to the most expensive or most painful methods that might have been prescribed, how much more ought he to yield to one so cheap and so easy? Note; (1.) Men in a passion are deaf to the plainest arguments: when they cool, reason will be heard. (2.) A good servant will rather hazard the displeasure of his master, than see him wound himself by his folly; but if he would succeed, he must wait the proper time, and add the respect and deference which may engage attention. (3.) None ought to be above being told of their faults. (4.) The plainness and freedom of the way of salvation, will render those who reject it the more inexcusable.

4. Naaman heard the wise advice, and, convinced of the reasonableness of the trial, descends to the river, where the experiment exceeds his expectation. His leprosy departed, and his flesh became soft, fair, and plump as the flesh of a little child. Can the waters of Jordan thus cleanse the leprous Syrian, and shall not the fountain of a Saviour's blood much more certainly cleanse the leprous sinner, who in faith descends to wash his spotted soul in this all-purifying stream?

Verse 17

2 Kings 5:17. Two mules burden of earth He desired the earth of the land, because he thought it more holy and acceptable to God, and proper for his service; or that because by this token he would declare his conjunction with the people of Israel in the true worship, and constantly put himself in mind of his great obligation to that God from whose land this earth was given. He might, indeed, have had enough of this earth without asking any one for it; but he desired the prophet to give it him, as believing, perhaps, that he who put such virtue into the waters of Israel, could put as much into the earth thereof, and make it as useful and beneficial to him in another way. These thoughts indeed were groundless and extravagant, but excusable in a heathen and a novice, not yet sufficiently instructed in the true religion.

Verse 18

2 Kings 5:18. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, &c.— Rimmon, the great idol of the Phoenicians, is by many thought to have been the sun. There seems to be no doubt that some of the planets at least were worshipped under this name. As Naaman in the preceding verses has declared that he will worship no other god than Jehovah, there seems to be much plausibility in that translation of this verse which has been given by some learned men, and approved by many: 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 bowed myself in the house if Rimmon; when I bowed down myself the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. This is reasonable; but certainly the incongruity would be great, if Naaman, who had just before declared his renunciation of idolatry, should now confess his readiness to relapse into the same crime, and desire God's pardon for it before-hand; whereas, to ask pardon for what he had done amiss, and to desire the prophet's intercession with God in that behalf, argued a mind truly sensible of his former transgression, and very much resolved to avoid it for the future: and accordingly it is supposed, that upon his return home he refused to worship Rimmon any more, and was thereupon dismissed from being general of the king's forces. Houbigant, however, is strongly of opinion, that Naaman pleads for permission to attend his master the king of Syria, merely in a civil capacity, to the temple of Rimmon; which he thinks might well be allowed, while he publicly professed himself a worshipper of the God of Israel, and offered up sacrifices and burnt-offerings only to him. The reader will find much in Calmet and Roque upon the subject, as well as in Houbigant's note on the place. The first interpretation has also the countenance of the learned Dr. Lightfoot.

REFLECTIONS.—He who turned away in a rage, now convinced by experience, returns with humility and gratitude to acknowledge the mercy that he had received.

1. He solemnly confesses his faith in Israel's God, as the only Jehovah, and, renouncing all his idols, resolves henceforth to offer sacrifice to no other God. Note; We then only truly know God, when, not by mere reasoning, but by blessed experience, we find his saving power exercised in our hearts.

2. He presses the prophet to accept a present from him, as the token of his gratitude; but this, though indigent, and able well to employ it for his poor pupils, he solemnly refuses; not as unlawful, but as inexpedient: it would be more for the honour of his God to shew a contempt of this world's wealth. Note; (1.) Nothing so dishonourable in a prophet as the appearance of a mercenary spirit. (2.) Where the heart is fixed on a better portion, it can look on gold as dross.

3. He makes a two-fold request, with which the prophet complies. (1.) He begs two mules' burden of earth, to build an altar to Israel's God, henceforth his own. He looked on the land of Syria as polluted with idols; and now is as attached to the very earth of Israel, as he seemed before to despise it. Note; When the heart is turned to God, how differently do we regard every thing which relates to him! that which was our contempt or aversion, has now our warmest affections. (2.) He begs Elisha's prayers for him, that his past idolatry might be pardoned: not that he might be permitted still, as our translation intimates, to bow in the house of Rimmon, in complaisance to his master. To such a gracious appearance the prophet cannot but give his approbation, and dismisses him in peace, as one accepted of God. Note; (1.) Past transgressions should be ever remembered and lamented. (2.) They are to be encouraged, who give gracious symptoms of real conversion to God.

Verse 26

2 Kings 5:26. Went not mine heart with thee, &c.?— Was not I present with thee in mind, when the man, &c.?—Thou hast indeed taken money, with which thou mayest buy gardens, and olive-yards, &c. Houbigant.

Verse 27

2 Kings 5:27. The leprosy—of Naaman shall cleave unto thee A sentence which Gehazi justly deserved, for his crime was aggravated by a greedy covetousness, which is idolatry, prophanation of God's name, a downright theft, in taking that to himself which was given for others, deliberate and impudent lying, a desperate contempt of God's omnipotence, justice, and holiness, a horrible reproach cast upon the prophet and his religion, and a pernicious scandal given to Naaman and every other Syrian who should chance to hear of it; while we are hence taught that God knows our sins, though committed in secret, and will punish them; and particularly that his wrath pursues all those, in general, who are given to covetousness and dishonest gain; and that goods acquired by wicked means carry a curse with them, which often descends from parents to their children. See Poole and Ostervald.

REFLECTIONS.—Of all men in Israel, there was not one from whom we might expect more exemplary piety than from the favoured Gehazi, the companion almost, rather than servant, of the prophet, blessed with his daily conversation, and beholding continually his bright example; and yet we find him as vile and hardened as the most idolatrous Israelite. Note; The best of men and ministers cannot change even those under their own roof. Nay, to their grief, they behold them sometimes more insensible and stupid than any others.

1. Gehazi's sin was great. A lover of filthy lucre, he could not see the gifts without hankering for them, and blaming his master's refusal: a liar and robber, careless what dishonour he brought on the prophet; or what disgust Naaman might take against God from such a procedure: crafty and dissembling, and as if he could deceive the Spirit of God in his master, seeking to cover one lie by a worse. Note; (1.) The love of money is the root of all evil. They who resolve to be rich, resolve on their destruction and perdition, 1 Timothy 6:9. (2.) Covetousness and lying are nearly allied. (3.) When the heart is hardened by one sin, it is more easily disposed to a greater. (4.) Hope of concealment and impunity is the great encouragement to do evil.

2. His punishment was exemplary. Elisha silences his lying tongue. His spirit followed him to the chariot, and to the place where the robbery was deposited, and clearly foresaw how he designed to lay out these wages of unrighteousness: but short enjoyment shall his wickedness afford him. The curse of God is denounced upon him, the silver of Naaman is turned into his leprosy to eat up his flesh, and the disease entailed upon his latest posterity. Elisha's doors are immediately shut against him, and he departs a leper, loathsome as incurable. Note; (1.) The joy of prosperous wickedness is short-lived, transitory, and terminates in sorrows bitter as endless. (2.) Thus shall God at last lay open men's folly, sin, and shame; and, speechless before him, they shall be driven from his presence, to suffer the just reward of their deeds.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/2-kings-5.html. 1801-1803.