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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
2 Kings 5

 

 

Verses 1-27

2 Kings 5:8. When Elisha heard that the king had rent his clothes, he laid the case before the Lord and received his instruction how to proceed.

2 Kings 5:10. Elisha sent a messenger, to cure Naaman first of his pride, before he cleansed his leprosy. Faith must act on the promise; the woman believed that she must touch the hem of the Saviour’s garment.

2 Kings 5:12. Abana rises in the mountains of Anti-libanus, and waters Damascus.—Pharpar, according to ancient maps, is a branch of the Abana. Those streams are lost in the lake, east of Damascus.

2 Kings 5:17. Two mules’ burden of earth. Nations, lands, cities, and temples were devoted to some fancied divinity. The earth and stones of Syria, being thus devoted, Naaman thought that he must have holy earth in raising an altar to the Holy One of Israel. He was converted from idolatry to worship the Lord alone, as will be seen in the next note.

2 Kings 5:18. When my master goeth into the house of Rimmon, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. The LXX read this in the future tense, which is followed by the Vulgate, and by the English. So Elisha bade Naaman go in peace, and thank Baal for his cure! That being impossible, Dr. Lightfoot, as other critics, reads the Hebrew in the past tense. When I have bowed down myself. The advocates for reading the verb in the future, plead that this worship of Baal, (here called Rimmon because of his elevation) was only a civil homage paid to the idol, or to the king. If this homage were approved, why ask for pardon?

2 Kings 5:27. The leprosy of Naaman cleave to thee, not absolutely for ever, but for three or four generations at least. Gehazi’s covetousness is worse to get out of the heart than leprosy out of the flesh: he altogether stained and dishonoured the name of the Lord. Men who sell advowsons should meditate on this case. Better to die grey-headed curates, than to have Gehazi’s leprosy.

REFLECTIONS.

This chapter opens with a luminous trait of the glory and purity of the prophetic ministry. While Israel was favoured with so many and great miracles; while God defended revelation against an infidel age, and supported his suffering servants by those signal works; the poor gentiles were permitted to share the grace, that they might also be converted to the knowledge and worship of the true God. The healing of leprous Naaman, was a consequence of the execution of the sentence on Ahab for permitting the bloody Benhadad to escape. This prince constantly committed depredations on the country, and carried away the people captive. Among those was a little maid who waited on Naaman’s wife; and she spake daily of the prophet Elisha, persisting that he could heal her master of his leprosy. Religious servants, placed in a great family, may learn of this maid, courage to confess the truth, and to support the glory of the christian ministry. The Lord may have sent them into those houses for good to the fellow-servants, or good to their masters: and where luxury, waste and pride are so greatly indulged, a double fidelity is required. Let them pray for their temporal and eternal good, and endeavour to diminish the great wickedness committed in all houses where intemperance abounds.

Naaman’s case may remind us, that we also have a foul leprosy of sin, as illustrated in the fourteenth and fifteenth of Leviticus; and farther, that neither the honours, the riches, nor the wisdom of this world can effectuate our cure. How long then shall we dally with physicians of no value; how long shall God’s faithful servants exhort us to come for a cure before we obey. Oh that the ever hallowed names of Jesus, of Calvary, of grace, might at last attract our heart, and draw us with confidence to God.

Naaman, in applying for a cure, committed several errors which threatened the frustration of all his hopes. He came to the king of Israel, that he might of course send for the prophet, and command him to be healed. When he waited on the prophet he expected great respect to be paid him, as the enchanters and charmers of Damascus would have done: and when sent to wash seven times in Jordan, for the blood of atonement was seven times sprinkled before the veil, he was offended with the simplicity of grace, and went away in a rage. How many mistakes do ignorant men make, who, suddenly withdrawing from the corruptions of the world, expect at once to become the best of christians. Because the mercy of God, and the healing virtues of grace are rich and free, how many excuses do they make concerning unworthiness, and the necessity of doing something to merit a cure. How often do they stumble at the precepts, Believe, and be saved; wash, and be clean? This man’s anger plainly intimates, that sinners under the awakenings of the law, and anguish of conscience, often need a word of persuasion and encouragement. Had the prophet, said one of his more discerning servants, bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith, wash and be clean. So let us encourage sinners to admire the simplicity of the gospel, as the perfection of glory and beauty. Here is blood to purge the conscience, here are the waters of regeneration to cleanse the heart, here is a Mediator for sinners, here is balm for the wounded, liberty for the captives, and rest for the troubled mind. Here is, in a word, all that a sinner can want, and on terms within his reach. The Lord has not bid him do some great thing, but simply to wash and be clean. How amiable is the Saviour in all his economy of grace. Oh that we could persuade every polluted sinner to try our Jordan of regeneration: then he would have a clean heart, and all his soul would be as a little child. He would no more resemble the haughty and victorious captain-general of Syria, but the humble and grateful Naaman, returning to praise God, and reward his prophet for a cure.

Elisha’s refusal of the presents, and by an oath too, exhibits the unspotted glory of the ministry, and shows that the gifts of God cannot be purchased with money. The Lord by his divine power had first humbled and then cleansed the captain; therefore Elisha, though it was usual for a prophet to receive a small present of bread or fruit, did not dare to touch his gold; for God in all his works of grace will be sanctified by his servants. Elisha was infinitely paid and honoured in being the instrument or oracle of so great a cure. May we as ministers learn hence the greatest purity and disinterestedness in acting for God, ever remembering that Herod was smitten because he gave not God the glory.

But while we are struck with the glory of grace in the cure, while we admire the purity of the prophet, and see this captain return with the warmest sentiments of grateful approbation, we are shocked with the perfidy and baseness of Gehazi. How little good did he get in attending his illustrious master; and what dishonour did he not bring on the hallowed cause of God. In hopes of buying a spot of land, and procuring a family establishment, he ran after the generous convert; he forged a series of lies, and caused his holy master to appear as a perjured man in the eyes of the heathen. He succeeded in his crimes. He received the money and the raiment; but he received also the curse of his master, and the leprosy of Naaman. God was pleased to make an example of this base man, that by judgment as well as mercy he might be sanctified among the heathen. Let us never acquire wealth by falsehood and deceit; if we do, we shall surely gain a curse on ourselves, and on our children.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/2-kings-5.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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