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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 5

 

 

Verse 1

1. Naaman — According to some of the rabbies, he was the man who drew the bow and unintentionally killed Ahab, king of Israel. 1 Kings 22:34. Josephus, in giving account of Ahab’s death, makes the same statement, but makes no mention of Naaman’s leprosy, or its cure by Elisha.

Captain of the host… of Syria — Commander-in-chief of the Syrian army.

A great man with his master — That is, greatly prized, loved, and reverenced by his king. In Ben-hadad’s court there was no man so great as Naaman.

By him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria — That is, by some great and famous exploit Naaman had won a memorable victory for the Syrians. Perhaps the very exploit which had secured him this fame and honour with the king was his shooting Ahab.

A mighty man in valour — A valiant warrior. He was every inch a soldier, and had gained his honours by valour as well as by fortune.

But he was a leper — And this cast a shadow over all his greatness. “Every man,” says Henry, “has some but or other in his character; something that blemishes and diminishes him; some alloy to his grandeur, some damp to his joy; he may be very happy, very good, yet, in something or other, not so good as he should be, nor so happy as he would be. Naaman was as great as the world could make him, and yet the basest slave in Syria would not change skins with him.” In Syria the leprosy was no bar to human society, nor to offices of trust and honour; but in Israel the leper was made to dwell alone, and could not mingle in society. Compare Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2; 2 Chronicles 26:21. The leprosy is a significant type of sin and spiritual impurity; and how many there are of great worldly honour and power, having all of earth that heart need wish, while in spirit they are lepers!


Verses 1-19

THE LEPROSY OF NAAMAN CLEANSED, 2 Kings 5:1-19.

Of all Elisha’s miracles of blessing, this cleansing of Naaman’s leprosy was the only one he wrought upon a heathen. His other mighty works of healing or benediction afflicted persons and families in Israel. It was fitting that one famous miracle of healing should be wrought upon a foreigner; a miracle conveying rich moral lessons for all nations and all ages. Naaman’s cure, affected by his meeting the conditions of the word of the Lord through Elisha, is a standing type of salvation from sin by the Gospel.

There were many Israelitish lepers in Elisha’s time, but they were not cleansed, because they sought not unto the God of Elisha. Naaman, the Syrian, manifests a faith not to be found in Israel, and is cleansed. He thus prefigured the Gentiles of a later age, who eagerly asked and received the salvation of God from which many a Jew was cut off because of their unbelief. Compare Luke 4:27.


Verse 2

2. By companies — In troops; marauding parties that roved out in the Israelitish territory in quest of plunder.

A little maid — Like Joseph in Egypt, and Daniel in Babylon, this captive girl becomes the instrument of making Jehovah known among the heathen.


Verse 3

3. Recover him of his leprosy — Literally, he would gather him from his leprosy. The expression is an allusion to the Israelitish custom of shutting lepers out of the camp, and gathering them in again after their leprosy was healed. The same expression is used of Miriam’s reception into the camp after her exclusion of seven days. Numbers 12:14.


Verse 5

5. I will send a letter — A letter of introduction; also stating Naaman’s affliction, and requesting the king’s services in his behalf. See 2 Kings 5:6.

Ten talents of silver — About seventeen thousand dollars.

Six thousand pieces of gold — Probably gold shekels are meant, and if so, their value would have been about thirty-four thousand dollars.

Ten changes of raiment — Costly robes, to be worn on great occasions, and of which the Orientals are very fond. These presents were all exceedingly valuable, and show the power and riches of Naaman, and his willingness to go to any pains and expense in order to be healed.


Verse 6

6. That thou mayest recover him of his leprosy — The letter made no mention of the prophet Elisha. The king of Syria presumed that Elisha’s fame and power to work miracles was known throughout Samaria, and especially to Jehoram, and he seems to have imagined that the king of Israel had entire control over his prophets, and their miraculous powers.


Verse 7

7. Am I God — As much as to say: Who but God can cure the leprosy? Who but He who has all power over human life? In his unbelief and carelessness Jehoram had forgotten that there was a man in his kingdom through whom God worked miracles.

Seeketh a quarrel — Jehoram fails to see the hand of God in all this; his worldly spirit discerns only a stratagem to break the peace between the two nations. He imagines Ben-hadad will ask an impossible thing of him, and then, because he cannot work a miracle for him, will war against him. His obtuseness is equal to Ben-hadad’s ignorance.


Verse 8

8. Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes — Why yield to such frenzy of emotion and alarm? Hast thou forgotten the miracle in the wilderness of Edom, (see 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Kings 3:18,) and will thou still be stubbornly ignorant that there is a prophet in Israel through whom God works?


Verse 9

9. Came with his horses and… chariot — In great pomp and state. And he expected that Elisha would show respect for the evidences of royal favour with which he was accompanied.

The house of Elisha — The prophet seems to have had a residence of his own in the city of Samaria. Compare 2 Kings 6:32.


Verse 10

10. Sent a messenger — He would not respect Naaman’s pride enough to do him the honour of going out to him in person. It was his purpose to humble the proud spirit of the Syrian soldier.

Wash in Jordan seven times — This command was another measure designed to humble Naaman even more than the neglect of the prophet to come out of his house to see him. So the very simplicity of the Gospel is a stumbling block to the proud.


Verse 11

11. Naaman was wroth — He was every inch a soldier, and not wont to be treated with indifference like this. The manner of his reception at the prophet’s house seemed to him utterly contemptuous.

I thought — He had pictured in his own mind a reception worthy of a king. He was exalted in his own eyes, and had marked out in his own fancy a mode of cure to suit himself. So with many who presume to seek the grace of God in the Gospel. They form in their own minds plans and measures by which they would fain receive God’s blessings of salvation, but the Lord has them in derision.


Verse 12

12. Abana — The main stream by which the plain of Damascus is fertilized, and bears now the name Baroda. “It rises in the high plain south of Zebedany, on Anti-Lebanon, where I afterwards visited its fountains, and rushes in a southeasterly course down the mountain till it issues upon the plain. Here it turns eastward, and flowing along the north wall of the city, takes its way across the plain to the northern lakes. It is a deep, broad, rushing mountain stream; and although not less than nine or ten branches are taken from it for the supply of the city and the plain, yet it still flows on as a large stream, and enters the middle lake by two channels. The water is limpid and beautiful.” — Robinson.

Pharpar — The modern Awaj, that flows some distance south of Damascus. Its sources, course, and the lake into which it empties, were first explored by J.L. Porter in the year 1852. He says, “It has two principal sources, one high up on the eastern side of Hermon, just beneath the central peak; the other in a wild glen a few miles southward. The streams unite near Sasa, and the river flows eastward in a deep rocky channel, and falls into a lake about four miles south of the lake into which the Barada fails. Although the Awaj is eight miles distant from the city, yet it flows across the whole plain of Damascus; and large ancient canals drawn from it irrigate the fields and gardens almost up to the walls. The total length of the Awaj is nearly forty miles, and in volume it is about one fourth that of the Barada. The Barada and the Awaj are the only rivers of any importance in the district of Damascus, and there can be little doubt that the former is the Abana, and the latter the Pharpar.”

Better than all the waters of Israel — It was natural for the Syrian captain to prefer the streams of his own land to those of an enemy’s country. The Jordan is described by Robinson as “a deep, sluggish, discoloured stream;” and as it flows in its deep bed through wild, desolate jungles, until it empties into the Dead Sea, Naaman might have thought it a useless river in comparison with those limpid rivers of Damascus, which, flowing through the great plain, change it from a desert to a paradise. “Once and again,” writes Tristram, “we crossed the Barada (Abana) by low bridges; and as we beheld its fertilizing powers, and recalled the barren sides of Jordan, we could not but sympathize with the natural feeling of Naaman.”

Went away in a rage — “Carnal minds,” says Wordsworth, “despise the foolishness of preaching, and the simplicity of the sacraments. They look on the Christian Jordan with Syrian eyes. But the true believer knows that one drop of water, set apart by the Divine ordinance of God, has more virtue than all the Abanas and Pharpars of the world.”


Verse 13

13. My father — A form of address peculiar to an intimate and confidential servant, who might have great power over his master.


Verse 14

14. His flesh came again — Whether Naaman began to be cured at the first washing, and gradually lost his leprosy as he continued to wash, or whether the cure was instantaneously wrought at the last washing, we are not informed. In either case the means prescribed by the prophet were thoroughly effectual, and showed Naaman that his cure was effected, not by a magical touch of the prophet, but by the living God of Israel.


Verse 15

15. He returned — Deeply humbled, and filled with adoring gratitude to the mighty God who had wrought his cure.

No God… but in Israel — Not even in Syria, but in Israel alone, is there any God worth worshipping! A little before he had boasted of the rivers of Damascus, but he cannot henceforth reverence her gods.


Verse 16

16. I will receive none — It seems to have been a custom for the prophets to receive presents from those who consulted them, (1 Samuel 9:7,) and it would appear from 2 Kings 8:8-9 that on another occasion Elisha himself received a present from the king of Syria; why, then, did he refuse to accept one from Naaman? Some say because Naaman did not offer his present until after his cure, and thereby showed no little disrespect to the prophet; but a better reason is found in Elisha’s own words, 2 Kings 5:26, “Is it a time to receive money and garments,” etc. It was a time of hypocrisy and avarice among the professed prophets and priests in the northern kingdom, and this fact brought the sacred office into disrepute and contempt among the people. It was wise, therefore, for Elisha, in connexion with this great miracle of healing, to decline the rich present of Naaman, so that all might know that the mighty works of God’s grace were free, and that avarice dwelt not in the heart of the true prophet of Jehovah.


Verse 17

17. Two mules’ burden of earth — Though convinced that there was no God in all the earth but in Israel, (2 Kings 5:15,) he could not yet divest himself of the polytheistic notion that each land had its particular divinity, who could be appropriately worshipped only on his own soil. 1 Kings 20:23. He therefore wished to carry home with him a part of the sacred soil of Israel, not merely for the purpose of building an altar with it, though this may have been a part of his plan, but also that he might spread it out near his own home and worship Jehovah on it there. He would thus, though in Syria, be worshipping on Israelitish soil, and he supposed that his devotions would for that reason be more acceptable to the God of Israel. This thought is illustrated by the reverence Mohammedans have for the soil of sacred localities. “To the Mohammedans at the present day,” says Kitto, “the sacred soil is that of Mecca; and the man accounts himself happy who has in his possession the smallest portion of it for use in his devotions. He carries it about his person in a small bag; and in his prayers he deposits this before him upon the ground in such a manner that, in his frequent prostrations, the head comes down upon this morsel of sacred soil, so that in some sort he may be said to worship thereon.”


Verse 18

18. Pardon thy servant — Here is truly an example of one asking pardon, or at least apologizing, for an offence he is yet to commit. But the peculiar nature of the offence is to be taken into consideration, and it must not be assumed that Elisha sanctioned his purposes. See on 2 Kings 5:19.

My master — The king of Syria.

Goeth into the house of Rimmon — The temple erected in honour of this Syrian deity, and in which the idol was pompously worshipped. This is the only scriptural mention of this Syrian deity, but traces of the name appear in Tabrimon (1 Kings 15:18) and Hadadrimmon Zechariah 12:11. As to the origin and signification of the name no settled opinion can well be formed. As Rimmon ( רמון) signifies a pomegranate, some have thought this deity was the emblem or personification of some fertilizing principle in nature, and hence presenting a relic of the ancient tree-worship of the East. Others take Rimmon to be “the abbreviated form of Hadadrimmon, Hadad being the sun-god of the Syrians. Combining this with the pomegranate, which was his symbol, Hadadrimmon would then be the sun-god of the later summer, who ripens the pomegranate and other later fruits, and, after infusing into them his productive power, dies, and is mourned with the ‘mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.’” Zechariah 12:11. But Selden, Gesenius, and others, derive the word from the root רום, or רמם, to be high, and understand it as the name of the supreme Syrian god, the “most high.”

He leaneth on my hand — That is, Naaman attended the king when he went to worship, and assisted him when necessary in the performance of peculiar ceremonies.

I bow myself — As it had been one duty of Naaman, as the king’s adjutant, to accompany his master into the temple of Rimmon, he had, of course, been accustomed to show all proper respect and reverence for the place and the worship. When his master bowed, he bowed; and now when he returns to his master he expects to be required to perform the same service still. He wishes to be a loyal subject and servant of his king, but he cannot truly worship Rimmon. He hopes, therefore, to be excusable, if, as a loyal subject, he submits to go through the mere forms of service which his king requires, but does not allow his heart to engage in the idol-worship.


Verse 19

19. Go in peace — The prophet neither approves nor disapproves what Naaman says. He simply bids him farewell, without expressing any judgment on the sentiments he had uttered. He doubtless had wise reasons for this course of action towards him. To have sought to correct all Naaman’s erroneous notions might have led Elisha too far aside from his proper work in Israel, and might also have imposed on the Syrian captain obligations which he had no power to meet, and which, under his peculiar circumstances, might as well remain unknown to him. Elisha, therefore, wisely leaving him to the spiritual guidance of the Almighty, bids him depart in peace.


Verse 20

GEHAZI’S CURSE, 2 Kings 5:20-27.

20. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God — This individual has been introduced to us before, in the previous chapter, and once, at least, not to advantage, when he attempted to thrust away the weeping Shunammite from the feet of Elisha. 2 Kings 4:27. The stately and solemn style in which he is here mentioned — the servant of Elisha the man of God — is in fearful contrast with the covetousness and falsehoods which are immediately to be told. Gehazi has well been called the Judas Iscariot of the Old Testament.

This Syrian — These words breathe a spirit of contempt; as if a Syrian, a Gentile, ought to have been taxed.

As the Lord liveth — By this solemn oath he makes his course a matter of conscience and religion. For a perverse heart, stubbornly bent on sinning, may even presume to swear its darling sin into a virtue.


Verse 23

23. Naaman said… take two talents — Worth about three thousand three hundred and twenty dollars.

Upon two of his servants — Naaman’s servants. Comp. 2 Kings 5:24. The gift was a weight which one could not well carry.


Verse 24

24. Came to the tower — Rather, To the hill. העפל, the hill, here means either the hill on which Samaria was built, or the particular eminence on which Elisha’s house stood.


Verse 26

26. Went not mine heart with thee — Elisha, by Divine revelation, was enabled to see all Gehazi’s actions and read the wickedness of his heart. So Peter, in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Acts 5:1-11.

Is it a time to receive money — Shall we, by covetousness, identify ourselves with the corrupt and lying priests and prophets who bring dishonour on Jehovah’s name, and on the holy office, by receiving, with avaricious grasp, money and garments and cattle and servants? However right and proper in itself it might be for priests or prophets to receive such gifts under ordinary circumstances, the times then forbade. Such gifts had in Israel become so associated with priestly covetousness and venality that it behooved the true prophet to decline them.


Verse 27

27. Unto thy seed forever — “Who can tell but that the victims of this horrid plague, now seen about the city [Samaria] and at Nablus, the present home of all the Samaritans, may be the heirs of this heritage of Gehazi?” — Thomson.

He went out from his presence — And from that time forth he seems not again to have ministered unto Elisha, though he might afterwards have been often called the servant of Elisha. See on 2 Kings 8:4.

A leper as white as snow — Hence we learn that the disease of Naaman and the curse of Gehazi was the white leprosy. Comp. Exodus 4:6; Numbers 12:10.

Let not the punishment of Gehazi be thought too severe. Important principles were involved in his conduct, for, according to 2 Kings 5:26, it was a time when the representatives of the sacred office needed to observe the greatest caution against the spirit of worldliness. Then, too, Gehazi’s acts on this occasion were a complication of wickedness. He showed contempt for the judgment of his master in the matter of receiving gifts: he meanly misrepresented the prophet by making him ask for what Naaman had just heard him most positively refuse: he invented a false story to blind the eyes of Naaman: and finally told a miserable lie in the hope of escaping detection from Elisha. Add to all this the foul spirit of covetousness that actuated him through all this evil course and his curse will not appear too great.

The extending of his curse to his children after him is but another exhibition of the terrible consequences of human sinfulness. Gehazi’s posterity were innocent of their father’s sins, but, like many others, they were compelled to bear the consequences of ancestral crimes. That thousands of innocents are subjected to suffering because of the sins of others is a fact which none can deny. Why this is permitted, under the government of an all-wise God, is a question which he has not seen fit fully to answer.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-5.html. 1874-1909.

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