Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Kings 5:17

Naaman said, "If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules' load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord .
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Decision;   Elisha;   Joram;   Miracles;   Mule;   Naaman;   Thompson Chain Reference - Choice;   Choosing Jehovah;   God;   Jehovah Chosen;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Mule, the;   Sacrifices;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Elisha;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Earth;   Mule;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Animals;   Elisha;   Evangelism;   False Worship;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Burden;   Clean and Unclean;   Damascus;   Earth;   Elisha;   Mule;   Naaman;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Naaman ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Naaman;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   Elisha;   Gehazi;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Eli'sha;   Yoke;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Naaman;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Israel;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Altar;   Burden;   Mule;   Naaman;   Stranger and Sojourner (in the Old Testament);  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Shall there not then, I pray thee - This verse is understood two different ways. I will give them both in a paraphrase: -

  1. Shall there not then be given unto thy servant [viz., Naaman] two mules' burden of this Israelitish earth, that I may build an altar with it, on which I may offer sacrifices to the God of Israel? For thy servant, etc.
  • Shall there not be given to thy [Elisha's] servant [Gehazi] two mules' burden of this earth? i.e., the gold and silver which he brought with him; and which he esteemed as earth, or dust, in comparison of the cure he received. For thy servant [Naaman] will henceforth, etc.
  • Each of these interpretations has its difficulties. Why Naaman should ask for two mules' burden of earth, which he might have taken up any where on the confines of the land, without any such liberty, is not easy to see. As to the prophet's permission, though the boon was ever so small, it was not his to give; only the king of Israel could give such a permission: and what sort of an altar could he build with two mules' burden of earth, carried from Samaria to Damascus? If this be really the meaning of the place, the request was exceedingly foolish, and never could have come from a person enjoying the right use of his reason. The second opinion, not without its difficulties, seems less embarrassed than the former. It was natural for Naaman to wish to give something to the prophet's servant, as the master had refused his present. Again, impressed with the vast importance of the cure he had received, to take away all feeling of obligation, he might call two or ten talents of silver by the name of earth, as well as Habakkuk, Habakkuk 2:6, calls silver and gold thick clay; and by terms of this kind it has been frequently denominated, both by prophets and heathen writers: "Tyrus heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets;" Zechariah 9:3. And the king made silver and gold at Jerusalem as stones; 2 Chronicles 1:15. Which is agreeable to the sentiments of the heathen: Χρυσος τις κονις εστι, και αργυρος, Gold and silver are only a certain kind of earth. - Arist. Eth. Nicomach.

    Should it be said, The gold and silver could not be two mules' burden; I answer, Let the quantity that Naaman brought with him be only considered, and it will be found to be as much, when put into two bags, as could be well lifted upon the backs of two mules, or as those beasts could conveniently carry. The silver itself would weigh 233lbs. 9oz. 15 1/2dwts., and the gold 1,140lbs. 7oz. 10dwts.; in the whole 1,3741bs. 50Z. 5 1/2dwts. Troy weight. Should it be objected that, taken in this sense, there is no visible connection between the former and latter clauses of the verse, I answer that there is as much connection between the words taken in this sense as in the other, for something must be brought in to supply both; besides, this makes a more complete sense than the other: "Shall there not, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of this silver and gold, [to apply it as he may think proper; I regard it not], for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, [for the cure he has now received; or by way of worship at any time]; but unto Jehovah." The reader may choose which of these interpretations he pleases.

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    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-kings-5.html. 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    Two mules‘ burden of earth - This earth, Naaman thought, spread over a portion of Syrian ground, would hallow and render it suitable for the worship of Yahweh.

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    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-kings-5.html. 1870.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    And Naaman said, shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth..... Not that he desired of Elisha that he would suffer his servant Gehazi to receive a present as much as two mules could carry; but inasmuch as the prophet refused a present from him, his servant, he asks a favour of him, that he would permit him to take with him, out of the land of Israel, as much earth two mules could carry, that is, to make an altar of earth, as the next words indicate: but as he might have this any where without the prophet's leave, some Jewish writersF15Ben Gersom & Abarbinel in loc. think he requested it from his own house, and from the place his feet trod on, as conceiving in a superstitious way that there was a sort of holiness in it; or however, that wheresoever he had it, if with the prophet's leave, a blessing would go with it, or that would be a sort of a consecration of it; and having an altar made of the earth of this land, would show that he was in the faith of the same God, and performed the same worship to him Israel did:

    for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord: hence the Jews say, he became a proselyte of righteousnessF16Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 11. 2. , embraced the true religion, and the worship of the true God, according to the laws given to Israel; and the following words, rightly understood, confirm the same.

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    The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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    Bibliographical Information
    Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-kings-5.html. 1999.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

    two mules‘ burden of earth — with which to make an altar (Exodus 20:24) to the God of Israel. What his motive or his purpose was in this proposal - whether he thought that God could be acceptably worshipped only on his own soil; or whether 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; or 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, he resolved to have a portion of this holy earth for his nightly pillow - it is not easy to say. It is not strange to find such notions in so newly a converted heathen.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-kings-5.html. 1871-8.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

    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 — So he seems to farm the money which he brought with him, to express how little value he now set upon it. Ten talents (above three thousand five hundred pounds) in silver, with six thousand pieces of gold, (beside ten changes of raiment) were a burden for several mules. Shall I not give this to thy servant, Gehazi, if thou thyself will accept of nothing? This seems a more probable interpretation than the common one, that he wanted to build an altar therewith. For what altar could be built of the earth which two mules could carry into Syria? Unless they were as large and as strong as Elephants.

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    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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    Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-kings-5.html. 1765.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    2 Kings 5:17 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.

    Ver. 17. Two mules’ burden of earth.] Not to put under his feet when he stood in the house of Rimmon, as some have fondly conceited, but for an altar whereon to offer sacrifice, as himself showeth, and therewithal his zeal without knowledge, which is ordinary in new converts. As nature, so grace riseth by many degrees to perfection. Naaman’s leprosy was cured at once: not so his corruption.

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    Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-kings-5.html. 1865-1868.

    Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

    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.

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    Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-kings-5.html. 1801-1803.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    Two mules’ burden of earth; wherewith I may make an altar of earth, as was usual, Exodus 20:24. He desires the earth of this land, because he thought it more holy and acceptable to God, and proper for his service; or because he would by this token profess and declare his conjunction with the Israelites in the worship of God, and constantly put himself in mind of his great obligations to that God from whose land this was taken. And though he might freely have taken this earth without asking any leave, yet he rather desires it from the prophet’s gift, as believing that he who had put so great a virtue into the waters of Israel, could put as much into the earth of Israel, and make it as useful and beneficial to him in a better way. And these thoughts, though extravagant and groundless, yet were excusable in a heathen and a novice, who was not yet thoroughly instructed in the true religion.

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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-kings-5.html. 1685.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    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.”

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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-5.html. 1874-1909.

    Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

    2 Kings 5:17. Two mules’ burden of earth — Wherewith I may make an altar of earth, as was usual, Exodus 20:24. He desires the earth of this land, because he thought it more holy and acceptable to God, and proper for his service; or because he would, by this token, profess and declare his conjunction with the Israelites in the worship of God, and constantly put himself in mind of his great obligation to that God, from whose land this was taken: and though he might freely have taken this earth without asking any leave, yet he rather desires it from the prophet’s gift, as believing that he, who had put so great a virtue into the waters of Israel, could put as much into the earth of Israel, and make it as useful and beneficial to him in a better way. And these thoughts, though extravagant and groundless, yet were excusable in a heathen and a novice, who was not yet thoroughly instructed in true religion.

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    Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-kings-5.html. 1857.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    Mule; (burdonum,) the offspring of a horse and of an ass. (Menochius) --- Earth, to make brick for an altar, or to inclose within a box of brass, as was done in the altar of holocausts in the desert; or, in fine, to sprinkle on some clean place, where an altar might be erected, in honour of the true God. He does not inquire what ceremonies were used in the land of Israel, (Calmet) as he was not enrolled by circumcision, among the Hebrews, as an observer of their law; but intended to serve God, like Job, and many other righteous Gentiles, who kept themselves clear of idolatry, and observed the ancient patriarchal religion with a clean heart. (Haydock) --- As God had sanctified the land by the observance of his true religion, Naaman rightly judged that it was fitter for an altar than the earth of his own country. (Worthington) --- The Jews had a particular veneration for it, Psalm ci. 15. They built a synagogue in Persia, with earth and stones taken from Jerusalem. (Benjamin) --- Christians sometimes carry away the same earth. (St. Augustine, de C.[City of God?] xxii. 8.) (Turon. i. 7.) --- The Donatists had a sovereign respect for it; (St. Augustine, ep. 52.) and it is said that St. Helena brought a great quantity to the church of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, at Rome. (Mabillon, Itin. p. 187.) (Calmet) --- Lord. Out of Palestine, the Gentiles were not prohibited to offer sacrifice to the true God any where; nor were they under any obligation of following the law of Moses. (Abulensis) (Tirinus)

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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-kings-5.html. 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    earth = soil. Naaman may have heard of Exodus 20:24.

    offer = prepare. See App-43.

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    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-kings-5.html. 1909-1922.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

    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.

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    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-kings-5.html. 1871-8.

    Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

    (17) Shall there not then.—Rather, If not, let there be given, I pray thee. LXX., καὶ εἰ μή.

    Two mules’ burden of earth?—Literally, a load of a yoke of mules’ (in) earth. It was natural for Naaman, with his local idea of divinity, to make this request. He wished to worship the God of Israel, so far as possible, on the soil of Israel, Jehovah’s own land. He would therefore build his altar to Jehovah on a foundation of this earth, or construct the altar itself therewith. (Comp. Exodus 20:24; 1 Kings 18:38.)

    Burnt offering nor sacrifice.—Burnt offering nor peace offering.

    Offer.—Literally, make.

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    Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-kings-5.html. 1905.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    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.
    of earth
    12; Romans 14:1
    will henceforth
    Acts 26:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Peter 4:3
    Reciprocal: Genesis 28:21 - then;  1 Kings 8:41 - cometh out;  Jonah 1:16 - offered;  Romans 6:6 - that henceforth;  2 Corinthians 5:15 - henceforth

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    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-kings-5.html.