II Kings 5

 

 

The historian continues his narrative of Elisha’s miracles, commenced in II Kings

2, and gives in the present chapter a very graphic and complete account of two

which were especially remarkable, and which stood in a peculiar relation the one

towards the other. One was the removal of leprosy; the other, its infliction.

One was wrought on a foreigner and a man of eminence; the other, on a Hebrew

and a servant. The second was altogether consequential upon the first, without

which the occasion for it would not have arisen. The two together must have

greatly raised the reputation of the prophet, and have given him an influence

beyond the borders of the land of Israel; at the same time extending the

reputation of Jehovah as a great God through many of the surrounding nations.

 

 

 

THE CURE OF NAAMAN’S LEPROSY (vs. 1-14)

 

 

1  “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria,” – The name

“Naaman” is here found for the first time. It is thought to be derived from that

of an Aramaean god, and appears in the later Arabic under the form of Noman,

in which shape it is familiar to the students of Arabian history. Benhadad, who

had been wont in his youth and middle age to lead his armies into the field in

person (I Kings 20:1-20; 22:31), seems now in his old age to have found it

necessary to entrust the command to a general, and to have made Naaman

captain of his host - “was a great man (honored or held in esteem) with his

master, and honorable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance -

literally, salvation, or safety  unto Syria” - Probably he had commanded the

Syrian army in some of its encounters with the Assyrians, who at this time,

under Shalmaneser II, were threatening the independence of Syria, but did

not succeed in subjecting it – “he was also a mighty man in valor — gibbor

hail, commonly translated in our version by “mighty man of valor,” does not

mean much more than “a good soldier” — “but he was a leper.”   Leprosy had

many degrees. Some of the lighter kinds did not incapacitate a man for military

service, or unfit him for the discharge of court duties (v. 18). But there was

always a danger that the lighter forms might develop into the severer ones.

 

2   “And the Syrians had gone out by companies,” - or, in marauding

bands. No peace had been made after Ahab’s expedition against Ramoth-

Gilead. Hostilities, therefore, still continued upon the borders, where

raids were frequent -  “and had brought away captive out of the land

of Israel a little maid;” - The marauding expeditions of ancient times had for

one of their main objects the capture of slaves -  “and she waited on Naaman’s

wife.”  Either Naaman had led the expedition, and this particular captive had

been assigned to him in the division of the booty, or she had merely passed into

his possession by purchase, and thus become one of his wife’s attendants.

 

3   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.

The “little maid” concludes from her small experience that, if her master and the

great miracle-working prophet of her own land could be brought together, the

result would be his cure. She has, in her servile condition, contracted an

affection both for her master and her mistress, and her sympathies are strongly

with them. Perhaps she had no serious purpose in speaking as she did. The

words burst from her as a mere expression of goodwill. She did not

contemplate any action resulting from them. “Oh that things could be otherwise

than as they are! Had I my dear master in my own country, it would be easy

to accomplish his cure. The prophet is so powerful and so kind. He both

could and would recover him.” Any notion of her vague wish being carried

out, being made the ground of a serious embassy, was probably far from the

girl’s thought. But the “bread cast upon the waters returns after many days.

(Ecclesiastes 11:1) -  There is no kind wish or kind utterance that may not have

a result far beyond anything that the wisher or utterer contemplated. Good

 wishes are seeds that ofttimes take root, and grow, and blossom, and bear

fruit beyond the uttermost conception of those who sow them.

 

4   “And one went in, and told his Lord, saying, Thus and thus said the

maid that is of the land of Israel.  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,” - Such sums

are quite within the probable means of a rich Syrian nobleman of the time, a

favorite at court, and the generalissimo of the Syrian army. Naaman evidently

supposed that he would have, directly or indirectly, to purchase his cure

“and ten changes of raiment.”  The practice of giving dresses of honor

as presents continues in the East to this day.

 

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.”

Ben-hadad assumed that, if the King of Israel had in his dominions a

person able to cure leprosy, he would be fully cognizant of the fact, and

would at once send for him, and call upon him for an exertion of his gift

or art. He is not likely to have comprehended the relations in which Kings

of Israel stood towards the Jehovistic prophets, but may probably have

thought of Elisha “as a sort of chief magus, or as the Israelitish high priest”,

whom the king would have at his beck and call, and whose services would be

completely at his disposal.  7  “And  it came to pass, when the king of Israel

had read the letter, that he rent his clothes,”  -  Jehoram concluded that once

more (I Kings 20:7) the Syrian monarch was determined to find a ground of

quarrel, and had therefore sent to him an impossible request - “and said, Am

I God, to kill and to make alive?”  To “kill” and to “make alive” were

familiar expressions in the mouth of the Israelites to designate omnipotence

(see Deuteronomy 32:39; I Samuel 2:6). Recovering from leprosy was

equivalent to making alive, for a leprous person was “as one dead”

(Numbers 12:12) according to Hebrew notions – “that this man doth send

unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?”   The king evidently does not

bethink himself of Elisha, of whose great miracle of raising the dead to life

(ch. 4:35-36).   He may not up to this time have heard. Elisha’s early miracles

were mostly wrought with a certain amount of secrecy. “Wherefore consider,

I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.”  The king

Misjudged Benhadad, but not without some grounds of reason, if he was

ignorant of Elisha’s miraculous gifts. Benhadad, when seeking a ground of

quarrel with Ahab, had made extravagant requests (I Kings 20:3-6).

 

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?”  The king’s act was public; his complaint was public;

he wished his subjects to know the outrageous conduct, as he viewed it, of the

Syrian king.  Thus the rumor went through the town, and reached the ears of

the prophet, who therefore sent a message to the king. “Let him come now to

me;” - i.e. let Naaman, instead of applying to thee, the earthly head of the state,

the source of all human power, which is utterly unavailing in such a case, apply

to me, the source of spiritual power, the commissioned minister of Jehovah, who

alone can help him under the circumstances – “and [then] he shall know that

there is a prophet in Israel.”  -  i.e. he shall have swift and sure demonstration,

that God “has not left himself without witness,” that, in spite of the apostasy of

king and people, the God who can kill and make alive yet makes Himself

known in Israel in His saving might through Hisservants the prophets”, of

whom I am one.

 

9   “So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot,” – The

Syrians had had chariots, and used horses to draw them, from a remote

date. The Hyksos, who introduced horses and chariots into Egypt, though

not exactly a Syrian people, entered Egypt from Syria; and in all the Syrian

wars of the Egyptians, which began about B.C. 1600, we find their

adversaries employing a chariot force. In one representation of a fight

between the Egyptians and a people invading Egypt from’ Syria, the war

chariots of the latter are drawn by four oxen; but generally the horse was

used on both sides. Syria imported her horses and chariots from Egypt

(I Kings 10:29), and, as appears from this passage, employed them for

peaceful as well as for warlike purposes. There was a similar employment

of them from a very early time in Egypt (Genesis 41:43; 50:9) -  “and stood

at the door of the house of Elisha.”  Elisha was at this time residing

in Samaria, whether in his own house or not we cannot say. His abode was

probably a humble one; and when the great general, accompanied by his

cavalcade of followers, drew up before it, he had, we may be sure, no

intention of dismounting and entering. What he expected he tells us himself

in v. 11. The prophet regarded his pride and self-conceit as deserving of

a rebuke.

 

10  “And Elisha sent a messenger unto him,” - Elisha asserted the dignity of

his office. Naaman was “a great man” (v. 1), with a high sense of his own

importance, and regarded the prophet as very much inferior to himself. He

expected to be waited on, courted, to receive every possible attention. Elisha

no doubt intended very pointedly to rebuke him by remaining in his house, and

communicating with the great man by a messenger. But there is no ground for

taxing him with “priestly pride,” or even with “impoliteness” on this account.

He had to impress upon the Syrian noble the nothingness of wealth and

earthly grandeur, and the dignity of the prophetic office. “saying, Go and

wash in Jordan seven times,” – Elisha speaks no doubt, “by the word of the

Lord.” He is directed to require of Naaman a compliance with a somewhat

burdensome order. The nearest point on the course of Jordan was above

twenty miles distant from Samaria. (Compare both the journey and purpose

of the Queen of Sheba [I Kings 10:1-13] – CY -2011) Naaman is to go thither,

to strip himself, and to plunge into the stream seven times. The directions seem

given to test  his faith. They may be compared with that of our Lord to the blind

man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,” (John 9:7) and, in another point of view,

with that  given to Joshua (Joshua 6:3-5), and that of Elijah to his servant

(I Kings 18:43).  To repeat a formal act six times without perceiving any result,

and yet to persevere and repeat it a seventh time, requires a degree of faith and

trust that men do not often possess. “and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and

thou shalt be clean.” The scaly leprous scurf shall fall off and reveal clean flesh

underneath. Thy body shall be manifestly freed from all defilement.

 

11  “But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said,” -  Not unnaturally.

As a “great man,” the lord on whose arm the king leaned, and the captain of the

host of Syria, Naaman was accustomed to extreme deference, and all the

outward tokens of respect and reverence. He had, moreover, come with a

goodly train, carrying gold and silver and rich stuffs, manifestly prepared to

pay largely for whatever benefit he might receive. To be curtly told, “Go,

wash in Jordan,” by the prophet’s servant, without the prophet himself

condescending to make himself visible, would have been trying to any

Oriental’s temper, and to one of Naaman’s rank and position might well

seem an insult. The Syrian general had pictured to himself a very different

scene - “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.” - rather, take away the leprosy -  Naaman had imagined

a striking scene, whereof he was to be the central figure, the prophet descending,

with perhaps a wand of office, the attendants drawn up on either side, the

passers-by standing to gaze — a solemn invocation of the Deity, a waving

to and fro of the wand in the prophet’s hand, and a sudden manifest cure,

wrought in the open street of the city, before the eyes of men, and at once

noised abroad through the capital, so as to make him “the observed of all

observers, the cynosure of all neighboring eyes.” Instead of this, he is

bidden to go as he came, to ride twenty miles to the stream of the Jordan,

generally muddy, or at least discolored, and there to wash himself, with

none to look on but his own attendants, with no eclat, no pomp or

circumstance, no glory of surroundings. It is not surprising that he was

disappointed and vexed.

 

(I would like to recommend I Kings 5 – Spurgeon Sermon – I Thought –

This web site   - CY – 2011)

 

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?”  The “rivers of

Damascus” are streams of great freshness and beauty. The principal one is the

Barada, probably the Abana of the present passage, which, rising in the

Antilibanus range, and flowing through a series of romantic glens, bursts

finally from the mountains through a deep gorge and scatters itself over the

plain. One branch passes right through the city of Damascus, cutting it in half.

Others flow past the city both on the north and on the south, irrigating the

gardens and orchards, and spreading fertility far and wide over the Merj.

A small stream, the Fidjeh, flows into the Barada from the north. Another

quite independent river, the Awaaj. waters the southern portion of the

Damascene plain, but does not approach within several miles of the city.

Most geographers regard this as the “Pharpar;” but the identification is

uncertain, since the name may very possibly have attached to one of the

branches of the Barada. The Barada is limpid, cool, gushing, the perfection

of a river: It was known to the Greeks and Romans as the Chrysorrhoas, or

“river of gold.” We can well understand that Naaman would esteem the

streams of his own city as infinitely superior to the turbid, often sluggish,

sometimes “clay-colored” Jordan. If leprosy was to be trashed away, it might

naturally have appeared to him that the pure Barada would have more

cleansing power than the muddy river recommended to him by the prophet.

 “So he turned and went away in a rage.”

 

13  “And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My

father,” – Naaman’s attendants did not share his indignation, or, if

they did, since servants in the East are apt to be jealous of their masters’

honor, had their feelings more under control; and they therefore interfered

with mild words, anxious to pacify him, and persuade him to follow the

prophet’s advice. “My father” is a deferential and, at the same time, an

affectionate address, not unnatural in the mouth of a confidential servant –

  “if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, [some difficult task]

Wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to

thee, Wash, and be clean?”   The reasoning was unanswerable, and took

effect. Naaman was persuaded.

 

14  “Then went he down,” -i.e. descended into the deep Jordan valley from

the highland of Samaria — a descent of above a thousand feet.  The nearest

route would involve a journey of about twenty-five miles (But still far short

of the 3,000 miles the Queen of Sheba went for her spiritual well-being.

Normally, we would do anything to help our physical needs but the spiritual

needs of man are of a more pressing nature.  We just don’t appreciate it

CY – 2011)  “and dipped himself seven times in Jordan” i.e. followed

exactly the prophet’s directions in v. 10 — “according to the saying of the

man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child

literally, of a little lad and he was clean.”  Not only was the leprosy

removed, but the flesh was more soft and tender than that of a grown man

commonly is. It was like the flesh of a boy.

 

 

 

NAAMAN’S  GRATITUDE (vs. 15-19)

 

15  “And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company,” - It is

not always seen what this involved. It involved going out of his way at least

fifty miles. At the Jordan, Naaman was on his way home, had accomplished

a fourth part of his return journey; in three more days he would be in Damascus,

in his own palace. But he feels that it would be an unworthy act to accept his

cure and make no acknowledgment of it, having turned away from the prophet

“in a rage” (v. 12), now, without apology, or retraction, or expression of regret

or gratitude, to return into his own country under the obligation of an

inestimable benefit. His cure has wrought in him, not merely a revulsion of

feeling from rage and fury to thankfulness, but a change of belief. It has

convinced him that the God of Elisha is the God of the whole earth. It has

turned him from a worshipper of Rimmon into a worshipper of Jehovah. He

must proclaim this. He must let the prophet know what is in his heart. He must,

if possible, induce him to accept a recompense. Therefore he thinks nothing of

an outlay of time and trouble, but retraces his steps to the Israelite capital,

taking with him all his company, his horses and his chariots, his gold and silver

and bales of clothing, and numerous train of attendants – “and came, and

stood before him;” i.e. descended from his chariot, and asked admittance into

the prophet’s house, and was received and allowed an audience — a striking

contrast with his previous appearance before the house, in expectation that

the prophet would come down and wait upon him – “and he said, Behold,

now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel:” - This is

an acknowledgment of the sole supremacy of Jehovah on the part of a

heathen, such as we scarcely find elsewhere. The general belief of the time,

and indeed of antiquity, was that every land had its own god, who was

supreme in it — Baal in Phoenicia, Che-mesh in Moab, Moloch in Ammon,

Rimmon in Syria, Bel or Bel-Merodach in Babylon, Amun-Ra in Egypt,

etc.; and when there is an acknowledgment of Jehovah on the part of

heathens in Scripture, it is almost always the recognition of him as a god

— the God of the Jews or of the Israelites, one among many (see

Exodus 10:16-17; ch 17:26; 18:33-35; II Chronicles 2:11; Daniel 2:47; 3:29;

6:20). But here we have a plain and distinct recognition of Him as the one and

only God that is in all the earth. Naaman thus shows a greater docility, a readier

receptivity, than almost any of the other pious heathens who are brought before

us in Scripture. Balaam and Cyrus alone equal him – “now therefore, I pray

thee, take a blessing i.e. “a present” — of thy servant.”   Heathens were

accustomed to carry presents to the oracles which they consulted, and to reward

those from which they received favorable responses with gifts of enormous

value. The Jewish prophets did not generally object to such free-will offerings.

Naaman therefore quite naturally and reasonably made the offer. He would have

contravened usage had he not done so.

 

16   “But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive

none.”  Elisha regards it as best, under the circumstances, to refuse the offered

recompense. It was not compulsory on him so to act; for the precept, “Freely

ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8), had not been yet uttered. Pious

Israelites commonly brought gifts to the prophets whom they consulted

(I Samuel 9:7-8; I Kings 14:3). But, in the case of a foreigner, ignorant hitherto

of true religion, whom it was important to impress favorably, and, if possible,

win over to the faith, Elisha deemed it advisable to take no reward. Naaman

was thus taught that Jehovah was his true Healer, the prophet the mere

instrument, and that it was to Jehovah that his gratitude, his thanks, and his

offerings were due.  “And he urged him to take it; but he refused.” 

Contests of politeness are common in the East, where the one party offers to

give and even insists on giving, while the other makes a pretence of declining;

but here both parties were in earnest, and the gift was absolutely declined.

 

17  “And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy

servant two mules’ burden of earth?” - Naaman does not state what he

intends to do with the earth; and the critics have consequently suggested two

uses. Some suppose that he intended to make the earth into an altar upon which

he might offer his sacrifices; compare Exodus 20:24, where an altar of earth is

spoken of, but the more general opinion is that he wished to spread the earth

over a piece of Syrian ground, and thereby to hallow the ground for purposes

of worship. The Jews themselves are known to have acted similarly, transferring

earth from Jerusalem to Babylonia, to build a temple on it; and the idea is not

an unnatural one. The idea rests simply on the notion of there being such a thing

as “holy ground” - ground more suited for the worship of God than ordinary

common soil, which therefore it is worth while to transfer from place to place

for a religious purpose - “for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt

offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD.”

 

18 “In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant,” – Naaman is not prepared to

be a martyr for his religion. On returning to Damascus, it will be among his civil

duties to accompany his master to the national temples, and to prostrate himself

before the images of the national deities. If he declines, if (like an early Christian)

he will not enter “the house of devils,” much less bow down before the graven

image of a false god, it may cost him his life; it will certainly cost him his court

favor. For such a sacrifice he is not prepared. Yet his conscience tells him that

he will be acting wrongly.  He therefore expresses a hope, or a prayer, that his

fault, for a fault he feels that it will be, may be forgiven him — that Jehovah

will not be “extreme to mark what is done amiss,” but will excuse his outward

conformity to his inward faith and zeal – “that when my master goeth into

the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand,” -  

Either Naaman’s leprosy must have been recent, and he refers to the king’s

practice in former times, or there must have been far less horror of leprosy

among the Syrians than there was among the Hebrews – “when I bow down

myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this

thing.” The repetition of the clause indicates Naaman’s anxiety on the subject.

 

19  “And he said unto him, Go in peace.”  Elisha declared neither that God

would nor that he would not forgive Naaman his departure from the path of

strict right. He was not called upon to give an answer, since Naaman had not

put a question, but had only expressed a wish. His “Go in peace” is to be

taken simply as “wishing the departing Syrian the peace of God upon the road.”

So he departed from him a little way.” Naaman left the presence of Elisha,

quitted Samaria, and had gone a short way on his homeward journey when

Gehazi overtook him. This verse is closely connected with the next.

 

 

                        ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON NAAMAN

 

Naaman seemed to have all that one could desire:

 

  • As “captain of the host”, he was commander-in-chief of the Syrian

      national forces with high rank and prestige among his fellow men.

 

  • He was next to the King of Syria and in high favor.

 

  • Naaman was “a mighty man in valor”, a good and tried soldier with

      self-confidence and respect.

 

  • There was one drawback – “but he was a leper.” (v. 1)

 

And so it seems often in life. “Everywhere, where there is or seems to be

something great and fortunate, there is also some discordant ‘but,’ which,

like a false note in a melody, mars the perfectness of the good fortune.  Life

is full of compensations. There is no misery without alleviation; no low estate

without some gleam of joy or hope to brighten and glorify it; and also no happiness

without some concomitant annoyance or discomfort.  Now it is domestic trouble,

then an unhappy turn of mind, now a recollection of some sin in the past, then an

anticipation of some calamity in the future. But, perhaps most frequently, it is ill

health, some form of bodily suffering. Naaman’s affliction was of the most grievous

kind — leprosy! a disease at once painful, unsightly, disgusting, and regarded as a

disgrace.  (Thus it is with our rationale as humankind.  In the nitty-gritty, our health

is most important, often overshadowing a much more pressing concern of ours,

our spiritual health and well-being.  How do we stand with God? – CY – 2011)

 

Solace came to Naaman from an unexpected source.  A “little maid,” a foreigner, a

captive, a slave, accidentally introduced into his household, and occupying a very

humble place in it, perhaps almost unknown by sight to the great lord of the mansion,

who has something better to do than to take notice of his wife’s attendants — this

little maid, humble as she is, initiates the entire series of events which form the

substance of the narrative. She sees her master’s sufferings, she is touched by them;

she longs to have them assuaged; and she bethinks herself of a possible cure of them.

“Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria!” (v. 3) –

Perhaps it was a mere vague wish, a thought that rose in the mind, and was uttered

without the slightest idea that action would be based on it. But our lightest words

may have effects of which we never thought. The “little maid’s” gentle aspiration

fell on some ear which took note of it; inquiry was made; hope was aroused; and

finally action followed. The small accident of an Israelite maid, who knew of

Elisha’s power to work miracles, being a member of his wife’s household, and

giving utterance to her feelings of compassion, led on to the great general’s

cure, and to the glorification of the Name of Jehovah throughout the

Syrian nation. We can never tell from what humble friend or dependant we

may not receive help in trouble, by precious hints or suggestions, or by effectual

fervent prayers, which may be of inestimable service to us.  “The effectual

fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” – (James 5:16)

 

Neither Benhadad King of Syria, nor Joram King of Israel, were really of any

help to Naaman in his trouble. Benhadad meant well; but his letter (vs. 5-7) to

the King of Israel confused the plain issue, and was not of the slightest practical

service. Joram had to acknowledge himself utterly powerless and, but for the

prophet’s interference, would probably have represented to the King of Syria

that there was no more help to be obtained for Naaman in Israel than in his own

country. Great civil personages are rarely fit to take the lead in matters,

which even touch upon religion. They place far too much trust in the cunning

devices of mere human policy, and far too little in the force of religious principle

and the overruling providence of God.  The advice of the psalmist is excellent,

“Put not your trust in princes... for there is no help in them” (Psalm 146:3).

 

Naaman might have returned to Damascus in the same condition in which

he left it, unhelped, unaided, uncured, but for the existence, and for the

action taken by, a minister of God. Men often jeer at ministers, deride

them, deny the use of them, call them idlers and supernumeraries, and

declare their belief that the world would get on quite as well, or much

better, without them; but in times of difficulty and danger, and especially in

the time of sickness, they are apt to have recourse to them. A Belshazzar in

difficulty seeks to Daniel (Daniel 5:13).  Ministers, it is true, do not now heal

diseases; and it is fitting that in sickness the physician should be called in,

to begin with. But when the physician can do no more, when he declares

the resources of his art exhausted, when death draws near us, then there

are but few who despise the aid of the previously condemned servant of

God, but few who are not glad to have a minister of God at their bedside,

and to receive from his hands the last consolations of religion. How many

have been brought by ministerial aid to die in peace and joy, who without it

would have lain for days tortured with doubts and fears and misgivings!

How many have even been snatched at the last moment like brands from

the burning, (Zechariah 3:2) brought through ministerial influence, even on their

deathbeds, to a repentance not to be repented of! It is well not to trust

beforehand to a death-bed repentance, but to set our house in order while

we are still in health. (Remember that we have no guarantee when we get

to that stage, if ever, that we will have all our faculty to deal with such an

eternal and important decision Today is the day of Salvation”

[Hebrews 3:13,15] - CY – 2011)  - But the example of the thief on the cross

shows that, even under the very shadow of death, the mercy of God is not

exhausted.  A death-bed repentance is always possible; and in bringing it about

the assistance to be derived from an experienced minister can scarcely be

overestimated.

 

Naaman and all natural men, are poor judges of God’s method’s of salvation.

 “I thought, ” said Naaman, (remember the above reference to the Spurgeon

Sermon of that title) - Naaman had made up his mind what the prophet’s method

would be. He had his own notions concerning the fitness of things, and the mode in

which Divine help, if it came at all, would come to him. When his expectations were

disappointed, as human expectations on such a subject are likely to be, he was

offended, and “turned and went away in a rage” (v. 12). Do not many turn

from religion altogether on similar utterly insufficient grounds? (II Corinthians 4:4-6)

- They “thought,” if God gave a revelation at all, He would give it in this or that way

 — by a voice from heaven speaking with equal force to all, with the accompaniment

of a continuous display of miracles, by the mouth of an immaculate priesthood, or in

some way quite different from that in which it has pleased God to give it; and, being

disappointed in their expectation, they reject the whole matter, refuse to

have anything to do with it, “turn and go away in a rage.”

 

PONDER THIS:  They who perish in their opinion, will begin the next life with

“I thought.”

 

Then, second thoughts often are best!  It is never too late to amend and trust

in JESUS CHRIST!  To pride one’s self on absolute consistency and unchangingness

is the height of folly in a being who is not, and knows he is not, omniscient.  Naaman

showed his good sense in giving up his original intention and in not being too proud

to adopt the advice of his servants. Else, he would have remained a leper and an

idolater to the day of his death.

 

When Naaman found that the prophet would receive no gift at his hand, he

acquiesced, and resolved to show his gratitude for the great blessing which he had

received in another way. He would thenceforth offer neither burnt offering

nor sacrifice unto any other god, but only unto the Lord (v. 17). It was a

noble resolve. It might offend his sovereign, it might hamper his promotion, it might

deprive him of court favor. Still, he did not hesitate; he made the resolution, and he

proclaimed it. Whether he kept it faithfully or no, we are not told; we know

nothing of his after-life; the curtain drops on him as he departs to his own

country. But, so far as the history is carried, it shows him faithful and true.

He bears off his two mules’ burden of earth. He means no more to worship

Rimmon. He will acknowledge and worship one God only, Jehovah.

 

 

 

 

THE SIN OF GEHAZI (vs. 20-27) 

 

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:” – Gehazi was aware that what Naaman had wanted to

give to Elisha was valuable and thought to relieve him of some of it -  “but,

as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.”

 “As the Lord liveth” seems a strange phrase in the mouth of one who is bent

on lying and on stealing.  But experience teaches us that religious formulae

do drop from the lips of persons engaged in equally indefensible proceedings.

This is partly because formulae by frequent use become mere forms, to which

the utterer attaches no meaning; partly because men blind themselves to the

wrongfulness of their actions, and find some excuse or other for any course

of conduct by which they hope to profit.

 

21 “So Gehazi followed after Naaman.” -  A company of travelers in the East,

even though it consist of the retinue of a single great man, will always contain

footmen, as well as those who ride on horses or in chariots, and will not travel

at a faster pace than about three miles an hour. Thus Gehazi, if he went at his

best speed, could expect to overtake, and did actually overtake, the cavalcade

of Naaman. He probably overtook them at a very short distance from Samaria.

“And when Naaman saw him running after him,” -  Gehazi was pressed for

time. He could not start at once, lest he should make it too plain that he was

going m pursuit of Naaman; and he could not absent himself from the house

too long, lest his master should call for him. He had, therefore, at whatever

loss of dignity, to hurry himself, and actually “run after” the Syrian. Naaman,

either accidentally looking back, or warned by some of his train, sees him,

recognizes him, and is only too glad to respond to his wishes - “he lighted

down from the chariot to meet him,” – an act of great condescension -

Descent from a vehicle is, in the East, a sign of respect from the inferior to

the superior; and Naaman, in lighting down from his chariot, must have

intended to “honor the prophet in his servant. But such honor is not

commonly paid, and thus the act of Naaman was abnormal - “and said,

Is all well?”  An Seeing Gehazi’s haste and anxious looks, Naaman

suspects that all is not well, that something has happened since he left the

prophet’s house, and accordingly asks his question.

 

 

22 “And he said, All is well.” - Gehazi’s reply was, “All is well.” There has

been no accident, no calamity — only a casual circumstance has caused a

change in my master’s wishes, which I am sent thus hurriedly to communicate

to thee.  “My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be

come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the

prophets:” – The details are added to give a greater air of plausibility to

the story -  “give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of

garments.”  i.e. a change apiece, and a talent between them — rather a large

sum in respect of the pretended occasion, but a trifle compared with the

amount which Naaman had expected to expend (v. 5), and probably very

much less than he had recently pressed upon the prophet (v. 16). Gehazi

had to balance between his own greed on the one hand, and the fear

of raising suspicion on the other. His story was altogether most plausible,

and his demand prudently moderate.

 

23 “And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents.” rather, consent, take

 two talents. Do not oppose thyself to my wishes — consent to receive double

what thou hast asked. Naaman is anxious to show his gratitude by giving as

much as he can induce the other side to accept -  “And he urged him,” –

Gehazi must have made some show of declining the offer – “and bound

two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of garments” — as

asked for (v. 22) — “and laid them upon two of his servants;” – the

amount was probably as much as they could carry -  “and they bare them

before him.”

 

24  “And when he came to the tower,” - rather, to the hill (Revised

Version). Some well-known eminence at a little distance from the Damascus

gate of Samaria must be intended. Here Gehazi stopped the slaves, and took

the money from them. It was important for his purpose that they should not be

seen re-entering the city, as that would have occasioned remark, and might

naturally have led to inquiry – “he took themi.e., the bags — from their

hand — i.e. from the hands of Naaman’s servants — “and bestowed them in

the house:” - i.e. by himself or deputy brought them to Elisha’s house, and

there hid them away – “and he let the men — Naaman’s servants — go, and

they departed.”  They hastened, no

doubt, to rejoin their master.

 

25  “But he went in, and stood before his master.”  Gehazi, lest his

absence should be noticed, as soon as he had put away the money, sought

his master’s presence, entering the room casually, as if he had been busied

about the house. He was met at once, however, by the plain and stern

question which follows. “And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest

 thou Gehazi?” -  literally, Whence, Gehazi? A short, strn, abrupt question.

“And he said, Thy servant went no whither.”  There was no help for it.

One lie necessitates another. Once enter on the devious path, and you

cannot say whither it will conduct you. (Satan and sin will take you further

than you want to go – CY – 2011)  To deceive and plunder a foreigner

of a hostile nation probably seemed to Gehazi a trifle, either no sin at all, or

a very venial sin. But now he finds himself led on to telling a direct lie to

his master, which even he could not have justified to himself.

 

26  “And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee,” -  There is no

“with thee” in the original.  “Did not my spirit go forth with thee when thou

wentest forth, etc.? Was I not present in spirit during the whole transaction?”

“when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee?  (v.21) – “Is it

a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive-yards, and

vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?”

The prophet follows Gehazi’s thoughts, which had been to purchase, with

the money obtained from Naaman, olive yards, and vineyards, and sheep,

and oxen, etc.; and asks — Was this a time for such proceedings?

 

27  “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee,” - i.e. “As

thou hast taken his goods, thou shalt also take his leprosy, which goes with

 them.” A just Nemesis  “and unto thy seed forever.”  The iniquity of the

fathers is visited upon the children. Gehazi, however, could avoid this part of

the curse by not marrying.  “And he went out from his presence a leper as

white as snow.”  There were many forms and degrees of leprosy (Leviticus

13:2-46). Gehazi’s was of the most pronounced kind, And it fell on him

suddenly, as her leprosy fell upon Miriam (Numbers 12:10-15), complete at

once, so that there could be no further aggravation of it. The lesson should

be taken to heart, and should be a warning to us, both against lying and

against covetousness.  (Compare the case of Ananias and Sapphira –

Acts 5:1-11 – “covetousness is idolatry” – Colossians 3:5 – Jesus said,

“Take heed; and beware of covetousness:  for a man’s life consisteth

not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” – Luke 12:15)

 

 

                        ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON GEHAZI

 

Gehazi’s is a sad case, but a not unusual one; the case of a person brought

into close contact with a high form of moral excellence and spirituality, who,

instead of profiting by the example, willfully casts it aside, and adopts

a low standard of life and conduct.

 

 

 

Ponder:  IF CONTACT WITH EXCELLENCE FAIL TO RAISE US, IT WILL

SINK US, IN THE MORAL SCALE. The two disciples closest to our Lord seem

to have been John and Judas Iscariot. The one leant upon Jesus’ breast; the other

dipped with him habitually in the dish (Mark 14:20). The one was exalted to a

spirituality rarely attained by man; even receiving “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”

 – the other sank to such a condition that his Lord said of him, he “is a devil”

(John 6:70). Both elevation and degradation are equally natural. The one comes from

the imitation of the high example before us; the other from resisting the impulse to such

imitation. If we resist impulses to good, we do ourselves irreparable harm; we blunt

our consciences, harden our hearts, render ourselves less sensitive to good influences

forever after. And the longer the contact with goodness continues, the higher the

exaltation, or the lower the deterioration, of our nature. Gehazi had been for years

Elisha’s servant. He had been on the closest terms of intimacy with him. He had

witnessed his patience, his self-denial, his gentleness, his kindness, his zeal for

Jehovah. But the only effect had been to harden him in evil. He had grown proud

and contemptuous, as shown by his calling Naaman “this Syrian” (v. 20), a

swearer (v. 20), covetous, untruthful, careless of his master’s honor, secretive

(v. 24), shameless. He had no sense of God’s watchful eye and continual

presence, no respect or love for his master, no care for what Naaman and the

other Syrians would think of him. He thus did as much as in him lay to ruin his

master’s projects, and to lower him in the esteem of those whose good opinion

he knew his master valued, like David, who gave the enemies of God reason to

blaspheme.  (II Samuel 12:14) 

 

Ponder:  ONE SIN LEADS ON TO ANOTHER BY A SEQUENCE WHICH

IS ALMOST INEVITABLE. Gehazi begins with covetousness. He cannot

see the great wealth of Naaman, the wedges of silver and gold, and the

large bales of rich stuffs, without a keen desire to obtain possession of a

portion. He hopes that his master will spoil the Syrian, and not spare him;

in that case he may contrive to get a share in the advantage. His master’s

refusal, no doubt, seems to him mere folly, almost madness.  He sets his clever

wits to work, and soon frames a scheme by which his master’s intentions shall be

frustrated. The scheme, as any scheme must under such circumstances, involves

him in lying; nay, in a whole heap of lies. He tells a circumstantial tale in

which there is not a single word of truth. The tale runs glibly off his tongue,

and easily deceives the foreigner, who is not of a suspicious temper. Gehazi is

completely successful, obtains even more than he had ventured to ask; hides it

away without any difficulty, and thinks that all is over. But all is not over.

“Whence comest thou, Gehazi?” sounds in his ears; and he must either confess

all or, directly and unmistakably, lie to his master. Of course, the lie is resolved

upon; his previous conduct has so demoralized him, that we cannot even

imagine him to have hesitated. The direct falsehood to his master, which he would

fain have avoided, has to be uttered: Thy servant went no whither. Facilis

descensus Averni (the road to hell/evil is easy).  The only security against a moral

decline as grievous as Gehazi’s is not to enter upon it, not to take the first step.

Principiis obsta (resist the first advances).  Check evil tendencies at once, and

the fatal sequence need never be entered upon. Gehazi’s punishment has

also its lesson. He had gained his coveted wealth; the prophet could not take it

from him. He was a rich man, and might carry out all his far-reaching schemes

of proprietorship, and lordship over others. But what will it all profit him, if

he is to be, to the end of his days, a leper? The apples of Sodom, so “fair to

view,” are felt and known to be worthless, when they “turn to ashes on the lips.”

(This happened literally – I recommend once again www.arkdiscovery.com and

the Sodom and Gomorrah section – CY – 2011) So was it with him; and so is it,

commonly, with those who pursue a course similar to his. The prosperity acquired

by fraud has within it a taint of rottenness. There is “a little rift within the lute” —

a drawback of some kind or other, which deprives the prosperity of all its value,

and makes the wealthy prosperous man a miserable wretch. If he escape external

calamity, he will, at any rate, not escape the worm of remorse, which will eat

 into his heart, and poison his cup of pleasure

 

 

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