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God’s ability to heal and cleanse ch. 5
Naaman (Aram. gracious) was commander of the Aramean army under Ben-Hadad II (cf. 1 Kings 15:18; 1 Kings 15:20). Some forms of leprosy in the ancient world degenerated the bodies of its victims and eventually proved fatal. At this time no one could cure this disease. In Israel the priests normally isolated lepers from non-lepers because the disease was contagious, at least in certain stages (cf. Leviticus 13-14). Naaman was able to carry on his duties as long as his illness permitted him to do so. Biblical leprosy evidently included modern leprosy, better known as Hansen’s disease, but the Hebrew word translated "leprosy" and the disease it represented covered many afflictions of the skin. [Note: Rebecca and Eugene Baillie, "Biblical Leprosy as Compared to Present-Day Leprosy," Christian Medical Society Journal 14:3 (Fall 1983):27-29.]
The faith of the slave girl (2 Kings 5:3) contrasts with the general unbelief that prevailed in Israel at this time (cf. Luke 4:27). This humble girl also contrasts with the great commander whom she helped.
"She is an Israelite, he is an Aramean; she is a ’little maiden’ (na’ara qetanna), he a ’great man’ (’is gadol); she is a captive servant, he a commander; he has fame in the king’s estimation, . . . she has none, for she simply ’waited upon’ . . . Naaman’s wife (cf. Deuteronomy 1:38; 1 Samuel 19:7)." [Note: B. O. Long, 2 Kings, p. 70. Long’s analysis of this chapter’s plots and subplots is very good (pp. 66-77).]
Ben-Hadad’s gift to King Jehoram amounted to 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and 10 changes of royal apparel, or perhaps bolts of cloth. [Note: Wiseman, p. 207.] Ancient peoples considered clothing much more valuable than most modern people normally do. Ben-Hadad probably approached Jehoram rather than Elisha because he reasoned that any prophet with such power must enjoy the personal protection of the king. How ironic it was that Jehoram had no use for Elisha. The king of Israel, who really was Yahweh’s vice-regent, resented Ben-Hadad behaving as though Jehoram was just that (2 Kings 5:7). He thought the Aramean king was trying to provoke another quarrel (cf. 1 Kings 20:1-3).
Even though Jehoram was not a faithful representative of Yahweh, Elisha was (2 Kings 5:8). Elisha treated Naaman as a superior would treat an inferior (2 Kings 5:10). Socially Naaman was superior to Elisha, but really Elisha, as God’s man, was superior to the vice-regent of Ben-Hadad. Elisha’s coolness may have sent a message to Naaman that Elisha was not a wonderworker who expected payment or that he wanted no political involvement with Aramea. Possibly he may have been testing Naaman’s faith. [Note: Gwilym Jones, 1 and 2 Kings , 2:416.] Naaman’s cure, of course, was not due to the quality of the Jordan River water but to his obedient trust in God’s promise that His prophet delivered. Overcoming his pride, Naaman obeyed and was washed clean-body and soul (2 Kings 5:14). Dipping seven times would have signified to everyone in that culture that his healing that followed was a work of God. [Note: C. F. Keil, The Books of the Kings, p. 319.] His flesh experienced healing from the leprosy and even returned to the texture of a child. Perhaps this reflected Naaman’s child-like faith. Furthermore, God even cleansed the commander of the contagion of this fatal disease.
Naaman’s restoration convinced him that Yahweh’s power was superior. This was a lesson Jehoram had refused to learn (2 Kings 5:15). Jesus later made the point that Naaman’s faith condemned most Israelites of his day since they had rejected the true God and embraced gods that could not heal (Luke 4:23-30). Elisha did not accept a present from Naaman probably because to accept one would have implied that he personally had been responsible for the miracle (2 Kings 5:16). False prophets were undoubtedly lining their own pockets and thus bringing contempt on the prophetic office. Elisha wanted to avoid conduct that might appear to be self-serving. Many polytheists believed that they had to worship their god in their own land or, if that was impossible, on an altar built on the dirt of that land (2 Kings 5:17). [Note: Cf. Montgomery, p. 377.] The chief god of Damascus was Hadad-Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18).
Gehazi’s decision to take a reward from Naaman was deliberate, not compulsive, as is clear from his statement, "As the Lord lives" (2 Kings 5:20). He had to tell a lie to obtain the gift (2 Kings 5:21). A talent weighed 75 pounds (2 Kings 5:22). The hill (2 Kings 5:24) was the one on which Samaria stood (cf. 2 Kings 5:3). Gehazi tried to cover one lie with another (2 Kings 5:25). Elisha explained that since many people did not respect Yahweh’s prophets, it was inappropriate to receive gifts as Gehazi had done (2 Kings 5:26; cf. 2 Kings 5:16). God had removed Naaman’s leprosy from him for his trust in and obedience to the Lord. Now, ironically, leprosy would cling to Gehazi because he did not trust and obey God. His descendants would likewise suffer because of the seriousness of this failure (2 Kings 5:27). Gehazi decided to join the ranks of Eli, Saul, and the kings who disregarded Yahweh, and so forfeited what he could have inherited, the privilege of serving God as Elisha’s successor. Elisha had valued that privilege and had consequently succeeded Elijah (ch. 2).
"One man goes away healed because of his obedience, while the other man, indeed the one who should have known what matters most, walks away with leprosy. Yet another Israelite has made the tragic mistake of choosing a substitute for the Lord, while a Gentile convert has discovered that what his servant girl said about the Lord’s prophet is true." [Note: House, p. 274.]
"This text contains one of the great Gentile conversion accounts in the Old Testament. Like Rahab (Joshua 2:9-13), Ruth (Ruth 1:16-18), and the sailors and Ninevites in Jonah (Jonah 1:16; Jonah 3:6-10), Naaman believes in the Lord. From Genesis 12:2-3 onward in the Old Testament, God desires to bless all nations through Israel. This ideal becomes a reality here due to the witness of the Israelite servant girl and the work of the Israelite prophet." [Note: Ibid., p. 273.]
This story contains many of the motifs we have been observing throughout 1 and 2 Kings: the fertility motif, the sovereignty motif, the faith motif, the reversal-of-fortune motif, and others. The unique contribution of this chapter is that it shows Yahweh’s superiority over Baal in physical healing and ritual cleansing. The worshippers of Baal gave him credit for controlling both of these things. As in 1 Kings 17:8-24, we see that, ironically, faith in Yahweh was stronger in some individuals outside Israel than it was in Israelites in whom it should have been the strongest. God blesses those who obey His Word to some extent, regardless of who they are, or what else they may believe, or do, or be.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany