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Second Kings - Chapter 5
A Famous Leper- Verses 1-7
The miracle-working power of Elisha had become widely known and accepted in Israel, but seems to have been little noted in the higher circles of society. It is about to become well known through the word of mouth of a small captive girl, stolen from her home in Israel during one of the raids of the Syrians into her country. She had been taken by Naaman, the valorous captain of the Syrian host, into his home and put to the service of his wife.
Naaman seems to have been a man of principle and bravery,
though he was, of course, a pagan. The Syrian king valued his service very highly, for the Lord had allowed Syria to defeat her enemies through the prowess of this man. It is most likely that he had played a prominent and probably leading part in the defeat of Israel and Judah at Ramoth-gilead. He would have been hated, therefore, by the Israelites. His raids against their towns, his capturing and enslavement of their children, was certainly a bitter thing for them. Yet this man suffered from a loathsome malady; he was a leper. His leprosy was doubtless of the type for which there was no cure.
Looking again at the little Israelite girl, a slave to the great Syrian lady, one finds much to admire. It is to be noted, 1) though she was removed from parents, home, and country, she does not appear bitter; 2) she respected her master and mistress and sought their good, as a godly servant should; 3) though she dwelt in a pagan country and a pagan house she did not forget her God and His power; 4) she offered the advice by which those who subjected her could benefit from knowing her God.
When others heard the claim of the little maid, that the prophet in Samaria could heal her master of his leprosy, the word was conveyed to the king of Syria. Upon hearing this, and willing to go to great expense to restore the health of his valuable servant, the captain of the host, the king sent Naaman with a letter to Jehoram, the king of Israel. The letter stated quite plainly and frankly that the king was sending Naaman so the king of Israel could cure him of his leprosy. He seemed not to have thought of the possibility the Israelite king may not have been aware of the power of the prophet. The reward consisted of ten talents of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of fine raiment. The silver has a present day value of over $200,000, the gold more than $2,000,000.
When the king of Israel read the letter he was highly distraught. He never once thought of Elisha and his power with the Lord. The king of Syria had assumed he would know to send for the prophet, but he took the letter to mean that he was expected to personally perform the miracle. So disturbed was he that he accused the king of Syria of thinking he had divine power, or more likely seeking a quarrel so he could go to war with him. He was like the ignorant Gentiles whom Paul described (Ephesians 4:18).
Before Elisha - Verses 8-14
Somehow Elisha learned of the coming of Naaman to have his leprosy healed and of the distraught king, who was so beside himself that he had torn his clothing. He sent a message then to the king of Israel, rebuking him for having torn his robe. He offered, if the king would send Naaman to him, he would cure the leprosy, and the Syrian captain would know there is a prophet in Israel. This last was also a rebuke of the king of Israel. He was not aware of Elisha’s ministry, apparently, but if the captain of Syria’s host came to him, the captain would know there is a prophet in Israel (Hosea 6:3).
From the sequel it may be supposed that Naaman felt a little put out that he had to go to the prophet rather than the prophet coming forth to meet such a worthy as himself. But he came with all his entourage of horses and chariots and servants and stopped before the door of Elisha. He did not see the prophet, for Elisha sent out a message to him; that he should go wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. Then his flesh would come clean of the leprosy, and he would be cured. Naaman could be healed in this simple manner, but he must exercise faith in the prescribed remedy.
This was not at all what the great man expected, and he was filled with wrath. He began to declaim against the prophet. Elisha should have come out to meet Naaman, call loudly to his God, and clap his hands over the leprous lesions on his body, And if Naaman needed to bathe, the waters of the rivers of Abana and Pharpar back in Damascus, his home, were far better and cleaner than the water of Jordan The more Naaman thought of the prophet’s instructions the angrier he became. He turned his horses and chariots and left the house of Elisha raging against his humiliating treatment. Elisha was teaching him a lesson in humility by which to receive the Lord’s blessing (Note Proverbs 29:23).
It was such a simple solution, and Naaman had so much to gain by trying it! The servants tried to reason with him. Naaman had been ready to do some great deed in order to get cleansed of his leprosy, but to bathe in muddy Jordan was too demeaning to the great man. Naaman had been looking to the fanfare accompanying his cure more than to the One who would do it. He, like the world today, was ready to save himself, but unwilling to admit his own helplessness to do so and allow the Lord to do it (Ecclesiastes 8:8).
They prevailed on Naaman by their wise counsel, and he went down to the Jordan and dipped himself in it seven times, as directed. Six times the great man must have gone into the water and come out the same, and he may have been skeptical that one more would make a difference. But complete obedience to. the Lord’s requirement is necessary, as the number seven signifies. At the seventh dip Naaman came out of Jordann with the beautiful pink, and smooth skin of a little child. His leprosy was gone as the man of God had promised him.
Another Leper - Verses 15-27
The miracle of Naaman’s healing wrought a far greater and more important effect on the man than mere restoration of physical health. He returned to the house of Elisha much humbled and sought the prophet out. He stood before him and admitted that he was converted to the God of Israel. The mighty miracle he had experienced in his body convinced him there was no God on all the earth than the God of Israel (Romans 10:10).
Naaman was so grateful to Elisha and his God he was ready to bestow the great riches he had brought on him. But Elisha swore by the living God in whose presence he ever stood that he would receive nothing. And although Naaman tried urgently to have him accept something Elisha steadfastly refused. There is no charge for the gospel of Christ (Isaiah 55:1).
But if Elisha would take nothing from Naaman the captain wanted something from him. So dedicated would he be to worship of God henceforth that he wished to worship him at the altar on Israelitish soil. He requested to be allowed to carry back with him two mules’ burdens of it on which to erect his altar of burnt sacrifice. Further Naaman was reminded that he was required by his master to accompany him to the worship of the false god Rimmon. At such time he was expected to bow before that false idol. He asked Elisha that the Lord might pardon him at such times, inasmuch as it was demanded of him and would not be from his heart. ’
Elisha consented to Naaman’s request and sent him away in peace. The thing looks very much like a compromise to the present-day reader. It was certainly expedient for Naaman to go along with his master’s worship of Rimmon, and he may very well have lost his life had he refused. It is not known, of course, whether Naaman made any attempt to convert the king to the true God, for he is not heard of again in the Scriptures. Had Naaman refused to comply with the requirement of the king there would have been no possibility of his influencing him to the truth. What might well be compromise in the present day may not have been so considered then. It is admittedly difficult to decide the question.
There was one who was greatly disappointed that Elisha did not allow himself to be enriched at the expense of the Syrian visitor. In the eyes of Gehazi he saw only a detested Syrian enemy of Israel. He overlooked the wonderful demonstration of God’s love and salvation toward even a Syrian. Gehazi saw material profits forfeited, not spiritual riches gained. His feeling illustrate the impact of the Savior’s warning (Mr 8:36-37). But the servant conceived a plan whereby he would get something of Naaman for himself.
Gehazi ran after the Syrian captain, who saw him and stopped the chariot. Gehazi had a story prepared. He said Elisha had sent him to ask from Naaman a talent of silver and two changes of clothing for two young prophets who had come to him unexpectedly. It must have seemed a quite plausible request to Naaman, and he insisted on sending a talent of silver to each of the young men of Gehazi’s story. He even put the heavy silver in two bags and had two of his own servants to convey it back for Gehazi.
The situation must have posed a problem for Gehazl who must not let Elisha see the two servants bringing the silver. So when they reached a point short of Elisha’s house he relieved them of their burden and hid it in his house. He then returned to wait on Elisha as though nothing out of the way had occurred. Elisha inquired of Gehazi from where he had come, and the servant denied that he had been anywhere.
Elisha now revealed to Gehazi that he knew the whole affair. The Lord had made the prophet to know it. He knew that Gehazi had accosted Naaman, and that the man had stopped the chariot and got out to meet him. Not only did Elisha know that Gehazi had received money and clothing from Naaman, but he knew a great deal more. The two talents would have a present-day value of above $40,000, and Elisha knew that Gehazi had visions of using the money to provide himself oliveyards, vineyards, sheep, oxen and servants. To receive payment for the conversion of the pagan Naaman would cause men to think they could purchase the favor of God. For his terrible sin in the matter, the leprosy which had infected Naaman would be transferred to Gehazi and to his family after him. immediately Gehazi was stricken and left the presence of Elisha white with leprosy. Riches are a curse to those who covet them (James 5:1-3).
More lessons: 1) one should serve the Lord faithfully in whatever place he may be brought; 2) the saved need to speak out for the truth though the world denies its power; 3) the world would willingly come to God on its own terms, which would glorify man rather than God; 4) one can never be saved short of absolute surrender to the Lord’s way; 5) all the terrible cost of man’s salvation has been paid by Christ, and it is offered freely to all men; 6) one can be in constant association with the righteous and still succumb to covetousness and sinful lust; 7) the thoughts of men are naked and open before God (Hebrews 4:13).
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany