2 Kings 5:12
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Abana.—So Hebrew text; Hebrew margin, Amana; and so many MSS., Complut., LXX., Targum, Syriac. (Comp. Amana, Song of Solomon 4:8, as name of a peak of the Lebanon, which is common in the Assyrian inscriptions also.) The river is identified with the present Burâda, or Barady (“the cold”), which descends from the Anti-Lebanon, and flows through Damascus in seven streams. (The Arabic version has Bardâ.)

Pharpar.Parpar (“the swift”), the present Nahr el-Awâj, which comes down from the great Hermon, and flows by Damascus on the south. Both rivers have clear water, as being mountain streams, whereas the Jordan is turbid and discoloured.

Rivers of Damascus.Add the. Damascus is still famous for its wholesome water.

May I not wash in them, and be clean?—If mere washing in a river be enough, it were easy to do that at home, and to much better advantage.

2 Kings 5:12. Are not Abana and Pharpar — better than all the waters of Israel — How magnificently doth he speak of these two rivers, which watered Damascus, and how scornfully of all the waters of Israel! May I not wash in them and be clean? — Is there not as great virtue in them to this purpose? But he should have considered that the cure was not to be wrought by the water, but by the power of God, who might use what means and method of cure he pleased.5:9-14 Elisha knew Naaman to be a proud man, and he would let him know, that before the great God all men stand upon the same level. All God's commands make trial of men's spirits, especially those which direct a sinner how to apply for the blessings of salvation. See in Naaman the folly of pride; a cure will not content him, unless he be cured with pomp and parade. He scorns to be healed, unless he be humoured. The way by which a sinner is received and made holy, through the blood, and by the Spirit of Christ, through faith alone in his name, does not sufficiently humour or employ self, to please the sinner's heart. Human wisdom thinks it can supply wiser and better methods of cleansing. Observe, masters should be willing to hear reason. As we should be deaf to the counsel of the ungodly, though given by great and respected names, so we are to have our ears open to good advice, though brought by those below us. Wouldst thou not do any thing? When diseased sinners are content to do any thing, to submit to any thing, to part with any thing, for a cure, then, and not till then, is there any hope of them. The methods for the healing of the leprosy of sin, are so plain, that we are without excuse if we do not observe them. It is but, Believe, and be saved; Repent, and be pardoned; Wash, and be clean. The believer applies for salvation, not neglecting, altering, or adding to the Saviour's directions; he is thus made clean from guilt, while others, who neglect them, live and die in the leprosy of sin.The Abana is the Barada, or true river of Damascus, which, rising in the anti-Libanus, flows westward from its foot and forms the oasis within which Damascus is placed. The Pharpar is usually identified with the Awaaj.

Naaman thinks that, if washing is to cure him, his own rivers may serve the purpose. Their water was brighter, clearer, and colder than that of Jordan.

12. Abana and Pharpar—the Barrady and one of its five tributaries—uncertain which. The waters of Damascus are still highly extolled by their inhabitants for their purity and coldness. Is there not as great a virtue in them to this purpose? But he should have considered that the cure was not to be wrought by the water, but by the power of God, who might use what means and methods of cure he pleased. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?.... Abana is, in the marginal reading, called Amana, and so the Targum; perhaps from the Mount Amana, from whence it sprung, a mountain in Syria (g), mentioned with Lebanon, Sol 4:8. This river is thought to be the Chrysorrhoas of Pliny (h), and other writers; there are no traces of its name, or of the following, to be met with now; the only river by Damascus is called Barrady, which supplies Damascus and its gardens, and makes them so fruitful and pleasant as they be; it pours down from the mountains, as Mr. Maundrell (i) describes it, and is divided into three streams, of which the middlemost and biggest runs directly to Damascus, through a large field, called the field of Damascus; and the other two are drawn round, the one to the right hand, and the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens. Pharpar is thought (k) to be the river Orontes, which runs close to the walls of Antioch, and courses through its large and spacious plain, being numbered among the rivers of Syria; it takes its rise from Lebanon, and, sliding through the said plain, falls into the Syrian sea. Benjamin of Tudela (l) speaks of these rivers under their Scripture names; Abana or Amana as he says, passes through the city and supplies the houses of great men with water through wooden pipes; and Pharpar is without the city and runs among the gardens and orchards, and waters them. Farfar is also the name of a river in Italy (m):

may I not wash in them, and be clean? as well as in Jordan; or rather, since they are better waters, and so not have been at this trouble and expense to come hither; or have I not washed in them every day? I have, and am I clean? I am not; which is the sense the several Jewish writers give (n):

so he turned, and went away in a rage; in a great passion, swearing and cursing perhaps, ordering his chariot driver to turn and be gone at once.

(g) Tacit. Annal. l. 2. c. 83. (h) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 18. (i) Journey from Aleppo, p. 122, 123. (k) Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 7, 8. Hiller. Onomast. Sacr. p. 908. (l) Itinerar. p. 55. (m) Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 7. p. 1243. (n) Ben Gersom in loc. & R. Joseph Kimchi, & R. Jonah in Ben Melech in. loc.

Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. Are not Abana [R.V. Abanah] and Pharpar, rivers [R.V. the rivers] of Damascus] There is a marginal reading Amanah in the Hebrew, but it is not well supported. The Abanah has been identified with the larger of the two rivers which now water Damascus. Its present name is ‘Barada’, and the Arabic version of this verse writes ‘Barda’ for Abanah. The second river is now named ‘Awaj’ and does not flow so close to the city, but one branch of it is still called ‘Wady Barbar’ in which we may probably trace the remnant of the ancient name ‘Pharpar’. Compared with the Jordan, these, especially the Abanah, must have appeared far superior, both in waters, for the Jordan is often muddy, and in the beauty of the scenery through which they flowed. Robinson (11. 255) describes the Jordan as a ‘deep, sluggish, discoloured stream’.

Bp Hall observes here: ‘Nowhere shall we find a truer pattern of the disposition of nature: how she is altogether led by sense and reason: how she fondly judges of all objects by the appearance: how she acquaints herself only with the common road of God’s proceedings: how she sticks to her own principles: how she misconstrues the intentions of God: how she over-conceits her own: how she disdains the mean conditions of others: how she upbraids her opposites with the proud comparison of her own privileges. Nature is never but like herself. No marvel if carnal minds despise the foolishness of preaching, the simplicity of sacraments, the homeliness of ceremonies, the seeming inefficacy of censures. These men look upon Jordan with Syrian eyes: one drop of whose water, set apart by divine ordination, hath more virtue than all the streams of Abanah and Pharpar.’Verse 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 Abaua 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" (Robinson, ' Researches,' ver. 2. p. 256) 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. When the king of Israel (Joram) received the letter of the Syrian king on Naaman's arrival, and read therein that he was to cure Naaman of his leprosy (ועתּה, and now, - showing in the letter the transition to the main point, which is the only thing communicated here; cf. Ewald, 353, b.), he rent his clothes in alarm, and exclaimed, "Am I God, to be able to kill and make alive?" i.e., am I omnipotent like God? (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6); "for he sends to me to cure a man of his leprosy." The words of the letter ואספתּו, "so cure him," were certainly not so insolent in their meaning as Joram supposed, but simply meant: have him cured, as thou hast a wonder-working prophet; the Syrian king imagining, according to his heathen notions of priests and gotes, that Joram could do what he liked with his prophets and their miraculous powers. There was no ground, therefore, for the suspicion which Joram expressed: "for only observe and see, that he seeks occasion against me." התאנּה to seek occasion, sc. for a quarrel (cf. Judges 14:4).
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