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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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; 1Kings 18:38.)

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

Offer.—Literally, make.

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.

5:15-19 The mercy of the cure affected Naaman more than the miracle. Those are best able to speak of the power of Divine grace, who themselves experience it. He also shows himself grateful to Elisha the prophet. Elijah refused any recompence, not because he thought it unlawful, for he received presents from others, but to show this new convert that the servants of the God of Israel looked upon worldly wealth with a holy contempt. The whole work was from God, in such a manner, that the prophet would not give counsel when he had no directions from the Lord. It is not well violently to oppose the lesser mistakes which unite with men's first convictions; we cannot bring men forward any faster than the Lord prepares them to receive instruction. Yet as to us, if, in covenanting with God, we desire to reserve any known sin, to continue to indulge ourselves in it, that is a breach of his covenant. Those who truly hate evil, will make conscience of abstaining from all appearances of evil.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. 17. two mules' burden of earth—with which to make an altar (Ex 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. 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.

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 writers (o) 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 righteousness (p), 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.

(o) Ben Gersom & Abarbinel in loc. (p) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 11. 2.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given] R.V. If not, yet I pray thee, let there be given. The reason for the variation lies in a comprehension of the grammatical force of the Hebrew. There is no mark of interrogation in the verse, but neither is there any word for ‘if’ which the R.V. gives. But the Hebrew can express a hypothetical clause without the insertion of any such particle. Literally the original has ‘And Naaman said, and not’ &c. by which is meant ‘and if not &c.’, i.e. ‘if it may not be as I wish, and you will not receive a present, yet &c.’ Thus in Genesis 44:22 the literal rendering is ‘and he leaves his father, and he will die’, which the A.V. rightly represents by ‘for if he leave … he will die’. And more like the present example is 2 Samuel 13:26, where David has objected to Absalom’s too liberal invitation, ‘And Absalom said, and not [i.e. and if it may not be] yet let my brother Amnon go with us’. The LXX. renders rightly καὶ εἰ μὴ.

two mules’ burden of earth] Naaman still has no notion of Jehovah but as a territorial deity. He thinks therefore that by carrying with him a quantity of the soil of Israel, he may provide a place for acceptable sacrifice to Him in his country of Syria. It was holy ground and would sanctify all that it came near.

will henceforth offer neither burnt offering] The other so-called gods are worth nothing. This much he has learnt, and so he will himself pay them no homage. But it would be too hard a thing to expect from so new a convert strength enough to become a witness for Jehovah. Hence his petition to God, to which Elisha gives a merciful answer.

Verse 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; comp. Exodus 20:24, where an altar of earth is spoken of (Bahr and others). But the more general opinion (Thenius, Von Gerlach, etc.) 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, It does not necessarily imply the "polytheistic superstition" that every god has his own laud, where alone he can be properly worshipped. It rests simply on the notion of there being such a thing as "holy ground" (Exodus 3:5) - 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 [as meat offerings or firstfruits] unto other gods, but unto the Lord. It is implied that Naaman had been hitherto a polytheist. Not much is known of the Syrian religion, but, so far as can be gathered, it would seem to have been a somewhat narrow polytheism. The sun was the supreme god, and was worshipped ordinarily under the name of Hadad (Ma-crob, 'Sat.,' 1:23). There was also, certainly, a great goddess, the "Dea Syra" of the Romans, whom they identified with Cybele and with their own "Bona Dea," a divinity parallel with the Ashtoreth of the Phoenicians, and the Ishtar of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Whether there were any other distinct deities may be doubted, since Bitumen is possibly only another name of Hadad (see the comment on ver. 18). Adonis is simply "Adonai," i.e. "my Lord," an epithet of the Supreme Being. 2 Kings 5:17Then Naaman said: ולא, "and not" equals and if not, καὶ ει ̓ μή (lxx; not "and O," according to Ewald, 358, b., Anm.), "let there be given to thy servant ( equals to me) two mules' burden of earth (on the construction see Ewald, 287, h.), for thy servant will no more make (offer) burnt-offerings and slain-offerings to any other gods than Jehovah. May Jehovah forgive thy servant in this thing, when my lord (the king of Syria) goeth into the house of Rimmon, to fall down (worship) there, and he supports himself upon my hand, that I fall down (with him) in the house of Rimmon; if I((thus) fall down in the house of Rimmon, may," etc. It is very evident from Naaman's explanation, "for thy servant," etc., that he wanted to take a load of earth with him out of the land of Israel, that he might be able to offer sacrifice upon it to the God of Israel, because he was still a slave to the polytheistic superstition, that no god could be worshipped in a proper and acceptable manner except in his own land, or upon an altar built of the earth of his own land. And because Naaman's knowledge of God was still adulterated with superstition, he was not yet prepared to make an unreserved confession before men of his faith in Jehovah as the only true God, but hoped that Jehovah would forgive him if he still continued to join outwardly in the worship of idols, so far as his official duty required. Rimmon (i.e., the pomegranate) is here, and probably also in the local name Hadad-rimmon (Zechariah 12:11), the name of the supreme deity of the Damascene Syrians, and probably only a contracted form of Hadad-rimmon, since Hadad was the supreme deity or sun-god of the Syrians (see at 2 Samuel 8:3), signifying the sun-god with the modification expressed by Rimmon, which has been differently interpreted according to the supposed derivation of the word. Some derive the name from רמם equals רוּם, as the supreme god of heaven, like the Ἐλιοῦν of Sanchun. (Cler., Seld., Ges. thes. p. 1292); others from רמּון, a pomegranate, as a faecundantis, since the pomegranate with its abundance of seeds is used in the symbolism of both Oriental and Greek mythology along with the Phallus as a symbol of the generative power (vid., Bhr, Symbolik, ii. pp. 122,123), and is also found upon Assyrian monuments (vid., Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, p. 343); others again, with less probability, from רמה, jaculari, as the sun-god who vivifies and fertilizes the earth with his rays, like the ἑκηβόλος Ἀπόλλων; and others from רמם equals Arab. rmm, computruit, as the dying winter sun (according to Movers and Hitzig; see Leyrer in Herzog's Cyclopaedia). - The words "and he supports himself upon my hand" are not to be understood literally, but are a general expressly denoting the service which Naaman had to render as the aide-de-camp to his king (cf. 2 Kings 7:2, 2 Kings 7:17). For the Chaldaic form השׁתּחויתי, see Ewald, 156, a. - In the repetition of the words "if I fall down in the temple of Rimmon," etc., he expresses the urgency of his wish.
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