Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.2 Kings 5:1. Naaman — was a great man with his master — In great power and favour with the king of Syria; and honourable — Highly esteemed, both for his quality and success; because the Lord by him had given deliverance unto Syria — He had been victorious in such battles as he had fought, which coming to pass through the permission or appointment of the Divine Providence, the sacred writer would have the Israelites to look upon it as the Lord’s doing. Let Israel know, that, when the Syrians prevailed, it was from the Lord. He gave them success in their wars, even with Israel, and for Israel’s chastisement. But he was a leper — This did not exclude him from the society of men in that country, where the Jewish law was not in force. But it was a great blemish upon him, and also likely to prove deadly; there being no cure for this disease, a disease very common in Syria.
And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.2 Kings 5:2. The Syrians had gone out by companies — Making inroads into the land of Israel, to rob and plunder, after the manner of those times. And had brought away captive a little maid — The providence of God so ordering it for very important reasons. And she waited on Naaman’s wife — Was preferred into Naaman’s family, where she published Elisha’s fame, to the honour of Israel and Israel’s God.
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.2 Kings 5:3. Would God my Lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria — In the kingdom of Samaria; or, rather, in the city of Samaria; where Elisha was when she was taken, and where he commonly resided, though he went to other places as need required. For he would recover him of his leprosy — She had heard of the wonderful things which he had done, and therefore was confident he could work this cure. Children should betimes acquaint themselves with the wondrous works of God, that wherever they go they may speak of them, to the profit of others. Yea, and servants, like this little maid, may be blessings to the families in which Providence casts their lot, by telling what they know of the glory of God, and the honour of his ministers.
And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.2 Kings 5:4. And one went in and told his lord — One of Naaman’s servants, hearing this, told it to Naaman, and he to the king of Syria, begging his leave to go to the prophet in Israel. For though he neither loved nor honoured the Jewish nation, yet if one of that nation can but heal him of his leprosy, he will gladly and thankfully accept the cure. And he hopes that one can, from the intelligence he has received, which he does not despise because of the meanness of her that gave it. O that they who are spiritually diseased would hearken thus readily to the tidings brought them of the great Physician!
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, and ten changes of raiment.2 Kings 5:5. The king said, I will send a letter to the king of Israel — It was very natural for a king to suppose that the king of Israel could do more than any of his subjects. He took with him ten talents of silver, &c. — That he might honourably reward the prophet, in case he should be cured by him. But it was a vast sum that he took for this purpose; for if they were Hebrew talents, the silver only amounted to four thousand five hundred pounds sterling.
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.2 Kings 5:6. Now when this letter is come unto thee, &c. — The beginning of the letter, which, it is likely, contained the usual compliments, is omitted, as not pertinent to the matter in hand. That thou mayest recover him of his leprosy — Or, That, by thy command, the prophet that is with thee may cleanse him; for kings are often said to do those things which they command to be done: in which view, there is no ambiguity in this letter of the king of Syria. But this not being plainly expressed, the king of Israel apprehended that the intention of this demand was only to pick a quarrel with him, and seek an occasion, or rather a pretence, for a war with him.
And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.2 Kings 5:7. The king of Israel rent his clothes — Either as one in great affliction and trouble, or because he looked upon it as blasphemy, to ascribe that power to him which belonged to God alone. Am I God, to kill and make alive? — He expresses himself thus, because the leprosy is a kind or degree of death, Numbers 12:12; and he thought it as impossible to cure it as to raise the dead. Every body can kill; but when a person is killed, to make him alive again is the work only of the Almighty. See how he seeketh a quarrel against me — For not doing what he requires, which he knows to be impossible for me to do. Though he had seen what miracles Elisha had done, yet he either had forgot them, or thought this to be beyond his power. Or, it may be, he was loath to see still further demonstration of his power with God, and therefore did not send to him on this occasion.
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? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.2 Kings 5:8. Elisha sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? — There is no just occasion for thee to do so. Let him come now to me — It was not for his own honour, but for the honour of God and his people, that he desires the leprous Syrian to be sent to him. And he shall know there is a prophet in Israel — One who can do that which the king of Israel dares not attempt, and which the prophets of Syria cannot pretend to: and it were sad with Israel if there were not. As the word prophet commonly signifies a man who declares things which none could know but God, and those to whom he revealed them, so here it signifies a man endued with a divine power, and who thereby could do what no man could effect, unless God were with him.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.2 Kings 5:9-10. Naaman stood at the door of the house of Elisha — Waiting for Elisha’s coming to him. And Elisha sent a messenger, &c. — Which he did partly to try and exercise Naaman’s faith and obedience; partly for the honour of his religion and ministry, that it might appear he sought not his own glory and profit, but only God’s honour and the good of men; and partly for the manifestation of the almighty power of God, which could cure such a desperate disease by such slight means.
And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, 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.2 Kings 5:11. Naaman was wroth — Supposing himself to be despised and insulted by the prophet. And said, Behold I thought, &c. — Herein he gives us an example of the perverseness of mankind, who are prone to prefer their own fancies to God’s appointments. Big with the expectations of a cure, he had been imagining how this cure would be wrought: and the scheme he had devised was this: He will surely come out to me — That is the least he can do to me, a peer of Syria; to me, who am come to him in all this state, with my horses, chariot, and retinue; to me, who have so often been victorious over the armies of Israel. And stand and call on the name of his God — On my behalf. And strike his hand over the place — Wave it over the afflicted part, where the leprosy is: without which it seemed ridiculous to him to expect a cure.
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.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.
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?2 Kings 5:13. His servants came near–Though at other times they kept their distance, and now saw him in a passion, yet knowing him to be a man that would hear reason at any time, and from any one, they drew near, and made bold to argue the matter with him. Happy they who have such servants as these, who both had the courage to speak the truth, and prudence to order their speech with skill, submission, and reverence. My father — Or, our father; a title of honour in that country, and a name by which they called their lords, as kings are called the fathers of their people. They use it to show their reverence and affection for him. If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing — Had ordered thee into a tedious course of physic, or enjoined thee to submit to some painful operation, suppose blistering, or cupping, or salivating, wouldst thou not have done it? No doubt thou wouldst. And wilt thou not submit to so easy a method as this, Wash and be clean? It appears they had conceived a great opinion of the prophet, having probably heard more of him from the common people, whom they had conversed with, than Naaman had from the king and courtiers.
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.2 Kings 5:14. Then went he down and dipped himself, &c. — Upon second thoughts he yielded to make the experiment, yet probably with no great faith or resolution. However, God was pleased to honour himself and the word of his prophet, and to effect the cure, notwithstanding his evil reasoning and unbelief. His flesh came again like the flesh of a little child — No doubt to his great surprise and joy. And he was clean — Fresh and pure, free from every the least mixture or mark of the disease. This he got by yielding to the will of God, and obeying the injunction of his prophet, which he at first despised as unreasonable and foolish: and it is in the way of observing, not in the way of contemning and neglecting divine institutions, that we must expect the cure of our spiritual diseases.
And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.2 Kings 5:15. He returned to the man of God — To give him thanks and a recompense for the great benefit which he had received. I know there is no God in all the earth but in Israel — By this wonderful work I am fully convinced that the God of Israel is the only true God, and that other gods are impotent idols. A noble confession! but such as speaks the misery of the Gentile world; for the nations that had many gods, really had no God, but were without God in the world. He had formerly thought the gods of Syria gods indeed, but now experience had rectified his mistake, and he knew Israel’s God was God alone, the sovereign Lord of all. Had he merely seen other lepers cleansed, perhaps it would not have convinced him; but the mercy of the cure affected him more than the miracle of it. Those are best able to speak of the power of divine grace, who have themselves experienced it. I pray thee take a blessing of thy servant — A thankful acknowledgment, or token of gratitude. The Hebrews called every gift a blessing.
But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.2 Kings 5:16. He said, As the Lord liveth, I will receive none — Not that he thought it unlawful to receive presents, which he did receive from others; but because of the special circumstances of the case, it being much for the honour of God that the Syrians should see the generous piety and kindness of his ministers and servants, and how much they despised all that worldly wealth and glory, which the prophets of the Gentiles so greedily sought after.
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.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.
In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.2 Kings 5:18. When my master goeth into the house of Rimmon — Or rather, went, or hath gone, namely, formerly; for the Hebrew text of the whole verse may be properly rendered in the past time, thus: In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master went into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaned on my hand, and I bowed myself in the house of Rimmon; when I bowed myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. Rimmon, it must be observed, was a Syrian idol, called here by the Seventy Remman, and Acts 7:43, Remphan. And as Naaman, in the preceding verses, had declared that he would worship no other God but Jehovah, this translation seems evidently the true one, and is approved by many learned men, as Mr. Locke, Dr. Lightfoot, Lord Clarendon, and others. Certainly, as Dr. Dodd observes, “‘the incongruity would be great, if Naaman, who had just before declared his renunciation of idolatry, should now confess his readiness to relapse into the same crime, and desire God’s pardon for it beforehand; whereas to ask pardon for what he had done amiss, and to desire the prophet’s intercession with God in that behalf, argued a mind truly sensible of his former transgression, and very much resolved to avoid it for the future; and accordingly it is supposed that upon his return home he refused to worship Rimmon any more, and was thereupon dismissed from being general of the king’s forces.”
And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.
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: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.2 Kings 5:20. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha — One would have expected that Elisha’s servant should have been a saint; but we find him far otherwise. The best men, the best ministers, have often had those about them that were their grief and shame. My master hath spared this Syrian — A stranger, and one of that nation who are the implacable enemies of God’s people. As the Lord liveth — He swears, that he might have some pretence for the action to which he had bound himself by his oath; not considering, that to swear to do any wicked action, is so far from excusing it, that it makes it much worse.
So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?2 Kings 5:21-23. He lighted down from his chariot to meet him — Thereby testifying his great respect to the prophet his master, He said — My master hath sent me, &c. — This story of Gehazi was a very unlikely one: Naaman, however, was not willing to question it, but glad of the opportunity of showing his gratitude to the prophet. And he — Naaman, urged him — Who at first refused it upon a pretence of modesty and obedience to his master’s command.
And he said, All is well. 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: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments.
And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him.
And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed.2 Kings 5:24. When he came to the tower — A safe and private place, which he chose for the purpose, and where possibly he hid and kept other things, which he had got by such like frauds and artifices. And let the men go — Before they came within sight of his master.
But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.
And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?2 Kings 5:26. Went not my heart with thee? &c. — Was not I present with thee in mind, when the man, &c. Is it a time to receive money? &c. — Was this a fit season for this action? I had but just refused his gifts, and that obstinately, for important reasons; and now thou hast given him cause to think that this was done in mere vain-glory, and that I inwardly desired, and sought only a fitter place and opportunity, to take secretly in private what I refused in public; thus bringing reproach on our religion, and on the God we worship. And olive-yards, &c. — Which Gehazi intended to purchase with this money; and therefore the prophet names them, to inform him that he exactly knew, not only his outward actions, but even his most secret intentions. What a folly is it to presume upon sin in hopes of secrecy! When thou goest aside into any by-path, doth not thy own conscience go with thee? Nay, doth not the eye of God go with thee? What then avails the absence of human witnesses?
The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.2 Kings 5:27. The leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and thy seed for ever — That is, for some generations, as the expression is often used, and as may be thought by comparing this with Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7. This was a sentence which Gehazi justly deserved, for his crime was aggravated by a greedy covetousness, which is idolatry, profanation of God’s name, a downright theft, in taking that to himself which was given for others, deliberate and impudent lying, a desperate contempt of God’s omnipotence, justice, and holiness, a horrible reproach cast upon the prophet and his religion, and a pernicious scandal given to Naaman, and every other Syrian who should chance to hear of it. We are taught from hence that God knows our sins, though committed in secret, and will punish them; and particularly that his wrath pursues, not only the unrighteous, but all those in general who are given to covetousness and dishonest gain; and that goods acquired by wicked means carry a curse with them, which often descends from parents to their children. He went out from his presence a leper as white as snow — Which is the worst kind of leprosy, and noted by physicians to be incurable. Those who get money by any way which is displeasing to God, make a dear purchase. What was Gehazi profited by the two talents of silver, when he lost his health, if not his soul, for ever?