Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. 2 Kings 5:1-14. The cure of Naaman’s leprosy (Not in Chronicles)
1. honourable] An attempt is made by the LXX. to translate literally the Hebrew expression which is the same as in Isaiah 3:3. τεθαυμασμένος προσώπῳ, ‘admired in the eyes of’. The idea is the passive of ‘an acceptor of persons’. Hence ‘one accepted and acceptable’.
because by him the Lord had given deliverance] R.V. victory. That the Lord was the deliverer is the thought of the Jewish writer. The Syrians would have put the case differently. It is however a matter of interest to note that Jehovah was not regarded by the compiler of this narrative as exclusively the God of the Jews, nor the Gentiles thought to be beyond, or deprived of, His care. He helps them though they know Him not.
deliverance unto Syria] That Naaman was the man ‘who drew a bow at a venture’ and smote Ahab at Ramoth Gilead, and thus gained victory for Syria, is a conjecture of Jewish commentators for which there is not the smallest foundation. About this time the Assyrians invaded Syria and the countries round about, and it is not improbable that this was the war in which Naaman had gained his fame.
a mighty man in [R.V. of] valour] The phrase occurs many times, and nowhere but here is the preposition ‘in’ used, but always ‘of’. The disease with which Naaman was afflicted must have been of a less malignant character than leprosy mostly is, otherwise he would have been physically incapable of soldierly duties.
a leper] The laws of the Jews concerning the separation of lepers from the rest of the people are given in Leviticus 13, 14, and are extremely stringent. Clearly in Syria there were no such regulations, for Naaman goes with the host to war, returns and lives at home with his wife and the household, and attends on the king when he goes to worship in the house of Rimmon.
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. had gone out by companies] R.V. in bands. The idea is of plundering parties, who made forays upon their neighbours. So we have in 2 Kings 6:23, ‘The bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel’, and in 2 Kings 13:20, ‘The bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year’. The LXX. has μονόζωνοι, in the sense of ‘girt up’, ‘lightly equipped’, ‘ready for warfare’.
a little maid] These marauders carried away captives as well as spoil. The phrase ‘waited on’, which follows, is literally ‘was before’. Servants are said, when in their service, to ‘stand before’ their masters. See below, verse 25.
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.3. Would God] This interjection is found only here and in Psalm 119:5. There it is rendered ‘O that my ways were directed’.
the prophet that is in Samaria] Elisha had a house in the city of Samaria, as we see from verse 9, and also from 2 Kings 6:32. The fame of the prophet, and the mighty cures which God wrought through him, must have been matter of much note ere they reached this little servant.
he would recover him] The verb, which commonly means ‘to assemble’ or ‘gather together’, is very expressive in the mouth of the Israelitish maiden, for the leper in Israel must keep himself apart, and never be gathered with the rest of the people. The passive is used (Numbers 11:14-15) when Miriam was cured of her leprosy, ‘she was received in again’, i.e. joined in the company of the rest of the people.
And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.4. And one went in] On the margin the R.V. has ‘he’. But it is better to insert an indefinite nominative. It is not likely that Naaman himself was the reporter.
and told his lord] i.e., Naaman’s lord, the king of Syria. The LXX. disregarding the gender of the verbal form has ‘She went in and told her lord’: i.e. Naaman’s wife brought him word of the damsel’s story.
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.5. Go to, go] Naaman was so valued by the king that not a moment must be lost, but he must start to seek for his cure at once.
I will send a letter] There must have existed at this time such relations between Israel and Syria as made correspondence between the two kings possible. The two nations were at peace, as we see from verse 7, where Jehoram expresses his dread of a quarrel. The tone of the king of Israel seems to be that of one who feared Syria, and for that reason wanted to avoid a rupture.
unto the king of Israel] The king is not named, but it seems likely that the activity of Elisha was mainly in the reign of Jehoram, Ahab’s son.
and took with him ten talents of silver] At this early date there was no coined money. The silver and the gold were in bars and were paid away by weight. A talent of silver is said to have been worth about £375, and gold was about ten times the value of silver.
six thousand pieces of gold] In phrases like this when the Hebrew expression is given fully, the inserted word is usually ‘shekels’, which the R.V. puts on the margin. See 1 Chronicles 21:25; 2 Chronicles 3:9. But the shekel was in these days only a weight, as indeed the word signifies; thus we have not only shekels of gold, but shekels of silver (1 Samuel 9:8); shekels of brass (1 Samuel 17:5); and shekels of iron (1 Samuel 17:7). When the shekel came to be a coin, the shekel of gold was worth about £2.
ten changes of raiment] Especially valued in the East, and often included in summaries of wealth, and among costly presents. Cf. Genesis 45:22; 2 Chronicles 9:24.
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.6. he brought the letter to the king of Israel] The Syrian king would conclude that the prophet was at the king’s command, and so he had only to write to the king, and all would be done that could be done.
Now [R.V. And now] when this letter] This is not the commencement of the letter. The writer only extracts from it the sentence which contains the request. The insertion of the copula ‘And’ by R.V. shews this, and so represents the Hebrew more exactly.
that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy] The Syrian king speaks as though the cure were to be Jehoram’s work. But of course he only required of the king that he should use his power with the mighty prophet. This however can hardly have been made plain in the body of the letter, or Jehoram’s thoughts would have turned to Elisha.
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.7. that he rent his clothes] Sometimes the act was a sign of grief as in 2 Kings 2:12 above and Genesis 37:29; sometimes as here, of horror and alarm. Cf. also 2 Kings 18:36; Ezra 9:3; Jeremiah 36:24.
to kill and to make alive] The disease of leprosy was incurable, and so the request that it should be cured was such as the author of life alone could grant. Cf. for the language Deuteronomy 32:39, ‘I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me, I kill and I make alive’. So also in Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:6). This is a power that belongs to God only.
doth send unto me] The knowledge of Elisha’s mighty acts must have been less before the mind of the king than of his subjects, or he would not have failed to see that the request might be granted by God through his prophet. ‘Himself with the two other kings had been eyewitnesses of what Elisha could do, yet now the calves of Dan and Bethel have so often taken up his heart that there is no room for the memory of Elisha. Whom he sued to in his extremity, now his prosperity hath forgotten. Carnal hearts when need drives them can think of God and his prophet: when their turn is served, can as utterly forget them as if they were not’ (Bp Hall).
he seeketh a quarrel against me] The verb, in this form and sense, only occurs here, but the cognate noun in the sense of ‘an occasion of quarrel’ is found Jdg 14:4. Hence the R.V. has put ‘occasion’ on the margin. It is only the one who feels his superiority that ventures on seeking a quarrel, and from the timid words of Jehoram we may conclude that he thought the Syrians more than a match for him; as was only natural, since they had defeated his father at Ramoth-Gilead not long before. He dreaded a renewal of such a conflict.
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.8. that he sent to the king] The prophets of Jehovah were now in no such peril as they had been in Ahab’s days. Elisha has his house in the royal city, and has no fear of sending a message to the palace.
that there is a prophet in Israel] i.e. a true messenger of the God who can kill and make alive. Cf. the words of the people (Luke 7:16) when our Lord raised the widow’s son at Nain, ‘A great prophet is risen up among us, and God hath visited his people’.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.9. with his horses and with his chariot] R.V. chariots. For though the Hebrew word is singular, the sense is ‘chariotry’, i.e., a number of chariots. In attendance on so great a man as Naaman there would be many persons on horseback and in carriages, and the display would seem such as to draw even the prophet forth to behold.
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.10. Elisha sent a messenger unto him] The princely cavalcade waited at Elisha’s door, but the prophet did not come forth. We need not think of him as avoiding a leprous person, either from fear of infection, or from legal scruples. It was rather that he wished to prevent any thought of himself as the worker of the cure coming into Naaman’s mind. The Syrian captain’s idea was, as we can see from the sequel, that Jehovah was specially the God of the land of Israel. If he were sent to one of the streams of that land, he would be most likely, to connect, as he actually did, his recovery with the might of the God of Israel. The prophet would therefore only be the mouthpiece of Jehovah, and for this reason sent his direction by a messenger.
Go and wash in Jordan] Naaman would be quite sure that the waters of the Jordan were not a cure for leprosy, otherwise there would have been no lepers in Israel. The journey from Samaria to the river would be a great test of his faith, and would set the matter before him in a very different aspect from that in which he had before viewed it. He had come as a mighty person to present his request to a king. He is first of all brought to the humble door of the prophet, and from thence sent on a further journey to what he would naturally look on as an insignificant stream. It was not to the king, nor the prophet, nor the river, that his healing could be ascribed if it were effected. We can understand how difficult this new lesson was for Naaman to learn.
seven times] Since the seven days of God’s first week, the number ‘seven’ has been held somewhat more sacred than other numbers. Hence its frequent mention in religious services and ceremonial. Cf. also its occurrence in the narrative of the deluge; in the appointment of the passover; in the observances connected with the cleansing of lepers, which may account for the use of the number in the present narrative. It was the number of the priests who blew with trumpets before the ark as the people entered the holy land, and for seven days they were to compass Jericho, and on the seventh day to do so seven times. These are but a few out of the instances in which the number is similarly used.
and thy flesh shall come again to thee] The expression is well suited to the case, for in leprosy the body or the part affected is covered with an incrustation, so that the flesh seems all to have disappeared.
and thou shalt be clean] The Hebrew has the imperative ‘and be thou clean’, as is noted on the margin of R.V. Elisha is speaking as Jehovah’s minister, thus the imperative is not unfitting, and calls to mind the words of Christ to another leper (Matthew 8:3) ‘I will, be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed’.
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.11. But Naaman was wroth] He had expected that his wish would have been accomplished at once, and that more display would have been made over a case like his. The God of Israel would receive some credit for the cure of the Syrian commander. And was he to be sent off in this way, without any parade or notice, to wash in the muddy waters of the Jordan?
Behold, I thought] Literally ‘I said unto myself’. The same verb is rendered ‘thought’ in Genesis 20:11; Numbers 24:11; Ruth 4:4, &c.
and strike [R.V. wave] his hand over the place] The verb is the one so constantly used to describe the manner of the wave-offering (Exodus 29:24; Exodus 29:26; Leviticus 9:21; Leviticus 14:12; Leviticus 14:24). It is also used of waving the hand as a signal (Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 13:2), or in anger (Zechariah 2:9). Naaman’s notion seems to have been that Elisha would rub his hand backward and forward, over the affected parts; or perhaps make passes over them.
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.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.’
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?13. his servants came near] As the chief ministers of the king are called ‘servants’ though they probably are of distinguished rank; so the servants of Naaman were probably persons nearly his equals in everything except reputation, and so they could come and speak freely to him, without fear of giving offence.
My father] One of them of course was spokesman for the rest. There is no other instance where servants address their master in such terms. Elisha’s exclamation when Elijah was taken away from him does not come into comparison. Joseph says (Genesis 45:8) that God has made him a father to Pharaoh, but this is not quite the same sort of relationship. The word however, which because it is unusual some have endeavoured to explain as a corruption, indicates the affectionate relations which existed between Naaman and those about him, and prepares us for his ready listening to their persuasion.
some great thing] They are thinking perhaps of some deed of prowess, befitting the ‘mighty man of valour’, or some fatiguing journey by way of pilgrimage.
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.14. Then went he down] His rage had first gone down, and thus he was in a fitter condition to undertake the journey commanded him.
and dipped himself seven times] Not only in the journey to the river, which was without any display, and merely terminated in some lonely spot on the river’s brink, but also in the repeated dippings was the faith of Naaman put to the test. For if we may judge from the fall of the walls of Jericho, which stood unmoved till the last time the ark was carried round them, it seems probable that the cure did not shew itself till the whole of the ablutions were completed.
like unto the flesh of a little child] In striking contrast to its former foul and diseased condition, it now became fresher and fairer than was natural in a full grown man.
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.15–19. Naaman’s gratitude. His imperfect knowledge makes his practice imperfect (Not in Chronicles)
15. And he returned to the man of God] He was a stranger in Israel, like the Samaritan among the ten lepers whom our Lord cured, but like him he also manifested his thankfulness. He came back with all his company, that the thanksgiving might lose nothing of its fulness, and in the presence of them all, proclaims the new knowledge which he has gained, how he has found that ‘there is no god who can deliver after this sort’.
came, and stood before him] His feelings and attitude are alike changed, and so the prophet now shews himself to him. Naaman has begun his lesson in the school of Jehovah and Elisha is ready to encourage his weak steps.
no God in all the earth, but in Israel] He has still his notion of different gods assigned to different lands, and does not conceive that Jehovah may be the God of all the earth. He is the God of Israel only, but all that are called gods elsewhere are not to be compared to Him.
take a blessing [R.V. present] of thy servant] Because with a present there generally is given good wishes and benediction, the Hebrews frequently used ‘blessing’ as here for ‘a gift’. Thus (Genesis 33:11) Jacob calls the present which he had prepared for Esau by this name. ‘Take I pray thee, my blessing’. Cf. also Jdg 1:15; 1 Samuel 25:27; 1 Samuel 30:26 (with margin).
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.16. I will receive none] Just as in the earlier part of his conduct Elisha had done everything to direct Naaman’s attention to Jehovah alone as the healer of his disease; so now he will have no gift for himself, lest thereby he should mar the effect of the previous lesson. Heathen priests and prophets were noted for the greed with which they received and demanded rewards. With the servants of the God of Israel there could be nothing of this kind. It was not of them, except as instruments, that the help came, and the gratitude must be paid where it was due. So in spite of much urging, Elisha would receive nothing. He stood before the Lord, and feeling whose servant he was, he must direct all honour to be offered to his Master.
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.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.
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.18. the Lord pardon thy servant] Naaman can see the inconsistency of his conduct. He will offer no more sacrifices to Rimmon. But the king his master worships in Rimmon’s temple, and Naaman must be in attendance, and must bow when the king bows down, or he will give offence. He sets his difficulty before Elisha, and Elisha, regarding the degree of his faith and obedience as all that could be expected from his amount of light, gives him a comforting answer. We must judge both Naaman and the prophet according to the times in which they lived. It was impossible for the former at once to cast away all his old ideas. His strongest wish, for some of the soil of the holy land to carry home, bespeaks the darkness in which he had lived and was living, and a new creature is not to be made in a moment out of men like Naaman. Elisha on the other hand had no light such as we have concerning God’s message to the heathen; the Jew has not either in ancient or in modern times been a missionary, and we need not judge Elisha hardly, because he felt no call to rebuke the half converted heathen for his imperfect service. The Lord had not yet given His message to any of the chosen people ‘Go ye out into all the world’.
Rimmon] The god of the Syrians of Damascus. The name is most likely derived from the Hebrew word rûm = to be high; and so signifies ‘most high’, a natural title to apply to a divinity. The Syrians had the name Tab-Rimmon (1 Kings 15:18) = good is Rimmon, among the names of their royal family, and the existence of a place called Hadad-Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo (Zechariah 12:11) would seem to indicate that the worship of Rimmon had at some time prevailed in a part of Palestine. Rimmon is mentioned nowhere in the Bible but in this passage.
And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.19. Go in peace] We are not to consider this answer as implying that service of God and service of Rimmon might be combined without any incongruity. The prophet appears rather to be willing to leave the good seed already sown to bear fruit in due season. Being sown of God it must fructify, and peace would be the result of its further development.
a little way] The expression literally signifying ‘a length of country’ is very indefinite. It is found only here and in Genesis 35:16; Genesis 48:7. We may estimate its length roughly by considering how far Gehazi could have gone if he had to overtake a mounted cavalcade. It could not be very far.
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.20–27. Gehazi’s lies and their punishment (Not in Chronicles)
20. hath spared Naaman this Syrian] R.V. this Naaman the Syrian. The pronoun qualifies the whole expression. Gehazi had been in attendance on Elisha, and heard the whole conversation. There seems to have been no need for an interpreter. The dialects of the whole country were no doubt much akin, and the people could readily understand each other.
as the Lord liveth] How little the words meant for Gehazi we can see, when they come to his lips amid his thoughts of the deceit he is meditating. They had a different force when Elisha used them, in verse 16.
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?21. And when Naaman saw him [R.V. one] running after him] On an Eastern road the travellers were not numerous, and any one in hot pursuit would at once be noticed, and it would be felt that he was anxious that the travellers in front should halt.
he lighted down from the chariot to meet him] As Gehazi approached, Naaman would recognise him; for Gehazi may have been the messenger first sent to bid the Syrian go and wash in Jordan, and he had clearly been by his master’s side during the subsequent interview. Anxious therefore to shew his gratitude, the superior lights down from his chariot. This was an act of much condescension, and is an index of Naaman’s feeling.
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.22. My master hath sent me] Naaman would naturally rejoice at hearing that circumstances had wrought for an acceptance of the present, which for himself the prophet had refused.
from mount [R.V. the hill country of] Ephraim] The Gilgal mentioned in the previous chapter [2 Kings 4:38] seems to have been near the hill country of Ephraim. There, we know, there was a college of prophets, and in the neighbourhood may have been others. From all these centres the members would come to Elisha for counsel. Gehazi uses one of the probably common incidents of the prophet’s life to form the foundation for his deceit. The communities of prophets would naturally be poor, and few things were more likely than that they should reach Samaria in need both of money and clothing. The story was full of plausibility.
a talent of silver] Though a large sum to ask for as aid to the prophets, it would appear but little to the man who had brought ten times as much with him, in addition to six thousand shekels of gold. Hence he gives him twice what he asks, which Gehazi must have counted a wondrous gain.
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.23. bound two talents of silver in two bags] The money was put into the bag, and the opening tied up. The word translated ‘bags’ (LXX., θύλακοι) occurs in the list of female finery in Isaiah 3:22 and is rendered by R.V. ‘satchels’. Probably the bag was of an ornamental character, as the root word signifies ‘to engrave’. Perhaps there was some embroidery, or network in its formation.
laid them upon two of his servants] For the money must have been of considerable weight, and Naaman having had no opportunity of doing honour to Elisha, would be the more anxious to pay all attention to Gehazi.
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.24. when he came to the tower] R.V. hill. The word (Heb., Ophel) is often used in connexion with the description of the wall of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 27:3; 2 Chronicles 33:14; Nehemiah 3:26-27; Nehemiah 11:21). From its use in Micah 4:8, of Mount Zion, the sense ‘hill’ rather than ‘tower’ appears well established. The margin of A.V., has here ‘secret place’ as also the LXX., but that seems to have come from connecting the word with a root of slightly different consonants (אפל instead of עפל). The question arises: What hill is meant? And it appears best to understand it of some eminence near the house of Elisha. All Samaria was hilly in character (see 1 Kings 16:24). The narrative by this allusion to a locality, as though it were well known, shews its historic character, and appears to go back in its early form to close upon the date of the events.
he took them from their hand] Though they were heavy enough for two men, yet he must contrive to carry them himself that he may attract less notice, and run no risk of being found out.
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.25. and stood before his master] He would let his absence be as little noted as possible. In the East the servants are usually kept in waiting. Hence the phrase ‘to stand before’ is frequent in connexion with Oriental service. Thus David ‘stands before Saul (1 Samuel 16:21-22), so of Abishag (1 Kings 1:2). See also 1 Kings 10:8; Daniel 1:5, &c.
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?26. Went not mine heart with thee] The Hebrew has nothing to represent the last two words, as will be seen from the italics both of A.V. and R.V. But the rendering is that of the LXX., and is probably correct. The verb takes up that which Gehazi had used, ‘Thy servant went no whither’. On a former occasion Elisha in Gehazi’s presence (2 Kings 4:27) had said of some event ‘the Lord hath not told me’, but now he finds that in spirit his master had been with him, and was aware of all that had occurred.
Is it a time to receive money] The opportunity of Naaman’s visit had been used by Elisha to direct the thoughts of the heathen officer to Jehovah alone as the healer of his disease. Hence he had never shewn himself to Naaman till the cure was complete, and had steadily refused any present lest it should be thought that he deemed himself in any way instrumental in the recovery. Such conduct must have impressed Naaman greatly, and now Gehazi has done his best to obliterate the impression. In the enumeration of all the grand possessions which the ill-gotten talents were to purchase Elisha shews Gehazi that he has been reading all his thoughts.
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.27. The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee] ‘Oh heavy talents of Gehazi’, says Bishop Hall, ‘oh the horror of this one unchangeable suit … How much better had been a light purse and a homely coat, with a sound body and a clear soul’.
a leper as white as snow] Both here and elsewhere in this phrase, the words ‘as white’ are inserted to explain the comparison. Cf. Numbers 12:10. As the incrustation of leprosy is sometimes rather rose-coloured than white, it seems likely that the point of the comparison is not the whiteness only, but that likeness which it bears to a light downlike covering, as if the limbs had been sprinkled over in the manner, though not always with the colour, of snow.