Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Naaman, by his captive maid’s report, goeth to Elisha to be cured of his leprosy, 2 Kings 5:1-9. Elisha sends to him a command to wash in Jordan: he is angry, and disdaineth it: his servants’ advice: he doth it, and is healed, 2 Kings 5:10-14. He returneth with gifts to Elisha, who refuseth them: he departs, 2 Kings 5:15-19. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, abusing his master’s name unto Naaman, taketh gifts from him: is smitten with leprosy, 2 Kings 5:20-27.
A great man with his master; in great power and favour with the king of Syria. Honourable; highly esteemed, both for his quality and success. By him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria; which expression he useth, partly to mind the Israelites that all the hurt they had from the Tyrians was from the Lord, who used them as his rod, and gave them the successes against Israel, which are recorded; and partly to check that proud conceit which then was working, and afterwards more fully discovered itself, in the Israelitish nation, as if the care, and providence, and goodness of God were wholly confined to themselves, and not imparted to any other people.
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.Gone out by companies; making inroads into the land of Israel to rob and plunder, after the manner of those times. See 1 Samuel 30:8 2 Kings 13:21 24:2.
She waited on, Heb. was before, i.e. stood before her, or ministered to her. Compare Deu 1:38.
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.In Samaria; either, first, In the kingdom of Samaria. Or, secondly, In the city of Samaria; where he was when she was taken; or where he commonly resided, though he went to other places, as need required.
He would recover him of his leprosy; or, take him away (as this Hebrew verb is used, Genesis 30:23 Zephaniah 1:2) from his leprosy, i.e. take away his leprosy from him.
And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.One of Naaman’s servants hearing this, went in and told it to Naaman, and he to the king of Syria, which is implied. Or,
And he went in, & c., i.e. Naaman, mentioned 2 Kings 5:1, hearing this from his wife, told it to the king of Syria, as the next words intimate.
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.The king of Israel; Jehoram the son of Ahab, 2 Kings 3:1.
I will send a letter unto the king of Israel, desiring him to obtain this favour from the prophet.
Ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold; partly for the charges of his journey; and partly for presents to the prophet, or others, as he saw fit.
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.i.e. Procure his recovery by the means of Elisha, 2 Kings 5:3,4, whom thou mayest command to use his utmost skill and power herein.
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.He rent his clothes; either in detestation of his blasphemy, in giving God’s perfections to him; or rather, for grief arising from a suspicion and fear that the Syrian made this only a pretence for the war which he designed against him.
I God, to kill and to make alive? he expresseth it thus, because 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.
See how he seeketh a quarrel against me, for not doing what he requires, which he knows impossible for me to do.
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.Jehoram had not advised with Elisha, either because the sudden surprisal made him forget it, or because he hated him, and scorned to beg any thing from him.
Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? there was no just occasion for thee to do so.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.Waiting for Elisha’s coming to him.
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.Elisha sent a messenger; 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 in his miraculous performances, but only God’s honour, and the good of men; and partly, for the discovery of the almighty power of God, that could by such slight means cure so desperate a disease.
Thy flesh shall come again; which was in great part consumed by the leprosy. See Numbers 12:12.
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.Naaman was wroth; supposing himself despised and mocked by the prophet. Herein he gives an example of the perverseness of mankind, who are apt to prefer their own fancies before God’s appointments.
Over the place; over or upon the affected part where the leprosy is, without which it seemed to him ridiculous 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.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.
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?My father; or, our father; so they call him, both to show their reverence and affection to him, and to mitigate his exasperated mind.
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.Like unto the flesh of a little child, i.e. fresh and pure, free from the least mixture or mark of the disease.
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.He returned to the man of God, to give him thanks, and a recompence for his great kindness.
I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; by this wonderful work I am fully convinced the God of Israel is the only true God, and that other gods are but impotent idols.
A blessing; a thankful acknowledgment. See Genesis 33:11.
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.Not that he thought it simply unlawful to receive gifts or presents, which he did receive from others, 2 Kings 4:42, but because of the special circumstances of the present case; this being much for the honour of the true God and religion, that the Syrians should see the generous piety, and charity, and kindness of his ministers and servants, and how much they despised all that worldly wealth and glory which the priests or prophets of the Gentiles so greedily sought after; and that hereby Naaman might be much confirmed in that good religion which he had embraced, and others might be brought to a love and liking of it.
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.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.
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.Rimmon; a Syrian idol, called here by the LXX. Remman, and Acts 7:43 Remphan.
On my hand; or, arm, as that word sometimes signifies, both in Scripture and other authors; or, shoulder; upon which the king leaned, either for state or for support. Compare 2 Kings 7:2.
When I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon; not in honour to the idol, which I do here, and shall there, openly renounce; but only in compliance with the king’s infirmity and conveniency, who cannot well bow if I stand upright. The Lord pardon thy servant in this thing: because there seemed to be an appearance of evil in this action, though done with an honest mind, he desires the prophet’s prayers that God would not charge it upon him as idolatry nor be displeased with him for that practice.
And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.Go in peace: these words may contain an answer, either, first, To his last petition, 2 Kings 5:18; and so the sense may be this, Be not too solicitous about this matter; go, and the peace or blessing of God go along with thee. So the prophet both prays to God to bless and direct him in this and all other things, and intimates that God would do so. Or, secondly, To the former, 2 Kings 5:17; Trouble not thyself about any of our earth, but go to thy own land, and I wish thee from God, and doubt not but God will give thee, peace, i.e. his favour and other blessings, which are oft contained in this word, if thou dost persist in this religion which thou hast now received. Or rather, this is only a farewell salutation, wherewith the prophet dismisseth him without any further answer to his requests, or instruction about his doubt; which he forbore by the motion of God’s Spirit, which sometimes gives and sometimes denies instructions to persons or people, as he thinks fit. See Acts 16:6,7. And the prophet by the Spirit’s direction might forbear to give him particular answers, partly because these matters were not of such importance as to concern the essence or foundation of religion; and partly because he was yet but a novice, and not able to bear all truths, which was for a time the condition of the apostles, John 16:12, nor fit to be pressed to the practice of the hardest duties, which Christ himself thought not convenient for his disciples; Matthew 9:14-17. And therefore he at present accepts of his profession of the true, and his renunciation of the false religion; and of this declaration, that what he did in the temple of Rimmon should not now be (as he had formerly intended and practised it) a religious action towards the idol, but only a civil respect to his master. And what was necessary for him to know further about the lawfulness or sinfulness of that action, the prophet might take another and a more convenient time to inform him.
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.Naaman this Syrian; a stranger, and one of that nation who are the implacable enemies of God’s people; whom therefore my master should not have had so much regard to as to the Lord’s prophets, who before deserved and more needed the money which he offered than Naaman himself did.
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?He lighted down from the chariot to meet him thereby testifying his great respect to the prophet his master.
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.This was a very unlikely story; but Naaman was not willing to question it, but glad of the opportunity of showing his gratitude to the prophet.
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.He urged him, who at first refused it upon a pretence of modesty and obedience to his master’s command.
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.The tower; a safe and private place which he chose for that purpose, and where possibly he hid and kept other things which he had got by such-like frauds and artifices.
He 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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?Went not mine heart with thee? did not my mind. being enlightened by God’s Spirit, discern what thou saidst and didst?
Is it a time? was this a fit season for this action? I had but newly and obstinately refused his gifts, for great reasons; of which See Poole "2 Kings 5:16"; and now thou hast given him cause to think that I was a cursed and wicked impostor, who vain-gloriously refused in public what I inwardly and greedily desired, and sought only a fitter place and opportunity to take; and that all our religion is but an imposture; and that the God who owns such a vile wretch for his prophet, as thou hast represented me to him, is not so holy and righteous as we pretend.
Garments, and oliveyards, & c.; which Gehazi intended to purchase with this money; and therefore the prophet names them, to inform him that he exactly knew by Divine inspiration, not only Gehazi’s outward actions, but even his most secret intentions.
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.And unto thy seed for ever, i.e. for some generations; or for a long time, as that word is oft used, and as may be thought by comparing this with Exodus 20:5 24:7.
He went out from his presence; being confounded with the sense of his guilt, and shame, and misery, and banished from the company of others by God’s law, Le 13 Le 14.
A leper as white as snow; which is the worst kind of leprosy, and noted by physicians to be incurable. See Exodus 4:6 Numbers 12:10 2 Chronicles 26:19,20. Nor was this punishment too severe for Gehazi’s wickedness, which was great and various; horrid covetousness, which is idolatry; the profanation of God’s name by a wicked oath; downright theft; deliberate and impudent lying, and that to a prophet, which was in a manner a lying to the Holy Ghost, like theirs, Acts 5:3; a desperate contempt of God’s omniscience, justice, and holiness; a horrible reproach fastened upon the prophet, and his religion; and a mischievous scandal given to Naaman and all other Syrians that might hear of it.