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.
Verse 1. - Now Naaman, captain of the host of the King of Syria. The name "Naaman" is here found for the first time. It is thought to be derived from that of an Aramaean god (Ewald), and appears in the later Arabic under the form of Noman, in which shape it is familiar to the students of Arabian history. Benhadad, who had been wont in his youth and middle age to lead his armies into the field in person (1 Kings 20:1-20; 1 Kings 22:31; 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 103), seems now in his old age to have found it necessary to entrust the command to a general, and to have made Naaman captain of his host. Compare the similar practice (ibid., p. 101) of the Assyrian monarchs. Was a great man with his master, and honorable - rather, honored, or held in esteem (τεθαυμασμένος, LXX.) - because by him the Lord had given deliverance - literally, salvation, or safety (σωτηρίαν, LXX.) - unto Syria. Probably he had commanded the Syrian army in some of its encounters with the Assyrians, who at this time, under Shalmaneser II., were threatening the independence of Syria, but did not succeed in subjecting it. He was also a mighty man in valor - gibbor hail, commonly translated in our version by "mighty man of valor," does not mean much more than "a good soldier" - but he was a leper. Leprosy had many degrees. Some of the lighter kinds did not incapacitate a man for military service, or unfit him for the discharge of court duties (ver. 18). But there was always a danger that the lighter forms might develop into the severer ones.
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.
Verse 2. - And the Syrians had gone out by companies; or, in marauding bands. No peace had been made after Ahab's expedition against Ramoth-Gilead. Hostilities, therefore, still continued upon the borders, where raids were frequent, as upon our own northern border in mediaeval times. And had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid. The marauding expeditions of ancient times had for one of their main objects the capture of slaves. In Africa wars are still carried on chiefly for this purpose. And she waited on Naaman's wife. Either Naaman had led the expedition, and this particular captive had been assigned to him in the division of the booty, or she had merely passed into his possession by purchase, and thus become one of his wife's attendants.
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.
Verse 3. - And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! literally, Oh that my lord were before the prophet who is in Samaria! Elisha had a house in Samaria (2 Kings 6:32), where he resided occasionally. For he would recover him of his leprosy. The "little maid" concludes from her small experience that, if her master and the great miracle-working prophet of her own land could be brought together, the result would be his cure. She has, in her servile condition, contracted an affection both for her master and her mistress, and her sympathies are strongly with them. Perhaps she had no serious purpose in speaking as she did. The words burst from her as a mere expression of goodwill. She did not contemplate any action resulting from them. "Oh that things could be otherwise than as they are! Had I my dear master in my own country, it would be easy to accomplish his cure. The prophet is so powerful and so kind. He both could and would recover him." Any notion of her vague wish being carried out, being made the ground of a serious embassy, was probably far from the girl's thought. But the "bread cast upon the waters returns after many days." There is no kind wish or kind utterance that may not have a result far beyond anything that the wisher or utterer contemplated. Good wishes are seeds that ofttimes take root, and grow, and blossom, and bear fruit beyond the uttermost conception of those who sow them.
And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.
Verse 4. - And one went in, and told his lord, saying. "One went in" is a possible translation; but it is simpler and more natural to translate "he went in," i.e. Naaman went in, and told his lord, Ben-hadad, the King of Syria. Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. Being "of the land of Israel," her words had a certain weight - she had means of knowing - she ought to know whether such a thing as the cure of leprosy by the intervention of a prophet was a possible occurrence in her country.
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.
Verse 5. - And the King of Syria said, Go to, go; rather, Go, depart; i.e. lose no time; go at once, if there is any such possibility as the maiden has indicated. "We see," Bahr says, "from the king's readiness, how anxious he was for the restoration of Naaman." And I will send a letter unto the King of Israel. Letters had been interchanged between Solomon and Hiram, King of Tyro (2 Chronicles 2:3-11), a century earlier; and the communications of king with king in the East, though sometimes carried on orally by ambassadors, probably took place to a large extent by means of letters from a very early date. Written communications seem to have led to the outbreak of the war by which the foreign dynasty of the Hyksos was driven out of Egypt, and the native supremacy reestablished ('History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. it. pp. 199, 200). Written engagements were certainly entered into between the Egyptian kings and the Hittites at a date earlier than the Exodus (ibid., pp. 291, 310). Benhadad evidently regards the sending of a letter to a neighboring monarch as a natural and ordinary occurrence. And he - i.e. Naaman - departed, and took with him ten talents of silver - reckoned by Keil as equal to 25,000 thalers, or £3750; by Thenius as equal to 20,000 thalers, or £3000 - and six thousand pieces of gold. "Pieces of gold" did not yet exist, since coin had not been invented. Six thousand shekels' weight of gold is probably intended. This would equal, according to Keil, 50,000 thalers (£7500); according to Thenius, 60,000 thalers (£9000). Such sums are quite within the probable means of a rich Syrian nobleman of the time, a favorite at court, and the generalissimo of the Syrian army. Naaman evidently supposed that he would have, directly or indirectly, to purchase his cure. And ten changes of raiment (comp. Genesis 45:22; Hom., 'Od.,' 13:67; Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 8:2. § 8; ' Anab.,' 1:2. § 29; etc.). The practice of giving dresses of honor as presents continues in the East to this day.
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.
Verse 6. - And he brought the letter to the King of Israel, saying. The hostile relations between Syria and Israel would not interfere with the coming and going of a messenger from either king to the other, who would be invested with an ambassadorial character. Now when this letter is come unto thee. We must not suppose that we have here the whole letter, which, no doubt, began with the customary Eastern formalities and elaborate compliments. The historian omits these, and hastens to, communicate to us the main point of the epistle, or rather, perhaps, its main drift, which he states somewhat baldly and bluntly. Behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him - literally, and thou shalt recover him - of his leprosy. The letter made no mention of Elisha. Ben-hadad assumed that, if the King of Israel had in his dominions a person able to cure leprosy, he would be fully cognizant of the fact, and would at once send for him, and call upon him for an exertion of his gift or art. He is not likely to have comprehended the relations in which Kings of Israel stood towards the Jehovistic prophets, but may probably have thought of Elisha "as a sort of chief magus, or as the Israelitish high priest" (Menken), whom the king would have at his beck and call, and whose services would be completely at his disposal.
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.
Verse 7. - And it came to pass, when the King of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes. In horror and alarm (comp. 2 Samuel 13:19; 2 Chronicles 34:27; Ezra 9:3; Jeremiah 36:24). He concluded that once more (see 1 Kings 20:7) the Syrian monarch was determined to find a ground of quarrel, and had therefore sent to him an impossible request. And said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive? To "kill" and to "make alive" were familiar expressions in the mouth of the Israelites to designate omnipotence (see Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6). Recovering from leprosy was equivalent to making alive, for a leprous person was "as one dead" (Numbers 12:12) according to Hebrew notions. That this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy. The king evidently does not bethink himself of Elisha, of whose great miracle of raising the dead to life (2 Kings 4:35-36) he may not up to this time have heard. Elisha's early miracles were mostly wrought with a certain amount of secrecy. Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. The king misjudged Benhadad, but not without some grounds of reason, if he was ignorant of Elisha's miraculous gifts. Benhadad, when seeking a ground of quarrel with Ahab, had made extravagant requests (see 1 Kings 20:3-6).
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.
Verse 8. - And it was so - or, it came to pass - when Elisha the man of God (see 2 Kings 4:7, 16, etc.) had heard that the King of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? The king's act was public; his complaint was public; he wished his subjects to know the outrageous conduct, as he viewed it, of the Syrian king (comp. 1 Kings 20:7, where Ahab similarly calls attention to the strait in which he is placed). Thus the rumor went through the town, and reached the ears of the prophet, who therefore sent a message to the king. Let him come now to me; i.e. let Naaman, instead of applying to thee, the earthly head of the state, the source of all human power, which is utterly unavailing in such a case, apply to me, the source of spiritual power, the commissioned minister of Jeho-yah, who alone can help him under the circumstances. And [then] he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel; i.e. he shall have swift and sure demonstration, that God "has not left himself without witness," that, "in spite of the apostasy of king and people, the God who can kill and make alive yet makes himself known in Israel in his saving might through his servants the prophets" (Bahr), of whom I am one.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
Verse 9. - So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot. The Syrians had had chariots, and used horses to draw them, from a remote date. The Hyksos, who introduced horses and chariots into Egypt, though not exactly a Syrian people, entered Egypt from Syria; and in all the Syrian wars of the Egyptians, which began about B.C. 1600, we find their adversaries employing a chariot force. In one representation of a fight between the Egyptians and a people invading Egypt from' Syria, the war-chariots of the latter are drawn by four oxen; but generally the horse was used on both sides. Syria imported her horses and chariots from Egypt (1 Kings 10:29), and, as appears from this passage, employed them for peaceful as well as for warlike purposes. There was a similar employment of them from a very early time in Egypt (see Genesis 41:43; Genesis 50:9). And stood at the door of the house of Elisha. Elisha was at this time residing in Samaria, whether in his own house or not we cannot say. His abode was probably a humble one; and when the great general, accompanied by his cavalcade of followers, drew up before it, he had, we may be sure, no intention of dismounting and entering. What he expected he tells us himself in ver. 11. The prophet regarded his pride and self-conceit as deserving of a rebuke.
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.
Verse 10. - And Elisha sent a messenger unto him. Elisha asserted the dignity of his office. Naaman was "a great man" (ver. 1), with a high sense of his own importance, and regarded the prophet as very much inferior to himself. He expected to be waited on, courted, to receive every possible attention. Elisha no doubt intended very pointedly to rebuke him by remaining in his house, and communicating with the great man by a messenger. But there is no ground for taxing him with "priestly pride," or even with "impoliteness" on this account. He had to impress upon the Syrian noble the nothingness of wealth and earthly grandeur, and the dignity of the prophetic office. He did not do more than was requisite for these purposes. Saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times. Elisha speaks no doubt, "by the word of the Lord." He is directed to require of Naaman a compliance with a somewhat burdensome order. The nearest point on the course of Jordan was above twenty miles distant from Samaria. Naaman is to go thither, to strip himself, and to plunge into the stream seven times. The directions seem given to test his faith. They may be compared with that of our Lord to the blind man, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam," and, in another point of view, with that given to Joshua (Joshua 6:3-5), and that of Elijah to his servant (1 Kings 18:43). To repeat a formal act six times with- out perceiving any result, and yet to persevere and repeat it a seventh time, requires a degree of faith and trust that men do not often possess. And thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. The scaly leprous scurf shall fall off and reveal clean flesh underneath. Thy body shall be manifestly freed from all defilement.
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.
Verse 11. - But Naaman was wroth... and said. Not unnaturally. As a "great man," the lord on whose arm the king leant, and the captain of the host of Syria, Naaman was accustomed to extreme deference, and all the outward tokens of respect and reverence. He had, moreover, come with a goodly train, carrying gold and silver and rich stuffs, manifestly prepared to pay largely for whatever benefit he might receive. To be curtly told, "Go, wash in Jordan," by the prophet's servant, without the prophet himself condescending to make himself visible, would have been trying to any Oriental's temper, and to one of Naaman's rank and position might well seem an insult. The Syrian general had pictured to himself a very different scene. 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; rather, take away the leprosy (ἀποσυνάξει τὸ λεπρόν, LXX.). Naaman had imagined a striking scene, whereof he was to be the central figure, the prophet descending, with perhaps a wand of office, the attendants drawn up on either side, the passers-by standing to gaze - a solemn invocation of the Deity, a waving to and fro of the wand in the prophet's hand, and a sudden manifest cure, wrought in the open street of the city, before the eyes of men, and at once noised abroad through the capital, so as to make him "the observed of all observers, the cynosure of all neighboring eyes." Instead of this, he is bidden to go as he came, to ride twenty miles to the stream of the Jordan, generally muddy, or at least discolored, and there to wash himself, with none to look on but his own attendants, with no eclat, no pomp or circumstance, no glory of surroundings. It is not surprising that he was disappointed and vexed.
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.
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.
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?
Verse 13. - And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father. Naaman's attendants did not share his indignation, or, if they did, since servants in the East are apt to be jealous of their masters' honor, had their feelings more under control; and they therefore inter-feted with mild words, anxious to pacify him, and persuade him to follow the prophet's advice. "My father" is a deferential and, at the same time, an affectionate address, not unnatural in the mouth of a confidential servant (comp. 2 Kings 2:12). There is thus no need of any alteration of the text, such as Ewald (לו for אָבִי) or Thenius (אִם for אָבִי) proposes. It must be admitted, however, that the LXX. seem to have had לו in their copies. If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing - "had set thee," i.e., "some difficult task" - wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, [shouldest thou perform his behest] when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? The reasoning was unanswerable, and took effect. Naaman was persuaded.
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.
Verse 14. - Then went he down; i.e. descended into the deep Jordan valley from the highland of Samaria - a descent of above a thousand feet. The nearest route would involve a journey of about twenty-five miles. And dipped himself seven times in Jordan - i.e. followed exactly the prophet's directions in ver. 10 - according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child - literally, of a little lad - and he was clean. Not only was the leprosy removed, but the flesh was more soft and tender than that of a grown man commonly is. It was like the flesh of a boy.
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.
Verse 15. - And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company. It is not always seen what this involved. It involved going out of his way at least fifty miles. At the Jordan, Naaman was on his way home, had accomplished a fourth part of his return journey; in three more days he would be in Damascus, in his own palace. But he feels that it would be an unworthy act to accept his cure and make no acknowledgment of it, having turned away from the prophet "in a rage" (ver. 12), now, without apology, or retraction, or expression of regret or gratitude, to return into his own country under the obligation of an inestimable benefit. His cure has wrought in him, not merely a revulsion of feeling from rage and fury to thankfulness, but a change of belief. It has convinced him that the God of Elisha is the God of the whole earth. It has turned him from a worshipper of Rimmon into a worshipper of Jehovah. He must proclaim this. He must let the prophet know what is in his heart. He must, if possible, induce him to accept a recompense. Therefore he thinks nothing of an outlay of time and trouble, but retraces his steps to the Israelite capital, taking with him all his company, his horses and his chariots, his gold and silver and bales of clothing, and numerous train of attendants. And came, and stood before him; i.e. descended from his chariot, and asked admittance into the prophet's house, and was received and allowed an audience - a striking contrast with his previous appearance before the house, in expectation that the prophet would come down and wait upon him. And he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel. This is an acknowledgment of the sole supremacy of Jehovah on the part of a heathen, such as we scarcely find elsewhere. The general belief of the time, and indeed of antiquity, was that every land had its own god, who was supreme in it - Baal in Phoenicia, Che-mesh in Moab, Moloch in Ammon, Rimmon in Syria, Bel or Bel-Merodach in Babylon, Amun-Ra in Egypt, etc.; and when there is an acknowledgment of Jehovah on the part of heathens in Scripture, it is almost always the recognition of him as a god - the God of the Jews or of the Israelites, one among many (see Exodus 10:16, 17; 2 Kings 17:26; 2 Kings 18:33-35; 2 Chronicles 2:11; Daniel 2:47; Daniel 3:29; Daniel 6:20, etc.). But here we have a plain and distinct recognition of him as the one and only God that is in all the earth. Naaman thus shows a greater docility, a readier receptivity, than almost any of the other pious heathens who are brought before us in Scripture. Balaam and Cyrus alone equal him. Now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing - i.e. "a present" - of thy servant. Heathens were accustomed to carry presents to the oracles which they consulted, and to reward those from which they received favorable responses with gifts of enormous value (see Herod., 1:14, 50, etc.). The Jewish prophets did net generally object to such free-will offerings. Naaman therefore quite naturally and reasonably made the offer. He would have contravened usage had he not done so.
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.
Verse 16. - But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. Elisha regards it as best, under the circumstances, to refuse the offered recompense. It was not compulsory on him so to act; for the precept, "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8), had not been yet uttered. Pious Israelites commonly brought gifts to the prophets whom they consulted (1 Samuel 9:7, 8; 1 Kings 14:3). But, in the case of a foreigner, ignorant hitherto of true religion, whom it was important to impress favorably, and, if possible, win over to the faith, Elisha deemed it advisable to take no reward. Naaman was thus taught that Jehovah was his true Healer, the prophet the mere instrument, and that it was to Jehovah that his gratitude, his thanks, and his offerings were due. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. Contests of politeness are common in the East, where the one party offers to give and even insists on giving, while the other makes a pretence of declining; but here both parties were in earnest, and the gift was absolutely declined.
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.
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.
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.
Verse 18. - In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant. Naaman is not prepared to be a martyr for his religion. On returning to Damascus, it will be among his civil duties to accompany his master to the national temples, and to prostrate himself before the images of the national deities. If he declines, if (like an early Christian) he will not enter "the house of devils," much less bow down before the graven image of a false god, it may cost him his life; it will certainly cost him his court favor. For such a sacrifice he is not prepared. Yet his conscience tells him that he will be acting wrongly. He therefore expresses a hope, or a prayer, that his fault, for a fault he feels that it will be, may be forgiven him - that Jehovah will not be "extreme to mark what is done amiss," but will excuse his outward conformity to his inward faith and zeal. That when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon. Riminon is probably derived from rum (רוּם), "to be high," and means "the exalted god," according to the gloss of He-sychins - Ράμας ὕψιστος θεός. It is wrongly connected with רִטּון, "a pomegranate," and should rather be compared with the Arabic Er Rhaman, "the Most High." The royal name, "Tab-Bitumen" (1 Kings 15:18), contains the root, as does also the local name (Zechariah 12:11), "Hadad-Rimmon." This last word gives rise to the suspicion that Hadad and Rimmon are merely two names of the same deity, who was called "Hadad" or "Hadar" as bright and glorious, "Rim-men" as lofty and exalted. To worship there, and he leaneth on my hand. Either Naaman's leprosy must have been recent, and he refers to the king's practice in former times, or there must have been far less horror of leprosy among the Syrians than there was among the Hebrews. And I bow myself in the house of Rimmon - before the image, or at any rate before the supposed presence of the god - when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. The repetition of the clause indicates Naaman's anxiety on the subject.
And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.
Verse 19. - And he said unto him; Go in peace. Elisha declared neither that God would nor that he would net forgive Naaman his departure from the path of strict right. He was not called upon to give an answer, since Naaman had not put a question, but had only expressed a wish. His Go in peace is to be taken simply as "wishing the departing Syrian the peace of God upon the road." So Keil, rightly. So he departed from him a little way. Naaman left the presence of Elisha, quitted Samaria, and had gone a short way on his homeward journey when Gehazi overtook him. Ver. 19 is closely connected with ver. 20.
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.
Verse 20. - But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said (see 2 Kings 4:12-36 for the position held towards Elisha by Gehazi), Behold, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian. Gehazi either honestly thinks, or at least persuades himself, that a Syrian ought to be, not spared, but spoiled, as being a foreigner and an enemy. In not receiving at his hands that which he brought (see ver. 5). Gehazi may not have known how much it was, but he had seen the laden animals, and rightly concluded that the value was great. But, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. "As the Lord liveth" seems a strange phrase in the mouth of one who is bent on lying and on stealing. But experience teaches us that religious formulae do drop from the lips of persons engaged in equally indefensible proceedings. This is partly because formulae by frequent use become mere forms, to which the utterer attaches no meaning; partly because men blind themselves to the wrongfulness of their actions, and find some excuse or other for any course of conduct by which they hope to profit.
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?
Verse 21. - So Gehazi followed after Naaman. A company of travelers in the East, even though it consist of the retinue of a single great man, will always contain footmen, as well as those who ride on horses or in chariots, and will not travel at a faster pace than about three miles an hour. Thus Gehazi, if he went at his best speed, could expect to overtake, and did actually overtake, the cavalcade of Naaman. He probably overtook them at a very short distance from Samaria. And when Naaman saw him running after him. Gehazi was pressed for time. He could not start at once, lest he should make it too plain that he was going m pursuit of Naaman; and he could not absent himself from the house too long, lest his master should call for him. He had, therefore, at whatever loss of dignity, to hurry himself, and actually "run after" the Syrian. Naaman, either accidentally looking back, or warned by some of his train, sees him, recognizes him, and is only too glad to respond to his wishes. He lighted down from the chariot to meet him. An act of great condescension. As Bahr notes, "Descent from a vehicle is, in the East, a sign of respect from the inferior to the superior;" and Naaman, in lighting down from his chariot, must have intended to "honor the prophet in his servant" ('Commentary on Kings,' vol. 2. p. 55). But such honor is not commonly paid, and thus the act of Naaman was abnormal. And said, Is all well? The words admit of no better translation. Seeing Gehazi's haste and anxious looks, Naaman suspects that all is not well, that something has happened since he left the prophet's house, and accordingly puts his question, אךנמו תנעס ךנךתשׂךרּ ־ הֲשָׁלום? (Vulgate).
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.
Verse 22. - And he said, All is well. Gehazi's reply was, "All is well." There has been no accident, no calamity - only a casual circumstance has caused a change in my master's wishes, which I am sent thus hurriedly to communicate to thee. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now (i.e. just at this time) there be come to me from Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. The details are added to give a greater air of truthfulness to the story. Give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments; i.e. a change apiece, and a talent between them - rather a large sum in respect of the pretended occasion, but a trifle compared with the amount which Naaman had expected to expend (ver. 5), and probably very much less than he had recently pressed upon the prophet (ver. 16). Gehazi had to balance between his own greed on the one hand, and the fear of raising suspicion on the other. His story was altogether most plausible, and his demand prudently moderate.
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.
Verse 23. - And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents; rather, consent, take two talents. Do not oppose thyself to my wishes - consent to receive double what thou hast asked. Naaman is anxious to show his gratitude by giving as much as he can induce the ether side to accept. He suggests two talents, probably because the strangers who are said to have arrived are two. And he urged him. Gehazi must have made some show of declining the offer. And bound two talents of silver in two bags - i.e. put up two talents separately in two bags, closing the month Of the bag in each case by "binding" it round with a string - with two changes of garments - as asked for (ver. 22) - and laid them upon two of his servants. If the Hebrew silver talent was worth £375 as Keil supposes, or even £300 as Thenius reckons, it would be pretty well as much as an ordinary slave could carry, being somewhat over a hundredweight. And they bare them before him; i.e. they - the servants - bare the two sacks of money before him - 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.
Verse 24. - And when he came to the tower; rather, to the hill (Revised Version). Some well-known eminence at a little distance from the Damascus gate of Samaria must be intended. Here Gehazi stopped the slaves, and took the money from them. It was important for his purpose that they should not be seen re-entering the city, as that would have occasioned remark, and might naturally have led to inquiry. He took them - i.e., the bags - from their hand - i.e. from the hands of Naaman's servants - and bestowed them in the house; i.e. by himself or deputy brought them to Elisha's house, and there hid them away. And he let the men - Naaman's servants - go, and they departed. They hastened, no doubt, to rejoin their 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.
Verse 25. - But he went in, and stood before his master. Gehazi, lest his absence should be noticed, as soon as he had put away the money, sought his master's presence, entering the room casually, as if he had been busied about the house. He was met at once, however, by the plain and stern question which follows. And Elisha said unto him; Whence comest thou, Gehazi? literally, Whence, Gehazi? A short, stem, abrupt question. And he said, Thy servant went no whither. There was no help for it. One lie necessitates another. Once enter on the devious path, and you cannot say whither it will conduct you. To deceive and plunder a foreigner of a hostile nation probably seemed to Gehazi a trifle, either no sin at all, or a very venial sin. But now he finds himself led on to telling a direct lie to his master, which even he could not have justified to himself.
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?
Verse 26. - And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee? There is no "with thee" in the original; and the words have been taken in quite a different sense. Ewald regards לבִּי, "my heart," as designating Gehazi, and meaning "my loved one, my favorite disciple." "Thou hast denied that thou wentest any whither; but did not my favorite disciple in truth go forth, when the man turned again from his chariot, as Naaman did?" (ver. 21). But no parallel instance can be adduced of any such use of לִבִּי, which is altogether too strong a term to be applied to a mere favorite servant. The irony, moreover, of the term under the circumstances would be too great. Maurer's interpretation of לִבִּי by "my prophetic power" (my prophetic power had not departed from me) is no better, since it requires חָֹלַך to be taken in two different senses in the two most closely connected clauses of vers. 25 and 26. Altogether, our version would seem to be the best rendering that has been suggested. It accords with the Septuagint, with Theodoret, and with the Vulgate; and it gives a satisfactory sense: "Did not my spirit go forth with thee when thou wentest forth, etc.? Was I not present in spirit during the whole transaction?" When the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? (see ver. 21). Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The prophet follows Gehazi's thoughts, which had been to purchase, with the money obtained from Naaman, olive yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, etc.; and asks - Was this a time for such proceedings? Keil well explains, "Was this the time, when so many hypocrites pretend to be prophets from selfishness and avarice, and bring the prophetic office into contempt with unbelievers, for a servant of the true God to take money and goods from a non-Israelite... that he might acquire property and luxury for himself?" It was evidently a most unfit time. As Thenius says, "In any other case better than in this mightest thou have yielded to thy desire for gold and goods."
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.
Verse 27. - The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee; i.e. "As thou hast taken his goods, thou shalt also take his leprosy, which goes with them." A just Nemesis. And unto thy seed forever. The iniquity of the fathers is visited upon the children. Gehazi, however, could avoid this part of the curse by not marrying. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow. There were many forms and degrees of leprosy (Leviticus 13:2-46). Gehazi's was of the most pronounced kind, And it fell on him suddenly, as her leprosy fell upon Miriam (Numbers 12:10), complete at once, so that there could he no further aggravation of it. The lesson should be taken to heart, and should be a warning to us, both against lying and against covetousness.