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This chapter gives an account of the leprosy of Naaman the Syrian, and of the cure of it by Elisha; how he came to hear of him, and the recommendation he had from the king of Syria to the king of Israel, ( <120501> Kings 5:1-8), who, coming to Elisha’s house, was ordered to dip himself seven times in Jordan, which made him depart in wrath; but one of his servants persuaded him to do it, and he did, and was cured, ( 2 Kings 5:9-14), upon which he returned to Elisha, and offered him a present, which he refused, ( 2 Kings 5:15-19) but Gehazi, his servant, ran after him with a lie in his mouth, and obtained it, and returned to his master with another, for which he was smitten with the leprosy of Naaman, ( 2 Kings 5:20-27).
Ver. 1 . Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria , etc.] The general of Benhadad’s army; for he was now king of Syria, though some think Hazael his successor was: was a great man with his master ; high in his favour and esteem: and honourable ; not only acceptable to the king, and loaded with honours by him, but greatly respected by all ranks and degrees among the people: because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria ; out of the hands of their enemies, and victory over them, and particularly in the last battle with Israel, in which Ahab was slain, and, as the Jews suppose, by the hands of Naaman, (see Gill on “ 1 Kings 22:34”) however, when any salvation was wrought, or victory obtained, even by Heathens, and by them over Israel, the people of God, it was of the Lord: he was also a mighty man in valour ; a very courageous valiant man: but he was a leper ; was stricken with the leprosy, which had deformed and disgraced his person, and weakened his strength, and dispirited him; all his grandeur and honour could not protect him from this loathsome disease.
Ver. 2 . And the Syrians had gone out by companies , etc.] Not regular troops, but a sort of banditti of robbers, which made excursions into the land of Israel, to plunder and carry off what booty they could: and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid ; for boys and girls were a part of the booty of such robbers, whom they could sell for money, (see Joel 3:1). Jarchi and Kimchi say she was a girl of Naaron, a city so called: and she waited on Naaman’s wife ; being either made a present of to the general by those plunderers, or was bought by him of them for his wife’s service.
Ver. 3 . And she said unto her mistress , etc.] As she was waiting upon her at a certain time, and perhaps her mistress was lamenting the case of her husband as desperate and incurable: would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria ; meaning Elisha, who, though sometimes in one place, and sometimes in another, yet often at Samaria, and it seems was there when this girl was taken captive: for he would recover him of his leprosy ; the maid had heard of the miracles wrought by Elisha, and doubted not that at the request of her lord he would be willing, as she believed he was able, to cure him of this disease.
Ver. 4 . And one went in and told his lord , etc.] What the girl had said to her mistress; one of the servants of the house that overheard it; or rather, Naaman went and told his lord the king of Syria; for as this was said to his wife, no doubt she told it to her husband, and not a servant; and the following words require this sense, and is the sense of most Jewish commentators: saying, thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel ; who for her wit and beauty might be well known at court by the name of the Israelitish girl.
Ver. 5 . And the king of Syria said, go to, go , etc.] On what Naaman related to him from what the maid had said, he urged him by all means to go directly to Samaria: and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel ; recommending him to use his interest in his behalf; this was Jehoram the son of Ahab: and he departed ; set out on his journey immediately, as soon as he could conveniently: and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold ; partly for the expenses of his journey, and partly to make presents to the king of Israel’s servants, and especially to the prophet; a talent of silver, according to Brerewood f54 , was three hundred and seventy five pounds of our money; but, according to Bishop Cumberland’s exact calculation, it was three hundred and fifty and three pounds eleven shillings and ten and an half pence the pieces of gold are, by the Targum, called golden pence, and a golden penny, according to the first of the above writers f56 , was of the value of our money fifteen shillings; so that these amounted to pounds sterling: and ten changes of raiment ; both for his own use, and presents.
Ver. 6 . And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying , etc.] The contents of which were, so far as it concerned Naaman and his case, which are only observed, these: now when this letter is come unto thee ; was received by him: behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant unto thee ; the bearer of it: that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy ; meaning not he himself, but that he would recommend him to the care of a proper person, his prophet, and enjoin him to do the best he could for him; but the king of Israel mistook his meaning, as appears by what follows.
Ver. 7 . And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes , etc.] As one in great distress, being thrown into perplexity of mind by it, not knowing what to do; or, as some think, at the blasphemy he supposed to be in it, requiring that of him which only God could do: and said, am I God, to kill and to make alive ; or have the power of life and death, which only belongs to the Supreme Being: that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy ; for a leper was reckoned as one dead, his disease incurable, his flesh upon him being mortified by it, (see Numbers 12:12) and therefore not supposed to be in the power of man, only of God, to cure; and therefore, in Israel, none had anything to do with the leper but the priest, in the name of God: wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me ; to pick a quarrel with him, in order to go to war with him as he supposed. This seems to have been spoken to his lords and courtiers about him.
Ver. 8 . And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes , etc.] And upon what account: that he sent to the king, saying, wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes ? and thereby expressed so much concern and distress: let him come now to me : meaning Naaman the Syrian leper: and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel ; able in the name of the Lord to work miracles, which he should be sensible of and acknowledge, to the glory of the God of Israel, by the cure that should be wrought upon him; and hereby he taxed the king of Israel with ignorance or neglect of him as a prophet.
Ver. 9 . So Naaman came with his horses, and with his chariot , etc.] In his chariot drawn by horses; or “with horsemen and chariots”, a great retinue, both for his own grandeur, and for the honour of the prophet, and to make him the more respectable by him: and stood at the door of the house of Elisha ; who now dwelt at Gilgal, as is probable, (see 2 Kings 4:38), hither Naaman was directed, and here he stopped; and having sent a messenger to Elisha to acquaint him who he was, and what was his business, he stayed waiting for an answer.
Ver. 10 . And Elisha sent a messenger unto him , etc.] Or returned an answer by Naaman’s messenger; he did not go out to him, choosing to be retired, as he commonly did; and being perhaps employed in prayer for the cure; and it may be also to show his contempt of or little regard he had to worldly grandeur and honour, as well as to mortify the pride of Naaman: saying, go and wash in Jordan seven times ; so, according to the law of the cleansing the leper, he was to be sprinkled seven times, and on the seventh day his flesh was to be bathed or dipped all over in water, which is meant by washing here, ( Leviticus 14:7,9) and thy flesh shall come again to thee ; which was eaten and consumed by the disease on him: and thou shalt be clean ; freed from this pollution, or filthy disease, with which he was defiled; for a leper was reckoned unclean, ( Leviticus 13:3).
Ver. 11 . But Naaman was wroth with him , etc.] On more accounts than one: and went away ; not to Jordan, but from the prophet’s house, with an intention to return to his own country: behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me this he said within himself, making no doubt of it but that he would show him so much respect and civility as to come out of his house to him, and converse with him, or invite him into it and not doing this was one thing made him wroth: and stand; he supposed that he would not only come out, but stand before him, as inferiors before their superiors in reverence, but instead of that he remained sitting within doors: and call on the name of the Lord his God : he expected, that as he was a prophet of the Lord, that he would have prayed to him for the cure of him: and strike his hand over the place ; wave his hand to and fro, as the word signifies, over the place of the leprosy, as the Targum, over the place affected with it; or towards the place where he worshipped the Lord, as Ben Gersom, toward the temple at Jerusalem; or towards Jordan, the place where he bid him go and wash, as Abarbinel; but the first sense seems best: “and recover the leper”; meaning himself, heal him by the use of such means and rites.
Ver. 12 . Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ? etc.] Abana is, in the marginal reading, called Amana, and so the Targum; perhaps from the Mount Amana, from whence it sprung, a mountain in Syria f57 , mentioned with Lebanon, ( Song of Solomon 4:8). This river is thought to be the Chrysorrhoas of Pliny f58 , and other writers; there are no traces of its name, or of the following, to be met with now; the only river by Damascus is called Barrady, which supplies Damascus and its gardens, and makes them so fruitful and pleasant as they be; it pours down from the mountains, as Mr. Maundrell describes it, and is divided into three streams, of which the middlemost and biggest runs directly to Damascus, through a large field, called the field of Damascus; and the other two are drawn round, the one to the right hand, and the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens. Pharpar is thought to be the river Orontes, which runs close to the walls of Antioch, and courses through its large and spacious plain, being numbered among the rivers of Syria; it takes its rise from Lebanon, and, sliding through the said plain, falls into the Syrian sea. Benjamin of Tudela speaks of these rivers under their Scripture names; Abana or Amana as he says, passes through the city and supplies the houses of great men with water through wooden pipes; and Pharpar is without the city and runs among the gardens and orchards, and waters them. Farfar is also the name of a river in Italy f62 : may I not wash in them, and be clean ? as well as in Jordan; or rather, since they are better waters, and so not have been at this trouble and expense to come hither; or have I not washed in them every day? I have, and am I clean? I am not; which is the sense the several Jewish writers give f63 : so he turned, and went away in a rage ; in a great passion, swearing and cursing perhaps, ordering his chariot driver to turn and be gone at once.
Ver. 13 . And his servant came near, and spake unto him, and said, my father , etc.] Or my lord, as the Targum; this being not a familiar and affectionate expression, but a term of honour, reverence, and submission: if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it ? something that was hard and difficult to done, or painful to bear, to go through some severe operation, or disagreeable course of physic: how much rather then when he saith to thee, wash, and be clean ? which is so easy to be done; though Abarbinel observes it may be interpreted, the prophet has bid thee do a great thing, and which is wonderful; for though he has said, wash and be clean, consider it a great thing, and which is a wonderful mystery, and therefore do not despise his cure.
Ver. 14 . Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God , etc.] He listened to the reasoning of his servant, and his passion subsided, and did as the prophet ordered him: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child ; clear and fresh, soft and tender as an infant, quite new flesh: and he was clean ; from the leprosy, and all the filthy symptoms of it.
Ver. 15 . And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company , etc.] To give him thanks for the advice he had given him, and by him to give thanks to God for the cure he had received; for he was sensible it was from the Lord, his words show: and came and stood before him ; for being admitted into the prophet’s house, instead of the prophet standing before him, as he before expected, he now stood before the prophet in veneration of him, and sensible of his obligation to him: behold, now I know there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel ; though he did not before, but his cure fully convinced him of it: I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant ; not a wish of health and happiness, which the prophet would not have refused, but a present; the Targum calls it an offering.
Ver. 16 . But he said, as the Lord liveth, before whom I stand , etc.] Whose minister and prophet he was, and by whom he swears: I will receive none : to let him know that this cure was not to be attributed to him, but the Lord only; and that what concern he had in it was not for the sake of money, but for the glory of the God of Israel: and he urged him to take it, but he refused it ; Naaman was very pressing upon him to receive a gift from him, but he could not be prevailed upon to accept it.
Ver. 17 . And Naaman said, shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth . etc.] Not that he desired of Elisha that he would suffer his servant Gehazi to receive a present as much as two mules could carry; but inasmuch as the prophet refused a present from him, his servant, he asks a favour of him, that he would permit him to take with him, out of the land of Israel, as much earth two mules could carry, that is, to make an altar of earth, as the next words indicate: but as he might have this any where without the prophet’s leave, some Jewish writers think he requested it from his own house, and from the place his feet trod on, as conceiving in a superstitious way that there was a sort of holiness in it; or however, that wheresoever he had it, if with the prophet’s leave, a blessing would go with it, or that would be a sort of a consecration of it; and having an altar made of the earth of this land, would show that he was in the faith of the same God, and performed the same worship to him Israel did: for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord : hence the Jews say, he became a proselyte of righteousness f65 , embraced the true religion, and the worship of the true God, according to the laws given to Israel; and the following words, rightly understood, confirm the same.
Ver. 18 . In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant , etc.] Which he next mentions, and on account of which he desires the prayers of Elisha for him, as the Vulgate Latin version; or it may be, this is a prayer of his own, put up at this time to the true Jehovah, in whom he believed: that when my master : meaning the king of Syria: 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 ; the house of Rimmon was a temple of an idol of that name; what idol it was is not easy to say; the Septuagint version calls it Remman, thought by some to be the same with Remphan, ( Acts 7:43), a name of Saturn, said to be given him from a Greek word, which signifies to “wander” f66 , he being placed among the wandering stars in the supreme heavens; which is not likely, for the word is certainly of a Syriac signification, and comes either from µ wr , which signifies “high”, and so the same with Elioun, the Phoenician deity, called the most high f67 ; or, as “Rimmon” is used for a pomegranate, this is thought to design the Syrian goddess, to whom this sort of fruit was sacred; or Juno, whose statue, in her temple at Mycenas f68 , had a pomegranate in one hand; or rather this Rimmon was Jupiter Cassius, so called from Mount Cassius, which divided Syria from Egypt, who is painted with his hand stretched out, and a pomegranate in it f69 ; and may be the same with Caphtor, the father of the Caphtorim, ( Genesis 10:14) who might be deified after his death, their names, Rimmon and Caphtor, being of the same signification f70 . But be this deity as it may, it was worshipped by the Syrians; and when the king of Syria went in to worship, he used to lean upon the hand of one of his officers, either being lame, or for state sake, in which office Naaman was; and his request to the prophet, or to the Lord, is, not for pardon for a sin to be committed; nor to be indulged in his continuance of it; not to worship the idol along with his master; nor to dissemble the worship of it, when he really worshipped it not; nor to be excused any evil in the discharge of his post and office; but for the pardon of the sin of idolatry he had been guilty of, of which he was truly sensible, now sincerely acknowledges, and desires forgiveness of; and so Dr. Lightfoot f71 , and some others f72 , interpret it; and to this sense the words may be rendered, when my master went in to the house of Rimmon to worship there ; which was his usual custom; and he leaned on my hand, which was the common form in which he was introduced into it: and I worshipped in the house of Rimmon , as his master did, for the same word is used here as before; in as much, or seeing I have worshipped in the house of Rimmon , have been guilty of such gross idolatry: the Lord, I pray, forgive thy servant in this thing ; the language of a true penitent.
Ver. 19 . And he said unto him , etc.] That is, the prophet said to Naaman: go in peace : in peace of mind; be assured that God has pardoned this and all other transgressions: so he departed from him a little way ; about a mile, as the Targum, and so other Jewish writers; of this phrase, (see Gill on “ Genesis 35:16”), some say a land’s length, that is, about one hundred and twenty feet; rather it was a thousand cubits, or half a mile.
Ver. 20 . But Gehazi the servant of Elisha the man of God said , etc.] Within himself, observing what had passed: behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought : he speaks contemptibly of Naaman, as an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and reproaches his master for letting him go free, without paying for his cure; when he thought he should have taken what he brought and offered, and given it to needy Israelites, and especially to the sons of the prophets, that wanted it; and perhaps it mostly disturbed him, that he had no share of it himself: but, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him ; the word for “somewhat”, wanting a letter usually in it, is what is sometimes used for a blot; and Jarchi observes, that Gehazi taking something from Naaman, was a blot unto him, and indeed such an one that he could not wipe off.
Ver. 21 . So Gehazi followed after Naaman , etc.] As fast as he could: and when Naaman saw him running after him ; which he might observe, looking back, or be informed of by some of his servants: he lighted down from the chariot to meet him ; in honour to the prophet, whose servant he was: and said, is all well ? fearing something ill had befallen Elisha; or he himself had done something wrong, which occasioned the servant to run after him.
Ver. 22 . And he said, all is well , etc.] He need give himself no uneasiness at the coming and sight of him: my master hath sent me, saying, behold, even now there be come to me ; just then, since he departed from him: from Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets : where perhaps was a school of them: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments : which, as it was a downright lie, so highly improbable that Elisha should ask so large a sum of money, with two changes of raiment, for two young scholars, (see 2 Kings 5:5) and which Naaman, with a little reflection, might have seen through; but his heart was so filled with gratitude for the benefit received, that he was glad of an opportunity, at any rate, of showing respect to the prophet.
Ver. 23 . And Naaman said, be content , etc.] Or be pleased; do not object to it: take two talents : a talent for each young man, which amounted to between three hundred and four hundred pounds apiece: and he urged ; pressed him hard, insisted upon his taking them, who might pretend a great deal of modesty, and a strict regard to his master’s orders: and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments ; for each young man: and laid them upon two of his servants , the servants of Naaman, not choosing to burden Elisha’s servant with them; for such a quantity of money and clothes was pretty heavy: and they bare [them] before him ; both for his ease, and for his honour.
Ver. 24 . And when he came to the tower , etc.] Of Samaria, or which was near it; a fortified place, and where was a watch, to whom he could safely commit the money and clothes: he took them from their hand ; not willing they should go any further with him, lest the affair should be discovered to his master: and bestowed [them] in the house ; deposited them there in the hands of some person whom he could trust; or laid them out, or ordered them to be laid out, in the purchase of houses, lands, vineyards, etc. (see 2 Kings 5:26) and he let the men go, and they departed ; to their master.
Ver. 25 . But he went in, and stood before his master , etc.] To know his will, and minister to him, as he had used to do, and as if he had never been from the house: and Elisha said unto him, whence comest thou, Gehazi ? where had he been, and where was he last? and he said, thy servant went no whither ; he pretended he had never been out of doors, which was another impudent lie; one would have thought that he who had lived so long with the prophet, and had seen the miracles wrought by him, and knew with what a spirit of prophecy he was endowed, would never have ventured to tell such an untruth, since he might expect to be detected; but covetousness had blinded his eyes and hardened his heart.
Ver. 26 . And he said unto him, went not mine heart with thee ? etc.] Did my heart or knowledge go from me, that what thou hast done should be hid from me? so Ben Gersom and others; or my heart did not go with thee, it was contrary to my mind and will what thou didst; so Abendana; or rather, as the Targum, by a spirit of prophecy it was shown unto me, etc. I knew full well what thou wentest for, and hast done; and so Maimonides f73 ; was not I employed in my thoughts? or, did I not think that so it was as thou hast done? I did: when the man turned again from chariot to meet thee ? meaning Naaman the Syrian: is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments : as Gehazi had now done: and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants ? that is, to purchase those with the two talents of silver he had received, as he thought in his heart, or intended to do, as the Targum; or had given orders to purchase such for him to the persons to whom he had committed the care of them in the tower; this was not a proper time, when the honour of the prophet, and the credit of religion, and the good of this man, as a new proselyte, were in danger thereby.
Ver. 27 . The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever , etc.] As long as any of his race remained; as through his covetousness he had his money, so for his punishment he should have his disease: and he went out from his presence ; as one ashamed and confounded, and discharged from his master’s service: a leper [as white] as snow ; a leprosy of which colour is the worst, and is incurable.