2 Kings 5


The history of Naaman, captain of the host of the king of

Syria, a leper; who was informed by a little Israelitish

captive maid that a prophet of the Lord, in Samaria, could

cure him, 1-4.

The king of Syria sends him, with a letter and rich presents,

to the king of Israel, that he should recover him of his

leprosy, 5, 6.

On receiving the letter, the king of Israel is greatly

distressed, supposing that the Syrian king designed to seek a

quarrel with him; in desiring him to cleanse a leper, when it

was well known that none could cure that disorder but God, 7.

Elisha, hearing this, orders Naaman to be sent to him, 8.

He comes to Elisha's house in great state, 9.

And the prophet sends a messenger to him, ordering him to wash

in Jordan seven times, and he should be made clean, 10.

Naaman is displeased that he is received with so little

ceremony, and departs in a rage, 11, 12.

His servants reason with him; he is persuaded, goes to Jordan,

washes, and is made clean, 13, 14.

He returns to Elisha; acknowledges the true God; and offers

him a present, which the prophet refuses, 15, 16.

He asks directions, promises never to sacrifice to any other

god, and is dismissed, 17-19.

Gehazi runs after him, pretends he is sent by his master for a

talent of silver and two changes of raiment; which he receives,

brings home, and hides, 20-24.

Elisha questions him; convicts him of his wickedness;

pronounces a curse of leprosy upon him, with which he is

immediately afflicted; and departs from his master a leper,

as white as snow, 25-27.


Verse 1. Naaman, captain of the host] Of Naaman we know nothing

more than is related here. Jarchi and some others say that he was

the man who drew the bow at a venture, as we term it, and slew

Ahab: see 1Ki 22:34, and the notes there. He is not mentioned by

Josephus, nor has he any reference to this history; which is

very strange, as it exists in the Chaldee, Septuagint, and Syriac.

King of Syria] The Hebrew is melech Aram, king of Aram;

which is followed by the Chaldee and Arabic. The Syriac has

[Syriac] Adom; but as the Syriac [Syriac] dolath is the same

element as the Syriac [Syriac] rish, differing only in the

position of the diacritic point, it may have been originally Aram.

The Septuagint and Vulgate have Syria, and this is a common

meaning of the term in Scripture. If the king of Syria be meant,

it must be Ben-hadad; and the contemporary king of Israel was


A great man] He was held in the highest esteem.

And honourable] Had the peculiar favour and confidence of his

master; and was promoted to the highest trusts.

Had given deliverance unto Syria] That is, as the rabbins state,

by his slaying Ahab, king of Israel; in consequence of which the

Syrians got the victory.

A mighty man in valour] He was a giant, and very strong,

according to the Arabic. He had, in a word, all the qualifications

of an able general.

But he was a leper.] Here was a heavy tax upon his grandeur; he

was afflicted with a disorder the most loathsome and the most

humiliating that could possibly disgrace a human being. God often,

in the course of his providence, permits great defects to be

associated with great eminence, that he may hide pride from man;

and cause him to think soberly of himself and his acquirements.

Verse 2. The Syrians had gone out by companies] gedudim,

troops. When one hundred or two hundred men go out by themselves

to make prey of whatever they can get, that is called, says

Jarchi, gedud, a troop. They had gone out in marauding

parties; and on such occasions they bring away grain, cattle, and

such of the inhabitants as are proper to make slaves.

A little maid] Who, it appears, had pious parents, who brought

her up in the knowledge of the true God. Behold the goodness and

the severity of the Divine providence! affectionate parents are

deprived of their promising daughter by a set of lawless

freebooters, without the smallest prospect that she should have

any lot in life but that of misery, infamy, and wo.

Waited on Naaman's wife.] Her decent orderly behaviour, the

consequence of her sober and pious education, entitled her to this

place of distinction; in which her servitude was at least easy,

and her person safe.

If God permitted the parents to be deprived of their pious child

by the hands of ruffians, he did not permit the child to be

without a guardian. In such a case, were even the father and

mother to forsake her, God would take her up.

Verse 3. Would God my lord] achaley, I wish; or, as the

Chaldee, Syrian, and Arabic have, "Happy would it be for my master

if he were with the prophet," &c.

Here the mystery of the Divine providence begins to develop

itself. By the captivity of this little maid, one Syrian family at

least, and that one of the most considerable in the Syrian empire,

is brought to the knowledge of the true God.

Verse 4. Thus and thus said the maid] So well had this little

pious maid conducted herself, that her words are credited; and

credited so fully, that an embassy from the king of Syria to the

king of Israel is founded upon them!

Verse 5. The king of Syria said] He judged it the best mode of

proceeding to send immediately to the king, under whose control he

supposed the prophet must be, that he would order the prophet to

cure his general.

Ten talents of silver] This, at 353 11s. 10 1/2d. the

talent, would amount to 3,535 18s. 9d.

Six thousand pieces of gold] If shekels are here meant, as the

Arabic has it, then the six thousand shekels, at 1 16s.

5d. will amount to 10,925; and the whole, to 14,460 18s.

9d. sterling: besides the value of the ten caftans, or changes

of raiment. This was a princely present, and shows us at once how

high Naaman stood in the esteem of his master.

Verse 7. Am I God, to kill and to make alive] He spoke thus

under the conviction that God alone could cure the leprosy; which,

indeed, was universally acknowledged: and must have been as much a

maxim among the Syrians as among the Israelites, for the disorder

was equally prevalent in both countries; and in both equally

incurable. See the notes on Leviticus 13 and 14. And it was this

that led the king of Israel to infer that the Syrian king sought a

quarrel with him, in desiring him to do a work which God only

could do; and then declaring war upon him because he did not do


Verse 8. Let him come now to me] Do not be afflicted; the matter

belongs to me, as the prophet of the Most High; send him to me,

and he shall know that I am such.

Verse 9. Came with his horses and with his chariot] In very

great pomp and state. Closely inspected, this was preposterous

enough; a leper sitting in state, and affecting it!

Verse 10. Sent a messenger] Did not come out to speak with him:

he had got his orders from God, and he transmitted them to Naaman

by his servant.

Wash in Jordan seven times] The waters of Jordan had no tendency

to remove this disorder but God chose to make them the means by

which he would convey his healing power. He who is the author of

life, health, and salvation, has a right to dispense, convey, and

maintain them, by whatsoever means he pleases.

Verse 11. Naaman was wroth] And why? Because the prophet treated

him without ceremony; and because he appointed him an expenseless

and simple mode of cure.

Behold, I thought] God's ways are not as our ways; he appoints

that mode of cure which he knows to be best. Naaman expected to be

treated with great ceremony; and instead of humbling himself

before the Lord's prophet, he expected the prophet of the Lord to

humble himself before him! Behold l thought;-and what did he

think? Hear his words, for they are all very emphatic:-1. "I

thought, He will surely come OUT to ME. He will never make his

servant the medium of communication between ME and himself. 2. And

stand-present himself before me, and stand as a servant to hear

the orders of his God. 3. And call on the name of Jehovah HIS God;

so that both his God and himself shall appear to do me service and

honour. 4. And strike his hand over the place; for can it be

supposed that any healing virtue can be conveyed without contact?

Had he done these things, then the leper might have been


Verse 12. Are not Abana and Pharpar] At present these rivers do

not exist by these names; and where they are we know not; nor

whether they were the Orontes and Chrysorroes. Mr. Maundrell, who

travelled over all this ground, could find no vestige of the names

Abana and Pharpar. The river Barrady he accurately describes: it

has its source in Antilibanus; and, after having plentifully

watered the city of Damascus and the gardens, dividing into three

branches, (one of which goes through the city, and the two others

are distributed among the gardens,) it is lost in the marshy

country about five or six leagues from Damascus. Two of these

branches were doubtless called in the time of Elisha Abana, or

Amana, as many copies have it; and Pharpar. And in the time in

which the Arabic version was made, one of these branches were

called [Arabic] Barda and Toura, for these are the names by which

this version translates those of the text.

May I not wash in them, and be clean?] No, for God has directed

thee to Jordan! and by its waters, or none, shalt thou be

cleansed. Abana and Pharpar may be as good as Jordan; and in

respect to thy cleansing, the simple difference is, God will

convey his influence by the latter, and not by the former.

There is often contention among the people of Bengal and other

places, concerning the superior efficacy of rivers; though the

Ganges bears the bell in Bengal, as the Thames does in England,

and the Nile in Egypt.

Verse 13. My father] A title of the highest respect and


Had bid thee do some great thing] If the prophet had appointed

thee to do something very difficult in itself, and very expensive

to thee, wouldst thou not have done it? With much greater reason

shouldst thou do what will occupy little time, be no expense, and

is easy to be performed.

Verse 14. Then went he down] He felt the force of this

reasoning, and made a trial, probably expecting little success.

Like unto the flesh of a little child] The loathsome scurf was

now entirely removed; his flesh assumed the appearance and health

of youth; and the whole mass of his blood, and other juices,

became purified, refined, and exalted! How mighty is God! What

great things can he do by the simplest and feeblest of means!

Verse 15. He returned to the man of God] He saw that the hand of

the Lord was upon him; he felt gratitude for his cleansing; and

came back to acknowledge, in the most public way, his obligation

to God and his servant.

Stood before him] He was now truly humbled, and left all his

state behind him. It is often the case that those who have least

to value themselves on are proud and haughty; whereas the most

excellent of the earth are the most humble, knowing that they have

nothing but what they have received. Naaman, the leper, was more

proud and dictatorial than he was when cleansed of his leprosy.

There is no God in all the earth] Those termed gods are no gods;

the God of Israel is sole God in all the earth. See my sermon on

this subject.

Take a blessing] Accept a present. Take an expiatory

gift.-Arabic. He desired to offer something for his cleansing. He

thought it right thus to acknowledge the hand from which he had

received his healing, and thus honour the Lord by giving something

to his servant.

Verse 16. I will receive none.] It was very common to give

presents to all great and official men; and among these, prophets

were always included: but as it might have appeared to the Syrians

that he had taken the offered presents as a remuneration for the

cure performed, he refused; for as God alone did the work, he

alone should have all the glory.

Verse 17. Shall there not then, I pray thee] This verse is

understood two different ways. I will give them both in a


1. Shall there not then be given unto thy servant [viz., Naaman]

two mules' burden of this Israelitish earth, that I may build an

altar with it, on which I may offer sacrifices to the God of

Israel? For thy servant, &c.

2. Shall there not be given to thy [Elisha's] servant [Gehazi]

two mules' burden of this earth? i.e., the gold and silver which

he brought with him; and which he esteemed as earth, or dust, in

comparison of the cure he received. For thy servant [Naaman] will

henceforth, &c.

Each of these interpretations has its difficulties. Why Naaman

should ask for two mules' burden of earth, which he might have

taken up any where on the confines of the land, without any such

liberty, is not easy to see. As to the prophet's permission,

though the boon was ever so small, it was not his to give; only

the king of Israel could give such a permission: and what sort of

an altar could he build with two mules' burden of earth, carried

from Samaria to Damascus? If this be really the meaning of the

place, the request was exceedingly foolish, and never could have

come from a person enjoying the right use of his reason. The

second opinion, not without its difficulties, seems less

embarrassed than the former. It was natural for Naaman to wish to

give something to the prophet's servant, as the master had refused

his present. Again, impressed with the vast importance of the cure

he had received, to take away all feeling of obligation, he might

call two or ten talents of silver by the name of earth, as well

as Habakkuk, Hab 2:6, calls silver and gold

thick clay; and by terms of this kind it has been frequently

denominated, both by prophets and heathen writers: "Tyrus heaped

up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the

streets;" Zec 9:3.

And the king made silver and gold at Jerusalem as stones;

2Ch 1:15. Which is agreeable to the sentiments of the heathen:

χρυσοςτιςκονιςεστικαιαργυρος, Gold and silver are only a

certain kind of earth.-ARIST. Eth. Nicomach.

Should it be said, The gold and silver could not be two mules'

burden; I answer, Let the quantity that Naaman brought with him be

only considered, and it will be found to be as much, when put into

two bags, as could be well lifted upon the backs of two mules, or

as those beasts could conveniently carry. The silver itself would

weigh 233lbs. 9oz. 15 1/2dwts., and the gold 1,140lbs. 7oz.

10dwts.; in the whole 1,3741bs. 5oz. 5 1/2dwts. Troy weight. Should

it be objected that, taken in this sense, there is no visible

connection between the former and latter clauses of the verse, I

answer that there is as much connection between the words taken in

this sense as in the other, for something must be brought in to

supply both; besides, this makes a more complete sense than the

other: "Shall there not, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two

mules' burden of this silver and gold, [to apply it as he may

think proper; I regard it not,] for thy servant will henceforth

offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, [for

the cure he has now received; or by way of worship at any time;]

but unto Jehovah." The reader may choose which of these

interpretations he pleases.

Verse 18. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant] It is

useless to enter into the controversy concerning this verse. By no

rule of right reasoning, nor by any legitimate mode of

interpretation, can it be stated that Naaman is asking pardon for

offenses which he may commit, or that he could ask or the prophet

grant indulgence to bow himself in the temple of Rimmon, thus

performing a decided act of homage, the very essence of that

worship which immediately before he solemnly assured the prophet he

would never practise. The original may legitimately be read, and

ought to be read, in the past, and not in the future tense. "For

this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, for that when my master

HATH GONE into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he HATH

LEANED upon mine hand, that I also HAVE BOWED myself in the house

of Rimmon; for my worshipping in the house of Rimmon, the Lord

pardon thy servant in this thing." This is the translation of Dr.

Lightfoot, the most able Hebraist of his time in Christendom.

To admit the common interpretation is to admit, in effect, the

doctrine of indulgences; and that we may do evil that good may

come of it; that the end sanctifies the means; and that for

political purposes we may do unlawful acts.

Verse 19. And he said unto him] There is a most singular and

important reading in one of De Rossi's MSS., which he numbers 191.

It has in the margin that is, "read lo, not, instead of

lo, to him." Now this reading supposes that Naaman did ask

permission from the prophet to worship in Rimmon's temple; to

which the prophet answers, No; go in peace: that is, maintain thy

holy resolutions, be a consistent worshipper of the true God, and

avoid all idolatrous practices. Another MS., No. 383, appears

first to have written to him, but to have corrected it

immediately by inserting an aleph after the vau; and

thus, instead of making it no, it has made it lu,

which is no word.

Verse 20. My master hath spared-this Syrian] He has neither

taken any thing from him for himself, nor permitted him to give

any thing to me.

Verse 21. He lighted down from the chariot] He treats even the

prophet's servant with the profoundest respect, alights from his

chariot, and goes to meet him.

Is all well?] hashalom; Is it peace, or prosperity?

Verse 22. And he said] shalom. It is peace; all is

right. This was a common mode of address and answer.

There be come to me from mount Ephraim] There was probably a

school of the prophets at this mount.

Verse 23. He-bound two talents of silver] It required two

servants to carry these two talents, for, according to the

computation above, each talent was about 120lbs. weight.

Verse 24. When he came to the tower] The Chaldee, Septuagint,

Syriac, and Arabic understand the word ophel, which we

translate tower, as signifying a secret, dark, or hiding place.

He was doing a deed of darkness, and he sought darkness to conceal

it. He no doubt put them in a place little frequented, or one to

which few had access besides himself. But the prophet's discerning

spirit found him out.

Verse 26. Went not mine heart with thee] The Chaldee gives this

a good turn: By the prophetic spirit it was shown unto me, when

the man returned from his chariot to meet thee.

Is it a time to receive money] He gave him farther proof of this

all-discerning prophetic spirit in telling him what he designed to

do with the money; he intended to set up a splendid establishment,

to have men-servants and maid-servants, to have oliveyards and

vineyards, and sheep and oxen, This, as the Chaldee says, he had

thought in his heart to do.

Verse 27. The leprosy of Naaman-shall cleave unto thee] Thou

hast got much money, and thou shalt have much to do with it. Thou

hast got Naaman's silver, and thou shalt have Naaman's leprosy.

Gehazi is not the last who has got money in an unlawful way, and

has got God's curse with it.

A leper as white as snow.] The moment the curse was pronounced,

that moment the signs of the leprosy began to appear. The white

shining spot was the sign that the infection had taken place. See

on Le 13:2, and the notes at the end of that chapter.

See Clarke on Le 13:58.

1. SOME have thought, because of the prophet's curse, The

leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and thy seed for ever,

that there are persons still alive who are this man's real

descendants, and afflicted with this horrible disease. Mr.

Maundrell when he was in Judea made diligent inquiry concerning

this, but could not ascertain the truth of the supposition. To me

it appears absurd; the denunciation took place in the posterity of

Gehazi till it should become extinct, and under the influence of

this disorder this must soon have taken place. The for ever

implies as long as any of his posterity should remain. This is the

import of the word leolam. It takes in the whole extent or

duration of the thing to which it is applied. The for ever of

Gehazi was till his posterity became extinct.

2. The god Rimmon, mentioned 2Ki 5:18, we meet with nowhere

else in the Scriptures, unless it be the same which Stephen calls

Remphan. See Ac 7:43, and the note there.

Selden thinks that Rimmon is the same with Elion, a god of the

Phoenicians, borrowed undoubtedly from the Elion, the Most

High, of the Hebrews, one of the names of the supreme God, which

attribute became a god of the Phoenicians. Hesychius has the

word ραμας Ramas, which he translates ουψιστοςθεος, the

Most High God, which agrees very well with the Hebrew Rimmon,

from ramah, to make high or exalt. And all these agree with

the sun, as being the highest or most exalted in what is called

the solar system. Some think Saturn is intended, and others Venus.

Much may be seen on this subject in Selden De Diis Syris.

3. Let us not suppose that the offence of Gehazi was too

severely punished. 1. Look at the principle, covetousness. 2.

Pride and vanity; he wished to become a great man. 3, His lying,

in order to impose on Naaman: Behold even now there be come to me,

&c. 4. He in effect sells the cure of Naaman for so much money;

for if Naaman had not been cured, could he have pretended to ask

the silver and raiment? 5. It was an act of theft; he applied that

to his own use which Naaman gave him for his master. 6. He

dishonoured his master by getting the money and raiment in his

name, who had before so solemnly refused it. 7. He closed the

whole by lying to his master, denying that he had gone after

Naaman, or that he had received any thing from him. But was it not

severe to extend the punishment of his crime to his innocent

posterity? I answer, it does not appear that any of Gehazi's

children, if he had any prior to this, were smitten with the

leprosy; and as to those whom he might beget after this time,

their leprosy must be the necessary consequence of their being

engendered by a leprous father.

Reader, see the end of avarice and ambition; and see the truth

of those words, "He that WILL be rich, shall fall into temptation,

and a snare, and into divers hurtful lusts which drown men in

destruction and perdition."-St. Paul.

4. We have already remarked the apparently severe and manifestly

kind providence of God in this business. 1. A marauding party was

permitted to spoil the confines of the land of Israel. 2. They

brought away, to reduce to captivity, a little maid, probably the

hope of her father's house. 3. She became Naaman's property, and

waited on his wife. 4. She announced God and his prophet. 5.

Naaman, on the faith of her account, took a journey to Samaria. 6.

Gets healed of his leprosy. 7. Is converted to the Lord; and,

doubtless, brought at least his whole family to believe to the

saving of their souls. What was severe to the parents of the

little maid was most kind to Naaman and his family; and the

parents lost their child only a little time, that they might again

receive her with honour and glory for ever. How true are the words

of the poet!

"Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face."

And see the benefits of a religious education! Had not this

little maid been brought up in the knowledge of the true God, she

had not been the instrument of so great a salvation. See my sermon

on this subject 2Ki 5:12.

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