II Kings 5. Naaman, the Syrian General.
Key Notes: God's care for Israel's enemy. The chain of witnesses. Evidence of a changed life, not just skin-deep.
This story is one of the most beautiful and clear accounts of salvation in the Old Testament. It is full of humor and irony.
5:1–7 Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, a great man, highly favored by the king because of his successful raids in Israel. He had one problem: leprosy.
A young Israelite girl who had been captured in a raid suggested that the prophet Elisha might help Naaman; she spoke her little piece to her mistress, Naaman’s wife. His wife passed the word to Naaman and he went to the king of Syria (presumably Benhadad) . The king sent an official request to the king of Israel (?Jehoram) asking for help.
The king of Israel was distraught. Elisha did not come to mind and he deduced that this was a diplomatic trap, an excuse for more Syrian raids. Elisha heard of the king’s plight and reminded him that there was a prophet in Israel.
5:8–14 Naaman arrived at Elisha’s door with his horses and chariots. He brought with him a present estimated to be worth a million dollars in exchange for a cure. He was not greeted by the prophet. Elisha instead sent a messenger to tell him to dip in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was outraged. He expected at least a personal interview, a prayer and a ceremonial gesture with the prophet’s staff to cure his leprosy. Besides, he had better water than the muddy Jordan to dip into in Syria. His servants begged him to reconsider. They were affectionate, concerned for his best interests. It was not really that hard to do. He finally got out of his official garments, went into the Jordan, coming up clean with his skin like that of a child.
5:15–19 When he came back, Elisha was there to greet him. Naaman made a profession of faith :
1. ) There is not God in all the earth except the God in Israel.
2.) Would Elisha accept a gift? Not even a million dollars. [Think how he could have helped the sons of the prophets!] He refused, even with Naaman’s urging.
3.) He begged for two mule-loads of dirt—probably 200 lb.—to take home so that he could make an altar on the soil of Israel. He would offer sacrifice in Syria to the true God.
4.) He wanted forgiveness in advance because he had to accompany the king into the temple of Rimmon and would be compelled to bow down.
Elisha dismissed him in peace.
5:20–27 But Gehazi, Elisha's servant, was not content to let Naaman get away free. He ran after Naaman, made up a story about some needy young prophets and secured two talents of silver and two festal garments, admittedly only a small part of the original present. Naaman got down from the chariot and cheerfully gave him what he asked. As Gehazi approached Elisha’s house, he hid the goods and came in to Elisha's presence, denying that he had been away.
Elisha knew where he had been and denounced his greed. This was not the time to get wealth of any kind. The leprosy of Naaman was laid upon Gehazi and his descendents.
Q. Why should this Syrian not be helped?
A. He is a rich pagan, a Syrian, one of Israel's mortal enemies. He is an army general, whose job is to kill Israelites, raid their cities and kidnap their children.
Q. Is there any reason why he should be helped?
A. His servants and even the little girl kidnapped from her home love him and want to help. God loves him too. His grace extends to all nations and peoples.
Q. If he is a leper, why is he still in society? Lepers were quarantined.
A. Leprosy in Hebrew derives from the Hebrew word for scourge. The word in Greek comes from the word for scale or peel. In Lev.13 the leprous lesion is white, thicker than the skin, breaks the skin and has white hairs. Included are other possible diseases that the priest must distinguish such as ring-worm of the scalp, psoriasis, and more benign infections of the face and scalp (13:29), simple loss of pigmentation (13:28), boils (13:18), etc. Pain and loss of sensation are not mentioned and are invariable in true leprosy. It is a crippling and disfiguring disease. In another lesson, we will find four men affected with leprosy (IIK.7:3) who were quarantined, suggesting that Naaman had a different disease.
*.Naaman was not quarantined.
*Gehazi, inheriting the disease was white all over and by criteria of Lev. 13:12 is “clean”, i.e. not suffering from contagious leprosy.
* Further, Gehazi was not quarantined, because we find him conversing with the king later. IIK 7:3
It appears that Naaman has another disease of the skin which is conspicuous, such as psoriasis or eczema, also incurable. In either case, his cure is still a miracle.
Q. The servant girl referred him to the prophet. Why did she not refer him to God, who does the miracle?
A. Naaman does not know God. The little girl has no resources. She sends him to a person, the prophet Elisha, and that happens to be the only person who could help him.
Q. How many people were involved in Naaman’s healing?
A. At least nine. Each played a part, simply passing on information: the servant girl, Naaman's wife, Naaman himself (!), the king of Syria, a courier, the king of Israel, the "grapevine" to Elisha, Gehazi, and Naaman's officers.
Q. Why did Elisha not greet him at his first opportunity?
A. It is God, not Elisha, who would heal Naaman.
Q. What evidence did Naaman give of spiritual healing?
A. He now knew that the God of Israel is the true God.
He wanted to set up a worship center to God in Syria
He would not worship Rimmon even though he must go through the motions.
Q. Why did Elisha let him get away with idol worship and superstition?
A. Elisha knew that people are not fully mature at birth. Further, the idol is nothing. ICor.8:4
Q. Was Gehazi servant to Elisha as Elisha was to Elijah?
A. No. He was greedy and told lies. He was not a godly man. He also had no power. IIK.4:31
Q. Why was Gehazi hit so hard? The punishment was too great for a little greed and some lies.
A. Whenever God seems unusually harsh in His judgments, we should look for special spiritual messages. In this case, the message to Naaman is “salvation is free”. Gehazi spoiled that very important message by begging for a reward.
No Israelite lepers were healed. (Lk.4:27). An Israelite, Elisha’s servant, became a leper.
A pagan Syrian became a believer; Israel’s king remained in unbelief.
The pagan was saved by his victim, the little Israelite slave girl.
Q. How is salvation taught in this passage?
Leprosy is a metaphor for sin—disfiguring, crippling, contagious, deadly.
Salvation is of the Jews, not the Syrians. Jn.4:22
Salvation is free.
It is God’s work. God cared more for Naaman than any Israelite would.
Evangelism is done most often through human contacts rather than through media.
God established a beach-head in Syria through the hapless capture of a little Israelite girl.
God is now establishing an embassy in Syria through Naaman.
God is attacking god Rimmon in his own territory.
Salvation is not magic but a washing is involved. ICor.6:11
Salvation requires an act of surrender, obedience, and submission.
Faith leads to a changed heart, a new allegiance to the true God.
Many people were involved in the evangelistic effort.
We need not work on the assumption that “it is me or nobody”; “it is now or never”. We must kindly offer direction to people who need healing and salvation, telling them where to go, directing them to someone who can help them find God. It may take ten people or thirty, giving direction, before a person is brought into the kingdom. People who are coming to Christ are usually in contact with several believers. We may cajole. They usually resist. We must not think in terms of a “score”, or use compulsive, pressured communication. What all these people did was natural, and easy. They just pointed the way.
And God had arranged it all.