And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. [Luke 4:27]
This story is a display of God’s love for a Gentile, the faithfulness of three servants, and the faithfulness/unfaithfulness of one servant. God’s goodness abounds in the context of obedience. The story encompasses chapter 5 of 2 Kings.
1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance to Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper.
Naaman was a loyal Syrian general that delivered Syria with Jehovah’s assistance. Also, He had leprosy.
2 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.
3 And she said to her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
4 And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.
Naaman’s wife had an Israelite slave who told her that in Samaria is a prophet that can heal Naaman’s leprosy. This info was relayed to Naaman.
5 And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter to 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.
When the King Ben-Hada II of Syria became aware of the healing available in Israel he sends a letter to King Joram of Israel, following international protocol.
6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come to you, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may recover him of his leprosy.
7 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 does send to me to recover a man of his leprosy? why consider, I pray you, and see how he seeks a quarrel against me.
After the king of Israel reads the letter he becomes nervous thinking it’s a declaration of war. The king of Syria assumes that the prophet is under the control of the king of Israel. This is not true. He is unaware of the expectations set by the Israelite slave.
8 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, Why have you rent your clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.
The name of the prophet in Israel is Elisha, understudy of Elijah the prophet and heir of his prophetic ministry. Elisha heard (by word of knowledge perhaps) of the King’s distress over the letter and asked the King to send Naaman to him. The healing will prove to Ben-Hada II that Elisha is a true prophet.
9 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall come again to you, and you shall be clean.
Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house with his entourage and stands at the gate of the fence. Elisha remains in his house and sends his servant with the instructions for Naaman to go wash seven times in the Jordan river and he will be healed.
11 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.
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? So he turned and went away in a rage.
Naaman was mad and left because he had figured out how the prophet would heal him. Religion is always wrong because it’s about man deciding how God think and operates. He was ticked that Elisha sent a servant because a Syrian general deserved a showing with the Prophet. He was ticked about going to the nasty Jordan river when the rivers in Syria are clear and pristine. He leaves in a rage.
13 And his servants came near, and spoke to him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid you do some great thing, would you not have done it? how much rather then, when he said to you, Wash, and be clean?
14 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 to the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Naaman servant reasons with Naaman. If the Prophet had asked you to do a great thing(build me a temple, give me a million dollars, crawl on your hands and knees in the dirt, etc.) you would have done it. Do you see the religious mindset of Naaman, of his need to do a great work to receive a great healing? Because of the simplicity of the request he was offended. God only required Namaan’s obedience.
Naaman listens to his servant and goes to the Jordan. The requirement was to dip seven times in the Jordan. If he only dipped six times and quit he would have returned to Syria with his leprosy intact. Partial or delayed obedience is still disobedience. He dipped the seventh time and his skin was like a new born child. Hallelujah! Thank God for his obedience.
15 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 you, take a blessing of your servant.
Naaman returns to Elisha’s house and offers him a gift.
16 But he said, As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.
God had told Elisha not to receive any gifts for the healing despite Naaman’s urgings.
17 And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray you, be given to your servant two mules’ burden of earth? for your servant will from now on offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD.
Naaman asked for “two mules’ burden of earth”? This is like two wheelbarrows of dirt. This figure means he wants to take some dirt from the place he was healed and transport it back to Syria. This custom meant that some of the dirt from where a miracle or significant event occurs is taken back and left in a location as a memorial of the event.
18 In this thing the LORD pardon your servant, that when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans 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 your servant in this thing.
19 And he said to him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.
Naaman asks Elisha if he can continue to escort the King of Syria when he goes to worship the idol, Rimmon since it’s part of his duties. Elisha says “Go in peace”. That’s the love of God. He did not say “leave Syria and serve Jehovah”, he did not say “If you do that you are sinning”, he did not say “God just healed you. Be a man and defy your idol worshipping King”. Elisha did not lay any condemnation, guilt, or judgment on him.
20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD lives, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.
Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, is the first servant with a name. He reasons that Elisha does not want what Naaman offered but he would take something.
21 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?
22 And he said, All is well. My master has 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 you, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments.
Gehazi lies about his master sent him and the visitors.
23 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 on two of his servants; and they bore them before him.
24 And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed.
The haul required two servants to help. When they got close to the house he dismissed then while he his the good.
25 But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, From where come you, Gehazi? And he said, Your servant went no where.
Gehazi lies to Elisha. It’s not wise to lie to a prophet. Elisha asked him to see how he would respond. He knew exactly what Gehazi had done.
26 And he said to him, Went not my heart with you, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive groves, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?
27 The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall stick to you, and to your seed forever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
The consequences of disobedience are real. Gehazi’s punishment was leprosy not just for him but for his bloodline forever. What a sad ending to the story.
This is a story of servant’s in action.
- Naaman’s wife Israelite slave – tells Naaman’s wife that a Prophet in Israel can heal him
- Elisha – tells King of Israel to send Naaman to him, tells Gehazi what to tell Naaman
- Gehazi – tells Naaman how to be healed
- Naaman’s servants – persuade him to obey the Prophet’s instructions
- Gehazi – lies to Naaman, receive his goods, lies to Elisha
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God Romans 10:17
We base our believing on the Word of God. It’s not important how we receive the Word but that we receive the Word. This is a story of false expectations and the need for faithful servants.