The Healing of Naaman the Leper (2 Kings 5)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5

The healing, and conversion of Naaman, the “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1), is one of the most beloved stories of the Old Testament.

Who was Naaman? (5:1-7)

The opening verses of 2 Kings 5 introduce us to a man who served as one of the trusted servants of the king of Syria. He was described as “a great man with his master, and honourable” (5:1a). He was a great warrior, and a national hero of Syria (5:2). Yet, he was afflicted by leprosy, a frightening, infectious disease that was the dread of men in ancient times (5:1).

Providentially, in Naaman’s home was a young Hebrew girl that served his wife as a household slave (5:2). Though she was numbered among some taken as the spoils of war, her heart was tender toward her mistress and master. We are not told how, but the young servant had heard there was a prophet in Samaria, and she expressed to her mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy” (5:3).

Receiving the words of the young girl, and her faith that the prophet of the LORD might heal him (5:4), the warrior went to the king of Syria who 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” (5:5).

With gifts in hand, Naaman traveled to Israel with an entourage, for he was the commander of the Syrian army. He came to the king of Israel with a letter from the king of Syria, “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” (5:6). Overcome with fear, for the demand that Naaman be healed of leprosy seemed an impossible request, and thus a provocation for conflict between Israel and Syria (5:7).

Elisha’s Intervention and Demand (5:8-13)

News of Naaman’s demand reached Elisha, and the prophet sent a messenger who asked, “Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Naaman and his servants journeyed to the Elisha’s home, but the great warrior of Syria was not greeted by the prophet, but by a servant who delivered the message, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10).

Naaman was furious, not only by the slight he had suffered, but the demand that was humiliating to the proud warrior (5:11). He had supposed Elisha should have received him, and would have called on “the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place [where the leprosy was present], and restore his skin (5:11). The thought of washing his skin in the waters of the Jordan River was an offense, and he “turned and went away in a rage” (5:12). As he departed, a brave servant approached Naaman, and reasoned with him, saying, “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?” (5:13)

Naaman’s Humility, Obedience, and Faith (5:14-19)

The words of that servant quieted Naaman’s anger, and he did as Elisha’s servant had bid him (5:14). Coming out of the waters, his flesh was miraculously made whole as the youthful skin of a child. Naaman returned to Elisha and said to the prophet, “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” (5:15).

What a wonderful confession, and statement of faith! He believed the God of Israel was the One and True God! In gratitude, he urged Elisha to accept the gold, and silver, and garments he had brought as gifts. Elisha, however, refused the gifts, for he would not be named among those prophets who enrich themselves by accepting gifts for that which God alone should be praised (5:16).

Naaman, having acknowledged the God whom Elisha served was “God in all the earth,” made one request: That he might fulfill his duty to the king of Syria, and accompany him when he went to the temple of Rimmon (the Syrian equivalent of Baal, 5:18). Elisha gave his blessing, and Naaman departed (5:19).

The Sin and Covetous Spirit of Gehazi, Servant to Elisha (5:20-27)

The joy and triumph of Naaman’s healing, was soon overshadowed by Gehazi, a greedy, covetous man (5:20). Though the prophet had refused Naaman’s gifts, Gehazi decided to enrich himself, and lied to the Syrian to obtain his favor and gifts (5:21-23). Taking two bags of silver and garments from Naaman, Gehazi hid the gifts in the house (5:24). Elisha then questioned his servant, “Whence camest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither” (5:25).

Closing thoughts – This wonderful story of faith and healing serves as a reminder that the mercies and compassion of the God of heaven are available to all who come to Him in faith.  Tragically, the story ends with a reminder that God punishes sin.

Gehazi had enriched himself with possessions the prophet had refused. He had lied to Naaman and to Elisha, and the judgment for his sins was swift and severe. Elisha warned, Gehazi would bear Naaman’s leprosy, and the consequences would follow his household forever. Gehazi fled Elisha’s presence, and he became “a leper as white as snow” (5:27).

Leprosy became a lifelong reminder to Gehazi and his household that God hates covetousness, and lying lips. 

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith