Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5

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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 scriptures.


Who was Naaman? (2 Kings 5:1-7)

The opening verses of 2 Kings 5 introduced a man who served as one of the trusted servants of the king of Syria. Naaman 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 household was a young Hebrew girl who served his wife as a household slave (5:2). Though 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 heard there was a prophet in Samaria [the capital city of northern Israel], 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).

“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 understanding her faith that the prophet of the LORD might heal him (5:4), Naaman 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. When he came to the king of Israel, he presented him 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). The king of Israel overwhelmed with angst, feared the demand that Naaman be healed of leprosy was not only an impossible request but was possibly a provocation for renewed conflict between Israel and Syria (5:7).


Elisha’s Intervention and Demand (2 Kings 5:8-13)

News of Naaman’s demand reached Elisha, and the prophet sent a messenger to the king of Israel 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).

Then, Naaman and his servants journeyed to Elisha’s home. Yet, Naaman, the great warrior of Syria, felt slighted when the prophet failed to greet him. Instead, the prophet’s servant 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).

I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel” (5:15).

Naaman was furious, not only by the slight he suffered but by the demand that he should “wash in Jordan seven times” (5:10). The proud warrior felt humiliated (5:11), for he supposed Elisha should have received him and 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 in the waters of the Jordan River was an offense, and he “turned and went away in a rage” (5:12). However, as he departed, a brave servant approached Naaman, reasoned with him, and said, “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 (2 Kings 5:14-19)

The words of his servant quieted Naaman’s anger, and he did as Elisha’s servant bid him (5:14). Coming out of the waters the seventh time, his flesh was miraculously made whole as the youthful skin of a child. Naaman returned to Elisha and confessed, “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 an extraordinary confession and statement of faith! Naaman believed the God of Israel was the One and True God! In gratitude, he urged Elisha to accept the gold, silver, and garments he brought as gifts. The prophet, however, refused the gifts, for he would not be named among those prophets who enriched themselves by accepting gifts for that which God alone should be praised (5:16).

Naaman acknowledged the God whom Elisha served was “God in all the earth.” Still, he 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).

“he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:27).

The Sin and Covetous Spirit of Gehazi, Elisha’s Servant (2 Kings 5:20-27)

Tragically, the triumphal joy of Naaman’s healing was soon overshadowed by Gehazi [Gay-hay-zi], a greedy, covetous man (5:20). While Elisha refused Naaman’s gifts, Gehazi decided to enrich himself. He lied to the Syrian for his favor and gifts (5:21-23).  

Gehazi took two bags of silver and garments from Naaman and hid the gifts in the house (5:24). Elisha, wise and insightful concerning the character of his servant, questioned Gehazi and asked, “Whence camest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither” (5:25).

Hearing and discerning his servant’s lies, Elisha rebuked Gehazi. He was then cursed with the affliction from which Naaman was cleansed, for “he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:27).


Closing thoughts –

Naaman’s deliverance from leprosy and his confession that the God of Israel was the One and Only God reminds us that the mercies and compassion of the LORD are available to all who come to Him in faith. 

Tragically, however, the story ends with a reminder that God punishes sin. Gehazi enriched himself with the possessions Elisha refused. He then lied to Naaman and Elisha, and God’s judgment was swift and severe. Gehazi fled Elisha’s presence and became a leper.

Gehazi’s leprosy served as a lifelong reminder to himself and his household that the LORD hates covetousness and lying lips (5:27). 

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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