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2 Kings 5:1-27 – Naaman the Syrian


Elisha ministers to a foreign general suffering from leprosy and self-importance.


The very first verse sets up this finely tuned drama in three acts: Naaman's Need (vv. 1-14); Naaman's Conversion (vv. 15-19a); and Gehazi's Greed (vv. 19b-27).
•    Naaman's Need (vv. 1-14). Scholars usually omit "He was a mighty man of valor" as an interpretive comment added to the text later because it is lacking in an important Greek tradition (the Lucianic recensions of the Septuagint). Every verse in the Hebrew Bible is divided into two segments based on meaning not length. With the omission mentioned above, the first verse would read:

commander of the army of the king of Syria,
was a great man with his master
and in high favor,
because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria…but he was a leper!

Is Naaman's problem his leprosy (the last half of v. 1) or his wealth, honor, esteem, and God-given success (the first half of v. 1)? Lectionaries invariably choose the former and stop reading at verse 14 with the healing of Naaman's skin disease. But his sense of self-importance, as seen in the introductory letter from his king, the enormous payment he offers Elisha (almost half a ton of gold and 150 pounds of silver, v. 5), and the hissy fit he throws when Elisha failed to come out to meet him or perform ostentatious liturgical rituals to effect the cure (v. 11) argue for the latter. Naaman's problem is that he cannot accept God's grace as grace.
•    Naaman's Conversion (vv. 15-19a). Nevertheless, his physical healing resulted in the healing of his self-importance and led to a confession of faith, though he still wants to "pay" (v. 15). Elisha graciously comforts his worries about appearing to worship the god of Rimmon with a simple "Shalom!"-"Go in peace" (v. 19a).
•    Gehazi's Greed (vv. 19b-27). Gehazi, however, thinks "this Aramean" (probably pejorative) needs to pay and goes after Naaman to "get something out of him" (v. 20). And get something he did! In addition to making a sizable profit from Naaman's feelings of gratitude, he also became "leprous, as white as snow" (v. 27).
The instances of Jesus healing lepers in Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-44; and Luke 5:12-14 reflect the notion that only God can heal.

2 Kings 5:1-27

The Healing of Naaman

5Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.* 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’* 4So Naaman* went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’* 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?* Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!* 12Are not Abana* and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’ 16But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!’ He urged him to accept, but he refused. 17Then Naaman said, ‘If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord. 18But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.’ 19He said to him, ‘Go in peace.’

Gehazi’s Greed

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, ‘My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.’ 21So Gehazi went after Naaman. When Naaman saw someone running after him, he jumped down from the chariot to meet him and said, ‘Is everything all right?’ 22He replied, ‘Yes, but my master has sent me to say, “Two members of a company of prophets* have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim; please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.” 23Naaman said, ‘Please accept two talents.’ He urged him, and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and gave them to two of his servants, who carried them in front of Gehazi.* 24When he came to the citadel, he took the bags* from them, and stored them inside; he dismissed the men, and they left.

25 He went in and stood before his master; and Elisha said to him, ‘Where have you been, Gehazi?’ He answered, ‘Your servant has not gone anywhere at all.’ 26But he said to him, ‘Did I not go with you in spirit when someone left his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to accept money and to accept clothing, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves? 27Therefore the leprosy* of Naaman shall cling to you, and to your descendants for ever.’ So he left his presence leprous,* as white as snow.

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