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Deeper Commentary

2Ki 5:1 Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him Yahweh had given victory to Syria-
The reference may be to the Syrian victory of 1 Kings 22. It is unclear whether he was honourable to God because like Jehu, he as an unspiritual man had still done God's will against Israel. Or whether he was honourable to the Syrians because they realized God was working through Naaman. He was clearly a man whom Israel's God had an interest in, and this was recognized. The high value of the present taken to secure Naaman's healing from Yahweh would indicate that the Syrians had a real sense that Yahweh was very powerful, moreso than their own deities.

We note that Naaman was "with" / before his master; and the Israelite maiden likewise was with or before her mistress (:2). "Waited on" in :2 is the s.w. translated "with" in :1. She too had suffered, as Naaman was. The two are therefore presented as in parallel; the mighty and the obscure. But equal before God, and in fact the obscure, anonymous slave girl becomes the saviour of the mighty and famous. His skin is healed to become as a child (:14),the same word in the feminine form used in :2 of how the servant girl had been brought out of Israel as a child. He finally describes himself in :17 as Elisha's "servant". He found humility, and became as his servants. 

We note the intended contrasts between Naaman and the Hebrew slave girl. He was a great man, she was a little or small girl. The small saved the great, in the inversion of principles which there is in the spiritual economy. 

He was also a mighty man of valour-
Meaning he had slain many Israelites. Naaman had to submit himself on several occasions- before his wife, his wife's maid, the anonymous servant of :4, Elisha, his own accompanying servants... God's work with us is largely about eliciting in us humility, and bringing us ever down towards it. Naaman's mightiness was humbled. And yet he was angry with Elisha's command to dip in the Jordan... anger is so often a result of hurt pride. Anger management is really all about finding humility before God and man. So many angry people are really just cases of hurt pride.

But he was a leper-
We note that lepers were openly present in society in Syria, even at senior levels, whereas in Israel the law of Moses required they were excluded from society.

2Ki 5:2 The Syrians had gone out in companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maiden; and she waited on Naaman’s wife-
It was the law of the jungle then (as it is now in primitive societies) that the men were killed, and the women raped. And the prettier ones carried off for further abuse. This girl would have witnessed all that, perhaps being a victim of it, and had probably experienced the murder of her parents and family. She was a great example of faith, spirituality and forgiveness that she was minded to try to help her master, who was the ultimate leader of the Syrian armed forces. See on 2 Kings 6:8.

Many of the Elisha and Elijah incidents concern obscure characters. The widow woman with whom Elijah lived for three years was so obscure that Ahab's search for Elijah never led anyone there. And so it is with the widow of one of the sons of the prophets, Naaman's wife's servant girl, a guy who borrows an axe and the axe head goes plop in the river etc. Perhaps the obscurity of these people was a foil for the high profile life of Elijah and Elisha. They were being shown that humble spirituality in obscurity and personal suffering and difficulty is the essence, and not public work for its own sake. We observed this difference between Obadiah's more private spirituality, and Elijah's. 

The girl had been taken captive as a small child or young person, from an Israel where the majority were Baal worshippers. We wonder how much she actually knew or remembered about Yahweh worship, beyond a sense that this was right, and that Elisha as Yahweh's prophet could do miracles. And yet this slender knowledge of God led her to the grace whereby she wished blessing upon the figurehead of her abusers. For likely Naaman's men had slain her family and maybe sexually abused her. For that was what happened to female captives of whatever age. We likewise wonder how much Naaman "knew" beyond that intuitive sense that Yahweh through His prophet was possibly capable of healing him. But he is presented as the model Gentile convert to the Hope of Israel. His subsequent conviction of Yahweh is presented as very strong. But hardly on the basis of doctrinal instruction. We might prefer to read 'And Elisha instructed him in the things of Yahweh and he eagerly accepted them'. But that is absent. We conclude that there is a hole within every human heart that only the true God can fill. When a man responds to that inbuilt conscience, then he is progressively convicted and accepted by God. And of course as in Naaman's case, is therefore providentially brought into contact with God's true people. And yet Elisha's enigmatic "Go in peace", or "Goodbye", avoiding a yes / no answer to his question about continuing an appearance of Rimmon worship, leaves us enquiring about the depth of his conversion. But the validity of his conversion is certainly strongly implied by the record.

2Ki 5:3 She said to her mistress, I wish that my lord would visit the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would heal him of his leprosy-
Lk. 4:27 states: "There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them were cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian". So when Naaman's maid asserted that Elisha could cure him of his leprosy, this was not therefore based on experience. She had not even heard of Elisha curing any lepers in Israel. But she believed it was the kind of thing he could do. The word "heal" means ‘to assemble’ or ‘gather together’, and we can be sure this was just what the girl said. For in Israel (see on :1), lepers were separated from the people, and the healing of a leper was the gathering back in of the person to society (Num. 11:14,15). 

There is quite a theme of servants bringing blessings or good news (1 Sam. 9:6; 16:16; 25:4 cp. Gen. 41:10; 2 Kings 5:3). This may be to reflect God's interest in the significance of the lowly.  

2Ki 5:4 Someone went in, and told his lord, saying, The maiden who is from the land of Israel said this-
LXX "She went in and told her lord", suggesting the "someone" in view was Naaman's wife. She had to treat him with respect as he was one of the leaders of Syria, perhaps second only to the king. But see on :1 as to why the servant is just a "someone". 

2Ki 5:5 The king of Syria said, Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel-
Probably Jehoram, Ahab’s son. Possibly Jehu. 

He departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of clothing-
The high value of the present taken to secure Naaman's healing from Yahweh would indicate that the Syrians had a real sense that Yahweh was very powerful, moreso than their own deities. See on :1. Perhaps they had learned this from their historical defeats at the hands of Israel. And yet they seem to have believed more strongly in Yahweh than did the Israelites themselves. 

Two talents of silver was enough to buy the hill of Samaria (1 Kings 16:24). He brought enough silver to buy it five times over, along with all the gold. He believed that human might and wealth could purchase God's gift... and when he learnt otherwise, he contrasts badly with Gehazi who so desperately wanted some of that vast wealth for himself.

2Ki 5:6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter has come to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy-
We wonder why the request was made of the king of Israel, rather than any mention being made of Elisha. Perhaps there had been a loss of information during transmission. For the Israelite girl had just passed a comment to her mistress, and then from her the message was passed to Naaman and thence to the king of Syria. Or maybe it was assumed that any prophet must be subject to the king of his country. The idea of personal faith was foreign to them, whereby a man like Elisha could have direct relationship with God regardless of his king. 

2Ki 5:7 When the king of Israel had read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends to me to heal a man of his leprosy? Surely he is seeking a quarrel against me-
The King fails to make the connection with Elisha; he doesn't think to ask Elisha to cure Naaman. He reasons on a totally human level. He purposefully contrasts with the anonymous slave girl who know that there is a prophet in Samaria who can cure leprosy. Just as she is a foil for Naaman, so she is for the king of Israel. Again we see how the humble and obscure are greater than the humanly great. We know from Lk. 4:27 that nobody had been cured of leprosy in Israel at that time. The king of Israel lacked faith, but the Gentile Syrians believed Yahweh could do this. All because the still small voice of an abused Israelite girl had been believed. Indeed the king of Israel considered healing from leprosy to be so impossible, that he concluded this was just a provocation. For Syria and Israel had often been in conflict with each other. And it was a rather bizarre thing, for a neighbouring enemy who only recently had raided Israel and carried people off into captivity... to then come to them offering lots of money so that their army general could be cured by them. The king of Israel saw it all in secular terms, he clearly had no real spiritual dimension in his thinking.

We enquire why there is this part to the story. I suggest we are invited to imagine how Naaman felt. He had come to Israel's king to ask to be cured of his leprosy through Elisha. But the King of Israel is angry and refuses to respond. The initial rebuf was to humble Naaman and deepen his faith; just as he had to dip six times in Jordan without healing before he was healed on the seventh dip.

2Ki 5:8 It was so, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king saying, Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel-
Elisha muscles in, as it were, because he sees that this situation is going to result in war unless he does. Elisha's motive for the healing was so that Naaman "shall know" that God's word was really spoken forth in Israel. And in the end, his desire was fulfilled in Naaman's conversion. 

Elisha’s retort to the king, “Why have you rent your clothes? Let him come to me, and he will learn that there is a prophet in Israel” contrasts with the king’s despairing as to why ever anyone should come “to me” to be healed (:7). It is possible to detect some level of prideful over assurance in Elisha at this point. His refusal to go and talk personally with Naaman could be read the same way, although through this, Naaman learns humility and obedience to God's word.

It could be argued that Elisha's motivation in healing Naaman was so that he would know there was a prophet in Israel- Elisha. We would rather read him saying that he cured him so that Naaman would know the God of Israel. But Elisha's possibly narcissistic attitude still resulted in Naaman coming to the God of Israel.

2Ki 5:9 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha-
Elisha sat in his house and messengers from a powerful man, Naaman the leper, came to him; and Elisha displayed an amazing calm before them. This situation repeated in 2 Kings 6:32, where Elisha again sits in his house and the messengers of an aggressive King came to him. The theme of lepers recurs in this latter context also (2 Kings 7:3). And in 2 Kings 5:18 we read of Naaman as a man upon whose arm a King (of Syria) leaned; and we find one of those sent to Elisha the second time was likewise "a lord upon whose hand the King (of Israel) leaned (2 Kings 7:2). The connections show that God was working out His program in similar ways in widely differing situations.

In 2 Kings 6:17, Elisha prays that God will open the eyes of his frightened servant to behold the Angelic horses and chariots around him. And this may have happened before this present incident (2 Kings 6:8 note). Elisha was so confident they were there, that he didn't ask to see them himself. He knew they were there; he simply asked that his servant be enabled to see the unseen reality which he calmly knew was there. He of course had had first hand experience of the Angelic horses and chariots (a kind of cherubim) when he had been parted from Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11. This must have left an abiding impression upon him- he knew that those Angelic horses and chariots were in fact permanently encamped around him (cp. Ps. 34:7). And so we are surely to see significance in the way that Naaman came to Elisha's house with his horses and chariot- for this is surely a development of a theme of connection between Elisha, horses and chariots (2 Kings 5:9). Most other Israelites would've been petrified to have the horses and chariots of Naaman and a company of Syrians pull up at their door. But Elisha was quite unfazed. He didn't even bother coming out to meet Naaman, knowing this was an insult to Naaman's pride, and was humanly certain to result in Naaman simply killing him and burning his house. Surely the horses-chariot-Elisha connection taught Elisha that in fact there were Angelic horses and chariots around him- he need not fear any human horse and chariot. There is no hint that Angelic activity is any less, or operates in any different way, for us today.

2Ki 5:10 Elisha sent a messenger to him saying-
Elisha doesn't come out of his house and talk to him. He wanted the man to focus his faith in God's word, not in personalities. For his end aim was to help Naaman toward faith that there was a prophet in Israel (:8). But so often, faith is clouded by issues of personality. People join or leave churches because they like / dislike pastors or individuals. And Elisha didn't want that to happen. Elisha also may be insisting that Naaman was to be treated as an Israelite leper would be treated; which meant Elisha could not have contact with him, and therefore he didn't invite the leper into his home. This was because he wanted Naaman to realize that his cure was on account of having been treated as an Israelite; in the hope that he would become a proselyte. 

Elisha's healing from a distance recalls his approach with the widow and her two sons in 2 Kings 4. He tells her to shut the door upon herself and her sons, and experience the predicted miracle. Here too, he is careful not to be present at the miracle. He simply predicts it and asks for some obedience before it happens. This again was to help Naaman away from his religious idea that some "man of God" must dramatically interact with him and be present with him. He is being driven to personal experience of God; and the Father works likewise with us all today.

Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored-
Although this was not Christian baptism, it is perhaps analogous. Because humility was elicited by this request to dip in Jordan, as it is by the ritual of baptism. Elisha was aiming to convert Naaman, not simply heal him, so that he could continue as general of the forces who were marauding Israel. The fact there were plenty of lepers in Israel (Lk. 4:27) was evidence enough that the waters of Jordan contained no healing powers of themselves; Naaman was being taught faith in God's word, rather than supposed healing waters. The seven dippings recall the way Jericho was to be circled for six days before victory on the seventh (Josh. 6:3-5), the child sneezed seven times before resurrection (2 Kings 4:35) and the way Elijah was only answered at his seventh prayer (1 Kings 18:43). The intention was that through the six times performing something which had no immediate answer, faith, hope and humility were elicited. Lev. 14:8; 15:13 speak of the healed leper washing after the cure, in order to be then also ritually clean. And there were various sprinkling / cleansing rituals which had to be performed seven times upon the leper (Lev. 14:7,16,27). So Naaman was potentially cured of his leprosy, but what was necessary was that he become ritually clean, and therefore he had to take the step of faith in washing. Had he not done that, the potential cure would have remained an unrealized potential. He was bidden grasp that he had been cured by Elisha; but now he had to wash in order to become spiritually clean and acceptable within Israelite, and not Syrian, society (see on 2 Kings 5:1). It could even be that the washing with water was to invite Naaman to see himself as a Jewish priest being prepared for service (Ex. 29:4 s.w.). We marvel at how God chooses people who may appear the most unlikely. The general of the Syrian army, the enemy of Israel, whose men had just destroyed the family of his wife's servant girl... was the one chosen. And not just to be healed, but to be thereby prepared to work in essence as a priest for God, in the darkness of the high command of Gentile Syria. We learn at the very least never to consider anyone beyond the scope of God's purpose.    

And you shall be clean-
This was in addition to having his flesh restored and being healed. As noted on :1, there was no sense amongst the Syrians of ritual uncleanness because of leprosy. Naaman was being bidden see his healing as also something spiritual, which would enable him to serve Yahweh. The language of becoming clean recalls that of the rituals regarding leprosy in Lev. 14. This cleansing in water was to be done after the leper was healed. It's as if Naaman had already been cleansed of his leprosy but now had to do the ritual associated with the cleansing of the leper after the disease had been healed. From the Divine perspective, Naaman had been healed. But he had to be obedient to the cleansing ritual for this to become apparent.

2Ki 5:11 But Naaman was angry, and went away, and said, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy’-
Clearly Naaman was not a personal believer in Yahweh at this stage. And yet contrary to Pentecostal teaching, true miracles don't always require the faith of the sick person. We also learn again that God is prepared to work powerfully in the life of a person for the sake of the prayers and faith of third parties (as in Mk. 2:5). Naaman like many people had his preexisting religious ideas, and he expected the true God to conform to them. He was to be taught that man is made in God's image, and we are not to make God into our image and make Him act according to our expectations of religion, wherever we picked them up from. Elisha's refusal to come out and meet him clearly stuck in his gut. But the purpose for that, as explained above, was so that he realized that leprosy made a man unclean before the true people of God; and once he was cleansed, he would then be able to be part of God's people. Likewise he was placing his faith in religious ritual, rather than in the word of Yahweh. And he needed to be corrected in that perspective.   

2Ki 5:12 Aren’t Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage-
"Jordan" means literally 'the descender', 'that which brings down'. The intention of the command was to humble him, and initially he baulked at this. His rage was likewise related to the fact he had made so much effort to come deep into enemy territory, with a huge financial reward. And all that was being spurned. Because it was his faith in Yahweh's word which was required, and not external, human strength. The idea was that the Jordan at that time of year was a muddy stream. But that was the paradox of faith- that what appears muddy and small can make clean. It's the same issue as "And what good can baptism do me?". Baptism is really likewise a test of humility.

Naaman's dislike of the Jordan may also have been because he was aware that Joshua had cursed Jericho, and the water of the Jordan there was known to cause miscarriages- but it had been cured by Elisha in 2 Kings 2. Being asked to enter those waters was therefore a hint that he had to believe in Elisha's healing power of the waters.

2Ki 5:13 His servants came near and spoke to him and said, My father, if the prophet had asked you do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? How much rather then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?’-
We wonder if these servants were themselves Israelites, just as Naaman's wife had an Israelite servant. Perhaps he had thought it prudent to take them with him, seeing he was going into Israel, with many tensions between Syria and Israel at the time. Again Naaman, the mighty man of valour who had done many great things (:1), was being taught that the God of Israel is unimpressed by human works, and rather seeks humility and faithful obedience to His word. These were the 'great things' he was being asked to do, far more difficult and demanding more true bravery than all the mighty acts he had performed in his life. The fact he responds to his servants' suggestion shows that he did have some latent humility. 

The salvation of Naaman was through the humble and obscure- the Israelite slave girl, and his servants. Rather like in 2 Kings 6, the salvation of Israel will be due to the desperate lepers who go outside the camp of Israel to die.

“My father, a great word the prophet has spoken...” (see ESV, NIBC). The idea is that true greatness is in humility. What he was asked to do was a great thing for a proud man like him.

2Ki 5:14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean-
"Then went he down" continues the idea of his progressive humilitation. This is the path of every spiritual life. At the end, we come to the point of humility required for us to rise again in glory at the resurrection. It's a race to the bottom. It's why the ageing process is a humbling process- to those who perceive it. The same words for dipping in the Jordan are only used in describing the priests crossing Jordan to take possession of God's kingdom in Israel (Josh. 3:15). Naaman was being invited to imagine himself now entering into the spirit of Israel and having their kingdom as his; and again being invited to see himself consecrated as a priest with a mission. We may note that he "dipped" in Jordan, when he was intended to "wash" in Jordan (:10). But despite this less than complete obedience, he was accepted. He was not only healed, but "was clean" in a religious, spiritual sense. His flesh being restored like a child looks ahead to being born again of water and spirit (Jn. 3:3-5).

We may enquire whether the command to "wash" was properly obeyed by "dipping". But at least Naaman responded on some level- and this was accepted.

Naaman was a Gentile leper who sought to be healed by the God of Israel. As such he represents sin-stricken man, effectively going through a living death due to sin. His cure was by dipping in the River Jordan. Initially he found this simple act hard to accept, thinking that God would want him to do some dramatic act, or to dip himself in a large and well-known river, e.g. the Abana. Similarly, we may find it hard to believe that such a simple act as baptism can ultimately bring about our salvation. It is more attractive to think that our own works and public association with a large, well-known denomination (cf. the river Abana) can save us, rather than this simple act of association with the true hope of Israel

We may be able to discern parallels with how the axe head is lost in the next chapter, but is restored after being immersed in the Jordan and obedience to Elisha's word from God. Naaman was his master's axe head, a title for the leader of the army. But he was only restored through immersion in Jordan. The idea may be that God was equally at work in the lives of impoverished "sons of the prophets" in 2 Kings 6, as he was in the life of Naaman the high profile Gentile. The comfort is that the same God who worked in the apparently high profile lives of Biblical characters is as much at work in our obscure lives.  

Syria were Israel's enemy, and so to heal Naaman the commander of their army would have seemed strange and counter intuitive. But it is in line with how in 2 Kings 6, the captured, blinded Syrian forces are given food and drink and released home unharmed. When had they been killed, the Syrian war machine would have been significantly degraded. All this was a hint of the spirit of the Lord Jesus- loving enemies, and winning by grace rather than force. And yet in the short term, it didn't work. After Naaman's healing, the Syrians still again invade Israel in 2 Kings 6. After the release of the blinded Syrian soldiers in 2 Kings 6, the Syrians come and besiege Samaria in 2 Kings 6. Indeed, grace is counter intuitive and doesn't always have any immediate effect. That is surely why the king of Israel wants Elisha dead and blames him for the siege and suffering that arose from it (2 Kings 6:31).

2Ki 5:15 He returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and stood before him-
Elisha was accustomed to thinking of himself in terms of a man who stood before Yahweh, in His presence, before His face (Heb.- 2 Kings 3:14). Naaman and his "company" 'stood before' Elisha (2 Kings 5:15,16). Remember that this was the Syrian army General, standing with a "company" in Israelite territory, at Elisha's house- at a time when 'companies' of Syrian soldiers carried out raids upon Israel (2 Kings 5:2). Any Israelite would've been terrified. But Elisha responds that he 'stands before' Yahweh. Elisha was so aware of how we live in God's presence, before His very face, that he wasn't the least phased by this. If only we can share this sense, of standing in God's presence... the most frightening of human situations will have little effective 'presence' because we know we are ultimately in God's presence, 24/7. See on 2 Kings 6:17.

And he said, See now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel. Now therefore, please take a gift from your servant-
We would rather read that he said there is no God but the God of Israel. Naaman still held the primitive idea that Yahweh as the God of Israel was only present in Israel, and this was why he wanted to take some Israelite soil home with him. But reflection upon the logic of his position would have led him to see wider than that. For if Yahweh was the only God, and His greatness made all other gods effectively non-existent... then surely it made sense that the God who was "in Israel" was in fact the God of the whole planet. For otherwise, there was no God anywhere in the cosmos or on planet earth, only "in Israel". And sanctified common sense surely indicates that there is a God and creator. And yet God leaves Naaman to work this through without specifically correcting him, just as the Lord Jesus worked likewise with the wrong ideas about demons. 

Naaman is presented in contrast with the king of Israel in 2 Kings 1 who didn't believe there was a God in Israel: “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” .

There are clear connections with the healing of the centurion's servant in Lk. 7. Naaman is servant to the king of Syria. The Lord's comment “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith" (Lk. 7:9) is clearly allusive to Naaman's words. Naaman is told about Elisha just as the Centurion hears about the Lord (Lk. 7:3). A message was sent to the king of Israel asking him to "heal my servant", just as the message is sent to the Lord to do likewise.  And again there is a distance healing. The centurion is also a Gentile military man, like Naaman. The connections again suggest that Naaman is seen by the Lord as a model Gentile convert, just like the Centurion. And yet as discussed elsewhere, Naaman's knowledge was very limited. But his conversion to Israel's God is seen as valid.

2Ki 5:16 But he said, As Yahweh lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none. He urged him to take it; but he refused-
We see here the natural reaction of man to Divine grace- to want to give something material to Him or His representative. But it is refused, because the response intended from Naaman was that he would trust in Yahweh and share this with others in his homeland- which as a high ranking commander in the Syrian leadership, was a very large ask.

2Ki 5:17 Naaman said, If not, then please let two mules’ burden of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will from now on offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice to other gods, but to Yahweh-
Naaman the Syrian accepted the faith of the God of Israel, knowing full well how difficult this was going to be back in his home environment. He matures from thinking about Yahweh as 'Elisha's God' in :11. Now Yahweh is to be his God. He has clearly made a conscious allegiance to Yahweh although he feels unable to totally walk the talk. And that is accepted by God. This is why I urge spiritually immature people to still be baptized. After his ‘conversion’ he asked for some Israelite soil to be given to him to take back to Syria (see on :15). This shows that Naaman was influenced by the surrounding superstition that one could only worship a god of another nation whilst on their soil. But this is not explicitly corrected by Elisha; he simply but powerfully comments: “Go in peace”. In other words, Elisha was saying that the peace experienced by Naaman in his daily life was so wondrous that it obviated the need for worshipping on Israeli soil. Syria's army continued to attack Israel, as we learn from the next chapter. We therefore find Naaman in a similar position to Obadiah managing Ahab's palace and yet believing in Yahweh, despite his master persecuting Yahweh's prophets. And so many others- Joseph and Daniel come to mind immediately. But this is the essence of the spiritual life for so many. And yet we note from 2 Kings 6:23 that after the awesome revelation of Yahweh's cherubim at Dothan, the Syrian military stopped operations against Israel. This was not for the sake of Israel's obedience, but surely for the sake of one man, Naaman, so that he could live at peace with God.

The command to make an altar of earth was in order to inculcate humility, teaching that God doesn't want the art and external religion of man, but our sacrifice offered upon our own raw dust, which is all we are. Naaman had previously held a 'religious' view of God, expecting to pay the equivalent of millions of wealth in order for a holy man to wave some wand over his leprosy and cure him. Now he realized this was not at all what the one true God was all about. Again, he does humble himself.

But we note that offering sacrifice at a place other than the sanctuary was not according to the law of Moses. His understanding that there was only a God "in Israel" is likewise deficient. But still he is presented as a convert.

There is repeated evidence in inscriptions that the earth of a country was transported to another country in order to commemorate a victory. The following is from Nadav Na'aman, An altar for YHWH in the Land of Aram (2 Kings 5:17), Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 18 (2018), 133–144:
"- Shalmaneser I, the King of Assyria described how after conquering the city of Arinu, “I gathered [some of] its earth and made a heap of it at the gate of my city, Ashur, for posterity”.
- In one of his inscriptions, Sennacherib described in detail the systematic destruction of Babylon and how he transported earth from Babylon to his capital city of Ashur: “In order to pacify the god Ashur, my lord, for people to sing the praises of his might, (and) for the admiration of future people, I removed earth from Babylon and piled (it) up in heaps (and) mounds in the akitu-house [in Ashur].”
- The transportation of earth from one place to another is also mentioned in a Babylonian source called the Chronicle of Early Kings. It relates that Sargon, King of Akkad, “dug up the earth of the clay pit of Babylon and
built near Akkad a replica of Babylon.” The author of the chronicle considered the transportation of its earth to Akkad an act of memorialization of its destruction.
- In his campaign against Ummanhaldash, King of Elam, Ashurbanipal took piles of earth from the ruined Elamite cult centres, and deposited them in Assyria. “The earth of Susa, Madaktu, Haltemash and the rest of their sacred cities I gathered together and took (it) to Assyria.”
- Diodorus Siculus’ account of the fall of that after the fall of Nineveh, Nabopolassar the Babylonian leader, requested as part of his share in the booty to transport the ashes of the ruined palace to Babylon. He planned to deposit the debris near the sacred precinct of the gods, thereby constructing a mound as an eternal monument for the downfall of Assyria".

Naaman was surely aware of this practice. He humbly wanted to take the soil of Israel in order to build an altar, according to Yahweh's wish for an altar to be built of simple earth. But this was the symbol of victory and glory. He was celebrating a victory, a conquest, a surrender- but of himself. Here we have the inversion of values which is typical in the spiritual life. The symbols of humility become the symbols of glory, the cross being the classic example.

2Ki 5:18 In this thing may Yahweh pardon your servant: 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 myself in the house of Rimmon, may Yahweh pardon your servant in this thing-
See on 2 Kings 5:9. Clearly there was no belief in any guilt by association, or this concession wouldn't have been given. The whole nature of being human means that we must live in  this world, although we are not of it. Consider how Daniel’s friends wore turbans (Dan. 3:21 NIV), how Moses appeared externally to be an Egyptian (Ex. 2:19), and how the Lord Himself had strongly Jewish characteristics (Jn. 4:9). Imagine all the difficult situations Joseph must have been in, as Prime Minister of Egypt, married to the daughter of the pagan High Priest. Or John the Baptist’s soldier converts, told to do their jobs without using violence (Lk. 3:14); or Cornelius returning to his post as Centurion. It seems almost certain that these men would all have tried to engineer their way out of their  positions. Think of Daniel.

Naaman was allowed to bow himself before Rimmon for the sake of losing his position. Yet the higher level would surely have been, as Daniel’s friends, not to bow down to an idol. And when we ask what the rest of the Jews in Babylon did on that occasion, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that they took the lower level which Naaman did- and bowed down.

We would perhaps rather read that Naaman and the Israelite maid got together and did their devotions together to Yahweh. But instead we read of him continuing his external worship of Rimmon. And living in personal peace with God.

2Ki 5:19 He said to him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way-
The essence is to live in peace with God in covenant relationship. This is possible, even if like Naaman there are elements of misunderstanding of Him (:17), and dimensions of our lives where we are not serving God on the highest level we could (:18). It is my answer to people wanting to be baptized whilst still in the grip of addictions. They can go in peace. However there is some ambiguity about "Go in peace". It is not simply "Yes it's OK". For this is also the standard way for an oriental to say goodbye. Elisha avoids answering yes or no. Surely the highest level was for Naaman not to do this. Paul seems to have this incident in mind when he warns us to be highly sensitive about going into an idol's temple, lest we cause others to stumble: "But take heed, lest by any means this freedom of yours becomes a stumblingblock to the weak. For if a man sees you who have knowledge dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be encouraged to eat things sacrificed to idols?" (1 Cor. 8:9,10).  We are familiar with stories of Christians who died for refusing to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar, but the question is: 'And what about those who did do so?'. Those who refused to serve in Hitler's military and died for their conviction are rightly seen as heroes. But what about those believers who did? The enigmatic ending to Naaman's brief dialogue with Elisha leaves us thinking about these things and concluding that there these many "others", perhaps the majority of believers, are all the same with the Lord.

Elisha's enigmatic "Go in peace", or "Goodbye", avoiding a yes / no answer to his question about continuing an appearance of Rimmon worship, leaves us enquiring about the depth of his conversion. But the validity of his conversion is certainly strongly implied by the record.

2Ki 5:20 But Gehazi the servant of Elisha the man of God said, My master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought. As Yahweh lives, I will run after him, and take something from him-
‘Said in his heart’ is a common Biblical phrase (e.g. Gen. 17:17; 1 Sam. 27:1; 1 Kings 12:26; Esther 6:6). There is a huge importance attached to self talk and spiritual mindedness. Further, there are many instances where we read that a person ‘said’ something; but it’s apparent that they said it to themselves, in their heart. Take Gehazi here. For sure, Gehazi said this to nobody but himself. Or Moses – he’s recorded as saying “People have found out what I have done!” – surely he said this within himself (Ex. 2:14 GNB). We note that in his heart, Gehazi swears to himself by Yahweh. He is not an unbeliever. But we have here an insight into the functioning of the heart within a believer in a moment of weakness. "This Naaman..." reflects how he failed to perceive the spiritual wonder of what had happened; that the general of a Gentile army had been converted to Israel's God. All he still saw was a wealthy Gentile whom he thought that he as an Israelite had the right to deceive. See on :23.

We enquire why Gehazi failed in this way. He had seen so much evidence first hand of God's activity through Elisha. So why do this? We can conclude that like Israel in the wilderness, he became over familiar with the holy (something the law of Moses often tried to save man from), and failed to any longer be impressed personally by the reality of God. In this we have a great warning to ourselves.

2Ki 5:21 So Gehazi followed after Naaman. When Naaman saw one running after him, he came down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?-
The Divine cameraman zooms in fairly close on this scene. We see Gehazi running after the cavalcade, running faster than they were moving, and catching up with Naaman. The way Naaman himself got down from his chariot to personally greet Gehazi is a reflection of the humility he had now learned. Again we see Naaman 'coming down', part of his progressive humiliation. We see his humility in how he himself came down to meet Gehazi, despite being surrounded by a large retinue.

2Ki 5:22 He said, All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Behold, even now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing’-
Gehazi was enough of an amateur psychologist to know that if this is what he asked for, Naaman was likely to multiply it several times. And as noted on :23, his mind was full of the things he could buy with that money.

2Ki 5:23 Naaman said, Please take two talents. He urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants; and they carried them before him-
According to :26, Naaman pressed Gehazi to also take far more than this. Although the things he mentions there, olive yards and vineyards, could hardly have been given by Naaman. Elisha correctly and piercingly perceives that these were the things in Gehazi's mind which we coveted buying with the things he believed Naaman would give him. Again (see on :20), the Bible places such great value on the heart, the thoughts, the spirit of a person. Two talents means 68 kg. or 150 pounds. Too much to carry alone. Two talents of silver was enough to buy the hill of Samaria (1 Kings 16:24). And we note that Gehazi and Elisha lived near a hill (:24); possibly the same hill? Gehazi the servant is contrasted unfavourably with the anonymous Hebrew servant girl. He wanted huge amounts of wealth, far more than would possibly be needed to entertain a few visitors. His dreams were of materialism, not spirituality.  

2Ki 5:24 When he came to the hill, he took them from their hand, and stored them in the house. Then he let the men go, and they departed-
Naaman had returned to Samaria from the Jordan river, at least 20 miles (:15) especially to thank Elisha. It was the opposite direction. And now he was going back eastwards to Syria. Elisha lived in Samaria, presumably not far from the palace of the king. So "the hill" would be "the hill of Samaria" which was bought for two talents of silver (1 Kings 16:24). Exactly the amount of money given to Gehazi (:23). We may be able to deduce from this that it was Gehazi's intention to buy the hill for himself along with the olive groves and vineyards upon it (:26). 

2Ki 5:25 But he went in, and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, Where did you come from, Gehazi? He said, Your servant went nowhere-
It's possible Elisha was now blind or of limited faculties. But even without the direct revelation of the Spirit, he likely guessed what Gehazi had been up to. By saying he had gone nowhere, he clearly lies to the Holy Spirit, as it were, as Ananias and Sapphira did. They were slain, again in a context of covetousness, whereas Gehazi was made a leper and allowed to apparently continue serving Elisha, even though (see on :1) he was supposed to be quarantined away from society. His ministry was allowed to continue, but every moment of his subsequent life he would have been aware that he was only allowed to continue in the ministry by God's grace. Which should always be our view anyway.

2Ki 5:26 He said to him, Didn’t my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money, to receive garments and olive groves and vineyards, sheep and cattle, and male servants and female servants?-
The way the Lord Jesus 'knew' things because of His extreme sensitivity, rather than necessarily by some flash of Holy Spirit insight, isn't unparalleled amongst other men. Elisha knew what Gehazi had done when Gehazi went back to ask Naaman for a reward- Elisha's heart or thoughts went with Gehazi. Elisha imagined Naaman dismounting from his chariot, etc. And he could guess that the request had involved "money... garments" etc. That the Lord's knowledge wasn't necessarily automatic is reflected in the way we read things like "When He saw their faith... when Jesus heard it..." (Mk. 2:5,17). But the Spirit confirmed this spiritual sensitivity, as it can do today; for [the blind?] Elisha 'saw' Naaman turning from his chariot to meet Gehazi, and Elisha read the motives of Naaman in imagining the servants and vineyards on the hill of Samaria which he could buy with his two talents. However it is possible that Elisha wasn't given any specific revelation from the Spirit, and correctly perceived all this himself, due to his own great sensitivity as a person.

These things weren't given to Gehazi. He was given money, but Elisha perceives that all these things were in his mind because he imagined buying them with the silver. This is so psychologically credible. This is exactly how the covetous, materialistic mind works.  

2Ki 5:27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman will cling to you and to your seed forever. He went out from his presence a leper, as white as snow
This is not medically what actually happened. The idea of transference of disease from one to another was a common Semitic perception, and it’s an idea used by God. And thus God went along with the peoples' idea of disease transference, and the result is recorded in terms of demons [which was how they understood illness] going from one person to another. Likewise the leprosy of Naaman clave to Gehazi. God threatened to make the diseases of the inhabitants of Canaan and Egypt to cleave to Israel if they were disobedient (Dt. 28:21,60). Here too, as with Legion, there is Divine accommodation to the ideas of disease transference which people had at the time.

We enquire whether Elisha had to curse Gehazi so severely, just as we wonder whether he had to call down the curse upon the youngsters who mocked his baldness. Likewise we wonder whether he had to bring death upon the officer who doubted whether Elisha could really restore food supply in the besieged city (2 Kings 7:2,17-20).  These curses all betray the spirit of Elijah, which the Lord Jesus condemned, in bringing down fire upon two groups of 50 men. In each case, it could be argued that Elisha felt mocked and so he used the power at his disposal in a very severe and judgmental way, justifying himself as having the spirit of Elijah. Yet it was for that spirit that Elijah had been removed from his office.

In 2 Kings 8, we find Gehazi standing before the king. Presumably, his leprosy had been cleansed and the curse had been lifted by his unrecorded repentance. Curses, even Divine ones, can be changed, as God is open to dialogue with repentant sinners. Just as Elijah and Jonah repented but it is not recorded, we are left to deduce this. Another alternative is that 2 Kings 8 is out of chronological sequence.