The Agora
Bible Commentary
2 Kings

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2 Kings 5

2Ki 5:1

"The curse of leprosy, a physical ailment of the flesh, is cured by baptism. Naaman, the Gentile captain finds a solution to his personal problem at the hand of the Hebrew prophet. The Lord Jesus took Elisha's healing of Naaman as a prophecy that he himself would be sent to redeem all people (Luk 4:25-27). And yet, in the cleansing of the Gentiles, an Israelite is defiled. The hideous disease of leprosy represents the sin which is in our members, a living death (1Ti 5:6). Yahweh alone could cure leprosy (2Ki 5:15). There is nothing within the entire range of human phenomena which illustrates so impressively the divine power of the Redeemer, and the nature and extent of his work of mercy on man's behalf, as this leprosy. There are many most striking analogies between it and that more deadly leprosy of sin that has involved our whole race in one common ruin. It is feared as contagious; it is certainly and inevitably hereditary; it is loathsome and polluting; its victim is shunned by all as unclean; it is most deceitful in its actions. New-born babes of leprous parents are often as pretty and as healthy in appearance as any other, but by-and-by its presence and working become visible in some of the signs described in Lev 13. Similarly sin is contagious, hereditary, and becomes worse as time goes by, until its ravages are apparent to all. The innocent child with its engaging prattle and pretty ways hides that which can grow into a Judas Iscariot, a Nero, a criminal. Discipline from the beginning is required. There is but one real cure; one Physician who can cure the leprosy of sin, and He has described the infallible means: Luk 17:14; Rom 6. The atoning work of the Lord Jesus, being the full meaning of baptism, is the only means by which the leper can be made clean" (GEM).

Typical prophecy: The Gentile is cleansed, while the unworthy servant is punished (but later forgiven and cured -- 2Ki 8).

NAAMAN: Sig "pleasant", the masculine equivalent of Naomi.

A GREAT MAN: With a position in the kingdom prob second only to the king.

VICTORY TO ARAM: As the captain of the Aramean host, Naaman would have had a very close relationship with his king, Ben-hadad, as counselor as well as chief military officer. Poss, before he contracted leprosy, Naaman would have been close to the king -- as in the battle with Israel in 1Ki 20 -- and would have persuaded the king to throw himself on the mercy of the king of Israel, Ahab. If so, Naaman would have known Ahab on sight, and might well have been the Syrian soldier who slew him (1Ki 22:30-37), when Ahab later turned against Ben-hadad. By this means, he might have brought defeat for Israel and victory for Aram/Syria. (This connection is corroborated by Josephus: Jos Ant 8:15:5.)

A VALIANT SOLDIER: Naaman had no doubt killed many Jews, but nevertheless was called by the God of Israel (cp Saul of Tarsus).

BUT HE HAD LEPROSY: All his titles, awards, attainments availed him nothing.

2Ki 5:2

AND HAD TAKEN CAPTIVE A YOUNG GIRL FROM ISRAEL: Perhaps all her family had been slain in the raid in which she was captured (Xd 121:171).

A YOUNG GIRL FROM ISRAEL: This maid, forced to keep other vineyards (Song 1:6), had faith in Elisha and the one whom he typified -- and she made use of her opportunities to enlighten others. "As the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy" (Psa 123:2).

2Ki 5:3

Naaman was "easy to be intreated" (Jam 3:17). His servant girl, his wife, and later his servants (v 13) could approach him and reason with him. A great contrast to Nabal (1Sa 25:17) (Tid 44:2:14).

HE WOULD CURE HIM OF HIS LEPROSY: But she had never witnessed Elisha cure a leper! She had never even heard of him doing such a thing! How do we know that? Because of Luk 4:27: "And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed -- only Naaman the Syrian." The little maid, probably plucked from her family during a raid by the Syrian army, was now forced to live in the household of a man who was the enemy of her people -- he may even have slaughtered her family. But, despite her own difficult circumstances, and her lowly state in a strange land, she cared about her captors. And she believed without seeing; she saw types of Yahweh, who could grant cleansing from the "leprosy" of sin (Lev 13:13,14); she saw the coming ingathering of the Gentiles, cured of their "leprosy". So she knew, without ever having seen it, that Elisha the prophet of God could work such a tremendous miracle. And she wasn't afraid to speak up and say so. So spare a passing thought for the lowly servant girl with no name, great in faith.

2Ki 5:5

TEN SETS OF CLOTHING: Festal garments -- like the goodly Babylonish garment, which inspired the greed of Achan (Jos 7:1,21). Now these garments will inspire the greed of Gehazi (2Ki 5:20).

2Ki 5:6

Cp wise men bringing great wealth to Israel, inquiring of suspicious King Herod as to the whereabouts of the anointed one. Naaman and the king of Syria (like the wise men) naturally assume that a great man will be found in a king's court. They expected that there would be agreement between the prophet and king in Israel. Doubtless there was in Syria. The priests of those lands had a big influence over the people. But it was not so in Israel. This nation, which should have been an example to the rest of the world (Deu 4:6-8), did not even match the standards of the nations around them in this respect, let alone live up to the high standards of their God.

2Ki 5:7

AM I GOD?: The king is dismissive in the extreme. He is a man of state and important affairs: he has no time for God and His prophet!

2Ki 5:8

Fear of the Syrian "butcher".

2Ki 5:9

Perhaps Naaman was thinking, 'Look at the wonderful impression I shall make!' But, at the root of things, he was... STILL... a "leper"!

2Ki 5:10

ELISHA SENT A MESSENGER: A calculated insult: he will not even come out to meet Naaman.

WASH YOURSELF... IN THE JORDAN: Cp baptism of John: Mat 3.

2Ki 5:12

No ordinary, earthly "rivers" of learning or culture or reformation can wash away sin!

HE TURNED AND WENT OFF IN A RAGE: He was insulted: his intelligence had been questioned.

2Ki 5:13

MY FATHER: That is, "leader" or "master" (2Ki 4:20,21; 45:8; 2Ch 4:16; Isa 22:21).

SOME GREAT THING: But baptism/washing is a very "little" thing! This explains the humiliation which Naaman feels.

WASH AND BE CLEANSED: Naaman's servants are referring to Lev 13:6,34,58 -- where the words are used in the law concerning leprosy. Did they know these passages? or did God putting the words into their mouths, so that Naaman might have the opportunity to make the connection at some later date? Why did God effect this cure on Naaman if it was not that he should become a faithful believer (vv 17,18)?

2Ki 5:14

DIPPED: In LXX, "baptizo".

THE JORDAN: The river of death becomes a river of life!

FLESH... LIKE... A YOUNG BOY: Naaman was being "born again" (Joh 3)! "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mat 18:3).

"It may seem strange and incredible that God would connect such a momentous change [covenant relationship, and forgiveness of sins] with a trivial and (as some regard it) ridiculous observance [baptism]. An earnest mind, however, will not stop to reason on the matter when once satisfied that it is the will of God, especially when he remembers that it is one of the characteristics of God's dealings with men that He selects 'weak things, things despised, yea, and things that are not' (1Co 1:27,28), by which to accomplish important results -- that it may be seen that the power is of God, and not in the means, and that true obedience may be secured in His servants. It was not the eating of the fruit in itself -- apart from the divine prohibition -- that constituted Adam's offence. It was not the mere looking at the brazen serpent in the wilderness that cured the serpent bitten Israelites. It was not Naaman's mere immersion in Jordan in itself that cured him of his leprosy. It was the principle involved in each case that developed the results -- the principle of obedience to the divine law, which is one prominent feature in all God's dealings with man. Obedience is the great thing required at our hands: 'Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams' (1Sa 15:22).

"It matters not what the act may be; the more unlikely the thing required, the more severe the test, and the more conspicuous the obedience, even if it be the offering up of an only son, or the slaughtering of a whole nation. In any case, and at all hazards, obedience must be yielded. God is not less exacting in this respect under the Christian dispensation than He was under the law; but, if possible, more so" (Xdm Ast).

2Ki 5:15

YOUR SERVANT: The mightiest man in Syria has now become a "servant"!

2Ki 5:17

EARTH: From Israel, to build a true altar.

2Ki 5:18

HE IS LEANING ON MY ARM: Naaman's assistance was needed by the king when he went to worship.

WHEN I BOW DOWN IN THE TEMPLE OF RIMMON, MAY THE LORD FORGIVE YOUR SERVANT FOR THIS: "Whether we can equate Naaman's idol problem to correspond exactly with anything today in the West or not, it still shows a remarkable degree of latitude from both Elijah and God. The same with Cornelius keeping his job as a colonial occupier (a far worse job for a Christadelphian than a modern police captain). Or Hezekiah holding the Passover in the wrong month. Or David eating the shewbread. Or any of the many fast ones pulled by Jacob. The fact is that God, basically, isn't always as fussy as we might be... We all live in the Temple of Rimmon daily (certainly Monday through Friday), making compromises and failing to live up to the letter, let alone the Spirit, of the Word of life. Therefore we have to be so, so careful not to be busy putting burdens on the shoulders of others when we will not, or cannot lift a finger to help bear them. And there is such a thing a millstone; it is not the stumbled who wear the millstones, instead it is people like me who take them on ourselves when we decide for others the terms by which that person has to approach Christ. The narrow path to the kingdom is, unfortunately, littered with the bodies of those who have fallen and not been picked up. And the side of the road is dotted with pits for lost sheep to fall into. We can put faces and names to these people -- and some of the faces and names we know today are going to be the casualties of the next 10, 20, 30 years if the Lord remains away. Some of the things that cause people to fall by the wayside are indeed gnats not camels (to mix parables), and yes we could say, 'It's their own stupid fault -- they strained out a gnat (or hat, or skirt, or whatever else) and swallowed a camel (the broad way which leads to destruction).' What I'm trying to say is this: Woe betide the person who serves up the gnat the breaks the camel's back" (SCx).

2Ki 5:20

MY MASTER: By stating it this way, Gehazi is failing to recognize the hand of God in the matter.

THIS ARAMEAN: Used in contempt. Ct the maiden, who calls Naaman "adon" or "lord" (v 3).

AS SURELY AS THE LORD LIVES: Ct v 16: Gehazi uses the same oath as his master.

2Ki 5:21

Gehazi causes his master (and by implication, his God) to be dishonored before the world.

2Ki 5:26

TO ACCEPT CLOTHES, OLIVE GROVES...: Gehazi seems to have had great plans for his new-found wealth!

2Ki 5:27

Notice: the leprosy seems to accompany the worldly wealth!

Does Gehazi later repent, and is he then healed (2Ki 8:4)?

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