Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man
with his master--highly esteemed for his military character and
and honourable--rather, "very rich."
but he was a leper--This leprosy, which, in Israel, would have
excluded him from society, did not affect his free intercourse in the
court of Syria.
2-5. a little maid--who had been captured in one of the many
predatory incursions which were then made by the Syrians on the
northern border of Israel (see
2Ki 13:21; 24:2).
By this young Hebrew slave of his wife, Naaman's attention was
directed to the prophet of Israel, as the person who would remove his
leprosy. Naaman, on communicating the matter to his royal master, was
immediately furnished with a letter to the king of Israel, and set out
for Samaria, carrying with him, as an indispensable preliminary in the
East, very costly presents.
5. ten talents of silver--£3421; 6000 shekels of gold; a
large sum of uncertain value.
ten changes of raiment--splendid dresses, for festive occasions--the
honor being thought to consist not only in the beauty and fineness of
the material, but on having a variety to put on one after another, in
the same night.
7. when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his
clothes--According to an ancient practice among the Eastern people,
the main object only was stated in the letter that was carried by the
party concerned, while other circumstances were left to be explained at
the interview. This explains Jehoram's burst of emotion--not horror at
supposed blasphemy, but alarm and suspicion that this was merely made
an occasion for a quarrel. Such a prince as he was would not readily
think of Elisha, or, perhaps, have heard of his miraculous deeds.
8-12. when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had
rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, . . . let him come
now to me--This was the grand and ultimate object to which, in the
providence of God, the journey of Naaman was subservient. When the
Syrian general, with his imposing retinue, arrived at the prophet's
house, Elisha sent him a message to "go and wash in Jordan seven
times." This apparently rude reception to a foreigner of so high
dignity incensed Naaman to such a degree that he resolved to depart,
scornfully boasting that the rivers of Damascus were better than all
the waters of Israel.
11. strike his hand over the place--that is, wave it over the diseased
parts of his body. It was anciently, and still continues to be, a very
prevalent superstition in the East that the hand of a king, or person
of great reputed sanctity, touching, or waved over a sore, will heal
12. Abana and Pharpar--the Barrady and one of its five
tributaries--uncertain which. The waters of Damascus are still highly
extolled by their inhabitants for their purity and coldness.
14. Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in
Jordan--Persuaded by his calmer and more reflecting attendants to
try a method so simple and easy, he followed their instructions, and
was cured. The cure was performed on the basis of God's covenant with
Israel, by which the land, and all pertaining to it, was blessed. Seven
was the symbol of the covenant [KEIL].
15, 16. he returned to the man of God--After the miraculous cure,
Naaman returned to Elisha, to whom he acknowledged his full belief in
the sole supremacy of the God of Israel and offered him a liberal
reward. But to show that he was not actuated by the mercenary motives
of the heathen priests and prophets, Elisha, though he accepted
presents on other occasions
respectfully but firmly declined them on this, being desirous that the
Syrians should see the piety of God's servants, and their superiority
to all worldly and selfish motives in promoting the honor of God and
the interests of true religion.
17. two mules' burden of earth--with which to make an altar
to the God of Israel. What his motive or his purpose was in this
proposal--whether he thought that God could be acceptably worshipped
only on his own soil; or whether he wished, when far away from
the Jordan, to have the earth of Palestine to rub himself with,
which the Orientals use as a substitute for water; or whether, by
making such a request of Elisha, he thought the prophet's grant of it
would impart some virtue; or whether, like the modern Jews and
Mohammedans, he resolved to have a portion of this holy earth
for his nightly pillow--it is not easy to say. It is not strange to
find such notions in so newly a converted heathen.
18. goeth into the house of Rimmon--a Syrian deity; probably the
sun, or the planetary system, of which a pomegranate
(Hebrew, Rimmon) was the symbol.
leaneth on my hand--that is, meaning the service which Naaman rendered
as the attendant of his sovereign. Elisha's prophetic commission not
extending to any but the conversion of Israel from idolatry, he makes
no remark, either approving or disapproving, on the declared course of
Naaman, but simply gives the parting benediction
GEHAZI, BY A
20-25. I will run after him, and take somewhat of him--The respectful
courtesy to Elisha, shown in the person of his servant, and the
open-handed liberality of his gifts, attest the fulness of Naaman's
gratitude; while the lie--the artful management is dismissing the
bearers of the treasure, and the deceitful appearance before his
master, as if he had not left the house--give a most unfavorable
impression of Gehazi's character.
23. in two bags--People in the East, when travelling, have their money,
in certain sums, put up in bags.
27. leper as white as
This heavy infliction was not too severe for the crime of Gehazi. For
it was not the covetousness alone that was punished; but, at the same
time, it was the ill use made of the prophet's name to gain an object
prompted by a mean covetousness, and the attempt to conceal it by lying