2 Kings 5:8-19
Naaman is healed.
1. (10-12) Naaman’s anger at Elisha’s instructions.
And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ “Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.
a. Elisha sent a messenger to him: Naaman took the trouble to come to the home of Elisha, but Elisha refused to give him a personal audience. He simply sent a messenger. This was humbling to Naaman, who was accustomed to being honored.
b. Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean: These were simple, uncomplicated instructions. Yet as Naaman’s reaction demonstrates, these were humbling instructions.
c. He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy: Naaman had it all figured out. In his great need, he anticipated a way God would work, and he was offended when God didn’t work the way he expected.
d. He turned and went away in a range: Because his expectation of how God should work was crushed, Naaman wanted nothing to do with Elisha. If the answer was in washing in a river, Naaman knew there were better rivers in his own land.
2. (13) The good advice of Naaman’s servants.
And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”
a. His servants came near and spoke to him: Thank God for faithful subordinates who will speak to their superiors in such a way. Naaman was obviously angry, yet they were bold enough to give him the good advice he needed to hear.
b. If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? The servants of Naaman used a brilliantly logical approach. If Elisha had asked Naaman to sacrifice 100 or 1,000 animals to the God of Israel, Naaman would have done it immediately. Yet because his request was easy to do and humbling, Naaman first refused.
3. (14) Naaman is healed.
So he went down and dipped 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.
a. According to the saying of the man of God: Naaman did exactly what Elisha told him to do. Therefore we can say that each dunk in the Jordan was a step of faith, trusting in the word of God through His prophet.
i. Wiseman on the ancient Hebrew word translated dipped: “Naaman ‘plunged’ in the River Jordan. This signified total obedience to the divine word.”
ii. Spurgeon saw Naaman attacked by two enemies: Proud Self, who internally demanded that Elisha come out and see him, and Evil Questioning, who questioned why he should wash in the Jordan when he had better rivers back in his homeland. Naaman overcame these two enemies and did what God told him to do.
b. And his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean: Naaman’s response of faith was generously rewarded. God answered his faith with complete and miraculous healing.
i. “The simple method of this miracle, performed without the prophet there, did give God the credit. It was obvious that the healing came from Yahweh rather than from the sort of magical incantation that Naaman had anticipated.” (Dilday)
4. (15-16) Naaman offers to reward Elisha but the prophet refuses.
And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.
a. And he returned to the man of God: This was a fine display of gratitude. Naaman was like the one leper out of the ten Jesus healed who came back to thank Jesus (Luke 17:12-19). He was also a foreigner, like the one thankful leper of Luke 17.
i. Before, Naaman expected the prophet to come to him. Now he returned to the man of God and stood before him.
ii. “It is often the case that those who have least to value themselves on are proud and haughty; whereas the most excellent of the earth are the most humble, knowing that they have nothing but what they have received. Naaman, the leper, was more proud and dictatorial that he was when cleansed of his leprosy.” (Clarke)
b. Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel: It wasn’t just the healing that persuaded Naaman of this. It was the healing connected with the word of the prophet. Together, this was convincing evidence to Naaman that the God Elisha represented was the true God in all the earth.
c. Please take a gift from you servant: We can say that Naaman only meant well by this gesture. He felt it was appropriate to support the ministry of this man of God whom the Lord had used so greatly to bring healing. However, Elisha steadfastly insisted that he would receive nothing from Naaman.
5. (17-19) Naaman’s new faith.
So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. Yet in this thing may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon; when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord please pardon your servant in this thing.” Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a short distance.
a. Let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth: Like many new believers, Naaman was superstitious in his faith. He held the common opinion of the ancient world, that particular deities had power over particular places. He thought that if he took a piece of Israel back with him to Syria, he could better worship the God of Israel.
i. “The transporting of holy soil was a widespread custom. Naaman’s faith was yet untaught; and with his personal need to follow publicly the state cults, Elisha may have felt that available Israelite soil may have afforded Naaman with some tangible reminder of his cleansing and new relationship to God.” (Patterson and Austel)
b. When I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord please pardon your servant in this thing: As an official in the government of Syria, Naaman was expected to participate in the worship of the Syrian gods. He asked Elisha for allowance to direct his heart to Yahweh even when he was in the temple of Rimmon.
i. “The Hebrew ‘lean on the hand’ does not imply physical support but that he was the king’s ‘right hand man’ (cf. 2 Kings 7:2, 17).” (Wiseman)
c. Go in peace: By generally approving but not saying specifically “yes” or “no,” it seems that Elisha left the matter up to Naaman and God. Perhaps he trusted that the Lord would personally convict Naaman of this and give him the integrity and strength to avoid idolatry.
i. Some commentators (Clarke and Trapp among them) believe that Naaman asked forgiveness for his previous idolatry in the temple of Rimmon, instead of asking permission for future occasions. Apparently, the Hebrew will allow for this translation, though it is not the most natural way to understand the text.
ii. Nevertheless, we can certainly agree with Trapp’s application: “Let none by Naaman’s example plead an upright soul in a prostrate body.”