Naaman Healed of Leprosy (5:1-27)
15-18 Naaman was not only cured; he was also converted. The proud pagan right then and there accepted the God of Israel as the one true God (verse 15). In gratitude, Naaman returned to Elisha’s house and tried to offer him the gifts he had brought.
Elisha refused to accept the gifts because he wanted Naaman to understand that his healing was a free gift of God, not something he had purchased. Naaman then asked to take two muleloads of earth back to Aram with him (verse 17). According to pagan belief, gods responded better if they were worshiped on their own soil; each god was thought to have his own geographic territory. Naaman assumed that he would be more acceptable to Israel’s God if he had some Israelite soil on which to worship.
In addition, Naaman sought assurance that the Lord would forgive him if he were to sometimes bow down before Rimmon, an important god of Aram (verse 18). He would not really be worshiping this god; he would be doing it only to avoid giving offense to his king. Without giving a specific response to Naaman’s words, Elisha simply blessed him by saying, “Go in peace” (verse 19). Naaman’s concern here highlights the difficulties facing new believers who live in the midst of nonbelievers. Elisha seems to have understood this. Naaman thus became a “secret believer,” much as Obadiah had been during the days of Ahab (see 1 Kings 18:1-6 and comment).
By his conversion, the nonIsraelite Naaman put the Israelites to shame. While most Israelites were turning to the worship of Baal, this formerly pagan commander was vowing to never again make . . . sacrifices to any other god but the LORD (verse 17). When God’s covenant people reject Him, then God will raise up others to be the recipients of His covenant blessings (see Luke 4:24-27).
19-27 This happy story of Naaman ends with the sad account of Elisha’s greedy servant, Gehazi. He ran after Naaman and, by telling a lie, tricked him into handing over some of the silver and clothing that he had tried to give Elisha earlier. Notice how differently Naaman behaved now; he had become a more humble person. He got down from his chariot to meet Gehazi (verse 21); he was eager to give Gehazi all that he asked for. This once proud pagan commander was demonstrating the gratitude and humility of a new child of God. Gehazi, on the other hand, a man privileged to walk side by side with God’s greatest living servant, was now utterly abusing that privilege and was soon to lose it altogether.
More than his greed and dishonesty, Gehazi’s greatest sin was to bring discredit upon Elisha and upon Elisha’s God. Elisha did not act like the false prophets, who peddled the word of God for profit (2 Corinthians 2:17). But now Gehazi was making Elisha appear to be no better than they were.
Having been enlightened by God’s Spirit, Elisha knew in his own spirit what Gehazi had done, and he rebuked him for it. With the money he had obtained, Gehazi was no doubt planning to purchase some of the good things Elisha listed: vineyards, flocks, herds and servants (verse 26). We are not told whether Gehazi gave the money back or not. What we do know is that Gehazi received a just punishment: he was afflicted with leprosy—he and his descendants forever23 (verse 27). But more than that, he would no longer enjoy the great privilege and blessing of walking with Elisha in the service of the Lord.
In this chapter, then, we have seen two important biblical pictures. First, we have seen in Naaman a picture of SALVATION by grace, a picture of cleansing and healing that cannot be bought with money or good deeds. Second, we have seen in Gehazi a picture of covetousness,24 a picture of love for the world (see Exodus 20:17; 1 John 2:15-17). Gehazi thought he could serve two masters—God and Money (Matthew 6:24)—but found that he could not.