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2 Kings 5 Study Notes

5:1-27 This chapter gives an example of God’s miracle-working influence reaching out to the world and impacting a pagan nation, possibly at a time when that nation was a deadly enemy of Israel. This incident could have occurred during the time of Hebrew weakness and Aramean strength between Jehu’s revolution and the resurgence of Hebrew power under Jehoash.

5:1 Though Naaman was regarded as a great military leader, we cannot identify the specific victory that earned him this respect. The Hebrew word for Naaman’s illness (skin disease) is the word routinely translated “leprosy,” but scholars have long felt that its meaning is broader than Hansen’s disease.

5:2-3 The kidnapping of a young Hebrew girl recalls God’s description, given through Amos, of this border warfare: “They threshed Gilead with iron sledges” (Am 1:3). Yet the young Hebrew captive, in an attitude of faith and resigned to the brutality of the age, seemed to have accepted her situation with a positive attitude, while retaining her personal faith in God. She was able to love her enemy, and she wished that her master could experience God’s miraculous healing.

5:4-6 The willingness to seek healing from a foreign god does not necessarily indicate a high international opinion of the deity, but considering God’s hand on the internal political affairs of Damascus (8:7-12), a measure of international standing existed for Yahweh, the God of the Israelites.

5:7 The reaction of the king of Israel, particularly his fear that Damascus was seeking a pretext for war, showed that this was a time of weakness for Israel.

5:8-9 These verses give the most explicit statement of the story’s intent—that people might know there was a prophet in Israel. This can easily be seen as an OT missionary statement.

5:10-12 The sequence of events recorded here fits best into a time when Elisha’s residence was near the Jordan River. This story suggests that the author wished to present God and his work on God’s terms, not the terms that humans would expect. Naaman represents the politicians and others who seemed to feel that God should approach them on man’s terms. God’s sovereignty transcended showing deference to pagan politicians, but God’s grace was still available for those politicians and pagans who respected God. The lesson that God demanded obedience would also have been significant for the Hebrew audience. The Abana and Pharpar rivers, flowing from the slopes of Mount Hermon and coming to an end in the desert marshes east of Damascus, probably were more attractive and cleaner than the evermuddy Jordan.

5:13-14 Naaman’s servants persuaded him to give up human pride, and then he was healed.

5:15 Naaman’s next words to Elisha sounded like another paradigmatic statement of the expected consequences of God’s great works—the response of faith on the part of those who experience or learn of God’s great works (Ex 18:9-10; Jos 2:10-11; 1Kg 8:42-43; Ps 66:5-8).

5:16 Elisha was not in his ministry for the money. Then and now, ministry is a calling rather than a career.

5:17-19 Elisha’s last words to Naaman implied two concessions to Naaman’s new faith. (1) As a man of new faith and incomplete understanding, Naaman believed there would be benefit in having soil from Israel at hand when he worshiped Israel’s God. Elisha cooperated with Naaman’s superstitious belief, much as the apostle Paul encourages mature believers to do with immature believers (Rm 14). (2) A more significant concession was to allow Naaman to participate (seemingly in body only, not mind and heart) in his king’s worship of the god Rimmon. “Rimmon” could have been a local name for the god Hadd/Hadad or a local manifestation of that god. Elisha’s words, Go in peace, imply acceptance of Naaman’s requests.

5:20 Elisha’s servant Gehazi decided to exploit his religious position for money, especially since it involved taking money from a foreigner. Contrast this with Elisha’s attitude (v. 16).

5:21-24 When Gehazi asked for clothing and money based on his fabricated story, Naaman gave him twice the money he asked for and sent two men to help him take the treasures back and possibly to protect him on the trip.

5:25-26 Gehazi added lying to his other deceits, but this lie conflicted with knowledge that God had supernaturally imparted to Elisha. Elisha’s answer listed some of the pleasures one could expect to gain with money.

5:27 As a leper, Gehazi was no longer fit to serve as Elisha’s servant. As is commonly the case in other biblical narratives, we should not assume chronological order for the events narrated in this passage unless such order is explicitly indicated in the text. Therefore there is no necessary contradiction between the fact that Gehazi is here banished from Elisha and the fact that he is presented as Elisha’s servant in 8:1-6. That incident, though recorded later in the book, could have occurred before Naaman’s healing.

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