Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 5:1
Curing of Naaman from Leprosy. - Kg2 5:1. Naaman, the commander-in-chief of the Syrian king, who was a very great man before his lord, i.e., who held a high place in the service of his king and was greatly distinguished (פּנים נשׂא, cf. Isa 3:3; Isa 9:14), because God had given the Syrians salvation (victory) through him, was as a warrior afflicted with leprosy. The ו has not dropped out before מצרע, nor has the copula been omitted for the purpose of sharpening the antithesis (Thenius), for the appeal to Ewald, 354, a., proves nothing, since the passages quoted there are of a totally different kind; but חיל גּבּור is a second predicate: the man was as a brave warrior leprous. There is an allusion here to the difference between the Syrians and the Israelites in their views of leprosy. Whereas in Israel lepers were excluded from human society (see at Lev 13 and 14), in Syria a man afflicted with leprosy could hold a very high state-office in the closest association with the king.
And in Naaman's house before his wife, i.e., in her service, there was an Israelitish maiden, whom the Syrians had carried off in a marauding expedition (גדוּדים יצאוּ: they had gone out in (as) marauding bands). She said to her mistress: "O that my lord were before the prophet at Samaria! (where Elisha had a house, Kg2 6:32), he would free him from his leprosy." מצּרעת אסף, to receive (again) from leprosy, in the sense of "to heal," may be explained from Num 12:14-15, where אסף is applied to the reception of Miriam into the camp again, from which she had been excluded on account of her leprosy.
When Naaman related this to his lord (the king), he told him to go to Samaria furnished with a letter to the king of Israel; and he took with him rich presents as compensation for the cure he was to receive, viz., ten talents of silver, about 25,000 thalers (3750 - Tr.); 600 shekels (= two talents) of gold, about 50,000 thalers (7500); and ten changes of clothes, a present still highly valued in the East (see the Comm. on Gen 45:22). This very large present was quite in keeping with Naaman's position, and was not too great for the object in view, namely, his deliverance from a malady which would be certainly, even if slowly, fatal.
When the king of Israel (Joram) received the letter of the Syrian king on Naaman's arrival, and read therein that he was to cure Naaman of his leprosy (ועתּה, and now, - showing in the letter the transition to the main point, which is the only thing communicated here; cf. Ewald, 353, b.), he rent his clothes in alarm, and exclaimed, "Am I God, to be able to kill and make alive?" i.e., am I omnipotent like God? (cf. Deu 32:39; Sa1 2:6); "for he sends to me to cure a man of his leprosy." The words of the letter ואספתּו, "so cure him," were certainly not so insolent in their meaning as Joram supposed, but simply meant: have him cured, as thou hast a wonder-working prophet; the Syrian king imagining, according to his heathen notions of priests and gotes, that Joram could do what he liked with his prophets and their miraculous powers. There was no ground, therefore, for the suspicion which Joram expressed: "for only observe and see, that he seeks occasion against me." התאנּה to seek occasion, sc. for a quarrel (cf. Jdg 14:4).
When Elisha heard of this, he reproved the king for his unbelieving alarm, and told him to send the man to him, "that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel."
When Naaman stopped with his horses and chariot before the house of Elisha, the prophet sent a messenger out to him to say, "Go and wash thyself seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh will return to thee, i.e., become sound, and thou wilt be clean." ישׁב, return, inasmuch as the flesh had been changed through the leprosy into festering matter and putrefaction. The reason why Elisha did not go out to Naaman himself, is not to be sought for in the legal prohibition of intercourse with lepers, as Ephraem Syrus and many others suppose, nor in his fear of the leper, as Thenius thinks, nor even in the wish to magnify the miracle in the eyes of Naaman, as C. a Lapide imagines, but simply in Naaman's state of mind. This is evident from his exclamation concerning the way in which he was treated. Enraged at his treatment, he said to his servant (Kg2 5:11, Kg2 5:12): "I thought, he will come out to me and stand and call upon the name of Jehovah his God, and go with his hand over the place (i.e., move his hand to and fro over the diseased places), and take away the leprosy." המּצורע, the leprous = the disease of leprosy, the scabs and ulcers of leprosy. "Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? (for the combination of טּוב with נהרות, see Ewald, 174f.) Should I not bathe in them, and become clean?" With these words he turned back, going away in a rage. Naaman had been greatly strengthened in the pride, which is innate in every natural man, by the exalted position which he held in the state, and in which every one bowed before him, and served him in the most reverential manner, with the exception of his lord the king; and he was therefore to receive a salutary lesson of humiliation, and at the same time was also to learn that he owed his cure not to any magic touch from the prophet, but solely to the power of God working through him. - Of the two rivers of Damascus, Abana or Amana (the reading of the Keri with the interchange of the labials ב and מ, see Sol 4:8) is no doubt the present Barada or Barady (Arab. brd, i.e., the cold river), the Chrysorrhoas (Strabo, xvi. p. 755; Plin. h. n. 18 or 16), which rises in the table-land to the south of Zebedany, and flows through this city itself, and then dividing into two arms, enters two small lakes about 4 3/4 hours to the east of the city. The Pharpar is probably the only other independent river of any importance in the district of Damascus, namely, the Avaj, which arises from the union of several brooks around Sa'sa', and flows through the plain to the south of Damascus into the lake Heijny (see Rob. Bibl. Researches, p. 444). The water of the Barada is beautiful, clear and transparent (Rob.), whereas the water of the Jordan is turbid, "of a clayey colour" (Rob. Pal. ii. p. 256); and therefore Naaman might very naturally think that his own native rivers were better than the Jordan.
His servants then addressed him in a friendly manner, and said, "My father, if the prophet had said to thee a great thing (i.e., a thing difficult to carry out), shouldst thou not have done it? how much more then, since he has said to thee, Wash, and thou wilt be clean?" אבי, my father, is a confidential expression arising from childlike piety, as in Kg2 6:21 and Sa1 24:12; and the etymological jugglery which traces אבי from לבי = לוי = לוּ (Ewald, Gr. 358, Anm.), or from אם (Thenius), is quite superfluous (see Delitzsch on Job, vol. ii. p. 265, transl.). - דּבּר...גּדול דּבר is a conditional clause without אם (see Ewald, 357, b.), and the object is placed first for the sake of emphasis (according to Ewald, 309, a.). כּי אף, how much more (see Ewald, 354, c.), sc. shouldst thou do what is required, since he has ordered thee so small and easy a thing.
Naaman then went down (from Samaria to the Jordan) and dipped in Jordan seven times, and his flesh became sound (ישׁב as in Kg2 5:10) like the flesh of a little boy. Seven times, to show that the healing was a work of God, for seven is the stamp of the works of God.
After the cure had been effected, he returned with all his train to the man of God with this acknowledgment: "Behold, I have found that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel," and with the request that he would accept a blessing (a present, בּרכה, as in Gen 33:11; Sa1 25:27, etc.) from him, which the prophet, however, stedfastly refused, notwithstanding all his urging, that he might avoid all appearance of selfishness, by which the false prophets were actuated.
Then Naaman said: ולא, "and not" = and if not, καὶ ει ̓ μή (lxx; not "and O," according to Ewald, 358, b., Anm.), "let there be given to thy servant (= to me) two mules' burden of earth (on the construction see Ewald, 287, h.), for thy servant will no more make (offer) burnt-offerings and slain-offerings to any other gods than Jehovah. May Jehovah forgive thy servant in this thing, when my lord (the king of Syria) goeth into the house of Rimmon, to fall down (worship) there, and he supports himself upon my hand, that I fall down (with him) in the house of Rimmon; if I (thus) fall down in the house of Rimmon, may," etc. It is very evident from Naaman's explanation, "for thy servant," etc., that he wanted to take a load of earth with him out of the land of Israel, that he might be able to offer sacrifice upon it to the God of Israel, because he was still a slave to the polytheistic superstition, that no god could be worshipped in a proper and acceptable manner except in his own land, or upon an altar built of the earth of his own land. And because Naaman's knowledge of God was still adulterated with superstition, he was not yet prepared to make an unreserved confession before men of his faith in Jehovah as the only true God, but hoped that Jehovah would forgive him if he still continued to join outwardly in the worship of idols, so far as his official duty required. Rimmon (i.e., the pomegranate) is here, and probably also in the local name Hadad-rimmon (Zac 12:11), the name of the supreme deity of the Damascene Syrians, and probably only a contracted form of Hadad-rimmon, since Hadad was the supreme deity or sun-god of the Syrians (see at Sa2 8:3), signifying the sun-god with the modification expressed by Rimmon, which has been differently interpreted according to the supposed derivation of the word. Some derive the name from רמם = רוּם, as the supreme god of heaven, like the Ἐλιοῦν of Sanchun. (Cler., Seld., Ges. thes. p. 1292); others from רמּון, a pomegranate, as a faecundantis, since the pomegranate with its abundance of seeds is used in the symbolism of both Oriental and Greek mythology along with the Phallus as a symbol of the generative power (vid., Bhr, Symbolik, ii. pp. 122,123), and is also found upon Assyrian monuments (vid., Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, p. 343); others again, with less probability, from רמה, jaculari, as the sun-god who vivifies and fertilizes the earth with his rays, like the ἑκηβόλος Ἀπόλλων; and others from רמם = Arab. rmm, computruit, as the dying winter sun (according to Movers and Hitzig; see Leyrer in Herzog's Cyclopaedia). - The words "and he supports himself upon my hand" are not to be understood literally, but are a general expressly denoting the service which Naaman had to render as the aide-de-camp to his king (cf. Kg2 7:2, Kg2 7:17). For the Chaldaic form השׁתּחויתי, see Ewald, 156, a. - In the repetition of the words "if I fall down in the temple of Rimmon," etc., he expresses the urgency of his wish.
Elisha answered, "Go in peace," wishing the departing Syrian the peace of God upon the road, without thereby either approving or disapproving the religious conviction which he had expressed. For as Naaman had not asked permission to go with his king into the temple of Rimmon, but had simply said, might Jehovah forgive him or be indulgent with him in this matter, Elisha could do nothing more, without a special command from God, than commend the heathen, who had been brought to belief in the God of Israel as the true God by the miraculous cure of his leprosy, to the further guidance of the Lord and of His grace.
(Note: Most of the earlier theologians found in Elisha's words a direct approval of the religious conviction expressed by Naaman and his attitude towards idolatry; and since they could not admit that a prophet would have permitted a heathen alone to participate in idolatrous ceremonies, endeavoured to get rid of the consequence resulting from it, viz., licitam ergo esse Christianis συμφώνησιν πιστοῦ μετὰ ἀπιστοῦ, seu symbolizationem et communicationem cum ceremonia idololatrica, either by appealing to the use of השׁתּחות and to the distinction between incurvatio regis voluntaria et religiosa (real worship) and incurvatio servilis et coacta Naemani, quae erat politica et civilis (mere prostration from civil connivance), or by the ungrammatical explanation that Naaman merely spoke of what he had already done, not of what he would do in future (vid., Pfeiffer, Dub. vex. p. 445ff., and J. Meyer, ad Seder Olam, p. 904ff., Budd., and others). - Both are unsatisfactory. The dreaded consequence falls of itself if we only distinguish between the times of the old covenant and those of the new. Under the old covenant the time had not yet come in which the heathen, who came to the knowledge of the true deity of the God of Israel, could be required to break off from all their heathen ways, unless they would formally enter into fellowship with the covenant nation.)
4 Kings (2 Kings) 5:20
Punishment of Gehazi. - Kg2 5:20-22. When Naaman had gone a stretch of the way (ארץ כּברת, Kg2 5:19; see at Gen 35:16), there arose in Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the desire for a portion of the presents of the Syrian which his master had refused (אם כּי יי חי, as truly as Jehovah liveth, assuredly I run after him; אם כּי as in Sa1 25:34). He therefore hastened after him; and as Naaman no sooner saw Gehazi running after him than he sprang quickly down from his chariot in reverential gratitude to the prophet (יפּל as in Gen 24:64), he asked in the name of Elisha for a talent of silver and two changes of raiment, professedly for two poor pupils of the prophets, who had come to the prophet from Mount Ephraim.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 5:23
But Naaman forced him to accept two talents (קח הואל, be pleased to take; and כּכּרים, with the dual ending, ne pereat indicium numeri - Winer) in two purses, and two changes of raiment, and out of politeness had these presents carried by two of his servants before Gehazi.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 5:24
When Gehazi came to the hill (העפל, the well-known hill before the city) he took the presents from the bearers, and dismissing the men, laid them up in the house. בּ פּקד, to bring into safe custody.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 5:25
But when he entered his master's presence again, he asked him, "Whence (comest thou), Gehazi?" and on his returning the lying answer that he had not been anywhere, charged him with all that he had done. הלך לבּי לא, "had not my heart gone, when the man turned from his chariot to meet thee?" This is the simplest and the only correct interpretation of these difficult words, which have been explained in very different ways. Theodoret (οὐχὶ ἡ καρδία μου ἦ μετὰ σοῦ) and the Vulgate (nonne cor meum in praesenti erat, quando, etc.) have already given the same explanation, and so far as the sense is concerned it agrees with that adopted by Thenius: was I not (in spirit) away (from here) and present (there)? הלך stands in a distinct relation to the הלך לא of Gehazi. - וגו האת: "is it time to take silver, and clothes, and olive-trees, and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and servants and maidens?" i.e., is this the time, when so many hypocrites pretend to be prophets from selfishness and avarice, and bring the prophetic office into contempt with unbelievers, for a servant of the true God to take money and goods from a non-Israelite for that which God has done through him, that he may acquire property and luxury for himself?
4 Kings (2 Kings) 5:27
"And let the leprosy of Naaman cleave to thee and to thy seed for ever." This punishment took effect immediately. Gehazi went out from Elisha covered with leprosy as if with snow (cf. ex. Kg2 4:6; Num 12:10). It was not too harsh a punishment that the leprosy taken from Naaman on account of his faith in the living God, should pass to Gehazi on account of his departure from the true God. For it was not his avarice only that was to be punished, but the abuse of the prophet's name for the purpose of carrying out his selfish purpose, and his misrepresentation of the prophet.
(Note: "This was not the punishment of his immoderate δωροδοκίας (receiving of gifts) merely, but most of all of his lying. For he who seeks to deceive the prophet in relation to the things which belong to his office, is said to lie to the Holy Ghost, whose instruments the prophets are" (vid., Act 5:3). - Grotius.)