2 Kings 5:1-27


This chapter contains a rather lengthy cast of characters.  Some will be introduced, play their part, and not be heard from again.  Others will be seen throughout the entire narrative.  We begin with the introduction of Naaman.




            Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. (2 Kings 5:1).


The first character in our narrative is called Naaman.  His name means “gracious” and before the chapter is completed, we are going to see him come into contact with the grace of God.  But at this point in the story, that has not yet taken place.


Naaman was a celebrity.  He was the captain of the army of the king of Aram.  This does not mean that he reported to those who held the rank of major or colonel or general.  Instead, it is a title of high position in the military of Aram.  Aram is the country that today is known as Syria.  It is a relatively small country today, but in that day it was a country that aspired to greatness.  With its capital in Damascus, Aram lay on the major trade routes between Europe and Asia.  This was a wealthy country.  It was also a country that was the traditional rival and enemy of Israel.


Naaman was a captain in one of the major powers of the world of that day.  He was a great man.  He had much respect.  He had enjoyed a career of victory.  He was also a valiant warrior.  He had the respect of his men because of his valor in battle.  T.J. Campo describes Naaman as the type of man who me wanted to be and with whom women wanted to be.  His power would eventually turn to arrogance.


The final thing we are told about Naaman will be the object of the rest of this chapter.  Naaman was a leper.  He had contracted a terrible skin disease that effectively threatened to nullify all of his earlier accomplishments.


This was a disease with a stigma.  Leprosy was to that day what AIDS is today.  It was regularly used in the Bible as a picture of sin and judgment.  This disease made all of Naaman’s accomplishments for naught.  Yet it will be this disease that God will use in Naaman’s life to bring him to faith.





            2 Now the Arameans had gone out in bands, and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman's wife.  3 And she said to her mistress, "I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy."  (2 Kings 5:2-3).


The second character in this narrative is called “a little girl.”  We do not even know her name.  The only thing that we know about her is that she had been taken as a captive and now she had become a slave to the family of Naaman.  She found herself assigned to wait on Naaman’s wife.


Her participation in this story is brief.  It consists of a single verse.  She speaks in what seems to be a mere offhand manner of the power of the prophet who is in Samaria that would be able to cure the leprosy of Naaman.  We are not told that she named the prophet.  She may not even have known the name of Elisha.  She refers to him only as the prophet who is in Samaria.  Naaman and this little girl are presented in contrast to one another.  This little girl is the complete antithesis of Naaman.



Little Girl

He is a “great man”

She is a “little girl”

He has great status as the captain of the army of Aram

She has no status; she is only a captive slave girl

He has great strength and power

She has no strength or power

He is a pagan unbeliever

She has a child’s faith


There is something delightfully simple about this little girl.  She has no prestige, no power, and no social status.  She does not even appear to have a great deal of knowledge.  But she knows there is a prophet in Samaria who has a God that can do great things.


I aspire to be like that little girl.  I wish in all simplicity to point people to the prophet who is greater than Elisha; the One who not only heals leprosy, but who forgives people of their sins.  One does not need to know a lot to direct people to Christ.  One needs only know that there is a Savior who is able to save.





            4 And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, "Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel."  5 Then the king of Aram said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." And he departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes.  6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, "And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy."  7 And it came about when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me." (2 Kings 5:4-7).


Naaman hears the story related by the little girl and he makes mention of it to his master, the king of Aram.  The king of Aram decides to act upon the story and sends a letter to the king of Israel.  We are not here told the names of either the king of Aram or the king of Israel.  They are not of particular importance to the story.


When the message first arrives, the king of Israel is in a quandary.  He has no power to cure leprosy.  He feels that perhaps his rival, the king of Aram, is seeking grounds to pick a fight and go to war.  He knows that he cannot cure leprosy and he does not know anyone else who is able to cure this disease.





            8 And it happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, "Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel."  9 So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots, and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha.  10 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." (2 Kings 5:8-10).


Elisha now enters the picture.  The narrative up to this point has been telling us how Naaman came into the presence of Elisha.  The prophet hears of the dilemma of the king of Israel and sends a message to him.  The message is that Naaman is to come to see Elisha.


It is of interest to note that Elisha operates throughout most of this chapter through the intermediary of a messenger.  He sends a messenger to the king of Israel.  When we come to verse 10, he sends a messenger to Naaman rather than meeting with him personally.  This becomes the cause of some conflict in the mind of Naaman.





            11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, "Behold, I thought, '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 cure the leper.'  12 Are not Abanah and 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. (2 Kings 5:11-12).


Up to now, Naaman has been acting in obedience to the story of the little girl.  He has left his home in Aram and has traveled south to Israel in search of a cure.  Now he has been told that it will be as easy as bathing in the Jordan River.  That isn’t even out of his way.  He will have to cross the Jordan River on his way home.  He can wash in the river and will not even be late for dinner.


But instead of obedience, we see in Naaman an initial attitude of unbelief and of arrogance.  He is angered by the instructions that have been related to him.  There is an interesting contrast to be seen here between Naaman and Jesus, our greater captain.



Jesus Christ

He was the captain of the army of Aram

He is the captain of the Lord’s army

He was a leper

He was without sin

He came to the prophet to be healed

He came to earth to bring healing

His attitude was arrogant

He came in an attitude of humility


Naaman had already envisioned how the encounter between himself and the prophet of Israel would take place.  He had imagined that Elisha would come out and wave his hands and speak some magic words.  This did not take place.


But Elisha had not even come out to see him.  He had not gone through any magic ritual.  Naaman had not gotten the chance to try to impress Elisha with his greatness or his valor or his military rank or with his social position.  Instead, he had only been given instructions through the servant of Elisha.




            13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean '?"  14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:13-14).


The servants of Naaman are the voice of reason.  They approach him and point out that he had been ready to do whatever Elisha had commanded.  If he had said that a great amount of money was to be paid, Naaman would have paid it.  If he had said that a long voyage must me taken, Naaman would have taken it.


The problem was that Elisha’s command was so easy.  It was so simple.  It required minimal effort.  It was too easy.  I have heard people say the same thing about the gospel.  Trusting in Jesus is too easy.  The message of the cross is too simple.


Finally, Naaman takes the prophet at his word and he goes to the nearby Jordan and he follows the instructions that were given to him and he is subsequently healed.  There is a play on words in the text as Naaman is addressed as “father” in verse 13 but when he comes out of the waters of the Jordan River his flesh is restored like the flesh of a little child.  Elisha wants Naaman to humble himself and become childlike and, as a result of his faith, he flesh also becomes childlike.





            15 When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, "Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now."  16 But he said, "As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing." And he urged him to take it, but he refused.  17 And Naaman said, "If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules' load of earth; for your servant will no more offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD.  18 In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter."  19 And he said to him, "Go in peace.” So he departed from him some distance. (2 Kings 5:15-19).


There is more that has been changed than the outward leprosy.  Naaman has a new outlook and a new appreciation for the Lord and a new concern for obeying the Lord and worshiping Him.


1.         The Offer of a Present: “I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now” (5:15).


Naaman wishes to give a present to Elisha.  It was not that anything was demanded or even expected, but that does not matter to Naaman.  He has received grace from God and he now seeks to respond to that grace.  Elisha does not take this gift because of the very fact that it has been a gift of grace.  We shall have more to say about that in a moment.


In the meantime, notice that the result of receiving grace is that one is motivated to respond by giving to God’s ministry.  Grace teaches us to give and it teaches us to live.


2.         The Taking of a Portion of Land:  Naaman said, "If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules' load of earth” (5:17).


Naaman resolves to take back to Aram two mules' load of earth.  He has come to realize that the land of Israel is a special place with a special covenant relationship that God has made with the people of this land.  He wishes to take a small portion of the land home with him.  He now considers himself to be somehow connected to that covenant community and to the promise of the land and he wants to show that by taking some of the land home with him.


Elisha allows Naaman to take the two bags of dirt, even though there is no power in the dirt and there is nothing magical about the soil.  His attitude toward Naaman is one of grace.  This attitude particularly comes into play when Naaman brings up the subject of his present situation which may require him to go into the presence of an idol.


3.         The Issue of Future Worship: “When my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter” (5:18).


Naaman knows that one of his duties when he returns to Aram will be to accompany the king when he goes to worship in the pagan temple.  Yet Naaman realizes that his heart is no longer in that worship and that there is a greater God at work in the world than the god of Aram.  And so, he asks forgiveness for what he foresees will be a problem of divided loyalty.  He is a brand new believer, and his conscience is already being pricked by what he sees as a conflict.

I don’t know the rest of the story.  I don’t know if he returned to Rimmon and escorted the king into that pagan temple and went through the motions of worship.  I suspect that what began here as a moved conscience continued to grow and to lead Naaman in the way he ought to go.


What is interesting is the response of Elisha.  We might have expected Elisha to quote the law to Naaman and to tell him to stay away from idols.  He does not.  Instead, he says, "Go in peace.”  He gives his shalom.  He responds in grace, allowing Naaman the freedom to work out that grace in his own life.  The situation here is similar to that which is described in 1 Corinthians 10 where Christians are invited into a home to eat food that is offered to idols.  Naaman seems to realize that an idol is not really a god.  It is only an object of wood or stone and, as such, it is meaningless.


It is interesting to note that the New Testament makes only a single mention of the ministry of Elisha.  That single reference is this one healing miracle.  It is Jesus who makes the reference and He does so in one of the first recorded sermons He preached.  It was on the occasion of His coming to Nazareth to preach.  Standing in the synagogue, He pointed out that there were a great many lepers living in the ancient world in the days of Elisha, but only one was healed.  It was this pagan Gentile named Naaman.


What is the point?  It is that God’s saving work is a matter of grace rather than of deserved connection.  Jesus was speaking to his fellow villagers of Nazareth who perhaps expected special privileges because Jesus was from their home town.  But if God was not under obligation to cure all of the lepers of Israel in the days of Elisha, then God is not obligated to do any­thing in Nazareth, either.


This is a lesson that you need to learn.  We often tend to fall into the same sort of thinking as the people of Nazareth.  After all, we are the church. We are the people of God.  That gives us a special position.  And if we have a special position, then it isn’t long before we reason that God is obligated to do what we want Him to do.  It isn’t so.  God is not obligated to do anything for you.  When He does act on your behalf, it is the direct result of His love and mercy and grace.





            20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, "Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him."  21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw one running after him, he came down from the chariot to meet him and said, "Is all well?"  22 And he said, "All is well. My master has sent me, saying, 'Behold, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.'"  23 And Naaman said, "Be pleased to take two talents." And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of clothes, and gave them to two of his servants; and they carried them before him.  24 When he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and deposited them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. (2 Kings 5:20-24).


This is not the first time we have seen Gehazi.  He is mentioned on several occasions in the previous chapter as Elisha had dealings with the Shunammite woman.  He was the servant of Elisha and had enjoyed the opportunity to witness the power of God first hand.  Unlike Naaman, he had been exposed to the ministry of Elisha and had been a witness to the power of God.  He had experience in spiritual things, yet he shows that he is more interested in physical and material possessions.


Exposure to the Word of God can be a dangerous thing.  It is dangerous if you do not allow it to penetrate your heart and change you.  The danger is that, if you resist the teachings of the Bible, they will result in hardening your heart and desensitizing you to the call of the Lord.


Gehazi takes some very deliberate steps to take financial advantage of the generosity of Naaman.  He concocts a story about how a financial need has arisen for two sons of the prophets.  Naaman is only too happy to help.  In this, Naaman is seen in contrast to Gehazi.




He had come to Elisha as a leper to be healed.

He was the servant of Elisha who, because of his unfaithfulness, will become a leper.

He had undergone, not only a physical healing, but perhaps a spiritual conversion.

He had spent some time as the servant of Elisha, but he is seen here as self-seeking.

He is not interested in guarding his money and freely gives to Gehazi twice the amount that was requested.

He is plotting to gain some money from Naaman by concocting a lie about a financial need.


Not only does Naaman freely given the requested funds, he gives twice and much as was requested and he sends his own servants to help carry the funds to the place designated by Gehazi.


Notice the words uttered by Gehazi while he was still in the planning stages of this endeavor.  He says in verse 20:   “As the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”  By these words, Gehazi is taking an oath upon himself.  He is bringing a curse upon himself and that curse will result in the former curse of Naaman’s leprosy being transferred to Gehazi.





            25 But he went in and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, "Where have you been, Gehazi?" And he said, "Your servant went nowhere."  26 Then he said to him, "Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants?  27 Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cleave to you and to your descendants forever." So he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow. (2 Kings 5:25-27).


As we see this judgment that comes upon Gehazi, we are meant to see this in contrast with the way the narrative has played out in the life of Naaman.




He was the captain of the army of Aram

He was the servant to the prophet Elisha

He was willing to give what he had to the Lord

He was more interested in what profit he could receive

He was cleansed of his leprosy

He was stricken with leprosy

He acted in faith

He acted in greed and unbelief


Elisha had sworn an oath that he would not accept a financial reward for the healing of Naaman.  We have already seen that, when he was planning on taking such a reward, Gehazi invoked the name of the Lord, binding himself to his plan with an oath.  By taking the reward, Gehazi embraces the oath and takes it upon himself and his descendants.  As a result, he goes out from the presence of Elisha as a leper.  By contrast, we are reminded of Jesus, the greater prophet who took our curse upon himself, bearing our guilt and our shame.




Sought payment for work he did not do.

Made a payment for sins He did not commit.

He was punished with the leprosy that had belonged to Naaman.

He took our sins upon Himself, bearing the guilt that belonged to us.


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