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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Kings 5

Naaman’s leprosy. (1-8) The cure of it. (9-14) Elisha refuses Naaman’s gifts. (15-19) Gehazi’s covetousness and falsehood. (20-27)

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Naaman’s leprosy

1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.

2 And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.

3 And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.

4 And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.

5 And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.

6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.

7 And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.

8 And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.

The cure of it

9 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.

10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.

11 But Naaman was wroth, 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 strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.

13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Elisha refuses Naaman’s gifts

15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.

16 But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.

17 And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD.

18 In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.

19 And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.

Gehazi’s covetousness and falsehood

20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.

21 So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?

22 And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments.

23 And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him.

24 And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed.

25 But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.

26 And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?

27 The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. King, Benadad, who had defeated Achab, and was slain by Hazael; (C. viii. T.) or, according to Salien, Hazael was already king. M. — Josephus passes over this history. It is not known for what reason, (C.) unless he was staggered at the petition of Naaman, v. 18. 19. H. — Syria. The Rabbins say, by killing Achab. 3 K. xxii. 34. But their authority is very small; (H.) and he might signalize himself on many other occasions. — Leper. This malady did not exclude him from court. The Hebrews allowed such to appear in public, till the priests had declared them unclean; and other nations viewed the leprosy with less horror.

Ver. 2. Robbers; soldiers. T. 2 K. iv. 2. — Such invaded the dominions of Joachin. C. xxiv. 2. Irruptions of this nature were then very common, (see Judg. xi. 3. Job i. 15.) and regarded as noble military exploits. When the Greeks first became acquainted with navigation, they exercised themselves in this manner; (Thucyd. l.) and the Germans allowed their citizens to take from other people. Juventutis exercendæ ac desidiæ minuendæ causâ. Cæsar. Bel. Gal. vi. Those who had been plundered, were allowed to redeem their goods. Strabo xi. — The Arabs still maintain their right to live upon their neighbours. C. — The Christian religion has introduced more gentle manners. — Maid. It seems, however, she was well informed of the miraculous powers and goodness of Eliseus. H.

Ver. 5. Raiment; the tunic and the cloak, (C.) of a finer sort. T.

Ver. 7. Leprosy. The cure was deemed very difficult; as it generally kept gaining ground, and destroyed the constitution. See Num. xii. 12. Isai. liii 4. C. — Me. The letter was, in effect, written in a haughty style, (M.) and the king might naturally infer that war would be the consequence. H.

Ver. 8. Israel; able to perform much greater wonders, by God’s assistance. M.

Ver. 10. Messenger. Eliseus supports the dignity of God’s envoy, and shews the general that his cure was to be attributed, not to the presence of the prophet, but to the will and goodness of God.

Ver. 12. Pharphar. Benjamin (p. 53) informs us that the former river serves to water the city, and the second the surrounding gardens. Maundrell could discover no vestiges of these names in Syria, but he describes the Barrady, which supplies Damascus with abundance of water. Stephanus calls it Bardine; and others, the Chrysorroas. The Orontes, which is supposed to be one of these rivers, flows by Antioch into the Mediterranean sea. C.

Ver. 13. Father; a title given to masters, kings, &c. The Romans senators were styled, “conscript fathers;” and Homer calls kings “the fathers and shepherds of the people.” See Gen. xlv. 8. C. — Masters may often derive benefit from the observations of their servants, as Naaman did repeatedly, v. 2. This may serve to correct their pride. H. — Clean. The patient ought not to prescribe rules to his physician. M. — How justly might these words be addressed to delicate penitents! H.

Ver. 14. Clean. If bathing seven times in the Jordan had been an infallible remedy, there would soon have been no lepers in the land; and our Saviour plainly intimates that the cure was miraculous. Luke iv. 27. The leprosy of Naaman, though inveterate, was cured in an instant. To bathe in a rapid stream, is allowed to be very salutary for removing the diseases of the skin. C. Vales. 38. — The fathers discover in this miracle, a figure of the Gentiles called to the faith by the Synagogue, which is in servitude. Gal. iv. 25. Baptism cleanses us from all the seven capital sins, (Tert. c. Marc. 4.) so that no vestiges remain. S. Amb. &c. C.

Ver. 15. A blessing. A present, (Ch.) accompanied with wishes of happiness, on both sides. We have seen that the prophets generally received such presents. But Eliseus acts with more reserve in regard of this stranger, as S. Paul did towards the new converts; though he received some sustenance from those, who would be less in danger of suspecting that he was actuated by selfish views in preaching the gospel. 2 Cor. x. 7. and xii. 14. Matt. x. 8. C. — They abstained from every appearance of evil, (H.) though they might lawfully have accepted such presents. Eliseus wished to convince Naaman that God’s grace was not to be purchased, and to leave a lesson of moderation to future teachers. M.

Ver. 17. Mule; (burdonum,) the offspring of a horse and of an ass. M. — Earth, to make brick for an altar, or to inclose within a box of brass, as was done in the altar of holocausts in the desert; or, in fine, to sprinkle on some clean place, where an altar might be erected, in honour of the true God. He does not inquire what ceremonies were used in the land of Israel, (C.) as he was not enrolled by circumcision, among the Hebrews, as an observer of their law; but intended to serve God, like Job, and many other righteous Gentiles, who kept themselves clear of idolatry, and observed the ancient patriarchal religion with a clean heart. H. — As God had sanctified the land by the observance of his true religion, Naaman rightly judged that it was fitter for an altar than the earth of his own country. W. — The Jews had a particular veneration for it. Ps. ci. 15. They built a synagogue in Persia, with earth and stones taken from Jerusalem. Benjamin. — Christians sometimes carry away the same earth. S. Aug. de C. xxii. 8. Turon. i. 7. — The Donatists had a sovereign respect for it; (S. Aug. ep. 52.) and it is said that S. Helena brought a great quantity to the church of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, at Rome. Mabillon, Itin. p. 187. C. — Lord. Out of Palestine, the Gentiles were not prohibited to offer sacrifice to the true God any where; nor were they under any obligation of following the law of Moses. Abulens. T.

Ver. 18. Remmon, denotes “a pomegranate,” or something “elevated,” and is probably an epithet of the sun, the chief idol of the Syrians, which was also styled Adad, “one,” as both are united. Zach. xii. 11. — Rempham is probably the same divinity. Acts vii. 43. Sept. here read, Remman. Hesychius explains Ramas, “the highest god.” Selden thinks the Elion of the Phœnicians is understood; Grotius, that Saturn, the highest of the planets, is meant. Serarius declares for Venus, to whom pomegranates were sacred; and P. Martyr for Juno, who held one of these apples in her hand. Pausan. in Corinth. — Remmon occurs no where else. — Hand. This was an honour of the chief favourite. C. vii. 2. C. — Thing. He does not ask leave to commit sin, which would be absurd; though Protestants are not ashamed to accuse the Catholic Church, as if her “indulgences” were pardons for sins to come; though they be in reality no pardon for sin at all, but only a remission of temporal punishment, after the sin has been remitted by penance. Why do they not manfully attack what we really profess to believe? — When he. Heb. “when I bow,” &c. H.

Ver. 19. Go in peace. What the prophet here allowed, was not an outward conformity to an idolatrous worship, but only a service which by his office he cowed to his master; who, on all public occasions, leaned on him: so that his bowing down when his master bowed himself down, was not in effect adoring the idols; nor was it so understood by the standers by, (since he publicly professed himself a worshipper of the only true and living God) but it was no more than doing a civil office to the king, his master, whose leaning upon him obliged him to bow at the same time that he bowed. Ch. — Some assert that the prophet does not even authorize this civil assistance in the temple of idols, but simply tells Naaman to go in peace, and to think no more of his former religion; that he will beseech the Lord not to suffer him to be exposed to the danger. Jun. and Piscat. C. — Some formerly pleaded this example, to excuse their occasional conformity in going to the Protestant churches, as the law required. But the case was very different. Greater perfection is required in the new law. They had not to act in the capacity of Naaman; and their attendance was considered a profession of a false religion. Their directors loudly condemned the practice. They ought rather to have imitated Eleazar, &c. who refused to eat swine’s flesh. 2 Mac. vi. and vii. W. — Though the king intended to adore the idol, Naaman referred his worship, to God alone. Bristow, Mot. 23. Theodoret, q. 19 and a Greek interpreter. — The Heb. term signifies, either to adore mentally, or to bend down; which latter is the sense applicable to Naaman. Cajet. Amama. — His “request must certainly refer to the time past, and not to that to come; as if he begged an indulgence in idolatry, or of countenancing his master’s idol-worship, by his presence.” Button, Dict. — The Jews foolishly pretend (C.) that “the proselyte of dwelling,” like Naaman, might return to the service of idols, in his own country, without its being imputed to him. Seld. Jur. ii. 11. Maimon. — The conduct of the Syrian convert, whether past or future, undoubtedly filled him with alarm. If he considered the danger of a merely civil attendance upon the king, in an idolatrous temple, we cannot condemn him for idle scrupulosity; (H.) since many have found a difficulty in admitting the lawfulness of such a practice, and have even blamed both Naaman and the prophet. Greg. de Valentia, &c. ep. A. Lapide. C. — But if the practice was irreprehensible, as most interpreters assert, the answer of Eliseus might give this assurance to Naaman, and inform him that he need be under no farther apprehension on that account. God in peace. These words do not expressly solve the difficulty; but he mode in which they were uttered might intimate, either that the general would be no longer under that embarrassment, (as we do not read that he ever attended the king of Syria into the temple afterwards) or that God had forgiven his former offences, and particularly the scandalous idolatry which now gave him so much pain. The original, v. 18, which is generally translated in the present of future, (H.) may be better rendered in the past tense, as the Chal. has it. “In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant. My master going into the temple of Remmon to worship there, and leaning upon my hand, and I worshipped in the temple of Remmon, when I did worship in the temple of Remmon, that the Lord pardon,” &c. S. Jerom and the Sept. seem to have read more correctly, when he, &c. We may also render it in the present tense, “and I worship,” or, “am wont to adore;” not that he meant to prevaricate any longer. The Syr. and Arab. read with an interrogation. “When I shall adore…(C. or bow down, H.) wil the Lord pardon me?” But this rather increases the difficulty. C. — We may therefore conclude either that Naaman had no decision, or that he had leave to serve his master, (H.) in a civil capacity even in the temple; (M. T. Alex. 2. dis. 7. Santius, &c.) or, that he obtained pardon for his past transgressions. Bochart, C. &c. — Earth, as the expression is rendered Gen. xxxv. 16, though here it is lit. “at the chosen season;” electo, not verno. The sense is the same. Cibrath, untranslated by the Sept. may denote a certain space, or village; (H.) “a furrow,” of 240 feet long, and half that breadth; (C.) “a mile;” (Chal. Pagnin) or a portion of time allowed by the law, about a quarter of an hour, during which a mile, or sabbath-day’s journey, might be performed. T. — Prot. “a little way.”

Ver. 20. Liveth. How unnecessary was this oath! But the Simoniac has no regard for any thing but money. H.

Ver. 23. Him. The weight must have been considerable, (6000 sicles, v. 26. Ex. xxxviii. 25. H.) otherwise Giezi would have preferred carrying them himself, that his master might not know. C. — He had pretended a reluctance to take more than one talent, not to swerve from his master’s injunctions. M.

Ver. 24. Evening. Sept. Syr. &c. seems to have read aupol, instead of the present Heb. hopel, eminence,” (C.) Prot. “tower,” (H.) at or near Samaria; when Giezi thought proper to take the burden himself to prevent detection. Eliseus would hardly dismiss the Syrians, when the night was so near at hand. C. — It might however be found more eligible to travel in the evening, (H.) as it was now the spring or summer season, (T.) or at least warm, v. 10. H.

Ver. 26. Present is not expressed in Heb. but must be understood. Prot. “Went not mine heart with thee.“ H. — God has revealed the whole transaction to me. M. — Heart in Scripture, often denotes the spirit or soul. H.

Ver. 27. For ever. Not perhaps to those who might be already born, unless they were accomplices in the crime. The leprosy is hereditary. Giezi was punished for simony, in selling the miracle, as well as for lying and disobedience. C. — He might also have given occasion to Naaman to judge ill of his master; as the false prophets were noted for such avarice. Mic. iii. 11. But Eliseus would probably take care to give him better information. T. — He did not require his servant to give up what he had unjustly received, as the general had made over the property to him; and he thought proper to leave it in the hands of Giezi, to indemnity him for past services, and that he might have wherewith to support himself, as he now dismissed him from his company. Salien, A.C. 903. — Snow, and therefore more incurable. T. — See Lev. xiii. C. — “All the covetous and misers, together with their riches, possess the leprosy of Giezi:” thesaurum criminum congregarunt. S. Amb. Giezi prefigured Judas, the false apostles of Christ, and all those who buy or sell spiritual things. By their avarice, they procure infamy in this world, and damnation in the next. S. Aug. ep. 208, de Temp. W.