The Word Made Fresh
1Naaman was a general in the army of the king of Aram. He was a renowned soldier, held in high regard by his king because the LORD had made Aram victorious under his leadership. But even though he was a famous soldier, he suffered with leprosy. 2On one of their raids the Arameans had taken a young Israelite girl captive, and she became Naaman’s wife’s servant girl. 3She said to her mistress, “If only my master could visit the prophet in Samaria, he could be cured of his leprosy.” 4Naaman told the king what the girl had said, 5and the king told him to go, and that he would send a letter of introduction to the king of Israel.
So, Naaman went to Samaria, taking with him seven hundred fifty pounds of silver, one hundred fifty pounds of gold, and ten new articles of clothing. 6He gave his letter to the king of Israel. It read, “This letter I have sent with my servant, that you might heal him of his leprosy.”
7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robe open. “Does he think I’m God, that I can grant life or death? He asks me to cure this man of leprosy! Is he trying to pick a fight with me?”
8When Elisha, the man of God, heard about it, he sent the king a message, saying, “Why should the king tear his clothes? Send the man to me, and he will learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So, Naaman drove his horses and chariots to Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent someone out to meet him and tell him to go wash in the Jordan seven times and his flesh would be healed and he would be clean.
11That irritated Naaman and he left, saying, “I was under the impression that he would come out to me personally and call on the LORD his God, and wave a hand over the place and remove the leprosy. 12Aren’t the Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus better than all the streams in Israel? Why can’t I go wash there?” And he left in a huff.
13But his attendants said to him, “Sir, if the prophet told you to do something that was difficult, wouldn’t you do it? All he said was to go wash and be clean.”
14So, Naaman went to the Jordan and immersed himself seven times as the man of God had said, and his leprosy was washed away until his skin was like that of a young boy, and he was clean. 15Then he, with all his entourage, returned to the man of God. He said, “Now I know there is no god like Israel’s God in the whole world. Please accept a gift from me. I am at your service.”
16But the man of God said, “As the LORD lives, I will accept nothing from you.” Naaman urged him, but still he refused.
17Naaman said, “Very well, but please allow me to take two mule loads of earth with me. I will no longer make sacrifices to any other god except the LORD. 18But may the LORD excuse me for one thing: when my master leans on my arm to go to the temple of Rimmon to worship, and I have to bow down to Rimmon, may the LORD forgive me for this.”
19The man of God said, “Go in peace.”
Naaman departed, but before he had gotten very far, 20Elisha’s servant Gehazi said to himself, “My master has let that Aramean off too easily by not accepting any payment. As the LORD lives, I’ll catch up with him and get something from him.” 21So, he went after Naaman.
When Naaman saw him approaching he stepped out of his chariot to meet him. He asked, “Is everything alright?”
22“Yes,” Gehazi said, “but my master sent me to say that two members of the prophetic guild have just arrived from Ephraim. Can you please give for them seventy-five pounds of silver and two sets of new garments?”
23“Please,” Naaman said, “take one hundred fifty pounds of silver,” and he wrapped the silver in two bundles with the two new garments and gave them to two of his servants to carry them back for Gehazi. 24When they reached the fortress he took the items from them and stored them inside, and they left.
25When he went to serve his master, Elisha asked, “Where have you been?”
“Oh, your servant hasn’t gone anywhere,” he answered.
26But Elisha said, “Wasn’t I with you in spirit when someone stepped out of his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to accept money and clothing? Would you also have accepted olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen and even male and female servants? 27Because you did this, Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you, and to your offspring from now on.”
When Gehazi left him, his skin was white with leprosy.
1-5: Another Elisha story: Naaman, the Aramean General, suffers from leprosy. A young Israelite girl who has been captured during a raid and is now slave in Naaman’s household, tells her mistress about a prophet in Israel who can cure leprosy. I find it remarkable that this girl, taken against her will and forced to serve in a strange home, could exhibit such good will for her captors. Why aren’t we given her name? Naaman takes the information to the king, and the king sends him to Israel with a letter of commendation to the king of Israel. It is fascinating that such conventions were observed between the kings of two countries that were often at war with each other.
6-7: Naaman comes to Israel with quite a stash to pay for his cure, and delivers the letter to the king of Israel. Notice that neither of the kings’ names are given in these stories; they are superfluous. The king of Israel is horrified that Naaman thinks he can cure leprosy. He is convinced it is entrapment; the king of Aram is looking to pick a fight.
8-14: Elisha gets word of the visitors’ errand and tells the king to send Naaman to him. Naaman, with horses and chariots and a large entourage, no doubt an impressive sight, arrives at Elisha’s humble door. Elisha sends a messenger out to tell him to wash in the Jordan seven times. Naaman is miffed. The man didn’t even grant him the courtesy of coming out himself, he says. Naaman has a very healthy self-image, you see. So, off he goes in a huff, muttering that the rivers of Damascus are better than the Jordan. One of his servants, though, ventures the observation that it really isn’t all that big a deal to go down to the Jordan and bathe, so he does, and is cured of his leprosy.
15-19: To his eternal credit, Naaman returns to Elisha’s door, and this time he dismounts. He makes a confession of faith in the God of Israel and offers Elisha a gift in return. Elisha refuses. Naaman then asks for a couple of cart loads of dirt to take back with him to Damascus so he can worship the LORD there. He asks to be excused when he escorts his king of Aram into the temple of Rimmon, the chief Aramean deity, and Elisha concedes.
20-24: Gehazi, though, thinks it is a shame to let the general get away without paying anything, so he runs after Naaman and concocts a story about Elisha asking for money and clothes for two visitors who just arrived. Naaman readily agrees, gives him twice the amount he asks for, and sends two servants to carry the silver and the clothes back to Samaria. Gehazi stashes his loot away in some building, and then returns to Elisha.
25-27: Elisha asks him where he has been, and Gehazi says, “Who, me? I haven’t been anywhere!” Elisha recalls the scene in such detail that Gehazi knows Elisha knows what he has done. Gehazi is then stricken with the leprosy that Naaman is now rid of. Any number of maladies affecting the skin were called leprosy, but if this leprosy was a contagious form, perhaps Gehazi contracted it from handling the goods Naaman brought with him. Or perhaps Elisha was a very remarkable person.
Elisha is by far the main character in the first half of 2 Kings, and his exploits outstrip his predecessor, Elijah; but he didn’t have to deal with Jezebel, of course. He will die in chapter 13, but one more miracle will be credited to him after he is buried. He will be the last prophet in Israel before they are carried into exile to Assyria. People who can speak for God are rare and valuable. If you find one, pay attention!