Small Leader Study Guide
Date: October 7, 2018
Series: The kings and the King: Season 4 (2 Kings)
Bible Text: 2 Kings 5:1-27
This Week’s Printables:
What is offensive to you? Sometimes its the sight of something or perhaps the smell; other times it is the words someone says or how they treat you. Bottom line, we all have things other people do that offend us.
This week, we look at the story of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army. Naaman is an important, powerful man who is to be both feared and respected. Naaman is also a leper.
We have little experience with leprosy in modern times (thank God!), but in Bible times, leprosy was a dreaded and awful disease.
Through the witness and testimony of a young Jewish girl, a captive, who is serving in Naaman’s home, he is led to Elisha, the man of God in Israel with the promise of healing. As the text unfolds, we see that Naaman’s pride almost prevented him from following the simple instructions of Elisha that would bring about healing. Fortunately, Naaman humbled himself, followed Elisha’s simply instructions, and was healed.
This is a beautiful picture of a many who receives physical healing from a dreaded physical disease, but it is also a beautiful picture of salvation, and if we will humble ourselves, believe in the simple message of the gospel, and repent, we will be saved.
In the second part of our lesson, we will look at the offense of the gospel today. Yes, it is a simple truth, but by its very nature, the gospel is offensive. This is especially true in our country today. In fact, I argue in this lesson that there is nothing more offensive than the exclusivity of the gospel.
How do we then challenge our culture with the gospel while minimizing the offense of the gospel? How do we overcome the assertion that the gospel is bigoted, racist, and hate speech?
These are the questions we will examine this week as we consider the look at 2 Kings 5 and then various Scriptures from the New Testament.
Memory Verse for This Week
Romans 9:33–As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Core Belief: Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ (John 1:12): We believe in Jesus Christ, His deity, virgin birth, sinless life, vicarious death, burial and bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father and His personal future return in power and glory. We are significant only because of our position as children of God.
Take Home Truth
God loves all peoples, and saves anyone who trusts in Him alone.
- Can you think of a time when you were greatly offended? What offended you? Was it a legitimate offense or were you being oversensitive?
- Have you ever unintentionally offended someone? Looking back, what did you learn from that experience?
- Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text
The account of Elisha’s miracles continues with the story that again picks up themes from the Elijah story: the Lord is seen to be God, not only of Israelites, but also of foreigners (1 Kings 17:17–24), and is in fact acknowledged as the only real God there is (1 Kings 18:20–40). Read 2 Kings 5:1-19.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
Summarize what is happening in 2 Kings 5.
2 Kings 5 continues underscoring the miracles of Elisha. In this chapter, we see the miraculous healing of a Syrian commander named Naaman. Syria is an enemy of Israel at this time, and in one of their battles of the Israelites, they captured a young Jewish girl. She was given to Naaman as a servant. It is this young girl’s testimony that sends Naaman in search of the prophet Elisha seeking a cure for his leprosy. God chooses to heal the Syrian, and he is sent home whole and perfect.
Unfortunately, we see the seed of greed take root in Elisha’s servant, Gehazi. Pretending to have a message from Elisha, Gehazi runs down the Syrian commander returning to his home and requests some money and clothing for unexpected guests, which Naaman gladly gives him.
Gehazi’s selfish greed undermines the integrity of Elisha, and when confronted, Gehazi lies. Knowing the truth, Elisha pronounces a curse upon Gehazi by telling him that Naaman’s leprosy would infect Gehazi and his descendants forever.
What is leprosy and what is its significance in the Bible?
Leprosy is an infectious disease that affects the skin and nerves. It is a progressive disease that ultimately leads to death. As the disease progresses, it causes nerve damage which causes people to lose their sense of feeling. This often led to the loss of hands or feet due to repeated injury due to lack of sensation.
Leprosy was considered very contagious and a dreaded disease in Bible times. Lepers were often isolated into leper colonies away from the population. The disease soon renders their figure into a grotesque scene of rotting limbs and swollen, discolored flesh. The very sight and smell (from the rotting flesh) of a leper was offensive. As a leper walked down the street, he had to cover his face with a cloth and cry out “unclean, unclean” to warn those around him. There was no cure for leprosy.
The reality of the offensive nature of this disease underscores the significance of Naaman given that he still held his position of authority within the Syrian army in spite of his disease.
Leprosy was also a “type” of sin in the Bible: It is deeper than the skin (Lev 13:3); it spreads (Lev 13:5-8); it defiles and isolates (Lev 13:44-46); and, it renders things only fit for the fire (Lev 13:47-49).
Like Elisha, one of Jesus’ first miracles was to heal a man of leprosy (Mark 1:40-47).
What sin almost kept Naaman from being healed of his leprosy?
When Naaman arrived with a caravan of chariots and wagons at the door of Elisha, he sends someone to fetch Elisha (v. 9). Elisha sends a messenger and tells the commander of the Syrian army to go and wash seven times in the Jordan river.
Naaman was greatly offended (v. 11). The Bible tells us, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” The end of verse 12 tells us, “So he turned and went away in a rage.”
Naaman was hot. Livid. Who is this back-country preacher who thinks he can respond to me through a messenger and tells me to go and jump in a muddy river?
Naaman was offended, and when we sense an offense, it triggers our pride. It happened to Naaman, and it happens to us today.
Think briefly about the things that offend you. If you look deep enough, you will likely find a root of pride in your own heart.
Naaman was insulted because he expected a miracle from this man of God, and, instead, Elisha sends a messenger and tells Naaman to go jump in the river!
How was Naaman healed from his leprosy?
Verse 14 tells us, “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.”
In short, Naaman humbled himself. Even though it seemed like a stupid, simplistic thing, he humbled himself and went into the Jordan river and washed seven times. When he emerged, he was clean. God had healed him of his leprosy.
Naaman’s heart was pricked with pride, and after listening to the counsel of a faithful servant, he humbled himself and went down into the river in obedience to God’s word. That is repentance. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, which literally means “a change of mind.” Naaman overcame his own sense of pride and accepted “the offense” of the word of God, changed his mind, and was healed. Is that not a picture of salvation?
In Luke 13:3, Jesus said, “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What is salvation? It is by the cross alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, and Christ alone. Many Americans today say, “that’s offensive!” Guess what? That’s pride. Just like Naaman, we are confronted with the word of God and we can either reject it as “stupid” and insulting, or we can humble ourselves, repent, and turn to God.
Application for Christians Today
We saw in today’s text that leprosy was an offensive disease in Bible times. What is an offense in today’s culture?
There is a strong spirit of pride in the heart of America today. There are three things that are offensive to the sensitive American: a fixed standard of right and wrong as defined in the word of God, an exclusive gospel that shows how to be reconciled with God, and the cross of Jesus Christ as the symbol of God’s “stupid” plan of salvation.
We live in an “easily offended” culture. Many colleges have “safe spaces” where students can be “protected” from “offensive” ideas and speech. What qualifies as offensive? Anything that is rejected by the progressive left as “hate speech,” or that is stated by a “racist” white male.
In this new culture of aggressive political correctness and censorship, we are seeing the very ideas of the First Amendment–Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religious Expression, Freedom of the Press, torn asunder.
Conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro have created riots on campuses like UC Berkeley because his ideas are so offensive to the students.
In 2016, NYU professor Michael Rectenwald started tweeting about the totalitarian, social justice mindset taking over New York University and was swiftly shunned and harassed by colleagues at NYU. An article in FrontPage Magazine notes, “In true Cultural Revolution fashion, several colleagues in his department in the Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group published an open letter declaring him guilty of incorrect thinking. ‘The thing that is interesting here is that they were saying that because I don’t think like them, I am sick and mentally ill,’ Rectenwald said to the Daily Caller.”
Rectenwald has since published a book, Springtime for Snowflakes: “Social Justice” and Its Postmodern Parentage, describing his experience as a target of Cultural Marxism.
Even the left-leaning Huffington Post warns of the increasing totalitarianism taking root within American academia: “This is exactly the kind of reasoning dictatorships use to shut down unwanted speech, where censorship is justified in the name of security, public safety or social harmony.”
How does the attempt to silence “offensive speech” affect Christians in America today?
By its very nature, the cross is offensive. As Erwin Lutzer observes,
…crucifixions were always performed in the most public of places so that the victim would be dehumanized, both by the shouts of derision of passing crowds, and by being exposed naked to the delight of gawkers. The writer of Hebrews captures this when he says Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2).
No wonder Paul writes that the cross is an offense (the Greek word is skandalos, a “scandal”) to the Jews and the Greeks (1 Cor. 1:23 NLT). As for the Jews, they knew that the Old Testament affirmed that those who hung on the cross were cursed (Paul quotes this in Galatians 3:13–14). As for the Greeks and Romans, they thought of the cross as a defeat; no one would want to follow a loser.
When we seek to hide or remove the offensiveness of the cross, we empty it of its power to save. The Apostle Peter, alluding to Psalm 118, writes, “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense’” (1 Peter 2:7–8).
At its core the gospel is offensive. It strikes at the very heart of pride that humankind has struggled against since Genesis 3. It is offensive when you tell someone they are too sinful to be reconciled to God apart from the cross. It is offensive to tell someone that Jesus Christ is the only way to true salvation. It is offensive to tell someone that no one is good enough on their own apart from the cross.
What, in your opinion, is the single greatest offense a Christian can state in today’s culture?
If there is a single belief that Christians hold to that is of greatest offense to non-Christians today, it is the belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to be reconciled with God (John 14:6).
As we see the full effects of post-modern thinking blossoming in our culture, we must recognize that religious pluralism (all paths lead to God) is much more accepted than the exclusive message of the gospel. It is now common to see Christians labeled as bigots or racists because they hold to an exclusive gospel.
Consider this fiery attack by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the confirmation hearing of Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for the position of deputy director of the office of management and budget.
Pluralism is the accepted doctrine for post-modern thinking. Religious pluralism believes all religions of the world are to be treated equally and offer valid instruction for mankind. Each espouses truths that should be revered, referenced, loved, and cherished. Every religion ultimately points people to the same deity identified by different names. Each religion is nothing more or less than one more petal on the same beautiful flower. That is religious pluralism.
Christians reject this belief (as do other exclusive religions like Islam). Ravi Zacharias states, “My premise is that the popular aphorism that ‘all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different’ simply is not true. It is more correct to say that all religions are, at best, superficially similar but fundamentally different.”
Lutzer observes, “Christianity, is indeed radically different: it has a Savior whose death and resurrection provides a solution for the greatest of sinners. The cross, and the redemption it wrought, exists only in Christianity.”
How do we share the gospel in a world that is easily offended?
Lutzer shares four ways Christians can continue to be a witness in a world that rejects the premise of an exclusive gospel and seeks to silence offensive speech through aggressive means.
- We share the gospel by serving others. We are not the first generation to live in a culture where the cross was an offense. From the New Testament forward, Christians have carried the gospel into hostile lands under a banner of love and service. In fact, it is often grace under persecution that eventually softens the heart of the most hardened enemy of God.
- We share the gospel by displaying racial unity in the midst of a racially divided world. Sin knows no race, political affiliation, or immigration status. It is within the church that we all stand as sinners before a gracious, loving God who reconciles us to Himself through His Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We must work hard to show a racially divided world that the cross overcomes the mistrust and, unfortunately, the hatred that racism brings. The Book of Revelation gives us a picture of the heavenly congregation that is made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 5:9-11), we must work to let this also represent the church in America.
- We share the gospel when we transcend political affiliations. Politics in America today is toxic. We are watching our culture divide into tribes of diametrically opposed forces. Many fear that the vitriolic speech we are seeing today, in 2018, will end in wholescale violence we have not seen since the Civil War of the 1860s. Christians cannot let this tribalism infect the gospel. The answer for America is not found in the Democratic or Republican party, but in the cross of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we must stand on biblical issues that speak to today’s national sins (abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.), but do so as representatives of the Kingdom of God, not a specific political party.
- We share the gospel when we walk by faith and witness through our faith. As stated earlier, Jesus has sent His disciples into hostile land from the beginning days of the church. We are no different. We need to be people of faith who put our trust in Jesus Christ and not in an anemic, politically-correct gospel. As Lutzer observes, “The greatest advertisement for the gospel is Christians who listen well, who are welcoming, and who are eager to serve others. The greatest advertisement is those who have deep convictions but act on them in redemptive ways. These Christians share their faith at great personal cost and ‘go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured’ (Heb. 13:13). And they do it with joy.”
Sheldon Vanauken writes,
The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians—when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.
How is the Holy Spirit leading you to be a gospel witness in a hostile culture? Share with your group and as a group, pray for courage and faith in the days ahead.
Becoming A House of Prayer
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.
Prayer Focus for the Week of October 7 …
Pray that we might have a clear witness to this world no matter the cost. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me…. For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of the Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34, 38).
Questions to consider as you continue to reflect on what you learned this week:
- Take Action: Understanding that the gospel is an offense to many, we also must echo Paul’s assertion and not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Why? Because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes in it.
- Take Courage: We are not the first generation to live in a time when the gospel was considered an offense. Yet, throughout time, Jesus continues to build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
Work to memorize this week’s memory verse: Romans 9:33–As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
This week’s Core Belief is Jesus Christ (John 1:12): We believe in Jesus Christ, His deity, virgin birth, sinless life, vicarious death, burial and bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father and His personal future return in power and glory. We are significant only because of our position as children of God.
Take Home Truth is God loves all peoples, and saves anyone who trusts in Him alone.
Remember to use the Daily Bible Reading plan as part of your walk with Christ, taking the time to reflect on each passage and what it means for your lives.
Come Just As You Are
by Crystal Lewis
Come just as you are
Hear the spirit call
Come just as you are
Come and see
Come and live forever
Come just as you are
Hear the spirit call
Come just as you are
Come and see
Come and live forever
Strength for today
Taste the living water
And never thirst again
Come and see
Come and live forever
Strength for today
Taste the living water
And never thirst again
2 Kings 5
Elisha’s ministry expanded beyond the borders of Israel as recorded in this story of another miracle he performed.
1] Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.
Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad II (860-841). He was a successful and courageous warrior, highly regarded because of the victories God had given the Arameans under his leadership. However, he had leprosy (perhaps this was not leprosy as it is known today). This dreaded disease degenerated its victims and eventually proved fatal. No cure for it was known. In Israel, lepers were normally isolated from nonlepers, but this was not always the custom in other nations including Aram. Naaman was able to carry on his duties as long as the disease permitted him to.
2] And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife.
In the course of their occasional battles with Israel, Naaman’s forces had captured some Israelites whom they made slaves. One of these was a young girl whom Naaman had given to his wife as a servant. Evidently, Naaman and his wife were kind to this girl because she sought Naaman’s welfare.
3] Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”
She told her mistress, who told her husband, that a prophet living in Samaria could cure leprosy. This was Elisha; he lived in a house in the capital city (6:24, 32). Probably the girl had heard of Elisha before she was carried off as a slave. Apparently, she assumed he could cleanse leprosy in view of his supernatural power. No leper in Israel, though, was healed in Elisha’s day (Lk 4:27). Later the slave girl’s faith in the Lord may have been an indirect rebuke to Israel’s King Jehoram who had no faith in God.
4] And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.”
5] Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.
The Aramean king was anxious for his valuable commander to be cleansed, not only because he was a trusted friend but because the dreaded disease would eventually rob the king of his top military commander. Naaman set out to visit King Jehoram who he assumed would order the prophet to cure him. With him, the commander took gifts of 10 talents (ca. 750 pounds) of silver, 600 shekels (ca. 150 pounds) of gold, and 10 sets of clothing, all prized gifts in the Near East.
6] Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.
7] And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.”
Jehoram was dismayed when he read the letter from Ben-Hadad II. Tearing one’s robes indicated great anxiety and distress (cf. 2:12; 6:30; 11:14). Israel and Aram had been at peace, but it appeared to Jehoram that Ben-Hadad was trying to pick a fight again as he had done with Jehoram’s father Ahab (cf. 1 Kgs 20:1-3). Jehoram did not realize that Naaman did not expect him to cure leprosy. Elisha did not even enter Jehoram’s mind. The Israelite king had no use for that prophet who constantly opposed him. Jehoram wanted as little contact with him as possible.
8] So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
When Elisha learned of Jehoram’s anxiety over Ben-Hadad’s letter he sent the king a message not to worry. If Jehoram would send Naaman to him the prophet would cure him. Naaman would learn, even if Jehoram had not, that there was a true prophet in Israel.
9] Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house.
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.”
Not at all awed by the great general, Elisha did not even go out to meet him! Instead, he sent a messenger to convey his simple “prescription:” Naaman was told to dip seven times in the Jordan River and he would be free of his disease. (The cure lay not in the water of the Jordan but in obedient faith in God’s promise through His prophet.)
11] But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘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 heal the leprosy.’
12] Are not the Abanah and the 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.
Naaman turned from Elisha’s house angry for two reasons: (1) His pride had been offended by Elisha’s offhanded treatment of him; he had expected a cleansing ceremony in keeping with his own dignity. (2) He resented having been told to wash in a muddy river that he considered inferior to the Abana and Pharpar rivers in his hometown; the water of the Jordan, he thought, could not possibly do him any good.
13] And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”
The commander’s servants had not been personally put down as their master had, and could view the situation more objectively. Approaching him tenderly they appealed to him as a father to be reasonable. They pointed out that it was not as though Elisha had requested something difficult (some great thing). What harm would there be in giving his remedy a try?
14] So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Undoubtedly feeling rather ashamed Naaman humbled himself and obeyed the word of the Lord. As he obeyed in faith he was cleansed. God did even more for him and restored his flesh to its soft boyhood texture. The fact that in Elisha’s day an Aramean leper was healed whereas no Israelite leper was (Lk 4:27) points up Israel’s apostasy. [A Personal note: The late Walter Martin, preaching on “the foolishness of God,” (1 Cor 1:20-25) used this episode in his string of examples of how God seems to go out of His way to use “foolishness” to accomplish His purposes. The ultimate “foolishness” is, of course, the Cross (1 Cor 1:18)!]
15] And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.”
Naaman returned from the Jordan to Elisha’s house in Samaria (about 25 miles) with a heart full of gratitude and hands full of gifts. Rather than expecting Elisha to come to him he willingly stood before the prophet and testified to his belief that Israel’s God is the only true God. (Unfortunately many in Israel, including her king, had not come to the same realization.) This was the highest purpose of Naaman’s healing from God’s point of view.
16] But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.
Elisha agreed that the LORD whom he served lives. But the prophet refused to accept any reward for his ministry. Naaman’s urging did not budge Elisha. The man of God had not performed his miracle for reward but at the word of the Lord and he did not want anyone to think otherwise. The false prophets could easily be bought, but not Elisha.
17] So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord.
Since Elisha would not take anything, Naaman asked him to give as much earth as he could carry back to Damascus on two mules. He intended to use this in making an altar to the Lord. Many polytheists believed that no god could be worshiped except in its own land or on an altar built with the dirt of that land.
18] Yet in this thing may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord please pardon your servant in this thing.”
Naaman proposed to worship only Yahweh Himself (the LORD), but superstition shaped his thinking. In the course of his official duties, however, he would have to give token respect to the god of his master the king. The god of Damascus was Hadad-Rimmon, a god of rain and thunder, here shortened to Rimmon. It was Naaman’s duty to participate in this official worship with the king and probably other officials of the state. The commander was not prepared to risk his life, as Daniel’s three friends would (Dan 3:12), by refusing to bow before an idol. But one must remember that Naaman was not an Israelite with the advantage of the knowledge of the revealed Word of God. Perhaps his responsibility, therefore, was not as great as an Israelite’s would have been.
19] Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a short distance.
Elisha’s departing benediction (Go in peace) probably was a blessing on the journey ahead of Naaman rather than on the compromising behavior the general had outlined (vv. 17-18), which the prophet neither approved nor disapproved verbally.
20] But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”
Gehazi became greedy of what Naaman had offered to give Elisha. Evidently, he justified his greed by reasoning that since Naaman was an Aramean, a natural enemy of Israel, he should at least be taken advantage of.
21] So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?”
So Gehazi pursued Naaman to get something from him. Gehazi was able to overtake the large slow-moving caravan on foot. Naaman got down from his chariot (cf. 4:26) and asked if everything was all right.
22] And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’ ”
Gehazi said everything was all right but then lied to the commander. He said his master had received unexpected guests (two prophets) and wanted to give them some silver and a change of clothing each. Gehazi put this lie in Elisha’s mouth and made the request sound very unselfish.
23] So Naaman said, “Please, take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and handed them to two of his servants; and they carried them on ahead of him.
Naaman was happy to oblige and urged Gehazi to accept twice as much silver as well as the clothing. He even provided two servants to carry these gifts back to Elisha.
24] When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed.
25] Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, “Where did you go, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.”
Shortly thereafter Gehazi returned to Elisha. He did not realize that God had revealed his whereabouts to his master.
26] Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?
So to cover one lie he told another. Elisha then explained that he was aware of everything Gehazi had done. Elisha added that true servants of the Lord should not take personal rewards from people, especially influential non-Israelites, in return for blessings that God, not His servant, had given them. False prophets were selfishly lining their own pockets and bringing contempt on the prophetic office; true prophets should avoid conduct that might be misunderstood as self-seeking.
27] Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow.
Naaman’s leprosy had been removed from him for his trust in and obedience to God. Now, ironically, leprosy would cling to Gehazi for his lack of trust in and obedience to God. The servant had brought dishonor to Yahweh’s name. “If you buy these, you also buy Naaman’s leprosy.” Naaman had become an Israelite, but Gehazi became a pagan through sin (cf. Mt 6:31-34).
Naaman’s conversion was to show the Israelites how easily the Lord could turn the hearts of their adversaries and thereby make them worshipers of Jehovah, fellow believers with the Jews themselves.
A bad case of leprosy turned one’s skin and hair white as snow. Gehazi’s judgment was serious because his sin had far-reaching consequences; this story was probably told all over Aram and Israel. As a servant of God Gehazi had more privilege than most people and therefore more responsibility than most people.
This story contains many lessons: Naaman’s healing was another great proof of the Lord’s power to restore health, power which only Baal supposedly possessed. This incident also helped spread the fame of Yahweh to another part of the ancient world. The contrasting behaviors of Elisha and Gehazi also model positive and negative attitudes and actions for God’s servants of all ages. This was one of the several examples that Jesus Himself referred to in His sermon at Nazareth (Lk 4:27). (Why did they then try to throw Jesus off a cliff in response?)