Now, Elisha was come up to Gilgal one day. The sons of the prophets were sitting outside. There was a famine in the land. He tells his servants to set up a pot for them to eat. The servant (Gehazi?) goes and gathers herbs and gourds and vines. His entire lap is full of them. When he gets back, he shreds them into the pot. After, when the food is prepared, and the people begin eating, they cry out. there is a death in the pot. What in the world is that supposed to mean? There is no food in it? It says they were eating. Maybe there was a famine of flavor or filling. Regardless, the men are no longer able to eat what has been cooked. Excuse me, there was no dearth in the pot but rather DEATH. Misread that. Death is a little more serious than dearth. Perhaps it was so bad you would die? It looked like death?
Elisha tells them to put meal in the pot. They do and it is ok again to eat. I feel like a lot of details and background are left out. Whether or not this next part is part of the same story I don’t know. I think it is. A man shows up with 20 loaves of barley and corn, from Baal-Shalisha. Cross reference 1 Samuel 9:7. It seems to suggest that the food brought by this man was a gift. Elisha takes the food and asks him to distribute it among the people. The man does not think it will feed all 100 people. Elisha tells him to distribute it again. Because the Lord has said they will eat. He obeys and all the people are fed. The bread and corn were multiplied before the people.
Remind you of anything? Maybe a similar miracle that would be performed by Jesus many years later? That’s even the next cross reference! See Matthew 14:19-21.
Chapter 5. Naaman the captain of the host of the king of Syria was a great and honorable man because the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria. But he was a leper. Yes, this is the story of Naaman we all know. I have a few first impressions of Naaman. The scriptures make it clear he was a man of note. Captain of the king’s forces, on good terms with his master, and a mighty man of valor. The only downside is that it says he was honorable because God had delivered Syria. It seems to imply that Naaman didn’t think he received his honor from God. he had won it himself through is talents and abilities.
I decided to dig a little deeper by looking into the Bible Dictionary. Nothing It says here that isn’t already in the chapter I’m starting. I’ll hold off a little on Naaman then.
I decided to see if I could learn anything about Syria in the Bible Dictionary. Whew! Too much to copy down! I will refer you to the entry on Syria, Aram/Aramaeans, and Aramaic. That will give you a brief history of Syria. As for the location of Syria, it is North of Israel and East of Phoenicia. Also, generally speaking, they were enemies of Israel.
So to summarize this madness up. Naaman is a Syrian. Syria is North of Israel and a rival. Naaman is a noble who has returned from battle. A little maid was captured and assigned to his wife. The maid suggested Naaman visit Elisha to be cured of his leprosy. The maid is from Israel and she is suggesting how to heal one of their most high up nobles! Naaman’s wife listens and passes it on to her husband. Naaman is like, “I’m going! Send a letter to the king of Israel.” he left and took 10 talents of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, and 10 changes of clothes. That is a buttload of money! Only a week and a half of clothes. This is probably going to be one expensive vacation!
Whoops, check that. Cross reference 1 Samuel 9:7 again The aforementioned clothing and money is Naaman’s gift unto the holy man of God. Wowser. That is quite something. Impressive gift.
The king of Israel receives the letter saying that Naaman is coming into his kingdom to be cured of leprosy. He rents his clothes in anger. He is pretty much saying that Syria is looking for a fight by doing this. I don’t understand the sentence, “Am I God, to kill and make alive that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?” There are some cross references, let me follow them first.
Cross reference Genesis 30:2. When Rebekah cannot bear Jacob children and Jacob has children through another wife, Rebekah envies his other wife and asks why they aren’t able to have any children. Jacob gets mad and asks the rhetorical questions, “Am I, God…?” Just like the king of Israel here. I think in this story, as opposed to the one in Genesis, the meaning is slightly different. I think what the king is asking is, is it his responsibility to heal this man? He fights Syria and kills Syrians. And now they want me to heal a man of Leprosy? Am I God? Something like that is what I think he is saying.
Elisha hears about this (remember he is a trusted advisor of the King) renting of the King’s clothes and goes to him. Elisha asks him, “Why did you rip your clothes? I’ll take care of this. That way, Syria will know there is a prophet in Israel.” I like what Elisha says. It reminds me of what Ammon said when the bandits were coming to scatter the king’s flocks. Instead of fearing, he rejoiced. He was glad because he could show forth God’s power and glorify God. That is kind of what Elisha did. Instead of getting angry, he said that he would deal with Naaman so that he would know there is a prophet in Israel.
Boom! I looked at the cross reference for this verse and it directs you to the story of Ammon! I’m getting to the point where I can guess cross references! Ok, maybe not THAT pandai (smart in Malay) but it was still pretty cool!
Elisha shows a lot of trust in the Lord. He probably already knows he is supposed to heal this man, that’s why Naaman is traveling to Israel. Still, the king is on pins and needles about starting a conflict with Syria and Elisha says he’ll handle it. Politically speaking, he’s just coming to be healed and be off back to Syria.
Brief sidenote. How in the good golly world is Naaman a noble? People with leprosy were shunned like the plague. People thought it was contagious right? I don’t know if it is or not. But even if he contracted the disease AFTER becoming a noble, wouldn’t he have been quarantined or rejected? I don’t know. I guess not because this story is happening.
Back to the story. Naaman shows up at the house of Elisha with his horses and chariot. Elisha doesn’t EVEN come out! he sends a messenger to go tell Naaman to wash in the Jordan River (30 miles away) seven times and he’ll be healed. Cross reference John 9:8-11. This is the story of a man, blind, whom Jesus healed. He anointed him with clay and told him to go wash in a pool and his eyesight would be restored. He does and receives sight again. I like this because Jesus didn’t heal him on the spot. Jesus merely anointed his eyes with clay and told him what to do. H went and did it and was healed. As we learn time and time again in the scriptures, faith without works is dead. And, as we’ll see in the case of this story, Elisha didn’t immediately heal him on the spot. He sent a messenger to tell him what to do. The burden was now on Naaman to exercise his faith unto WORKING so that he could be healed.
Naaman is a little wroth that Elisha merely sent out a messenger to tell him to go bathe in the JORDAN RIVER. In his own words this is what he thought,” 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.” Lesson #1 Naaman, God is not a respecter of persons. He’s the God of the universe, the king of all righteousness. He ain’t going to roll out the red carpet for a NOBLE of Syria. Don’t get me wrong. He still loves you, but just because you hold earthly titles doesn’t mean he is going to allow theatrical displays of power to heal you.
I think God delights in simplicity. He isn’t going to have his prophet strike the ground with his staff when he can have his prophet send a messenger to tell you how to heal yourself. There definitely is more power in doing something for yourself than having someone do it for you. When you do something yourself, you gain a testimony of it. If Naaman had merely been cured by Elisha, he would have said, “Ok, thanks, bye.” and left. Since, as we will see, he does it of his own accord and because he asked on his faith, his faith grew and he gained a testimony of the prophet and God of Israel.
Naaman is very cross, thinking that he could have bathed in any rivers in Damascus and they would have been cleaner than the one he was asked to bathe in. He departs from Elisha’s house in a rage. God’s ways are not man’s way. Oft times, God works in ways that may seem in direct opposition to what is logical. Like bathing in one of the dirtiest rivers in Israel to be cured of a skin disease. Cross reference 1 Nephi 16:24. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. Curing Naaman on the spot would have been a big miracle. As I said before, God delights in small and simple things. Do this small and simple thing, wash in the Jordan River seven times and you will be healed. Cross reference Alma 37:7. It is these small and simple things that the Lord confounds the wise and brings about the Salvation of mankind.
One of Naaman’s servants says, “If the prophet had wanted you to do something big, wouldn’t you have done it? Then how much more should you do something if all he is asking you to do is go wash and be clean?” Syria has some lousy leaders but wonderful servants! First, the little handmaid who suggests Naaman go to the prophet and now this servant is suggesting he actually listen to the prophet! Syria is in good hands if all their servants are like this. Not afraid to speak their mind.
Naaman finally comes to his senses and goes to wash. As he does, his skin is renewed and becomes like a child’s. Cross reference Job 33:25. His skin shall be fresher than a child’s and will return to the days of his youth. The washing wasn’t a fountain of youth per se, but it did restore his skin very nicely I should say. Naaman rejoices and returns to Elisha saying,”I know that there is no God in all the Earth but in Israel.” I think this is a remarkable change of heart. This is a man who has gone his entire life without knowing Jehovah. He worshiped creations of the flesh. Now he is not only believing in Jehovah but also has a powerful testimony of him who literally healed him. I would go so far as to say this is akin to Alma the Younger or King Lamoni in the Book of Mormon. The scriptures say to cross reference Alma 24:27. This is when the Anti-Nephi-Lehies are attacked by the Lamanites. But instead, the attacking Lamanites become converted to the gospel. The cross reference also compared this to the time when Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And afterward the king proclaimed that God is God of all the Earth.
Naaman seeks to bestow all the gifts he brought upon Elisha but Elisha refuses. Not once but twice. Finally, Naaman asks if he can take two mules’ burden of earth back to Syria. He says he will only offer sacrifice unto the Lord God and on Israelite soil. He is allowed to take the earth with him. Naaman requests one last thing of Elisha. That when Naaman’s master takes him to the house of Rimmon, a Syrian God, he be forgiven because he has to be there. Elisha tells him to go in peace. Can you imagine how good Naaman felt when he left? I think a little more was healed in Naaman than leprosy that day. I think he received forgiveness from his sin. He definitely had a change of heart. The prophet told him to go in peace. I can say from personal experience that when a servant of the Lord, acting on his behalf, tells you to go your way in peace, that you stand ok in the sight of the Lord, It brings so much peace to your soul!
There remains, however, a twist in the story. Gehazi says to Elisha if he can go receive some of the gifts that Elisha refused. Actually, I don’t think he told Elisha what he was doing, he just went. Gehazi catches up to Naaman and requests of his talents of silver and two changes of clothes. Naaman, perhaps sensing something fishy was going on, just gives him two talents of silver.
Gehazi came saying it was on behalf of Elisha to gather these supplies. Hopefully, Naaman caught on because Elisha had told him with his own mouth he didn’t want any. Why would he change his mind so suddenly if he had already said no? Furthermore, Gehazi takes the two talents of silver for himself and seeks to keep the fact he obtained them a secret. Where did Elisha pick this guy up? Like so many people the Lord calls, perhaps unqualified, people in hopes that they will exercise their agency with righteousness to turn their potential into reality. Maybe Gehazi had that potential. But as of right now, he is not fulfilling it. Not being a good servant of God.
After he hides the treasure, he returns to Elisha. Elisha asks him where he came from. Gehazi says, “Nowhere.” Oh, snap! He just lied to the prophet! He is going to be trouble. I think Elisha is going to call him out on it. He does. He tells Gehazi that his heart went with him when he stopped Naaman and receives the gifts he had refused. And as such, leprosy that clung to Naaman will cling to Gehazi and his seed forever!
Gehazi leaves his presence a leper (probably screaming) and white as snow. I wonder if his seed remains lepers to this day. Don’t do what you ain’t supposed to do!