So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
He returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
Elisha replied, “As the Lord lives whom I serve, I will not take it.” And despite Naaman’s urging, he still refused. Naaman said: “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for your servant will no longer make burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord. But may the Lord forgive your servant this: when my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down there, as he leans upon my arm, I too must bow down in the temple of Rimmon. When I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord please forgive your servant this.” Elisha said to him, “Go in peace.”2 Kings 5:14-19
The God of Israel turned Naaman’s world upside down. A proud, fearless army commander of the king of Aram, Naaman held unshakable convictions. With nationalistic sentiment, he appraised “the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel (2 Kings 5:12). Elisha’s simple instruction to wash seven times in the Jordan clashed with the fixed cultural prejudices of the leprous warlord.
Elisha Refuses Gifts
Mercifully, Naaman’s servants convinced their master to take a chance on the Jordan. Seven times he plunged, and his flesh was healed. Elated by the miracle, the Syrian commander returned to shower Elisha with gifts. For he had come bearing ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments to seek his restoration.
But the man of God refused. The Lord freely bestows his mercy; his servant does nothing to earn it. No one can repay the Lord for all his benefits.
Elisha revolutionized Naaman’s vision of religion, which involved buying or meriting favors from local gods and their priests. Recognizing the sovereignty of the God of Israel, Naaman instead requested soil from the holy land. Throughout the ancient world, the belief that specific deities governed territories and nations was widespread. After his miraculous healing in the Jordan, Naaman revered the God and land of the Israelites. With two mule-loads of earth, the Aramean general wished to set up an altar to the God of Israel in his own country. The convert pledged, “For I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD.”
Naaman’s loyalty to Israel’s God, however, conflicted with his civic duties. He asked pardon for his obligatory obeisance in the temple of Rimmon, the Syrian deity. Compassionately, Elisha accepted the Aramean’s fledgling faith without imposing upon him the standards of the Mosaic covenant. At this point in salvation history, God called Israel alone to an exclusive relationship. But positive encounters with the Syrian commander and other Gentiles throughout Israel’s sojourn paved the way for the universal covenant in Christ. Elisha sent Naaman home with holy earth and a shalom: “Go in peace.”
Israel’s God is of priceless worth,
But go with two mule-loads of earth.