2 Kings 5:17 MEANING

2 Kings 5:17
(17) Shall there not then.--Rather, If not, let there be given, I pray thee. LXX., ??? ?? ??.

Two mules' burden of earth?--Literally, a load of a yoke of mules' (in) earth. It was natural for Naaman, with his local idea of divinity, to make this request. He wished to worship the God of Israel, so far as possible, on the soil of Israel, Jehovah's own land. He would therefore build his altar to Jehovah on a foundation of this earth, or construct the altar itself therewith. (Comp. Exodus 20:24; 1 Kings 18:38.)

Burnt offering nor sacrifice.--Burnt offering nor peace offering.

Offer.--Literally, make.

Verse 17. - And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? Naaman does not state what he intends to do with the earth; and the critics have consequently suggested two uses. Some suppose that he intended to make the earth into an altar upon which he might offer his sacrifices; comp. Exodus 20:24, where an altar of earth is spoken of (Bahr and others). But the more general opinion (Thenius, Von Gerlach, etc.) is that he wished to spread the earth over a piece of Syrian ground, and thereby to hallow the ground for purposes of worship. The Jews themselves are known to have acted similarly, transferring earth from Jerusalem to Babylonia, to build a temple on it; and the idea is not an unnatural one, It does not necessarily imply the "polytheistic superstition" that every god has his own laud, where alone he can be properly worshipped. It rests simply on the notion of there being such a thing as "holy ground" (Exodus 3:5) - ground more suited for the worship of God than ordinary common soil, which therefore it is worth while to transfer from place to place for a religious purpose. For thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice [as meat offerings or firstfruits] unto other gods, but unto the Lord. It is implied that Naaman had been hitherto a polytheist. Not much is known of the Syrian religion, but, so far as can be gathered, it would seem to have been a somewhat narrow polytheism. The sun was the supreme god, and was worshipped ordinarily under the name of Hadad (Ma-crob, 'Sat.,' 1:23). There was also, certainly, a great goddess, the "Dea Syra" of the Romans, whom they identified with Cybele and with their own "Bona Dea," a divinity parallel with the Ashtoreth of the Phoenicians, and the Ishtar of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Whether there were any other distinct deities may be doubted, since Bitumen is possibly only another name of Hadad (see the comment on ver. 18). Adonis is simply "Adonai," i.e. "my Lord," an epithet of the Supreme Being.

5:15-19 The mercy of the cure affected Naaman more than the miracle. Those are best able to speak of the power of Divine grace, who themselves experience it. He also shows himself grateful to Elisha the prophet. Elijah refused any recompence, not because he thought it unlawful, for he received presents from others, but to show this new convert that the servants of the God of Israel looked upon worldly wealth with a holy contempt. The whole work was from God, in such a manner, that the prophet would not give counsel when he had no directions from the Lord. It is not well violently to oppose the lesser mistakes which unite with men's first convictions; we cannot bring men forward any faster than the Lord prepares them to receive instruction. Yet as to us, if, in covenanting with God, we desire to reserve any known sin, to continue to indulge ourselves in it, that is a breach of his covenant. Those who truly hate evil, will make conscience of abstaining from all appearances of evil.And Naaman said, shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth..... Not that he desired of Elisha that he would suffer his servant Gehazi to receive a present as much as two mules could carry; but inasmuch as the prophet refused a present from him, his servant, he asks a favour of him, that he would permit him to take with him, out of the land of Israel, as much earth two mules could carry, that is, to make an altar of earth, as the next words indicate: but as he might have this any where without the prophet's leave, some Jewish writers (o) think he requested it from his own house, and from the place his feet trod on, as conceiving in a superstitious way that there was a sort of holiness in it; or however, that wheresoever he had it, if with the prophet's leave, a blessing would go with it, or that would be a sort of a consecration of it; and having an altar made of the earth of this land, would show that he was in the faith of the same God, and performed the same worship to him Israel did:

for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord: hence the Jews say, he became a proselyte of righteousness (p), embraced the true religion, and the worship of the true God, according to the laws given to Israel; and the following words, rightly understood, confirm the same.

(o) Ben Gersom & Abarbinel in loc. (p) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 11. 2.

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