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PRACTICAL. 1. An oft-used“ prophet's chamber " has blessed many a house. 2. The gift of being a desirable guest is equal to that of being a hospitable host.
3. “Carry him to his mother.” It is to the credit of no man that he is too much engrossed in business to give needful attention to his children. He cannot throw the responsibility upon their mother.
4. “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you," saith the Lord. 5. It is to good men and women that we turn in time of affliction.
6. Would you be trusted implicitly without rendering a reason, then must you habitually show right intentions and good judgment.
7. The deepest grief is not the most voluble.
8. Happiness and unhappiness, joy and sorrow, stand here upon earth ever side by side. There is no unalloyed happiness.
9. Errands of mercy admit of no delay. 10. The Lord will not abandon in adversity him who has trusted him in prosperity. 11. It is the effectual, fervent prayer which avails. 12. Faith in God does not exclude the use of means. 13. To ask largely of God prepares us to receive largely. – A. L. Stone.
14. Of all that the Father hath given the Son he will lose nothing, but will raise it up at the last day.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. Call attention to the BEAUTY OF THE STORY. In simplicity, in fidelity to life, in delicate description of character, and powerful appeal to human sympathies and feelings, it is unsurpassed by anything in ancient or modern literature. — Todd.
Make clear the nature of Elisha's missionary tours throughout Israel, among people far from the temple worship, and corrupted by calf-worship. Picture the childless home of the strong, prompt, wise, devout, affectionate Shunammite, and her hospitable plan, resulting in the preparing of an upper room, furnished as befitted her wealth and the prophet's position. She rejoices in the birth of a son, but through this precious gift she is to be taught that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and in her experience is to show,
THE POWER OF A LIVING FAITH.
I. THE TRIAL OF FAITH (vers, 18-20). The story of the child going out to his father in the great harvest fields, and being brought home to die in his mother's arms, is best told in the simple, familiar words of the Bible.
II. The Work of FAITH (vers. 21-35). This mother showed her faith by her works. (1) By laying the child on the prophet's bed until he should come. (2) By concealing his death. (3) By setting forth on the wearisome journey to Mt. Carmel. (4) By her promptwhess of action. (5) By her half-uttered appeal to the prophet. (6) By her persistence. (7) By her gratitude. Faith without works is dead, and would never have saved her child.
Call attention to Gehazi, insolent and officious, vain-glorious in his commission, running swiftly with the prophet's staff, making frantic attempts to arouse the insensible child, then returning baffled and crestfallen to his master. Contrast with him Elisha, courteous and patient, anxious to comfort, easy to be entreated, going alone to the chamber, and manifesting his faith (1) by prayer, humble and fervent, (2) by using the means that suggest themselves to him, or that Elijah used on a similar occasion.
III. THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH (35, 1.c. -37). (1) The woman received her dead raised to life again, but before taking him to her arms fell on her face in an ecstasy of loving gratitude.
Illustration. Doubtless, if we are so happy as ever to reach heaven, we shall find our. selves so overwhelmed with wonder, love, and praise “that we shall not at first think of the social joys and lesser privilege to which we now look forward."
(2) Many years later this wonderful story was the means of her regaining lands that were forfeited by her absence.
Call attention to the truth that what neither a mother's love, nor Gehazi's efforts, nor the prophet-staff could accomplish, Elisha was enabled to do through the power of God, and Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, does for every believing soul.
Illustration. In a quaint English book Daniel Quorm says, “ It be wonderful, wonderful how we can stretch ourselves out 'pon the promises – lie down on 'em full length - and they begin to live, and speak, and ben't words that somebody spoke a long time ago, but do come fresh and warm from the lips o' the blessed Lord, all fullo' his gentle love, and tenderness, an' power."
LESSON XII. — SEPT. 20.
PLACES. - (1) Damascus, the capital city of Syria. It lies on the eastern base of AntiLibanus, in a well-watered, fertile plain, the beauty of which led the orientals to call it one of the four terrestrial paradises. — Whitney. It lies in the only practicable track across the desert, and the antiquity of the city may be inferred from Gen. 14: 15 and 15: 2. In more modern times it has been celebrated for its swords, — “Damascus blades," – and for its silks, -"damask.” It has always been a manufacturing place, as its name signifies, “ activity," — and at times very wealthy. - Todd. (2) Samaria. The capital of the kingdom of Israel.
SYRIA. — The region of country known to the Hebrews as Aram. (1) Its extent was variable, and not easily determined. In New Testament times its boundaries may be given as follows: Palestine on the south, the Mediterranean on the west, Cilicia and Mt. Amanus on the north, the Euphrates and Desert of Palmyra on the east. (2) Scripture mention of Syria begins in Judges, though Joshua doubtless often made war with its chiefs. David won a victory over the Syrians of Damascus, and a few years later reduced Syria to general submission. The country continued subject to Solomon, who “reigned over all the kingdoms from the river (Euphrates) unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt." Afterward, probably in the later days of Solomon, an independent kingdom was formed at Damascus (1 Kings 11:23-25). Damascus was now the leading state, and a succession of its kings became formidable to Israel, sometimes being in alliance with the southern state of Judah. - IVhitney. PRONUNCIATIONS. — Ab'ănă; Dămăs'củs; Gěhāʼzī; Nā'ămăn; Phär'păr.
INTRODUCTION. This story occupies a place in the Old Testament very similar to that held by the beautiful parable of the prodigal son in the New, and there is much that is alike in the instruction which they contain. — Rogers. The story of Naaman is a precious contribution to the evidence that the love and care of God are not restricted within any limits of country or race, but are wide as the world. — Todd.
1. Now 1 Naaman, 2 captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria; he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a 3 leper.
1 Gen. 46:21. ? 2 Sam. 19:13. Lev. 13: 3. Luke 17:2.
EXPLANATORY. I. A Hopeless Case. — Ver. 1. 1. Now. Merely a connecting word. We cannot decide certainly whether it belongs to the time of Jehoram or to that of the house of Jehu. – Lange. Naaman. The successive defeats of Benhadad by Ahab and by the Assyrian king had so weakened Syria that the chronic war with Israel had dwindled into fierce marauding expeditions over the border, to plunder and carry off slaves. One of the most famous leaders of these forays was Naaman, — "the good fellow," – a dashing officer, but, unfortunately for himself, a leper. In Israel this would have disqualified him for public duty, but it was different at Damascus. — Geikie. The name, meaning pleasantness, is very ancient. Captain of the host. Commander of the army. A great man. Naaman seems to have held high civil as well as military offices. Honourable. Honored, accepted, very rich. – 7., F. and B. By him the Lord had given deliverance. In accordance with the standing conception of the Hebrews that Jehovah was the God of all the earth. Shedd. We can place no reliance on the rabbinical tradition that it was Naaman who drew the bow and shot Ahab. In fact it is doubtful if Israel was the enemy from whom he had delivered his country. The cuniform inscriptions at Nineveh show that an Assyrian monarch had pushed his conquests as far as Syria exactly at this period, bringing into subjection
2. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.
3. And 1 she said unto her mistress, ? Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria ! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
4. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.
all the kings of these parts; but a few years later Syria had once more made herself independent. It was probably at this time that Naaman had distinguished himself. — Rawlinson. Mighty man in valor. Very courageous. But. There is a slight discordant “but," which, like a false note in a melody, mars the perfectness of the good fortune. — Menken. Naaman was as great as the world could make him, and yet the basest slave in Syria would not change skins with him. — Henry. Leper. In the hot, dry, and dusty atmosphere of the East there has always been great prevalence of all kinds of skin-diseases, and of these leprosy has always been the most dreadful. It is feared as contagious; it is certainly and inevitably hereditary; it is loathsome and polluting; its victim is shunned by all as unclean; it is most deceitful in its action. New-born children of leprous parents are often as pretty and as healthy in appearance as any, but by-and-by its presence and working become visi. ble in some of the signs described in Lev. 13. Different parts of the body are slowly consumed, and finally the wretched victim sinks into the earth and disappears, while medicine has no power to stay the ravages of this fell disease, or even to mitigate sensibly its tortures. - Thomson. Among the Hebrews the leper was compelled to live alone outside of the city, and was not permitted to join in public worship, or to mingle with people, or to touch any one, or to allow any one to approach without warning him by the cry "unclean." It is true that the Mosaic laws were not in force in Syria, but that Naaman felt his leprosy to be a terrible misfortune is apparent from the pains and expense that he was at to have it cured. — Todd.
II. A Messenger of Hope. - Vers. 2, 3. 2. By companies. In marauding parties (see ver. 1, note). This seemed a not unusual mode of warfare. Brought away captive. The treatment of the conquered was extremely severe in ancient times. The leaders were put to death. Bodies were plundered; survivors were either killed in some savage manner, mutilated, or carried into captivity. Women and children were occasionally put to death with the greatest barbarity, but it was more usual to retain the maidens as concubines or servants. — Bevan. This state of things is vividly portrayed by Homer. Peaceful citizens are usually the greatest sufferers in political feuds. — C. and D. Little maid. Not necessarily a little child; a young maiden. Waited on Naaman's wife. To whom, as the captain's wife, she had been presented, or for whom she had been bought in the slave market. We are now introduced to the second personage mentioned in the story of the Syrian leper. She is as obscure as the first is exalted. He is a general and a nobleman; she is a captive and a slave. -- Rogers. Like Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, this captive girl becomes the instrument of making Jehovah known among the heathen. --- Whedon.
3. She said unto her mistress. This brave little maid had faith that the prophet of her God and of her native land could recover her master from his foul malady. The more she thinks of it the greater is her faith and hope. Would God. O that God would will it ! My lord. Naaman. The prophet. Elisha, of whom she had heard at home. Recover him of his leprosy. Literally, receive again. The same word is translated "brought in again” in the story of Miriam's restoration (Num. 12:15). Bishop Wordsworth ealls attention to the fact that the maid speaks as an Israelite naturally would. But for these words from the mouth of a child, Naaman had still remained a leper and an idolater. She wonderfully exemplified the spirit of the command given to the captives in Babylon. “Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it” (see Jer. 29:7).
III. In the Way. -- Vers. 4-6. 4. And one went in, and told his lord. Rather, “And he went in.” It is best to supply Naaman as the nominative, and to understand that he went and told his lord, the king of Syria. — Cook. He eagerly caught at any chance and “trusted any cure.”
5. And the 1 king of Syria said, 2 Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of 3 gold, and ten 4 changes of raiment.
6. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.
7. And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he 5 rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, 6 to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. 1 1 Kings 20: 1. 2 Kings 8:7. Gen. 11:
3 3 Acts 8:18. Gen. 45:22. 5 Ezra 9:3.
5. The king of Syria. Benhadad (son or worshipper of the Syrian god Hadad). Probably an official name like Pharaoh. And the king of Syria said. We see from the king's readiness how anxious he was for the restoration of Naaman. Go to, go. Rather, “Go, depart.” — Cook. Merely an exclamation equivalent to “Come, now." — 7odd. I will send a letter. An autograph letter. The king, not knowing anything about Elisha, naturally thought that the shortest way to find him would be through the king of Israel, at whose court he naturally expected to find such a prophet. A godless man would suppose that even a divine gift might be bought, and a despotic king that even a prophet of God must obey a human command. He took with him. To come before any one without a gift when a favor was to be asked would have been inexcusable rudeness; but when the favor was health, and the personage approached a man who had power with the God of his country, no bounty could be too great to propitiate his good-will. — Geikie. Ten talents of silver. Worth about £3,420 ($16,400). And six thousand pieces of gold. Worth $48,000. — Bagster. Geikie, and Keil, and other writers each estimate the amount differently. Pieces of gold. Coined money did not exist as yet, and was not introduced into Judea till the time of Cyrus. Gold was carried in bars, from which portions were cut when need arose, and the value was ascertained by weighing. — Cook. Ten changes of raiment. Costly robes, suitable for festive occasions. The oriental custom of including clothes among gifts of honor still continues. This very large present was quite in keeping with Naaman's position, and was not too great for the object in view, namely, his deliverance from a malady which would be certainly, even if slowly, fatal.
• IV. Turned Aside. – Vers. 6–12. 6. He brought. The distance was 110 miles, as the bird flies. And he brought the letter. Incidentally we notice that the art of writing was well known, and that the languages of the Syrian and Hebrew were so much alike as to need no interpreter. They afterwards diverged. -- Lewis. Now. The royal letter is abbreviated, for it could not begin with “ Now when.” Only the main passage is given here. The letter was simply a note of introduction. That thou mayest recover him. There is no reason for supposing that he expected the king to play the physician; in fact, this would not accord with what Benhadad had heard about “ the prophet that is in Samaria.” – Todd. The words were not so insolent in their meaning as Jehoram supposed, but simply meant: have him cured, as thou hast a wonder-working prophet; the Syrian king imagining, according to his heathen notions, that Jehoram could do what he liked with his prophets and their miraculous powers (Keil), and that only by royal command would this chief of the Magi be induced to exercise his powers in behalf of a foreigner. – Menken.
7. He rent his clothes. Less in horror at the imagined blasphemy than in consternation at the implied threat. The king is terrified because he has a bad conscience (Job 15: 21). Such a man always finds more in a letter than it says. Those who do not trust God do not trust one another. - Lange. Am I God? Am I omnipotent? To kill and to make alive. This shows how utterly incurable leprosy was considered. It was the equivalent of death, and to cure would be to make alive. Wherefore consider. Probably said in private council. He had so far misunderstood the intention of the letter as to suppose that he was called on to perform the cure, and that an impossibility was intentionally demanded. It did not occur to him that Benhadad was sincere in his request, nor that God's hand was in it. His obtuseness was equal to Benhadad's ignorance. He seeketh a quarrel. That is, a special ground of quarrel, in addition to the ordinary grounds of national enmity
8. And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him 'come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.
9. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
10. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan 4 seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
11. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, 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.
1 Matt 11:28.
? Luke :16.
John 3:7. Zech. 13:1.
Kings 18:43. Josh. 6:4.
8. Providentially, the story of the king's agitation came to Elisha, and he sent him this very sensible message. Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. That is, that in spite of the apostasy of king and people, God still makes his saving power manifest in Israel.
9. So Naaman came. He finally draws up with his chariot and escort at the humble door of the prophet; unwilling, perhaps, to intrude on the holy man, or thinking, it may be, that Elisha might well come out to one in his high position. — Geikie. With his horses. That is, with the whole company of his attendants, who were mounted on horses, while he himself rode in a chariot. Naaman travels in royal state, but the contrast between the equipage and the rider is very great. The house of Elisha. The prophet seems to have had a residence of his own in the city of Samaria (comp. chap. 6: 32).
10. Elisha sent. As God's representative, he was superior to any earthly noble (2 Sam. 22:27). It was not because he feared contact with a leper. Messenger. Gehazi. Go and wash in Jordan. As the washing in Jordan could have no natural tendency to cure leprosy, we must suppose the prophet to speak “by the word of the Lord.” The address resembles that of our Lord to the blind man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam." In each case a command is given which tests the faith of the recipient, and the miracle is not wrought until such faith is openly evidenced. - Cook. Seven times. Sevenfoldness is the sacred rule of completeness. Thy flesh shall come again. That is, become sound. “ Was not Elisha a little disrespectful, rather bluff, and deficient in true Christian politeness?” We do not know how fully Elisha was led by a divine monition within, but judging from the result, we may infer that his bearing was not displeasing to God. As a prophet, it was his business to rebuke sin of every sort, and it was necessary to teach this haughty heathen that " whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall not enter therein.” I: often requires far more self-denial to resist the great than to yield to them; not all is pride which seems to the world to be such. That which Naaman believed to be contempt and rudeness, really proceeded, in the case of Elisha, from genuine love to him, and humility and obedience to God. — Bähr. He had been turned back once by ignorance ; now he was by pride.
11. Wroth. His pomp and state were thrown away: the man of God did not even come to look at them. His high credentials were wasted; the means of cure prescribed for him might have been prescribed for the poorest outcast in Israel. - Bähr. I thought (" said within myself”), He will surely come out to me. According to the unwritten code of Eastern hospitality, Elisha should have greeted Naaman at the door. He describes graphically the pompous manner of pretended wonder-workers. And call on the name of the Lord his God. Literally, “ of Jehovah his God.” Naaman is aware that Jehovah is the God of Elisha (comp. the occurrence of the name of Jehovah on the “Moabite Stone ”). Strike his hand. Wave it over. It is a very common superstition that the hand of a king waved over a sore will cure it. In the last century, the King of England“ touched for the king's evil,” or scrofula. He would be cured, and in his own way. This man turns away with anger from the divine help he has come so far to seek. And why? Because he trusts to his unreasoning prejudice, as to a divine oracle, and regarding himself as possessing infallible insight, has made up his mind that what is divine must act and appear differently. How faithful and true the old picture is! how fresh and new! - Menken.