Elisha Heals Naaman of Leprosy - 2 Kings 5 Bible Study

In 2 Kings 5:1-19, the Bible tells us about the prophet Elisha healing Naaman of his leprosy. You may be familiar with this story, but have you ever noticed how it illustrates salvation or what it teaches us about prayer? This Bible study discusses the story of Naaman’s healing, explaining what it teaches about prayer and how it illustrates salvation.

What does Elisha healing Naaman of Leprosy teach us about prayer and salvation?

What Naaman’s Healing Teaches about Prayer

The Bible lesson of 2 Kings 5:1-19 on prayer is not obvious because no one prays in this passage, nor is prayer mentioned. Yet a miraculous request is made of God, and God powerfully answers the petition with one condition.

So, what can Elisha’s healing Naaman of leprosy teach us about prayer, you may ask. First, we need to set the stage with some background information.

Preparation for Naaman’s Healing

  • Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army and was held in high esteem because of his military success (2 Kings 5:1). These victories included battles with Israel.
  • The king of Syria sent Naaman to the king of Israel instructing him to heal Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:5-6).
  • God was already providentially working in Naaman’s life to bring him to Himself. It is no coincidence that:
    • “. . . by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria” (2 Kings 5:1). Naaman was victorious in battle because the LORD (Yahweh) was using him.
    • Naaman was a leper (2 Kings 5:1)
    • Naaman’s wife had a young Israelite girl as a servant, who knew about Elisha and believed the prophet could heal Naaman of his leprosy, and who had told her so (2 Kings 5:2-4).
    • Elisha learned that Naaman had come for healing and told the king of Israel to send Naaman to him for healing (2 Kings 5:5-8)
    • God wanted Naaman to know that there was “a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8)
    • Through his healing Naaman came to “know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel” (2 Kings 5: 15)

Prayer Requires Humility

Prayer involves humbly asking God for something. A proper prayer requires humility because it is a request for God to do something you cannot do yourself.

Miracles cannot be commanded by mortals

The king of Syria thought he could command Israel’s king to heal Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:5:6). But miracles cannot be commanded by mortals. Even the ungodly king of Israel knew that, so he tore his clothes and asked, “Am I God . . . to recover a man of his leprosy?” (2 Kings 5:7).

Naaman was proud. He considered himself to be an important man and expected God’s prophet to come to him and make a public show of healing him (2 Kings 5:9-12). When Elisha just sent a messenger telling him to humbly wash in the Jordan river, he raged in anger (2 Kings 5:11-12). They had better rivers in Syria, why should he wash in the dirty little Jordan?

Naaman thought he could pay for his healing and came prepared to do so (2 Kings 5:5). He brought 6,000 shekels (about 2,400 ounces) of gold (which would be worth about $3,600,000 today). He also brought 10 talents (about 750 pounds) of silver (worth about $210,000 today) and 10 changes of garments.

God’s miracles are not for sale

But Elisha would accept no payment (2 Kings 5:15-16). God’s miracles are not for sale. Cleansing must be accepted as a gift from God (Eph 2: 8-9; Titus 3:5).

Prayer Requires Faith

Naaman’s healing came with a condition. He had to demonstrate faith in the LORD (Yahweh) by obeying His Word by humbling dipping himself in the Jordan river seven times.

Naaman’s pride almost prevented his healing. If he had left in anger, he would have remained a leper.

But Naaman’s faithful servants reasoned with him, pointing out that he would have been willing to something great to earn his healing. Why was he unwilling to so something simple as obedienly washing in the Jordan? (2 Kings 5:13-14)

In response, Naaman demonstrated faith in God by humbly dipping in the Jordan seven times as instructed. It was only after he obeyed God’s Word that Naaman was healed (2 Kings 5:14).

2 Kings 5:14 Naaman Cleansed of Leprosy

How Naaman’s Cleansing Illustrates Salvation

Naaman received more than physical healing from his leprosy. He was cleansed spiritually as well. Once this miracle had been performed in his flesh, Naaman publicly confessed that he now knew that the God of Israel (Yahweh / the LORD) is the only God (2 Kings 5:15). He also wanted to take some of God’s promised land with him on which to worship God (2 Kings 5:17).

Naaman’s Leprosy – A Picture of Sin

Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection (by Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepromatosis), which slowly causes nerve and skin damage. The Old Testament law (Lev 13) instructed priests to pronounce anyone with leprosy as “unclean” (Lev 13:3, 8, 14-15, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 43-44). All lepers were declared “unclean” and required to live “outside the camp” (Lev 13:46), separated from God’s Presence and His people (Lev 13:45-46).

People with leprosy suffered not only the effects of a terrible infection, but they were cut off from healthy people (including friends and family) and from the presence of God (at the Tabernacle / Temple). Naturally, those with this horrible disease wanted physical healing, but they also wanted to be declared “clean” so they could rejoin society and have their fellowship restored with God and man.

Bacteria reproduce rapidly. One bacterium can multiply into billions in a matter of hours. Just as “a little leaven (yeast) leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor 5:6), so it is with bacteria. A small infection can spread to your whole body.

Just as a bacterial infection can infect your whole body, so sin contaminates your soul. The sad truth is that we are all sinners from birth. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:10-12,23). And the wages of our sin is death (Rom 6:23a), both physical death and eternal separation from God.

We are helpless to cleanse ourselves from sin, because “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). In the eyes of God, our best efforts to do good works are like the “filthy rags” a leper would wear to cover their leprous sores.

Isaiah 64:6 - All Our Righteousness is as Filthy Rags

Only God can provide spiritual cleansing. And He provided it by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life and die a terrible death on the cross to pay for our sins (John 3:16). Now those who repent of their sin, believe in Jesus as the Son of God and trust Him as their Savior are cleansed from the spiritual contamination of their sins.

Naaman’s Healing – A Picture of Salvation

Naaman wanted physical healing; God wanted more for him. God wanted to cleanse Naaman spiritually.

As noted above, Naaman came to Elisha clothed in pride. Humanly speaking, he had reason to be proud because he had political power, military might and great wealth. But none of that impresses God, because everything any of us have comes from God. Naaman may have been splendidly attired in the eyes of man, but in God’s eyes he was clothed in filthy rags.

In 1 Peter 5:5, God commands His children to begin clothing themselves with humility, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Naaman came to Elisha proudly thinking he could command or buy his cleansing, but he found out otherwise.

Naaman wanted physical healing; God wanted more for him. God wanted to cleanse Naaman spiritually.

Naaman had to repent of his pride and humbly obey God’s Word given through the prophet Elisha. Naaman had to strip off his expensive clothes and humbly enter the Jordan river as an unclean man with his leprous sores exposed for all to see. God responded to Naaman’s humble obedience with grace.

When Naaman humbled himself under the mighty hand of Israel’s God (1 Peter 5:6), the Creator graciously healed his body and cleansed his soul. After his miraculous healing, Naaman knew that Israel’s God is the one true God who created the world. And as Romans 10:9-10 teaches, Naaman returned to Elisha to confess with his mouth that “there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15).

2 Kings 5:15 Naaman Confesses God


Lessons about Prayer

2 Kings 2:1-19 never mentions praying, yet Elisha healing Naaman’s Leprosy teaches the following lessons about prayer:

  • Political and Military power have no influence with God. We cannot command God to help.
  • We cannot buy or earn God’s grace. We must accept it as a free gift.
  • Prayer requires humility. We must acknowledge our need and humbly ask for God’s help.
  • We must have faith that God can and will answer our prayer
  • We must obey God’s Word
  • We must do our part. God will not work miracles for those who are unwilling to help themselves.

Salvation Illustrated

Elisha’s healing of Naaman’s leprosy in 2 Kings 2:1-19 paints a powerful picture of Salvation:

  • Salvation cannot be earned or purchased
  • Our sin is like Naaman’s leprosy in the eyes of God
  • Our attempts at righteousness are as filthy rags to God (Isa 64:6)
  • Spiritual cleansing is received as a free gift by God’s grace when we demonstrate our faith in Him by humbly obeying His Word
  • Those who have been spiritually cleansed by God’s grace should publicly proclaim their faith, confessing with their mouth the great things God has done for them.

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