Gehazi, A Greedy Servant

Elisha rejecting Gehazi

Elisha rejecting Gehazi

Reference: 2 Kings 5:19-27

Heart of the story: Gehazi was Elizha’s personal servant for many years; yet, he deliberately disobeyed Elisha for his own gain.

What Happened: Gehazi lived with Elizha on Mount Carmel and went with him on Elizha’s tours throughout Israel. When the Aram’s war commander Naaman came to Elizha to be cured of leprosy,  probably Gehazi conveyed Elisha message to Naaman that he needed to wash seven times in the Jordan River. After he was cured, Naaman returned to Elisha and offered him gifts and money. Gehazi listened when Elisha assured Naaman that he wanted no payment or reward for telling Naaman how to be cured. 

Unfortunately, it was a greedy Gehazi who ran after Naaman. In Elisha’s name, Gehazi asked for specific payment for curing Naaman. Gehazi requested specific items that were part of Naaman’s caravan, e.g. a talent of silver and two sets of clothes. Gladly Naaman gave the money and clothes to Gehazi. Gehazi returned to Elish’sa house where he hid the gifts.  

When Gehazi went into the prophet, Elisha asked him where he had been. Gehazi denied that he went anywhere; however, Elisha knew otherwise.  Eisha’s spirit was with Gehazi when he went to Naaman. Elisha attempted to persuade Gehazi that curing a person of an illness wasn’t the time to take money, clothes, or other gifts. Apparently Gehazi didn’t agree because Elisha’s next words to Gehazi were disastrous. Elisha told Gehazi that Naaman’s leprosy would cling to him and his descendants forever. Immediately Gehazi turned white with leprosy. He left Elisha’s presence and his employment.

Analysis of the Relationship: Gehazi was disobedient to Elisha who wanted no payment for telling Naaman how to be cured. Further, Gehazi lied both to Elisha and Naaman. Probably Gehazi’s wasn’t inherently avaricious; but, he was biased against Arameans. In no other Bible story do we read that Gehazi was focused on money or physical gifts; e.g., in the story of the Shunammite woman, Gehazi pointed out that the woman’s desire for a son, a non-material gift. Yet, when Gehazi pondered going after Naaman for payment, he identified Naaman as “this Aramean.” For years Aram and Israel engaged in raids into each other’s lands and clashed militarily. Perhaps Gehazi, or a member of his family, was hurt or even taken captive, in one of these armed conflicts. Certainly, Gehazi would have heard about the Arameans taking captives from Israel.    

Two talents of silver and two changes of clothes were an insignificant sum when compared to a lifetime of leprosy for Gehazi and his descendants; but, that is the exchange Gehazi made when he disobeyed Elisha. Very likely, Gehazi wouldn’t have requested the payment from Naaman had he anticipated the outcome.  Gehazi didn’t comprehend that Naaman’s healing was a gift from God that Elisha shouldn’t benefit from.  

Gehazi recognized Elisha was the greatest prophet in Israel at the time. Gehazi was proud to work for Elisha, e.g., Gehazi eagerly related to the king of Israel all the great things Elisha did (2 Kings 8:3-5). Therein could have been another reason Gehazi extorted payment from Naaman. Perhaps Gehazi believed that Elisha himself performed miracles, not realizing that Elisha was only the vehicle through which God act. From this perspective if Elisha expended energy to heal Naaman, he had a right to be paid.  

Conclusion: Nowhere in the Bible’s descriptions of the relationship between Gehazi and Elisha do we see a tender, familial relationship despite the years they spent together. Perhaps Elisha saw some character defect in Gehazi that impeded a close relationship.

copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 3/14

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