Elisha’s Question About Falsehood

Title: Elisha's Question About Falsehood

Bible Book: 2 Kings 5 : 20-27

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Lying; Falsehood; Honesty



"Where have you been?” I’ve stood on both sides of that question. I’ve asked it of others, and I’ve answered it myself. And I’ve learned that whenever it comes to answering that question, as with anything else – honesty is the best policy.

One day when I was a first grader at Brevard Elementary School, we had a bomb threat and school was dismissed a little early. While a couple of friends and I were standing in line to wait for the school bus, we decided that we wanted to walk a few hundred yards up the hill to the water fountains. As we were slowly strutting back down the hill, the bus came and we were left with no way home. In our independence, we decided that it would be no problem to walk the five miles home along a four-lane highway with no sidewalks. We had probably gotten about halfway home when a deputy sheriff happened to come by. He stopped and picked us up and gave the three of us a ride home. When I walked in the door, my mother said, “Where have you been?” It never occurred to me to soften the details for my mom’s benefit, so in a very matter-of-fact, honest way, I said, “We had a bomb at school, and a policeman brought me home.”

We have been dealing with some questions from the life the prophet Elisha. In 2 Kings 2:14 he said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” In 2 Kings 4:2 he said to a widowed mother, “What shall I do for thee?” In 2 Kings 4:26 he said to the Shunammite, “Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child?” In 2 Kings 5:8 he said to the distressed king of Israel, “Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes?” He asked a question about the Father, about a favor, about a family, and about faithlessness. Then in 2 Kings 5:25 he said to his servant Gehazi, “Whence comest thou, Gehazi?” Or as we would say, “Where have you been?” Now Gehazi was neither matter-of-fact nor honest in answering Elisha’s question, and as we shall see, this was a question about falsehood.

The name “Gehazi” is mentioned only twelve times in the scripture, and it means “valley of vision,”[1] which suggests that he had a low view and perspective of things. He was as James Hastings mentions, “Like the fallen angels described in Paradise Lost, who even in heaven, looked not upward to God but downward to gain.”[2] Hastings also wrote, “We might call him the Ananias of the Old Testament (cf. Acts 5:1-6); and we might further note that his sin, like that of Ananias, was followed by a sudden and signal judgment.”[3] Rev. George Barlow wrote, “Gehazi was the Judas Iscariot of the Old Testament.”[4] The reason for such derogatory descriptions is due of course to the covetousness and materialism that Gehazi exhibited in the latter part of 2 Kings chapter five.

As we deal with this passage of scripture we notice that Elisha actually asked three questions of Gehazi. The first question was this: “Whence comest thou, Gehazi?” (2 Kings 5:25). And in this…

I. There Is A Question Pertaining To Gehazi’s Deception

A. This Question Reveals To Us His Lie.

Naaman, in gratitude, had offered a “blessing” (vs. 15) to Elisha in the form of monetary and material gifts, but Elisha “refused” (vs. 16). “But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him” (vs. 20). So often those who have contributed least to a ministry are most concerned with budgetary matters.

“So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?” (vs. 21). To which Gehazi answered, “All is well” (vs. 22). What a grievous lie this was! Charles Simeon said, “Did not thine own conscience reprove thee, when thou thus confidently daredst to assert, All is well?”[5] All was not well in the heart of Gehazi!

A greedy lie falls from his lips in verse 22 as he shares this fabricated story of two needy young men of the sons of the prophets. In her thought-provoking book, Elisha: The Man Of Abel-Meholah, Mrs. O.F. Walton recounts how that Naaman urged him to take more than he first asked for, “And Gehazi, hypocrite as he was, pretended not to want to take it all.”

Mrs. Walton further stated that “Lie follows lie so easily when once the first lie is told.”[6] As he responded to Elisha’s question, we clearly see that this was a growing lie as he denied having been anywhere.

B. This Question Reminds Us Of His Life.

What brought Gehazi to this place of fraud, and fabrication, and fibbing? Where had Gehazi come from? He had come from a life of supreme privilege. J.R. Macduff offered the following note: “Gehazi’s religious advantages, in all probability, began at a date anterior to the time and mission of Elisha. One tradition speaks of him as the boy who sped at the bidding of the Tishbite to the top of Carmel, to watch the rising of the expected cloud over the Mediterranean, precursive of the longed-for rain. This, at all events, we know, that seven years previous to Naaman’s pilgrimage, he was the witness of Elisha’s greatest miracle, when he brought back the Shunammite’s son to life.”[7] He had been an eyewitness of miraculous events, and this is reinforced by the fact that king Jehoram later said to Gehazi, “Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done” (2 Kings 8:4).

But as G.B. Ryley reminds us, (interaction) “with good men and association with God-like work may become only the occasion of worse vileness in a man.”[8] Regrettably, he had not experienced miracles in his own life and ministry. In 2 Kings 4, Elisha sent Gehazi to Shunem with his staff to raise the Shunammite’s son, but as Hastings said, “Virtue had perished out of Elisha’s staff; it had become in the grip of Gehazi but a common stick.”[9] His had been a life of spiritual powerlessness.

And now, as he pursues Naaman’s chariot with the intention of fraud, his has become a life of selfish practices, to which we say with Jude, “Woe unto (him)! For ...(he) ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward” (Jude 1:11).

II. There Is A Question Pertaining To Gehazi’s Discovery

A. This Question Magnifies The Omniscience Of God.

Elisha’s second question followed hard upon the first. Gehazi denied having been anywhere, but Elisha said to him, “Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee?” (2 Kings 5:26). Notice the explicit insight that the prophet of God demonstrated. It was as if Elisha had hidden behind some bush and observed the entire scene. Of course, he had not, but he served an all-seeing, all-knowing God, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

It’s interesting that Gehazi has certified his wrong intentions upon the existence of God Himself, because in verse 20 he said, “as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.” As James Hastings said, “The putting side by side of “the Lord liveth” and “I will run after him” would be ludicrous if it were not horrible.”[10] I don’t believe God appreciated this, because in this question there is the evident indictment against Gehazi’s actions. The eyewitness account of God Almighty has shown that Gehazi is guilty.

I couldn’t help but notice the emotional implications of Elisha’s question as he said, “Went not mine heart with thee...?” (vs. 26). Elisha has invested himself in Gehazi only to be betrayed, and this broke the heart of Elisha. Don’t you know that it breaks the heart of God when He knows of our offences?

B. This Question Magnifies The Offence Of Gehazi.

I suppose many of us have heard the mention of the movie title, “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” That statement is similar to the sentiment in Elisha’s question. In essence he was saying, “I know what you did.” What had Gehazi done? First, he had mistreated the man named Naaman. Naaman was essentially a new convert – a little one in the faith of Jehovah. And Jesus mentioned what an awful thing it is to mistreat a new convert. He said in Matthew 18:6, “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Gehazi had also misrepresented his master. In verse 22, he said, “My master hath sent me” with this fabricated need. Or perhaps we might conclude that this is the only truthful statement in Gehazi’s whole exchange with Naaman, for at that moment he was acting as master and lord of his own heart, and he was acting in his own interests. He was not sent by Master Elisha, but instead, Master Gehazi “did that which was right in his own eyes.” When believers misrepresent our Master, the Lord Jesus, by acting foolishly, Ecclesiastes 10:1 compares it to “dead flies (that) cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour.”

This covetousness and the concealment of his crime tainted everything else about his life. He could have had the record of a great man; instead he has the record of a greedy man. He could have been a theologian in his day; instead he was a thief in his day. Here was a man who could have been remembered in the same ranks with Elijah and Elisha, but instead greedy Gehazi has been mentioned in the same context with bad Balaam, and avaricious Ananias, and judged Judas. He had marred his memorial.

III. There Is A Question Pertaining To Gehazi’s Desire

A. Let’s Consider The Context Of Gehazi’s Desire.

In Elisha’s third question to Gehazi he said, “Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?” (2 Kings 5:26). We know that Gehazi exhibited a wrong desire when we consider his actions in the context of the volatile environment that he was living in. As The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary states, “It was a time of strife and care, of war and rumour of war, in which everyone ought to have been ready for the call of self-sacrifice, and for the encouragement of self-denying motives for the sake of the time and the fatherland.”[11] When we consider the perilous times that we are living in, we need to ask ourselves, “Is it really the right time to live it up according to the flesh?”

Surely Gehazi would have known of the vivid example of Achan in Joshua 7, whose covetous actions and concealed acquisitions brought defeat upon Israel and death upon him and his household. He should have considered the possibility of a similar reprisal from a holy God for himself.

Gehazi should have also considered the virtuous expectations for a man in his position. Four times in the New Testament, the Bible prohibits a preacher from having a partiality for “filthy lucre” (1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2). Gehazi’s dishonesty and downfall certainly raises a warning to all of us in ministry. Let us not tarnish our high calling with low living.

B. Let’s Consider The Consequences Of Gehazi’s Desire.

Gehazi must have felt very comfortable with his deception and how convincing he had been with Naaman. Why, he didn’t even have to carry the silver and suits home – Naaman’s servants carried it for him! Gehazi must have thought he had gotten away with it as he “came to the tower … and bestowed them in the house” (vs. 24). He must have had big plans for that shiny silver and those new suits! I’m sure he never imagined that the consequences of his deceptive deed would affect his skin. Again we refer to the excellent treatment of this account by James Hastings who wrote, “Then came the dreadful words of doom that turned him to a living sarcasm, the white leprosy covering the black falsehood of the heart; and he crawled back to that Tower to look upon his silk and his silver, and to gaze desperately down the tainted line of his posterity.”[12]

Yes, his posterity. Gehazi had craved Naaman’s loot, but he had contracted Naaman’s leprosy – and not Gehazi only; this would affect his sons after him. What woeful words: “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever” (2 Kings 5:27). One of the sentinels that often stands guard at my heart to keep me from yielding to temptation is the thought of how it would affect my family and my children if I ever did give in to fleshly desires.

It seems too that Gehazi’s greed would affect his service, for the Bible says, “he went out from (Elisha’s) presence” (vs. 27). There is some hope that he was restored to his place of service as the Bible says in 2 Kings 8:4 that king Jehoram “talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God.” Sin can be forgiven, but often the scars remain. Gehazi would always be a leper.


In Colossians 3:5, Paul said, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth,” and in the list of these members that follows he included, “inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Nowhere is this kind of fleshly lust, forbidden longing, and fraudulent looting manifested more clearly than in the historical account of Hernando Cortez. Benson J. Lossing wrote:

Cortez was met by deputies of Montezuma, a native emperor and ruler of an empire which had existed full three hundred years. The emperor hearing of the approach of the Spaniards, sent to inquire what was their errand. “Has your king any gold?” asked Cortez. The deputies answered, “Yes.” The invader replied: “Let him send it to me, for I and my companions have a complaint – a disease of the heart, which only gold can cure.” This was the dreadful malady which afflicted all of the Spanish discoverers and conquerors; and the records of their search for the remedy have stained the pages of history with pictures of the most horrid crimes.[13]

This too was the dreadful malady that afflicted Gehazi, except in his case it was silver sickness instead of gold fever. May holiness be our cure for silver sickness and greed and falsehood and anything else that eclipses our relationship with God! Amen.


[1] From Easton's Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003 Biblesoft

[2] James Hastings, The Greater Men And Women Of The Bible – Volume 3, T. & T. Clark, 1946, pg. 468-469

[3] Hastings, pg. 461

[4] The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary – Volume 8, Baker Books, 1996, pg. 444

[5] Charles Simeon, Expository Outlines On The Whole Bible – Volume 3, Baker Book House, 1988, pg. 500

[6] Mrs. O.F. Walton, Elisha The Man Of Abel-Meholah, The Religious Tract Society, pg. 165-166

[7] J.R. Macduff from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002 AGES and Biblesoft, Inc

[8] G.B. Ryley from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright (c) 2002 AGES and Biblesoft, Inc

[9] Hastings, pg. 463

[10] Hastings, pg. 465

[11] The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary – Volume 8, Baker Books, 1996, pg. 448

[12] Hastings, pg. 467

[13] Benson J. Lossing, Our Country – Volume 1, Chapter 7, 1877

As Found at http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/Our_Country_Vol_1/complete_text.txt


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