But he said, As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.
All Commentaries on 2 Kings 5:16 Go To 2 Kings 5
Caesarius of Arles
Let us further see what blessed Elisha commanded Naaman the Syrian. “Go,” he says, “and wash seven times in the Jordan.” When Naaman heard that he was to wash seven times in the Jordan, he was indignant and did not want to comply, but accepting the advice of his friends, he consented to be washed and was cleansed. This signified that before Christ was crucified, the Gentiles did not believe in Christ when he spoke in his own person, but afterwards they devoutly came to the sacrament of baptism after the preaching of the apostles. For this reason Elisha told Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan. See, brothers: Elisha sent Naaman to the river Jordan because Christ was to send the Gentiles to baptism. Moreover, the fact that Elisha did not touch Naaman himself or baptize him showed that Christ did not come to the Gentiles himself but through his apostles to whom he said, “Go, and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Notice further that Naaman, who prefigured the Gentiles, recovered his health in the same river that later Christ consecrated by his baptism. However, when Naaman heard that he was to wash seven times in the Jordan, he became angry and said, “Are not the waters of my region better, the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharphar, that I may wash in them and be made clean?” When he had said this, his servants advised him to agree to the counsel of the prophet. Carefully notice what this means, brothers.
Holy Elisha, as we said, typified our Lord and Savior, while Naaman prefigured the Gentiles. The fact that Naaman believed he would recover his health as the result of his own rivers indicates that the human race presumed on its free will and its own merits; but without the grace of Christ their own merits cannot possess health, although they can have leprosy. For this reason if the human race had not followed the example of Naaman and listened to the advice of Elisha, with humility receiving the gift of baptism through the grace of Christ, they could not be freed from the leprosy of the original and actual sins. “Wash seven times,” he said, because of the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit, which reposed in Christ our Lord. Moreover, when our Lord was baptized in this river, the Holy Spirit came on him in the form of a dove. When Naaman descended into the river as a figure of baptism, “his flesh became like the flesh of a little child.” Notice, beloved brothers, that this likeness was perfected in the Christian people, for you know that all who are baptized are still called infants, whether they are old or young. Those who are born old through Adam and Eve are reborn as young people to death, the second one to life. The former produces children of wrath; the latter generates them again as vessels of mercy. The apostle says, “In Adam all die; in Christ all will be made to live.” Therefore, just as Naaman, although he was an old man, became like a boy by washing seven times, so the Gentiles, although old by reason of their former sins and covered with the many spots of iniquity as with leprosy, are renewed by the grace of baptism in such a way that no leprosy of either original or actual sin remains in them. Thus, following the example of Naaman, they are renewed like little children by salutary baptism, although they have always been bent down under the weight of sins.