In 2 Kings 5:27 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, is struck with leprosy:1
Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.
However, in 2 Kings 8:4 he is talking to the King. People with leprosy were excluded from regular society by the Law of Moses (Num. 5:2), so how come Gehazi, who was leprous, was in the king’s court?
There are a number of possible solutions to this apparent conundrum, including the following:
(A) Perhaps, although not recorded, God was merciful and Gehazi was cured of the disease (like Hezekiah’s divinely appointed death was averted by prayer: 2Kings 20:1-6).2
(B) Perhaps this part of 2Kings does not follow a strict chronological order (other parts of the Bible do this as well: the Book of Jeremiah, for example, is well known for it)3 and the events in 2Kings 8 involving Gehazi actually occurred before he was struck with leprosy.
(C) Perhaps the king did not obey the laws regarding lepers (we know that he didn’t obey other parts of the Law (2Kings 3:1-3), so it’s more than possible that he disregarded these, too).
(D) Or perhaps the leprosy that Gehazi had was not the type that excluded someone from society. The leprosy that excluded people from Jewish society was in the form of a boil, raw flesh, or an itchy infection, etc., that spread — i.e. was infectious (Lev. 13:8,10-11,14-15,20,24-25,30); if someone’s leprosy was white then they were considered “clean” (it was not infectious) and they were not excluded from society (e.g. Lev. 13:12-13,17). It appears from 2Kings 5:27 that this is the type of skin disease that Gehazi had (it was ‘like snow’): thus Gehazi’s was a skin disease which was non-contagious and therefore did not fall within the Levitical laws concerning quarrantine.
So, it’s possible that Gehazi did have leprosy in 2Kings 8:4, and it’s also possible that he didn’t (depending whether or not Gehazi had been healed, on when the events around 2Kings 8:4 happened, on the morals of the king, or on what type of skin disease Gehazi had).
- It’s worth noting that in the Bible ‘leprosy’ is different to the disease that is called leprosy (otherwise known as Hansen’s Disease) nowadays. For more on this, see ‘Is “leprosy” in the Bible the same as the disease that’s called leprosy nowadays?‘.
- ‘Gehazi’, Fausset’s Bible Dictionary (accessed 01/05/10)
- ‘…the oracles in Jeremiah are not arranged in chronological order’, ‘Jeremiah’ entry in NIV Study Bible. Online: http://www.biblica.com/niv/studybible/jeremiah.php (accessed 01/05/10)