2 Kings 5

18But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”

19“Go in peace,” Elisha said.

Zephaniah 1

5those who bow in worship on the rooftops to the stars in the sky; those who bow and pledge loyalty to the Lord but also pledge loyalty to Milcom

How to reconcile between 2 Kings 5:19 and Zephaniah 1:5? Is Elisha being nice to Naaman?

2 Answers 2


Naaman's words to Elisha are actually an expression of faith. He is acknowledging Elisha's God as the true God, and admitting that he will no longer be truly worshipping in the house of Rimmon anymore. Because, as a soldier who must follow the orders of his superiors, he does not feel free to openly oppose them, Naaman realizes he will still be called upon to go into the house of Rimmon and to worship there with his master. In his heart, he can no longer do so; yet he feels he must still enter there--and it is for this that he asks forgiveness.

God meets people where they are, and Naaman is still ignorant of many things.

In the New Testament, this specific form of worship is addressed as an act of ignorance.

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (Acts 17:29-30, KJV)

In other words, God does not hold people accountable for that which they did not know.

Elisha realizes that it would be neither prudent nor feasible to compel Naaman to stay at that moment for some extended instruction in the things of God. He accepts as Naaman's best the sincere confession of faith he has just made. And God also accepts it.

Jesus, even with his own disciples, was unable to share all points of truth which they should know.

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. (John 16:12, KJV)

We are often not able to bear all of the truth at once. Paul faced the same thing with the church in Corinth.

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (1 Corinthians 3:2, KJV)


Naaman was certainly not doing right to bow before the god Rimmon, even though he was no longer worshipping Rimmon. But Naaman's heart was in the right place and he was still ignorant of his error in this regard; therefore, God accepted him as he was, and winked at his ignorance.

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Is Elisha being nice to Naaman?

Elisha was being gracious and merciful to Naaman. He could have thrown the book at him and quoted the 2nd commandment, Exodus 20:

4“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Was God being unjust by being nice to Naaman and not so nice to the Israelites?

Romans 9:

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Polyhat's point is important: The more we know of God, the more God expects of us.

How to reconcile between Naaman's bowing in 2 Kings 5:19 and bowing Zephaniah 1:5?

In the case of Zephaniah, the Israelites had direct revelations from God through Moses and the prophets. God expected more from them. Naaman was a Gentile. God extended a special grace to him individually, a special case, by allowing him to bow before idols while his heart was with the true God.

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