GEHAZI


GEHAZI (Heb. גְּחֲזִי, גְּיחֲזִי), servant of *Elisha. In the story of the wealthy Shunammite woman (II Kings 4:8–37), Gehazi is portrayed as Elisha's faithful messenger and loyal protector (4:27). In the story of Naaman (II Kings 5), he is portrayed as a greedy character who, contrary to the instructions of Elisha, cunningly solicited a reward from the Syrian general and then tried to practice deception on his master, the prophet Elisha. In punishment, Elisha cursed Gehazi and his descendants forever with the "leprosy" of Naaman (biblical şarʿat is not true leprosy, i.e., Hansen's disease, but more likely psoriasis). In the Bible şarʿat is punishment for disloyalty and challenge to authority (Zakovitch). The third time that Gehazi appears is in connection with the woman from Shunem and the king of Israel (II Kings 8:1–6). In this story Gehazi reported to the king on the great deeds which Elisha had performed. These three stories, so it would appear, did not occur in the chronological order in which they are now arranged in Kings, since it is unlikely that Gehazi would have stood before the king recounting Elisha's great deeds after he had been cursed with leprosy. It is reasonable to assume that they reflect two separate traditions. The first and third stories, which are related in content, constitute one tradition, while that of Naaman stems from a different circle.

[Isaac Avishur]

In the Aggadah

Gehazi is one who set his eyes upon that which was not proper with the result that he was not granted that which he sought, and lost whatever he possessed (Sot. 9b). Although learned, he was jealous of Elisha's learning, sensual (in his actions toward the Shunamite), and did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Instead of obeying Elisha's order not to greet anyone on his way to the Shunamite's son (II Kings 4:29), he made sport of his mission and deliberately asked everyone he met whether they really believed that Elisha's staff, which he was carrying, could restore the dead to life (PdRE 37).

Gehazi was punished with "leprosy" because Elisha had been studying the law of the eight unclean creeping things when Naaman first consulted him. When Elisha accused Gehazi of taking eight things from Naaman (II Kings 5:26), he implied that he would be punished as would one who caught any of the eight creeping things – with "leprosy" (AdRN 9). According to another tradition, Gehazi was thus punished because he showed disrespect by calling his master by name (cf. II Kings 8:5; Sanh. 100a). Gehazi never repented. Instead, he sinned further either by hanging a magnet over Jeroboam's idol and suspending it between heaven and earth in order to deceive people, or by engraving the name of God on it, so that it spoke the first two commandments (Sanh. 107b). When Elisha met him in Damascus and exhorted him to repent, he replied: "Thus have I learnt from thee. He who sins and causes the multitude to sin, is not afforded the means of repentance" (ibid.). Elisha, however, is criticized for "thrusting Gehazi away with both hands," instead of using only one for that purpose, and the other for drawing him toward himself (Sot. 47a). Gehazi is one of the four commoners who have no share in the world to come (Sanh. 10: 2). He was even undeserving of speaking the praises of God and His servant Elisha.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Isheiha-Tanakh (1964), 97–98. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y. Zakovitch, Every High Official (1986), 142–45: D. Wright and R. Jones, in: ABD, 4:277–82; S.D. Sperling, in: HUCA, 70–71 (1999–2000), 48–9.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.