Spencer produced a series of drawings to illustrate The Ten Commandments in 1934 (Mill House Press). One of the illustrations provided the basis for this oil composition.
A servant of the prophet Elisha, Gehazi enjoyed a position of power but was ultimately corrupt, misusing his authority to cheat Naaman the Syrian, a general afflicted with leprosy. As punishment, Elisha cursed Gehazi, transferring Naaman’s leprosy to him and his descendants forever.
Gehazi was the servant of the prophet Elisha. He appears in connection with the history of the Shunammite woman and her son and of Naaman the Syrian. On the latter occasion, Gehazi, overcome with avarice, obtained in the prophet’s name two talents of silver and two changes of garments from Naaman. Consequently, he was guilty of duplicity and dishonesty of conduct, causing Elisha to denounce his crime with righteous sternness, and determine that “the leprosy of Naaman would cleave to him and his descendants for ever”. After Elisha cursed Gehazi, Gehazi became leprous “as white as snow” (2 Kings 5.27).
In Rabbinic literature, Gehazi is identified as one of four commoners who forfeited his share in the afterlife because of his wickedness. He is the subject of a poem by Rudyard Kipling.
26 But Elisha said to him, ‚ÄúWas not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes‚Äîor olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? 27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.‚Äù Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous‚Äîit had become as white as snow.