Bible Reference 2 Kings 5: 1-19.
Heart of the Story: Although Naaman was one of the most powerful men in the Near East, he was cured of leprosy through the actions of two of his servants.
Background: Naaman was a valiant soldier and commander of the Aram army. The Aram king, Ben-Hadad, credited Aram’s military victories to Naaman. Unfortunately Naaman had a skin disease that the Bible labeled leprosy, a disfiguring and disabling infection.
An Israelite girl was captured during an Aram raid into Israel territory. The girl must have been exceptional because she became a servant to Naaman’s wife. Either the girl knew Elisha directly or knew of his reputation as a prophet and healer. The servant girl told her mistress that Elisha could cure Naaman of his leprosy. Apparently, Naaman’s wife valued the girl’s opinion sufficiently that she recounted the words to Naaman. Desperate to be healed, Naaman shared the girl’s words with Ben-Hadad.
Immediately, Ben-Hadad encouraged Naaman to go to Israel and see the prophet; he wrote an introductory letter to Joram, the king of Israel, expressing confidence that Naaman would be healed. Joram was flabbergasted both by the letter and by the presence of Naaman. He had no idea what to do. When Elisha sent a message directing King Joram to send Naaman to him, Joram must have sighed with relief. Perhaps he could blame Elisha for not curing Naaman and get out of this situation without going to war with Aram.
By this point Naaman may have concluded that he was getting the “run around;” however, he and his entourage left the Israelite royal court and traveled to Elisha’s home on Mount Carmel. Rudely, the prophet did not invite the powerful commander inside his home for a meal or even go outside to meet him. Instead Elisha sent a message to Naaman—probably through a servant—telling him to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River.
Naaman was beyond angry by Elisha’s actions. He fumed that Elisha did not come out to him. The supposed prophet did not stand and call on God or wave his hand over Naaman’s infectious site. What did Elisha mean – wash in the Jordan River? If all it took to cure Naaman was washing seven times in a river, he could wash in a Damascus river, which was better than any water in Israel. Naaman left Elisha’s home in a rage.
Soon after Naaman left Elisha’s home, one of his servants approached him even knowing that the power war commander was furious. Apparently, the servant had a close relationship with Naaman because he addressed Naaman, as “My father.” Then, the servant suggested that if Elisha required something great, Naaman would have done it. Would not Naaman do the simple, easy task of washing seven times in the Jordan River? In response, Naaman went to the Jordan and washed seven times. He flesh was restored (and became clean like that of a young boy.
Analysis of Relationships
Naaman and his wife must have been a benevolent master and mistress. Both servants in this Bible episode cared about their master’s health and were proactive in trying to rid Naaman of leprosy. The servant girl was comfortable enough with her mistress to share her belief that an Israelite prophet could cure Naaman.
Naaman’s servant considered it safe to suggest an action that the furious Naaman had previously rejected. This servant must have been with Naaman a long time and had a close relationship with him. For a servant to address a powerful war commander as “Father” is exceptional. Many war commanders were mentioned in the Bible, e.g., Sisera, Joab, Abner, Nebuzaradan, two of which were Israelites. Nowhere in the Bible is there a tender conversation between them and a servant similar to that described between Naaman and his servant and nowhere else in the Bible do we read that servants called their master “Father.”
Naaman was a pagan who worshipped Rimmon, who in Aram was a sun god. Naaman followed no commandments from God telling him how to treat others to include his servants and his enemies. At times Naaman had a temper and could be offensive and angry (2 Kings 5:11-12). Yet, he treated even his servants, some of who were from an enemy country, considerately.
Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13.