Interesting Bible People: Naaman
An Old Testament gentile finds God
I tell the story, from the Bible of, Naaman,who is one of the interesting Bible people, who although a gentile found God in old testament times, showing that God always intended to include the gentiles in his plan of salvation. This is a story of a man who went to Israel to find a cure for his illness, found it, but also found the one, true God, known as the God of Israel, but always available to anyone who will look for Him with all their heart.
I am a preacher with the Methodist Church in Britain and see my Bible story pages as an extension of my ministry. Usually I am preaching to small rural church communities, but here I can reach out to the world.
The photo above is my own.
First the story of Naaman.
In search of healing.
Naaman had everything. He was rich and had a good wife, and he was the right hand man of King Benhadad the Aramean (Syrian) king. They had fun harassing the Israelites. One day when out on a raid they took some Israelites to be their slaves. Naaman chose a young girl because he thought she would make a good companion for his wife.Some time before this Naaman had discovered that he had something new that he didn't want. He had leprosy. Apparently not the version we know about today but something just as bad, which would mean he would be an outcast from society.
That oh so important slave girl
Another one of the interesting Bible people
The little slave girl from Israel had a deep faith in the God of her people. She only gets a small mention in the Bible but she is the key to Naaman's healing. She hears about Naaman's illness and instead of holding back in bitterness she tells his wife, "There is a prophet in Israel who can heal the master by God's power."
Naaman tells this news to his king. Benhadad sends him off to Israel with a letter to their king, Joram. They have chosen the wrong man! Naaman also chooses the wrong method to get help. He takes an enormous amount of silver, gold and fine clothing. To take all this he has to have a large entourage of horsemen and mules, which must have made the traveling take longer. Having all that gold meant he had to have a company of men to guard it.
The king of Israel's reaction.
They arrive at the Israelite palace and soon we have our first angry man. Oh! Didn't I tell you we are going to meet three angry men on our journey with Naaman. The letter to Joram demands that he heal Naaman. Joram thinks that the king of Aram is trying to pick a fight with him and so he jumps up and down in a rage and tears his clothes to shreds as they were inclined to do in those days. Soon the news of his rage reaches Elisha the prophet. He sends a message to say that Naaman should come to him and then he will soon find that there is a prophet in Israel who is really in touch with God.
You know just to digress let me tell you about the day my sister got in a paddy. I was pregnant with my first child and she had decided to knit a little matinee jacket for the baby. It was a very complicated pattern and after a while it went wrong and she had to pick it back. This happened three times and on the last occasion her patience left her. She threw the jacket on the ground and stamped on it whilst shouting. It was a bit like King Joram. Well it must have had a good effect because the jacket was finished and was very pretty and got lots of use. I don't think king Joram's clothes were ever used again!
The elusive man of God
Naaman must have been disappointed with Joram's reaction, but now hope is revived. There is still a chance that he will be healed of his dreaded skin disease.the whole entourage moves to Samaria where the prophet Elisha is living. Naaman begins to imagine what Elisha will be like and how he will heal him. When he gets to the prophets house his servant comes out to him and says, "Elisha tells you to go to the Jordan river and wash in it seven times." Oh dear now we have a second angry man. It's Naaman. This is not at all what he expected. He had expected the prophet to come out and make a big fuss of him and touch the places on his arms that showed evidence of his affliction. Also he didn't think much of the Jordan river, he had much nicer rivers at home in Damascus. These were thr ivers Abana and Pharpar, clean and clear.
Now Naaman had some very wise men among his servants. They persuaded him to go to the river. They said that if Naaman had been asked to do something difficult he would have done it willingly, so why not do this simple thing. Surely it was worth a try.
None of them knew how special this river was. It was to be the place where Jesus himself would be baptized. So a little reluctantly Naaman made the journey to the Jordan, about ten miles from Elisha’s house. Enough time for Naaman to think things over. He was beginning to think about the God of Israel and to realize that if he was cured it would be from God as surely Elisha could not cure him from this distance.Naaman reaches the river and dips under the water seven times. To his delight his skin is healed and looks like that of a youth. What joy he feels. But it is the joy of one who has found the one true God and the healing is secondary in his mind now. He decides he must go back to Elisha and give him something for his trouble.
How could you Gehazi?
Elisha is one of the interesting Bible people who will have a lens to himself one day
This time Elisha comes out to meet him and Naaman begins to present his gold and silver to Elisha, but Elisha refuses it. He knows that healing from God,both physical and spiritual is a free gift of grace. He wants Naaman to realize this. Naaman declares that he now knows that there is only one God, the God of Israel and he will never worship another.
Then Naaman makes a strange request. He asks for as much soil as two of his mules can carry, possibly to make an altar at which he can worship God.
Naaman goes on his way rejoicing. When he has gone a little way, looking back he is surprized to see Elisha's servant Gehazi running along behind them. He stops his chariot and gets down to meet him. Gehazi has some trumped up story that some more prophets have turned up and some silver would come in handy to entertain them. Naaman is openhanded and sends two of his men back to help Gehazi with the loot.
Grace is free
After the time he had spent with Elisha how could Gehazi think that he could get away with his duplicity. Elisha asks him where he has been." I haven't been anywhere," says Gehazi. Ah, at last our third angry man! Elisha explodes with rage and says that in spirit he had gone with Gehazi when he went to Naaman. "This is no time to be taking gifts." he says. Gehazi is to become a leper.
But let us end on a happier note. Naaman returns home and sets up his altar and with his household, including the Israelite slave girl, he worships the one true God. Imagine her delight.
Check this story out in your Bible. 2 Kings chapter 5
Some interesting thoughts.
Did Naaman find God, or did God find him?
Naaman had riches but was generous and preferred knowing God. Gehazi was filled with greed and despised the knowledge of God.
Can we learn from this?
Which way will we go?
Did the little slave girl ever go home to Israel?
She was content to serve God wherever she was.
Here we see three interesting Bible people
What did Jesus say about Naaman?
In your Bible at Luke 4 verse 27 you can see what Jesus has to say about Naaman. Naaman was a non -Jew. The pharisees who were Jewish leaders at the time were shocked when Jesus pointed out to them that in Naaman's time there were many Jews who were lepers and yet it was Naaman the non-Jew whom God healed using Elisha. Jesus was always pointing out that God cared about the outcasts and foreigners. He was not speaking against the Jewish nation only against their leaders at the time who were bound up in religiousity and cared nothing for the needy even in their own community.
Which character do you like best in this story
Who do you like best
Do you feel like an outsider, as if you don't fit? That was how it was for Naaman. He was a misfit because he had a contagious illness and then when he went to Israel to find a cure he was a misfit because he was a gentile. Then he found God who loved him anyway and healed his illness, but better still made him realise that God loved and accepted him anyway. Do you feel you are an outcast, one of life's misfits? You too can find God's love. His love is best expressed in Jesus who came to make a way back to God for us. You don't have to be an outcast, you can be totally accepted. Don't give up, keep searching and you will find.
A New Life
A proud, successful man.
A great soldier
And the king's right-hand man.
A lovely wife,
A pleasant house.
Life at his feet
Suddenly - illness.
No known cure.
Then so desperate
To take the advice of a captive girl.
To travel to enemy territory
For the only hope of a cure.
Reduced to batheing
In the muddy Jordan.
But worth it
Because he was cured.
Such joy, such delight
But even more so
Because he could throw away
His useless old gods
Who had done nothing for him,
Because now he had found
The one true God,
Jehovah of Israel.
Just think what life must have been like for Naaman. His life had been so successful and he had become the right-hand man of King Benhadad there in Damascus in Syria. He could hardly have been more successful. He had a wife and was well off. We know that because of all of the money which he took to Israel to obtain a cure. And then he had discovered he had leprosy. It is thought that it was not quite like modern day leprosy but it was still some much feared disease. When certain illnesses come into our life it can be devastating and Naaman felt that devastation. There was no known cure. Was there anything he could do? And then a ray of hope came from an unexpected quarter, the little Jewish slave girl who served his wife said she wished he would go to Israel to the prophet there because he would cure him. By this time Naaman was grasping at straws. A glimmer of hope was all it took for him to gain permision from his king to travel to enemy territory. There were always skirmishes between Syria and Israel. Does anything ever change?
Travelling the road to Israel Naaman must have been filled with conflicting emotions, sometimes of hope and sometimes of despair. Maybe he even thought of turning back in hopelessness. But no he kept travelling while there wasa glimmer of hope. He made a big blunder going to king Joram. Many years later wise men were to make a similar mistake. The big answers to life's question are rarely found in rich palaces. The prophet Elisha was very aware of what was happeniing and sent for Naaman to come to him. Naaman's hopes had been dashed at the palace when the king had thrown a temper tantrum. Now he was angered because Elisha did not come out to him and wave a wand over him. He was told to wash in the Jordan. He couldn't see why he should do that when he had perfectly good rivers to bathe in at home in Damascus. He may have been angry but he was also humble enough to listen to his servants who suggested surely it was worth a try. So he forgot his pride and went to the Jordan about ten miles away. Imagine the emotions going through him when he was healed, amazement, dis-belief, belief, wonder and thankfulness. When Gehazi went to him for payment I don't think that would have spoilt his new found belief in the God of Israel.
What a wonderful home coming it must have been, with his wife and the little maid looking out for his return. I have no doubt many of his household became believers in God too when they heard what had happened.
So what would Jesus say to the christian community today?
It is so easy for christians today to become a little clique thinking that they have a monopoly on God's attention. The story of Naaman shows that God is not restricted to particular communities, but wants all to come to him. We should be encouraging every type of person to find God. None of us has a special right to keep Jesus to ourselves. None of us has the right to look down on someone else. Try a mile in their shoes and see if you would do any better. Whoever you are Jesus says, "Come to me and I will give you rest." No other human might care about you but Jesus does. Find him for yourself.
Many terrible things are happening in Syria today. It is fascinating to think that among the citizens of Damascus today there may be descendants of Naaman. The British and Americans are such a mix of peoples that we may even be descended from Naaman too. I wonder who Naaman's descendants now worship. Was he able to pass on his belief in the God of Israel to his children? Did he have any children? I can imagine him telling his wife and household about how God had healed him of his leprosy. Did they all follow his lead and worship Yahweh? Did the little Israelite maid continue to serve his wife, or did he send her home to her own family? Maybe I can ask him all these things when I meet him in heaven. Who would you like to talk to from the Bible? And what would you ask? Isn't it fascinating to speculate?
From Many gods to One God
I wonder what life for Naaman was like as he was growing up. As a Syrian he would have worshipped many gods and including the god Rimmon. As he grew up and trained as a soldier he would have become prosperous in life. He married and had his own household. The king began to notice him and he became a favourite.
Then the dreadful discovery that he had leprosy would have put all his wealth and standing with the king, into perspective. All his life's work would be taken from him if he was not healed.
Undoubtedly he would have prayed to and sacrificed to the Assyrian gods, but no solution came. When he went to Israel to ask for healing and he gained it his eyes were opened. The God of Israel was the only God worth worshipping, for he had healed him.
Naaman returned to his country but not to its gods. For him ,only the God of Israel was worth worshipping.