Naaman

NAAMAN (nā'a-măn, Heb. na‘ămân, pleasant)

1. A son of Bela and grandson of Benjamin (Gen.46.21), and the head of the clan called the Naamites (Num.26.40).

2. The “commander of the army of the king of Aram” (2Kgs.5.1). He was a courageous general in the continuous warfare existing in those days. To the successful record of his life, the Scriptures, however, add the pathetic phrase, “but he had leprosy.” This was a most dreadful disease at the time and meant ostracism and an untimely death.

A young girl, who had been taken captive in one of the Syrian raids into Israelite territory, served Naaman’s wife. One day she said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2Kgs.5.3).

After a fruitless visit at the court of the king of Israel, Naaman finally went to the prophet Elisha and was told to wash himself seven times in the River Jordan, a suggestion that Naaman met with anger and contempt as he recalled the clear waters of the rivers of Damascus (2Kgs.5.12). Prevailed on, however, by his servants to heed the prophet, Naaman followed the prophet’s instructions, “and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (2Kgs.5.14). Naaman’s cure led to his acceptance of the God of Israel as the only God “in all the world.”

The rest of the account (as told in 2Kgs.5.15-2Kgs.5.19) shows how the people believed in henotheism—the belief that nations had their individual gods. Naaman wanted some of Israel’s soil to take home so that he could worship Israel’s God even if it was in “the temple of Rimmon” where his official duties required him to be with his king. (Rimmon was the thundergod of the Assyrians.)

The great Omaiyid Mosque at Damascus, today the city’s most magnificent structure is, according to tradition, built on the site of the temple of Rimmon where Naaman deposited his load of soil from Israel.

In Luke.4.27 Jesus referred to this incident “in the time of Elisha the prophet” when he spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth.——JGJ



2. The commander of the army of the king of Aram used by Yahweh to discipline the wayward N Kingdom. He was cured of leprosy by Elisha (2 Kings 5). The story illustrates the spiritual attitude desired by Yahweh of those He uses to correct His theocratic people.

Naaman is attested both as a proper name in the administrative texts from Ras Shamra and as an epithet of royal personages, namely, Krt, and ’Aqht, and of Adonis (J. Gray, I and II Kings [1970], 504). In 2 Kings 5 it is a proper name (LXX Ναιμαν, LXX Lucian Νεεμαν).

Prior to Naaman’s conversion the king of the Aramaeans, prob. Ben-hadad II (Jos., Antiq. XVIII. xv. 5), credited Naaman’s victories to his military genius (v. 1). The phrase “in high favor” reads literally “he was lifted up of face” referring to the gesture of the king stretching forth his scepter and touching the face of the suppliant bowed to the ground before him, and raising the face up (e.g. Esther 8:3f.). When the king referred to him as “my servant” (v. 6) he meant that he was a high officer, possibly, though not necessarily, bound to him in feudal service. In any case, Naaman was a “mighty man of valor” (v. 1); i.e. “a man of property able for war.” Moreover, in spite of the little maid’s assertion that the prophet in Samaria could cure the leprosy (v. 4), the king took no regard of the prophet, but in accord with the ancient conception of the king as the channel of divine blessing, he made the request directly to the king of Israel who also ignored the prophet.

Also unaware that Yahweh was using him (v. 1) Naaman was a proud man as these observations show: (1) he came to Elisha’s house with all the pomp of his status (v. 9); (2) “to me” (v. 11) is in an emphatic position, meaning “to a person like me”; (3) “surely,” a tr. of the Heb. infinitive absolute “come out,” also emphasizes the fact that Naaman regarded it the duty of Elisha, whom he regarded as his social inferior to come out to him; and (4) his refusal to carry out a plan not according to his formulation (vv. 11, 12).


Naaman’s cure was alluded to by the Lord Jesus as an example of God’s gracious concern for the non-Israelite (Luke 4:27).

Bibliography

J. Gray, I and II Kings (1970), 452-458.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(na`aman, "pleasantness"; Septuagint; Codices Vaticanus and Alexandrinus Naiman; so Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek in the New Testament; Textus Receptus of the New Testament, Neeman) :

(1) A successful Syrian general, high in the confidence and esteem of the king of Syria, and honored by his fellow-countrymen as their deliverer (2Ki 5:1-27). Afflicted with leprosy, he heard from a Hebrew slave-maid in his household of the wonder-working powers of an Israelite prophet. Sent by his master with a letter couched in somewhat peremptory terms to the king of Israel, he came to Samaria for healing. The king of Israel was filled with suspicion and alarm by the demands of the letter, and rent his clothes; but Elisha the prophet intervened, and sent word to Naaman that he must bathe himself seven times in the Jordan. He at first haughtily resented the humiliation and declined the cure; but on the remonstrance of his attendants he yielded and obtained cleansing. At once he returned to Samaria, testified his gratitude by the offer of large gifts to the prophet, confessed his faith in Elisha’s God, and sought leave to take home with him enough of the soil of Canaan for the erection of an altar to Yahweh.

The narrative is throughout consistent and natural, admirably and accurately depicting the condition of the two kingdoms at the time. The character of Naaman is at once attractive and manly. His impulsive patriotic preference for the streams of his own land does not lessen the reader’s esteem for him, and the favorable impression is deepened by his hearty gratitude and kindness.

The Israelite king is most probably Jehoram, son of Ahab, and the Syrian monarch Ben-hadad II. Josephus (Ant., VIII, xv, 5) identifies Naaman with the man who drew his bow at a venture, and gave Ahab his death wound (1Ki 22:34). There is one reference to Naaman in the New Testament. In Lu 4:27, Jesus, rebuking Jewish exclusiveness, mentions "Naaman the Syrian."

(2) A son of Benjamin (Ge 46:21,6). Fuller and more precise is the description of Nu 26:38,40, where he is said to be a son of Bela and grandson of Benjamin (see also 1Ch 8:3 f).

John A. Lees