This well-loved story is an example of how the Lord of Israel is powerfully at work behind the scenes, guiding the fortunes of everyone from slaves to kings – but working especially through prophets like Elisha. The story of the young Israelite girl, servant of Naaman’s wife, is reminiscent of the stories of Joseph, Esther and Daniel – all of them devout believers who worked from a position of weakness to influence the mighty to fulfill the will of God. (It is unlikely that Naaman’s affliction is Hansen’s Disease, that which the New Testament typically calls leprosy; the Hebrew word used in v. 3 can refer to a variety of skin diseases. While society may have pitied Naaman, there is no indication that it shunned him.) When Naaman shows up at the King’s palace seeking help (v. 7), the monarch’s dismay is understandable: compared to Israel, Syria is a superpower, and the price of failure (which could incur the Syrian king’s displeasure) is not something the King of Israel wants to think about. Protocol is central to this story: Naaman behaves in all the expected ways, showing the king due fealty, bringing costly gifts, etc. Yet Dr. Elisha – as the agent of Yahweh – is indifferent to this sort of thing. When his V.I.P. patient comes to see him, he declines to examine him. Elisha remains in his tent, sending out a prescription script that reads, “Go jump in the river. Repeat six times.” Naaman is understandably miffed, but with the encouragement of his servants – again, the underdogs are the truly wise ones in this story – he gives it a try, and is healed.
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