Naaman

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

NAAMAN

NAAMAN (Heb. נַלֲמָן, "pleasant"; the name occurs in Ugaritic and is an epithet of heroes in Ugaritic epics), Syrian commander, healed of leprosy by the prophet *Elisha. According to ii Kings 5, Naaman, a valorous man, held by his king in great esteem but afflicted with leprosy, had a female slave from the land of Israel. From her, his wife learned that "the prophet that is in Samaria" could cure Naaman of his leprosy. Naaman departed for the land of Israel taking with him a letter from the king of Aram to the king of Israel, as well as lavish presents. The king of Israel thought that the letter asking him to cure Naaman was nothing but a trick "to seek an occasion against him." Elisha, however, asked that Naaman be brought to him. When Naaman and his escort arrived at Elisha's house, he was told by a messenger to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Offended by the prophet's brusqueness and aloofness, Naaman decided to leave the land of Israel, but on the way his servants convinced him to do what the prophet prescribed. He washed in the Jordan and was cured. Naaman then went back to Elisha convinced that "there was no God in all the earth but in Israel." In vain he entreated the prophet to accept his presents. He then asked for "two mules' burden of earth, for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifices unto other gods, but unto the Lord." The fact that Naaman felt it was necessary to take earth from the land of Israel to build an altar for the Lord hints at the belief that sacrifices to yhwh could only be offered on Israelite soil (cf. Josh. 22:10ff.; ii Sam. 26:19). Naaman also asked forgiveness for the fact that because of his office at the court he would be obliged to perform acts that could be interpreted as idolatry. Soon after Naaman's departure, Gehazi, Elisha's servant, ran after Naaman and through deceit received from him two talents of silver and two changes of clothing. As a punishment he was cursed with Naaman's disease. That neither Naaman nor Gehazi was isolated from society (ii Kings 8:4; cf. Lev. 13–14) suggests that Naaman's disease was not what is now known as *leprosy.

In the Aggadah

Naaman was the archer who drew his bow at a venture and mortally wounded Ahab, King of Israel (i Kings 22:34) and thus it was that through him "the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria" (ii Kings 5:1). It would therefore follow that his master, referred to in 5:18, was Ben Hadad (Mid. Ps. 90). Two reasons are given for his leprosy, one that it was a punishment for his haughtiness (Num. R. 7:5; cf. Rashi to Lev. 14:4) and the other that it was for taking an Israelite girl as maidservant to his wife (Tanḥ. Tazri'a, end). According to the Mekhilta (Yitro, Amalek 1), Naaman was an example of the righteous proselyte, ranking even higher than Jethro; according to the Talmud, however (Git. 57a), he became merely a ger toshav, a "resident alien" who accepted only the seven Noachide laws but not all the commandments.

views updated

Naaman in the Bible, the Syrian soldier who is healed of leprosy by the prophet Elisha, who tells him to wash in the river of Jordan. Naaman does so, despite his initial protest (2 Kings 5:12); being healed, he declares that henceforth he will worship the god of Israel, although he will still have to accompany his master the king to the temple of Rimmon.