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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Naaman

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general of the army of Benhadad, king of Syria, mentioned 2 Kings 5. He appears to have been a Gentile idolater; but being miraculously cured of his leprosy by the power of the God of Israel, and the direction of his Prophet Elisha, he renounced his idolatry, and acknowledged this God to be the only true God: "Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel," 2 Kings 5:15 , and promised, for the time to come, that he would worship none other but Jehovah, 2 Kings 5:17 . He also requested the prophet, that he might have two mules' load of earth to carry home with him from the land of Israel, most probably intending to build an altar with it in his own country; which seems, indeed, to be implied in the reason with which he enforces his request: "Shall there not, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth; for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice to other gods but unto Jehovah." He farther says, "In this the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goes into the house of Rimmon, to worship there, and he leaneth upon my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon; when I bow down in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing," 2 Kings 5:18; which some understand to be a reserve, denoting that he would renounce idolatry no farther than was consistent with his worldly interest, with his prince's favour, and his place at court. But, if so, the prophet would hardly have dismissed him with a blessing, saying, "Go in peace," 2 Kings 5:19 . Others, therefore, suppose, that in these words he begs pardon for what he had done in times past, not for what he should continue to do. They observe, that השתחויתי , though rendered in the future tense by the Targum, and by all the ancient versions, is really the preterperfect; and they, therefore, understand it,—"when I have bowed myself," or, "because I have bowed myself" in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant. With this sense Dr. Lightfoot agrees, and it is defended by the learned Bochart in a large dissertation on the case of Naaman. Yet it does not seem very probable, that, if he meant this for a penitential acknowledgment of his former idolatry, he should only mention what he had done as the king's servant, and omit his own voluntary worship of the idol. The more probable opinion, therefore, is, that he consulted the prophet, whether it was lawful for him, having renounced idolatry, and publicly professed the worship of the true God, still, in virtue of his office, to attend his master in the temple of Rimmon, in order that he might lean upon him, either out of state, or perhaps out of bodily weakness; because, if he attended him, as he had formerly done, he could not avoid bowing down when he did. To this the prophet returns no direct answer; making no other reply than, "Go in peace;" putting it, probably, upon his conscience to act as that should dictate, and not being willing to relieve him from this trial of his recent faith.

After this we have no farther mention of Naaman. But in the following account of the wars between Syria and Israel, Benhadad seems to have commanded his army in person; from whence Mr. Bedford infers, that Naaman was dismissed from the command for refusing to worship Rimmon. But the premises are not sufficient to support the conclusion; for it appears that Benhadad had commanded his army in person twice before; once in the siege of Samaria, 1 Kings 20:1 , and once at Aphek, 1 Kings 20:26 . Yet, from the total silence concerning Naaman, it is probably enough conjectured, that he either died, or resigned, or was dismissed, soon after his return.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Naaman'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/n/naaman.html. 1831-2.

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