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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Naaman

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(Heb. Nanman', נִעֲמִן , pleasantness, as in Isaiah 17:10), the name of two men.

1. (Sept. Νοεμάν ; but in 1 Chronicles Νοαμά and Νοομά v.r. Μααμάν .) The second of the sons of Bela the son of Benjamin (Genesis 46:21), apparently exiled by his father (1 Chronicles 8:4; 1 Chronicles 8:7), and the head of the family of the NAAMITES (Numbers 26:40); possibly the same elsewhere (1 Chronicles 7:7) called Uzzi. B.C. post 1856. (See JACOB).

2. (Sept. Ναιμάν , and so the best MSS. of the N.T., but Rec. Text Νεεμάν; Josephus, ῎Αμανος , Ant. 8:15, 5.) The commander of the armies of Benhadad II, king of Damascene Syria, in the time of Joram, king of Israel. B.C. cir. 885. Through his valor and abilities Naaman held a high place in the esteem of his king; and although he was afflicted with leprosy, it would seem that this did not, as among the Hebrews, operate as a disqualification for public employment. Nevertheless the condition of a leper could not but have been in his high place both afflicting and painful; and when it was heard that a little Hebrew slave-girl, who waited upon Naaman's wife, had spoken of a prophet in Samaria who could cure her master of his leprosy, Benhadad furnished him with a letter to his traditionary enemy king Joram; but as this letter merely stated that Naaman had been sent for him to cure, the king of Israel rent his clothes, suspecting an intention to fix a quarrel on him. Elisha, hearing of the affair sent for Naaman, who came to the door of his house, but, as a leper, could not be admitted; nor did Elisha come out to him, but sent him word by a servant to go and dip himself seven times in the Jordan, and that his leprosy would then pass from him. He was, however, by this time so much chafed and disgusted by the apparent neglect and incivility with which he had been treated, that if his attendants had not prevailed upon him to obey the directions of the prophet, he would have returnled home still a leper. But he went to the Jordan, and having bent himself seven times beneath its waters, rose from them clear from all leprous stain.

He now returned to Elisha, full of gratitude, avowing to him his conviction that the God of Israel, through whom this marvellous deed had been wrought, was great beyond all gods; and declaring that henceforth he would worship him only. He asked permission to take with him two mules' burden of earth. His purpose in this has been disputed, but it was probably to set up in Damascus an altar to Jehovah. He might have heard that an altar of earth was necessary (Exodus 20:24). The natural explanation is that, with a feeling akin to that which prompted the Pisan invaders to take away the earth of Aceldama for the Campo Santo at Pisa, and in obedience to which the pilgrims to Mecca are said to bring back stones from that sacred territory, the grateful convert to Jehovah wished to take away some of the earth of his country, to form an altar for the burnt-offering and sacrifice which henceforth he intended to dedicate to Jehovah only, and which would be inappropriate if offered on the profane earth of the country of Rimmon or Hadad. We may compare this request with the custom which once prevailed among Christians of carrying away water from the holy river Jordan; and, perhaps more aptly, with a custom still practiced by many Jews of burying a portion of earth from Jerusalem with evenr one of their number who dies in a foreign land.

It would seem, however, that Naaman's faith extended no further than acknowledging the superiority of Jehovah to the gods of other nations so far as his words are naturally understood (2 Kings 5:15). The Talmud regards him as a proselyte of the second class (Gittin, 57). Naaman further requested permission to attend his king in the temple of the idol Rimmon, and bow before the god. Some (e.g. Niemeyer, Charakt. 5:371) have indeed referred these expressions to his past acts of idolatry; but this construction cannot be sustained. Nor is it needed to shield Elisha from the imputation of sanctioning the worship of Rimmon; for his words in the 19th verse are simply the usual Hebrew formula of farewell, and do not imply assent to Naaman's requests. See Stackhouse, Hist. Bible, 4:869 sq.; Cotta. Vindiciae verbor. Naaman (Tubingen, 1756). The grateful Syrian would gladly have pressed upon Elisha gifts of high value, but the holy man resolutely refused to take anything. His servant, Gehazi, was less scrupulous, and hastened with a lie in his mouth to ask in his master's name for a portion of that which Elisha had refused. The illustrious Syrian no sooner saw the man running after his chariot than he alighted to meet him, and happy to relieve himself in some degree under the sense of overwhelming obligation, he sent him back with more than he had ventured to ask. This narrative, co:aining all that is known of Naaman, is given in 2 Kings, chapter 5. (See ELISHA). Naaman's appearance throughout the occurrence is most characteristic and consistent. .He is every inch a soldier, ready at once to resent what he considers as a slight cast either on himself or the natural glories of his country, and blazing out in a moment into sudden "rage," but calmed as speedily by a few good-humored and sensible words from his dependants, and, after the cure has been effected, evincing a thankful and simple heart, whose gratitude knows no bounds and will listen to no refusal. (See GEHAZI).

How long Naaman lived to continue the worship of Jehovah while assisting officially at that of Rimmon we are not told. When next we hear of Syria, another, Hazael, apparently held the position which Naaman formerly filled. But the reception which Elisha met with on this later occasion in Damascus probably implies that the fame of "the man of God," and of the mighty Jehovah in whose name he wrought, had not been forgotten in the city of Naaman. A Jewish tradition, at least as old as the time of Josephus (Ant. 8:15, 5), identifies him with the archer whose arrow, whether at random or not, struck Ahab with his mortal wound at Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 22:34). The expression is remarkable "because that by him Jehovah had given deliverance to Syria" (1 Kings 22:1). It seems, however, to point to services of a more important kind for Syria, though not related in Scripture. But inasmuch as the advantage they won for Syria, and the position they tended to acquire for Naaman, were incidentally to subserve the divine purposes towards Israel they may perhaps on this account have been ascribed to Jehovah. Naaman himself, and partly by reason of the very greatness he had thus acquired, was to become all unwittingly an instrument of promoting the divine glory in some sense even more than those who had directly to do with the cause and kingdom of Jehovah. It is singular that the narrative of Naaman's cure is not found in the present text of Josephus. Its absence makes the reference to him as the slayer of Ahab, already mentioned, still more remarkable. It is quoted by our Lord (Luke 4:27) as an instance of mercy exercised to one who was not of Israel, and it should not escape notice that the reference to this act of healing is recorded by none of the evangelists but Luke the physician. See Kitto, Daily Bible Illust. ad loc.; Keil, Comment. on Kings, ad loc.; Hantzschel, Naaman Syrus (Brem. 1773); Rogers, Naanman (Lond. 1642); Bingham, Naaman the Syrian (Lond. 1865); Bullock, The Syrian Leper (Lond. 1862).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Naaman'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/n/naaman.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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