According to the Bible, Naaman was a commander of the army of Syria. He was a good commander and was held in favor because of victory that God brought him. Yet Naaman was a leper. Naaman’s wife had a servant girl from Israel who said that a prophet there would be able to heal him. Naaman tells his lord this and he is sent to Israel with a letter to the king. The king of Israel didn’t know what to do, yet Elisha (Eliseus) sent a message to the King, advising that the King tell Naaman to come to see him. Elisha then told Naaman to go bathe in the Jordan seven times and he would be clean. Naaman was angry and would have left, but his servant asked him to try it and he was healed. A servant of Elisha, Gehazi, seeing Naaman being turned away from offering God offerings ran after him and falsely asked for clothing and silver for visitors. And the leprosy from Naaman fell on Gehazi and would remain in his descendants.
Now Naaman, the general of the king of Aram, was a prominent man before his lord and respected, for through him had the Lord given victory to Aram; and the man was a great warrior, and he was a mezora. Now the Arameans went out in bands and captured from the land of Israel a young girl, who ministered to Naaman's wife.— Melachim II, 2 Kings 5:1-2
According to the narrative, he is called a "mezora" (מְּצֹרָע), a person affected by the skin disease tzaraath (צָּרַעַת, tzara'at). When the Hebrew slave-girl who waits on his wife tells her of a Jewish prophet in Samaria who can cure her master, he obtains a letter from king Ben-Hadad II of Aram to king Joram of Israel in which the former asks Joram to arrange for the healing of his subject Naaman. Naaman proceeds with the letter to king Joram. The king of Israel suspects in this – to him – impossible request a pretext of Syria for later starting a war against him, and tears his clothes.
When the prophet Elisha hears about this, he sends for general Naaman. But rather than personally receiving Naaman when the latter arrives at Elisha's house, Elisha merely sends a messenger to the door who tells Naaman to cure his affliction by dipping himself seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman, a man of heathen faith who is unfamiliar with the Jewish mezora, who had expected the prophet himself to come out to him and perform some kind of impressive ritual magic, angrily refuses, and prepares to go home unhealed. Only after Naaman's slaves suggest to their master that he has nothing to lose by at least giving it a try since the task is a simple and easy one, he takes his bath in the Jordan river as a mikveh as told and finds himself healed. The mikveh is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism.
Naaman returns to Elisha with lavish gifts, which Elisha flatly refuses to accept. Naaman also renounces his former god Rimmon after being cured by Elisha and accepts the God of Israel. He does, however, ask that the God of Israel pardon him when he enters the temple of Rimmon as part of his obligations to the king of Syria.
There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’— Jesus Christ, Luke 4:27
Christian theology depicts Naaman as an example for the will of God to save people who are considered by men as less than pious and unworthy of salvation. The Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, uses the word baptizein for the dipping that heals the heathen Naaman from a skin disease called tzaraath. The new baptism takes place in the Jordan River where Jesus of Nazareth, also called the Christ by his followers, was baptized many centuries later. Christians have often interpreted the Naaman story as prefiguring the Christian church rite of baptism.
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- Often translated as leprosy, this illness or affliction, was not today's leprosy. Leprosy as known today did not come to Ancient Israel until Alexander the Great came back from a trip to India in the mid-300s BCE.
- God Loves Naaman Word Journey, August 29, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2008.
- II Kings 5 xviii