Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)


1 A son (Gen. 46:21) or grandson (Num. 26:40) of Benjamin; the ancestor of the Naamites.

2 A leper cured by the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 5). Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Syria or Aram (Damascus) in the time of Elisha. Having learned of the reputation of the Samarian holy man from a captured Israelite girl who waited on his wife, Naaman resolved to go to Israel to seek a cure for his leprosy. He obtained permission from his king, who gave him a letter for the king of Israel asking that Naaman be healed. The letter, however, alarmed the Israelite king. Knowing that he lacked the power to heal Naaman, he suspected that the Aramaean king was trying to provoke a quarrel. Eventually, however, Elisha heard of the king’s concern and summoned Naaman to his house. When he arrived, he sent instructions that he should dip himself in the Jordan seven times. At first Naaman, who had expected the prophet to heal him in person, was angry and disappointed, retorting that Damascus had its own rivers, the Abana and Pharpar, that were better than any in Israel. Finally, however, his servants persuaded him to follow Elisha’s instructions. He washed in the Jordan and was healed, whereupon he returned to Elisha and vowed to sacrifice to no god but Yahweh from that time on, requesting a load of the local soil so that he could worship the Israelite god in Damascus. Although Elisha explicitly refused any reward from Naaman, his servant Gehazi pursued the departing Aramaean and deceitfully procured a gift in his master’s name. Elisha, however, was aware of his servant’s deceit and proclaimed that Naaman’s leprosy would be transferred to Gehazi and his descendants forever.

The healing of Naaman’s leprosy is mentioned in Luke 4:27 in the context of a controversy between Jesus and the people of Nazareth. Jesus, who is regarded with suspicion because he has done great things in Capernaum but not in his home town, cites ‘Naaman the Syrian’ as an example of a foreigner who received divine help even when lepers in Israel did not.


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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