Naaman the leper was the commanding officer of the Syrian army, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. During one of his raids, he “brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife” (2 Kings 5:2). The young girl told her mistress about Elisha and suggested that if Naaman went to see him, Elisha would heal Naaman of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3).
The idea that it would be God’s will for Naaman to be healed was most likely a result of the girl’s own personal experience with Elisha. She may have lived in an area of Israel where Elisha spent a lot of time or had a family member healed by him. In spite of her captivity, she understood that God loved everyone and the little girl was willing to share her knowledge with Naaman’s wife.
Naaman was a powerful man and no doubt had a significant influence in Syria’s relationship with Israel. It could have been God’s plan to heal him in order to protect Israel from attack. Naaman’s violent temper was evident when Elisha refused to speak to him face to face. It says in 2 Kings 5:11, “But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper…So he turned, and went away in a rage” (2 Kings 5:11-12).
Naaman wasn’t a good man and probably didn’t deserve to be healed, but he was offered the opportunity to get well, if he wanted to. All he had to do was obey Elisha’s instructions and God would take away his disease. “And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, wash, and be clean? (2 Kings 5:13).
The obstacle to Naaman’s faith was his pride. He thought too highly of himself to immerse himself in the muddy waters of the Jordan river. And yet, he listened to his servants and did what Elisha told him to. The key to Naaman’s action was his desire to be well. When Elisha told Naaman to wash, and be clean, he identified Naaman’s real problem, guilt. Naaman was a sinner. “The baleful effect of sin was recognized when a person contracted the dread disease of leprosy” (2891).
Naaman experienced not only a complete healing of his leprosy, but also a purification from his sins. As he immersed himself in the Jordan, Naaman was made clean, uncontaminated by sin, similar to what Christians experience when they accept Christ. After he was healed, Naaman “returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15).