Summary: Why on earth did Naaman listen to a little girl?
8.00 10-10-04 NR
The Young girl – 2 Kings 5: 1-15
Story: My old vicar in Basle, Tom Roberts used to say that when you are stumped for a Bible passage to preach on use the story of Naaman. So I’m doing for once what I am told!
I have always been fascinated by three seemingly insignificant verses from the story of Naaman. Let me read them to you:
2 Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."
4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. (2 Kings 5:2-4)
At first blush it doesn’t add up!
Why would the mighty Naaman, Commander of the King of Syria’s army firstly listen to such nonsense for a slave girl and then secondly make a fool of himself in front of the king by passing on such a ridiculous story.
And what is more intriguing is that King of Syria took this girl’s report seriously enough to write to the King of Israel and send Naaman off.
1. So why did the King of Syria send Naaman to Israel
1.1 To declare war
The most obvious answer was that the King of Syria was looking for a pretext to go to war.
Indeed that was the King of Israel’s first reaction when he got the King of Syria’s letter.
Look at what the King of Israel said:
"Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!" (2 Kings 5:7)
But in those days you didn’t need a pretext – you just invaded. And it would have been a pretty stupid pretext anyway.
And you wouldn’t risk the life of your most successful general by sending him off to the enemy Israel, without an army – if all you were looking for - was a pretext for war. The first thing the Israelites would have done would have been to kill him!
1.2 To get Naaman out of the way
Which brings me to a second possible explanation. That the King of Syria wanted Naaman out of the way.
If that was the case, it would have been much simpler to murder him! Despots in those days did just that.
But look what the King of Syria sent with Naaman to the King of Israel:
Ten talents of silver (750 pounds of silver),
Six thousand shekels (150 pounds) of gold and
Ten sets of clothing.
Why send so much money off with Naaman – if all you wanted to do was kill Naaman off and use it as an excuse to invade.
750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold would go a long way in financing the Israelite army – and even in hiring in mercenaries.
Not a bright move by the Syrian King.
1.3 The story is fiction
A further possible solution is that the story is folklore – and never actually happened
But Jesus himself vouches for the veracity of the story - and that will do for me.
We read of Jesus saying in Luke’s Gospel: “And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet yet not one of them was cleansed - only Naaman the Syrian”. (Luke 4:27)
As that great detective Sherlock Holmes is reputed to have said,
"eliminate the obvious and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer."
(The Supreme Court and Constitutional Theory by Ronald Kahn. 1994.)
So the only answer left to me - however improbable is that the story really happened as the Bible recorded.
1.4 Naaman and the Syrian King really did hear and believed the young girl’s report
Here was an insignificant servant girl – a slave dictating Syrian state policy. Is that impossible?
No, not if you put God INTO the equation.
God does move in mysterious ways.
Story: You just have to read the story of Malta in the 2nd World War.It should have easily been overrun by the Italians and Germans. Even the British High Command thought so.
But the Governor General of Malta, Sir William Dobbie believed in prayer and the miracle of Malta was complete.
2. The Young girl
What do we know about this young girl in the story of the healing of Naaman?
We don’t even know her name.
But there must have been something special about her – for Naaman to listen.
I think there are two characteristics of her life that I think are attractive.