2 Kings 5

Naaman's Healing


Now Naaman, captain of the armies of the king of Aram, was a great and highly respected man (2 Kings 5:1).

Naaman probably lived in Damascus, the capital city of Aram. Damascus continues to be inhabited, which has prevented any serious archaeological work there. The gates presently visible in Damascus are from Islamic periods, though some or most of them were founded in earlier periods. A Roman temple to Jupiter was located outside the west wall. This photograph by Charles Lee Feinberg was taken in the 1960s.

The Young Servant

The Arameans had . . . captured out of the land of Israel a young girl, who served Naaman’s wife (2 Kings 5:2).

The age of this “young girl” cannot be determined, other than that she was not yet full-grown. She was old enough at the time of her capture to be aware of Elisha’s ministry, but it is not clear how many years had passed since then. The servant in this relief appears to be smiling, a rather uncommon expression in artwork of the time (ca. 100 BC). This relief was photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Letter

And the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel” (2 Kings 5:5).

Official communication such as this, sent from one king to another, would have been sealed to prevent tampering (cf. 1 Kgs 21:8). Documents like this were rolled, tied with string, and a lump of clay was placed over the knot of the string. The clay was then impressed with a seal to indicate who sent it; the lump of clay with an impression is known as a bulla. This display includes fragments of several Iron Age bullae, in addition to a modern recreation of a papyrus roll with bullae attached.

The Abana

Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? (2 Kings 5:12)

The Abana (Abanah) River is usually identified as the Barada River that flows through Damascus itself. This river arises from a large karst spring at Ain al-Fijah in the Anti-Lebanon mountains about 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Damascus. It flows through a narrow gorge as it leaves the mountains, and then divides into multiple branches that irrigate the Al Ghutah oasis, including Damascus. One of these branches, the Banias, preserves the ancient name of the Abana. This photochrom image of the Abana passing through Damascus was taken in the 1890s.

The Jordan

So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:14).

Today Christian pilgrims regard the Jordan River highly because of its place in biblical history, but in ancient times the Jordan River was not considered of any special significance, as is clear from Naaman’s initial response. This photo shows the Jordan River at the outlet of the Sea of Galilee. The water is relatively clear at this place, and it is a popular baptismal location for pilgrims.

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