- The Word of God spoken by the prophet was in and with the water of the Jordan to restore the flesh of Naaman; the Word of God spoken by the pastor is in and with the water of the baptismal font to cleanse us of our sin and restore us as children of the heavenly Father.
- Law: Sin and its effects slowly kill me, both in body and soul.
- Gospel: Jesus saves me, both in body and in soul. He cleanses me from sin and at the resurrection will heal my body and make it perfect, so it will be like His.
Elisha, successor to Elijah, lived in the mid-to-late ninth century BC. His ministry was concentrated mainly in the Northern Kingdom during the reigns of four Israelite kings: Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Jehoash. There was bad blood aplenty between Israel and Syria—Naaman’s home turf—dating back to Solomon’s day and beyond (e.g., 1 Kings 11:23–25). In fact, the king before whom Naaman appears, Jehoram, lost his own father, Ahab, to the Syrians just a few years before (1 Kings 22:29–40).
Note that some English translations render “Syria” as “Aram” (e.g., NIV), but both names refer to the same country, located north and east of Israel. The Hebrew word usually translated as “leprosy” actually encompassed a variety of skin disorders. So whether Naaman actually had what we call leprosy (technically known as Hansen’s disease) cannot be proven. Either way, his skin disease was serious enough to prompt him to undertake a long and potentially dangerous journey.
- The Lord made Naaman a powerful man (2 Kings 5:1) but not powerful enough to cure his own leprosy. In Syria, this skin disease had not kept him from reaching high office, but would this have been possible in Israel? What had the Lord said about leprosy? See Leviticus 13:45–46 and Numbers 5:1–4. What could account for such a strict policy?
- The little girl who had been taken by the Syrians in a raid told Naaman, the Syrian military commander, about Elisha (2 Kings 5:2–4). How is this similar to the Joseph narrative in Genesis, particularly 50:15–21?
- When the king of Syria heard about Elisha, Naaman was sent on his way with a great deal of wealth (2 Kings 5:4–5). Why did the king send such an enormous amount? How is the king’s approach consistent with pagan religion? See Ephesians 2:8– 9.
- Why did the king of Israel despair when he received the message from the king of Syria (2 Kings 5:6–7)? Consult 1 Samuel 2:6 and Deuteronomy 32:39. Why should the king not have lost hope (2 Kings 5:8)?
- What message would Naaman’s horses, chariots, and gifts have sent to Elisha (2 Kings 5:9)? What two things caused Naaman to take offense at Elisha’s treatment (5:10–12)?
- Cooler heads prevailed when Naaman’s servants convinced him to wash seven times in the Jordan “according to the word of the man of God” (2 Kings 5:13–14). What is significant about the number of times he was to wash? See Genesis 1:31–2:3. What sevenfold cleansing are we to perform? See Matthew 18:21–22.
- What aspects of Jesus’ ministry did Elisha’s healing of Naaman point forward to? See Matthew 8:2–4, 14–17; Isaiah 53:4–6; and Luke 17:11–19.
- In Israel, people often considered lepers cursed by God for some particular sin. What similar situation did Jesus deal with in John 9:1–7? What insight can we draw from this story? Compare with 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.
- Naaman’s washing in the Jordan was not Christian Baptism, for Christ had not yet come. Nonetheless, what aspects of the story are similar to the Lord’s revelation of what Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper mean for us? Include references to the teachings of the Small Catechism.
- What can we learn from the example of the enslaved Israelite girl who told Naaman’s wife about Elisha? What similar conclusion is drawn from Mark 2:1–12?