Sunday, August 29, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 5

Naaman is the captain of the Syrian army and a leper. His Israelite slave girl tells his wife that Elisha can probably cure his affliction. She tells Naaman, who convinces the Syrian king to write a letter on his behalf begging the services of the prophet. He also sends some money and cloth, which I think were more convincing.

The king, of course, has no idea how to cure leprosy, as no one did then, and has a fit. Elisha hears about it and offers to heal Naaman. His cure: bathe seven times in the Jordan river. Somehow I think even the most devout believer in biblical inerrancy would still opt for drugs in this situation.

Naaman is equally dissatisfied, because he was expecting Elisha to ask for god's help, and he's more than a little put out at traveling all this way to bathe in a river when there are perfectly good rivers at home. His servants remind him that he was prepared to do something difficult for this cure, so he shouldn't balk at doing something so easy. He gives in to the incontrovertible logic and takes his bath, which clears his skin right up. I think we need to chalk this incident up to looser definitions of 'cure.'

Nevertheless, the improvement is enough that he offers a gift to Elisha, who refuses. So Naaman asks if he can take home some earth from Elisha's garden, and vows never to worship another god. He does add a clause to his contract that when the king of Syria goes to worship and he has to help him into the temple, he shouldn't be punished. Then he leaves.

One of Elisha's servants still wants a present, so he chases after him. He catches up to Naaman and says two sons of the prophet have just arrived and want a tribute. The servant takes the loot home and sends his servants away before dumping it on the floor. He goes back to Elisha, who asks where he's been. He lies and says nowhere, but Elisha says he saw him receiving the present and punishes him and his children with leprosy.

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