The Perfect Triad
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that the Israelites made it through the Red Sea because it was low tide or because they “knew where the stones were,” I’d be rich. I don’t care how pseudoscientific you make it, no story of the Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt—except the Bible’s—adequately explains why not even one Egyptian was able to follow them through the water and into the land of Canaan.
But biblical truth doesn’t impress some people. They’ll sit for hours watching gruesome television shows about the evil, powerful supernatural; but tell them there is a God in heaven who loves them and performs miracles, and they’ll think you’re a simpleton. Interestingly, people with the least faith often carry the most clout in this world. And those with the most faith often carry none at all.
Perhaps that is why God chooses “the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise” and “the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27). And who would be considered more foolish, insignificant, or weak than a little slave girl? The Bible never even tells us her name. But the three verses it does provide (2 Ki. 5:2–4) tell a great deal about her faith and about the God who loved her.
The child lived during the days of the divided kingdom, when the 10 northern tribes battled its greatest enemy, Syria, and Elisha was the prophet in Israel. According to Bible scholar Alfred Edersheim and others, Ben-Hadad II was the king of Syria, and Jehoram (Joram), wicked King Ahab’s son, was the king of Israel.1 The time was probably between 852 B.C. and 841 B.C.2
The Syrians routinely raided Israel and carried Jewish people away as captives. In one of their attacks, they seized the little girl and, against her will, snatched her from her parents, family, country, and all she had ever known, to bring her into dreaded enemy territory as a menial slave to the wife of the most powerful man in Syria’s army, its commander:
Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lᴏʀᴅ had given victory to Syria (v. 1).
Naaman was indeed powerful. Yet he was also a leper.
One day the child said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy” (v. 3).
Leprosy was a formidable disease. In Leviticus 13:1–46, God gave the Israelites lengthy instructions concerning it and commanded that lepers be segregated from the nation and forced to cry out “unclean, unclean” to alert passersby to their presence (vv. 45–46). In Syria, lepers apparently remained in their communities.
Leprosy is still a problem in underdeveloped nations, and modern medicine only found what it considers a cure in 1983. Treatment can take two to three years, and nothing so far has been able to reverse the residual nerve damage the disease causes. So to be healed of leprosy in Naaman’s lifetime was a miracle indeed.
In a country as faithless as Israel, where every ruler was a murderer and idolater and Baal worship polluted the land, it was also something of a miracle that this child believed in Jehovah. Not only did she manifest faith, she also showed sincere compassion when she could have become angry or bitter. It appears she genuinely cared about her master and exhibited tenderness and concern for him, possibly because she had grown close to Naaman’s wife and saw how deeply Naaman’s illness distressed her.
The child had no trouble believing God could perform a miracle of such great magnitude that He could cure leprosy—and she had no hesitation saying so. Obviously, she was known to be truthful and earnest, or Naaman’s wife would have paid no attention to anything she said.
And pay attention she did. She immediately told her husband, who told the king of Syria, who promptly dispatched Naaman to Israel with a letter to the king that read, “Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy” (2 Ki. 5:6).
The king of Israel, less confident in God than the pagan Syrian, the Syrian’s wife, or even the king of Syria, tore his clothes in fear and grief and complained that Ben-Hadad was trying to pick another fight with him (v. 7). Did Joram even send for Elisha? Of course not. Unlike the slave girl, Joram had no faith Jehovah could do anything.
But Elisha offered his services anyway. He told Naaman to dip seven times in the Jordan River. When Naaman came up from the water on the seventh time, “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (v. 14). That day, Naaman became a believer in the God of Israel.
My youngest daughter is a student in a secular university. “Mom,” she told me, “you won’t believe the weird stuff people believe to avoid believing the truth.”
Oh yes I would. I remember watching Carl Sagan on television. Sagan was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1934, the son of Jewish parents. His father, Sam, worked in the garment district. Credited with bringing science to the unwashed masses, Sagan believed that without empirical evidence, you cannot prove God exists.
He was a professor of astronomy and space sciences and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. His many awards included an Emmy, a Peabody, and a Pulitzer Prize.
His book Cosmos (more than 5 million copies in print) begins, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”3 It is a direct, and probably intentional, contradiction of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God.”
Sagan died of cancer in 1996, reportedly content in his atheism. He saw faith as foolishness and refused to believe he would stand before God and give an account (1 Pet. 4:5). A young, insignificant, uneducated, Jewish slave girl was wiser than he.
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21).
Perhaps someday I’ll actually bother to calculate how long it would take 2.5 million people (plus live-stock) to tiptoe through the Red Sea on stones. But I doubt it. Reasoning with people usually does not help them come to faith. The little maiden’s method was far superior. She exemplified the perfect triad: She possessed true faith, she lived her faith, and she shared her faith.
And her trust in the true and living God is a testimony to Jehovah’s faithfulness in always preserving a remnant that does not bend the knee to Baal—or to the cosmos.
- Alfred Edersheim, Bible History, Old Testament, bk. 6, The History of Israel and Judah From the Reign of Ahab to the Decline of the Two Kingdoms (1890; reprint, 7 vols. in 1, Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 779–80.
- Charles Caldwell Ryrie, “Outline of 2 Kings,” in Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 574.
- Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), 7.