06 August 2006

A Moment of Blindness

In 2 Kings 5, we read a story about Naaman (that I can't seem to get off my mind—see here and here). One question that is often raised about this story is if Naaman was exhibiting "blind obedience."

I think this story could be broken down into four parts. In only one of these is Naaman actually—albeit figuratively—"blind":

1. When Naaman first hears about Elisha and then goes to Israel to see him (verses 1-4, 9). Here he is hopeful.

2. When Naaman is angered by the simplicity of Elisha's command (verses 11-12). Here he is enraged—and "blind" as a result.

3. When Naaman's servant helps him to "see" the error of his anger (verses 13-14). Here he is reasonable.

4. When Naaman, by virtue of the miracle, proclaims his testimony of the living God (verse 15). Here he is enlightened.

When breaking the story into these four parts, it is interesting that the word taher—clean—is used exactly four times: in verses 10, 12, 13, and 14. Also interesting, is that three of the verses use the word in the context of "made whole," whereas in only one verse (12) is its meaning the more ordinary "free from dirt" (read correction below).

Correction, 11 Aug 2006: I want to correct the last sentence of the last paragraph, which I have now placed in italics.

The word "taher" is indeed used four times in this chapter, and corresponds to the four parts as mentioned. This verb is translated into English as "clean, "purify," etc. Since first posting, I have researched this word and found my statement about how Naaman uses it to be unsupportable.

"Taher" is a command form, so it is appropriate that Elisha use it to tell Naaman what to do. It also always implies purification, not just removing dirt. Thus, when Naaman used the word, he could not have misunderstood its meaning, contrary to what I stated in my original post.

I have left the statement in the original post so that anyone who read it will not be confused.

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