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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Christian journalist: The diseased body, Elisha and graceful words from the servant-heralds (2 Kings 5:11-15)

“Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. . . . through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. . . . Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha said, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’ . . . But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that Elisha would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. . . . So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’  So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times and his flesh was restored”

Exegesis and Application

In some respects the first three verses of chapter 5 are the most interesting. We have the five star army general of the dominant political force in the region, the Canaanite Damascus in Syria (Aram), being given military victories by the god of his Israelite enemies, Yahweh. Despite all his valor and victories, he still has a thorn in his flesh, leprosy. One of his captives, a slave girl, tells Naaman’s wife that he can be cured of his leprosy if will go to see the Israelite prophet Elisha in Samaria in the south. Naaman takes off for Samaria with a letter of introduction from the Syrian king and goodies for whoever will heal him. The king of Israel smells a plot and rejects the letter, the gifts and Naaman, himself. Elisha now steps in and saves the day for both the Samarian king and Naaman. Our chosen passage now picks up the narrative.

Naaman comes to Elisha and the great prophet tells him to go wash himself in the Jordan River. Basically, go heal yourself. The letter and the gifts are for naught. Naaman is “angry” with this detached attitude of the well-known healer and man of God. The Hebrew word translated “angry” here is “Qatsaph” which can be translated “to fly into a rage,” “to foam at the mouth,” “to lose one’s breath,” and “to fret.” It indicates a strong emotional outburst of anger, one that will lead to action.

Naaman says that I thought that the least Elisha would do is wave his hand over my disease and it would be gone. He now stomps off in a “rage.” The word “rage” is the strong Hebrew “haimoh” which can also be translated “to make a noise,” “to be furious,” “to be filled with wrath,” and “to roar.” It is not a good thing for an Israelite to make the commander of the Syrian army so angry he can’t breath! Now to the soothing response of Naaman’s servants. He is first alerted to Elisha’s healing abilities by a servant and now servants gentle counsel him to return to the river for his own good. They courageously tell him he is capable of great feats of heroism and courage when the health of the kingdom is at stake. Surely he is capable of a small act of humility when his personal health is at stake. The great prophet has told the great warrior what to do to heal himself. So Naaman’s servant are telling him, now just do it. Naaman is a blessed man to have such courageous and wise servants who know how to respond to him aptly.

What does this have to do with Christian journalists? Soft words turn back wrath, even for the wrathful. Christian journalists must know how to defuse explosive situations with appropriate and graceful words. Such a use of language will work in both the news articles and the newsroom.

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