Naaman's Flesh - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is a mirror-reading of the The Naaman Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The Naaman Narrative is primarily concerned with Elisha’s reputation and what was Naaman’s flesh.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.


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Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Who Was Naaman?

The opposing narrative presents Naaman in a very good light. M will downplay this slightly by making him only a great man with his master and honourable only because Yahweh provided Naaman’s military victories. This also promotes the idea that Yahweh was a strong war god. The opposing narrative has Naaman as a captain of a host. M will add that he served under the Syrian king. This will have an impact on the meaning of the narrative below.

M will also make Naaman a leper. This change will alter the meaning of the opposing narrative in a major way. Naaman being a leper is emphasized more than any other point in the Biblical narrative, having the most frequency and variation. When talking about “flesh”, it is leprosy that M what’s the reader to think of.

Taken Captive

The opposing narrative and M will define Naaman’s “flesh” differently. The opposing narrative says that Naaman’s flesh is a reference to his daughter who had been taken captive by the Syrians. M modifies the “little girl” it a “little maid” who the Syrians had taken captive from Israel and who attends to his wife.

There Was A Letter

Both the opposing narrative and M agree that there was a letter sent to a king. The opposing narrative has the letter go from the Syrian king (who took Naaman’s daughter) to Naaman. M will alter it so that the letter is from the king of Syria to the king of Israel. The point that the letter came to the king of Israel is another point of emphasis for M, noting it a few times.

Both narratives tell how the king who received the letter tore his clothes. In the opposing narrative, this refers to Naaman, in the M narrative, it refers to the king of Israel

In the opposing narrative, the letter taunts Naaman, saying the Syrian king could “kill or keep alive” his daughter. Naaman responds to this my tearing his clothes and saying “see how he seeketh a quarrel against me?” M will have it be the king of Israel who tears his clothes and says “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?“ and will also say “see how he seeketh a quarrel against me?”

In the opposing narrative departs with silver, gold and raiments, to offer ransom for his daughter. In M, Naaman departs to deliver the letter and brings the silver, gold and raiment to offer to be healed.

The Instructions

Naaman brings his horses and chariot in both narratives. In the opposing narrative, he goes to the king of Syria (who took his daughter captive). In M’s narrative, he goes to Elijah’s house.

In both narratives, a messenger is sent to Naaman. In the opposing narrative, the messenger is from the king of Syrian, in M’s narrative, the messenger is from Elisha.

M has Elisha tell Naaman to wash his skin seven times in the Jordan river. The opposing narrative has the king of Syria tell Naaman to dip himself seven times in a river of Damascus. Why the king of Syria wants Naaman to do this is unclear. It seems that the king of Syria is trying to get Naaman to submit to him and these instructions are designed to humiliate Naaman into that submission.

If Naaman complies with Elisha’s instructions, his “flesh shall come again to thee”, referring to Naaman’s daughter. With M, it means that his skin would be restored. M also adds “and thou shall be clean” to emphasize that the issue is with Naaman’s skin.

Naaman is angry in both narratives. In the opposing narrative, it is because he thought the king of Syrian would come out and shake his fist at him - meaning, he expected the king of Syria to come out and fight, or at least, display hostility.

Changing Naaman’s Mind

Both narratives have Naaman turns away in rage. They will both change Naaman’s mind while using the word “father”. In the opposing narrative, it is Naaman’s daughter who changes his mind. In M’s narrative, it is Naaman’s servant who does.

In the opposing narrative, Naaman dips himself seven times in a river of Damascus. In M’s account he dips himself seven times in the Jordan River.

Returning Of Naaman’s Flesh

The opposing narrative then has Naaman return to the king of Syria to retrieve his daughter. M will heal Naaman’s flesh first and then will have him return to Elisha.

Both narratives say that “his flesh came again” although with different meanings. In M’s narrative, his skin becomes “like” the flesh of a little child. M uses “like” here similar to the way he did in the Ahab & Obadiah narrative and uses it to spin a literal meaning into an analogous meaning. In the opposing narrative, it is literally the flesh of a little child - his daughter. “Little” here is the same word to describe the maid who was taken into captivity.

In the opposing narrative, the Syrian king tells Naaman to go in peace, but M has Elisha tell him to go in peace after M explains why Naaman didn’t give Elisha a “blessing”.

Prophet Of Which Land?

With the opposing narrative taking place in Syria, with a Syrian prophet, M needs to shift things over to Israel. The little maid that was taken captive from Israel is the catalyst to get Naaman over to Israel. Elisha is described as “a prophet in Israel” and “the prophet that is in Samaria”.

The term “man of Elohim” is used several times to describe Elisha. I write about how this is a term of respect in The Woman At Zarephath narrative, but it doesn’t seem like M needs to counter any despicable actions of Elisha in this narrative. However, when combined with Naaman’s claim that “there is no Elohim in all the earth, but in Israel”, the term “man of Elohim” becomes a reference to an Israelite prophet as well as tying into the next issue.

Elisha’s Elohim

M has Naaman state that Yahweh is Elisha’s Elohim. Elisha also states that he stands before Yahweh. Also, once again, M counters the idea that Yahweh was not alive. See comments regarding this in The Brook Cherith.