Naaman the army commander was a “great man” (אישׁ גדול; ish gadol) in his native Syria, but this “great” man also suffered from a skin disease (2 Kgs 5:1-2). When an Israelite servant girl asserts that Elisha could heal Naaman, the Syrian is appalled that he should need to dip in the meager Jordan River (5:10-12). However, the story’s Hebrew language shows that it is better to be a humble “little girl” than a haughty “great man.”

Whereas Naaman was “great” (גדול; gadol) according to the Syrians, the Bible notes that the Israelite servant girl was “little” (קטן; qatan): “Now, on one of their raids, the Syrians had carried off a little girl (נערה קטנה; narah qatanah) from the land of Israel” (5:2). This little girl says to Naaman’s wife, “Would that my lord [Naaman] were with the prophet [Elisha] who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his skin disease” (5:3). While Naaman is supposedly “great,” it is the Israelite girl who, while “little” in status and stature, has a “great” idea!

When Elisha tells Naaman to wash himself in the Jordan River in order to be healed, the Gentile general’s response highlights his bloated self-perception and concomitant lack of humility. Namaan responds, “Are not Amana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (5:12). Naaman finally enters the Jordan so that “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little boy (נער קטן; na’ar qatan)” (5:14). It took the suggestion of a “little girl” (נערה קטנה; narah qatanah) for Naaman to become like a “little boy” (נער קטן; na’ar qatan), which shows that it is the humble, not the haughty, who are “great” in the eyes of the Lord.



  1. I have met a lady who teachs Hebrew and Greek! So am waiting to see what develops here!
    Your courses do seem to be interesting!
  2. What a beautiful post Dr Schaser. Well and tenderly presented. Makes me think of our Lord Jesus blessing the children when His Disciples would send them away Matthew 19v13-15.
    • Colin, thanks for reading the post and for your kind words. Yes, this passage in 2 Kgs is of a piece with Matt 19:13-15. As I was writing the article, I was also reminded of Matt 18:3. Thanks again!
  3. Hi Dr Nicholas
    Where are the gentiles in terms of the tribulation and the mark of the beast which is said to be the number 666. My next question is who are these in the book of Revelation the angels are asking about wearing white robes?
  4. A great illustration of how "key words" function in Biblical Hebrew narrative! Important for both literary style and essential meaning.
  5. I have always loved this particular story in the Bible. It is a reminder to me that GOD can use the 'nobodies' of this world to show it is HE who has done 'this' thing. Humility is a must as a Child of GOD^ Shalom.
  6. "A man's pride shall bring him low; but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit" - Prov. 29:23. Humility is a must for every one without exception.
  7. Out of the innocent mouths of babes, comes pure simple truth.It reminds me of Jesus with the little children ,"whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."


Please enter your name here
Words left: 50
Please enter your comment!