The Rivers of Damascus

Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Aram (Syria). The biblical text says he was “esteemed and respected by his master” because of the victories he had given the country. Great people often have great problems as well as great acclaim. Naaman was a leper. The term leper is used throughout the Old Testament of a serious skin disease without a cure. Read the full account in 2 Kings 5:1-18.

A young girl who had been taken captive from Israel during one of the raids made by the Arameans was serving as an attendant to Naaman’s wife. She knew of the prophet [Elisha] in Samaria and was confident he could cure Naaman of his leprosy.

When Elisha send a messenger to Naaman to tell him to “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times” the commander was furious. He said,

Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. (2 Kings 5:12 ESV)

These rivers, Abana and Pharpar, flow from the Anti-Lebanon range eastward into the desert. Here is a photo that I made of the Nahr Barada river a short distance west of Damascus (on the outskirts of the city). The river continues to flow through the city of Damascus. The Nahr Barada is often identified with the Abana of the Bible.

The Abanah River near Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Abanah River near Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Naamam was cured of his leprosy only after he dipped in the Jordan seven times. We should not elevate our judgment (opinion) to the point that we can argue with the Lord about what ought to be done. He is the Creator; we are the creature.

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