One of the most remarkable human beings in world history is nameless to us. She had a name, but we don’t know what it was. I am thinking of the little slave girl of 2 Kings 5:2-3. I have written about her at some length in my book Nameless Heroes of the Bible (Chapter 56), but if you are one of the seven or eight people in the U.S. who has not yet read that book, don’t despair. I’ll give you the condensed version now, and you can buy Nameless later and read it at your leisure. The dedication to Nameless Heroes of the Bible was to the little slave girl.
She figures in just two verses of the Bible, but her behavior had far-reaching consequences. Let’s quote five verses so that we can see the context of her actions.
‘Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands, and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.” Then the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” And he departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes.’ (2 Kings 5:1-5)
Within a few verses Naaman is in Israel, gets with the prophet Elisha, and is healed of his leprosy. The final 22 verses of the chapter give us much which is of great interest. But we won’t try to talk about any of that today. Today we want to focus on the little slave girl.
I am certain that I did not appreciate the little slave girl the first time I read about her. How many times did I have to read the passage, over the years, before the light bulb belatedly went on? Better not to know, perhaps. The point is, multiple readings of the Bible are necessary for us to get everything that is there. If I had read the Bible once in my life, there is much that I would miss. Am I still missing things? It seems so, because I still pick up new things with more reading. So it is good for me to keep reading the Bible, although reading the Bible does not come easily for me. It is work rather than relaxation. But the work is repaid in the long run, many times over.
Eventually, belatedly, I began to understand how remarkable was the little slave girl of Naaman’s wife. By now she is one of my favorite people in the Bible. She is an astonishing person.
There are two ways in which she is a profoundly shocking person.
The first way in which she is shocking is in her great faith in God. Note how artlessly she speaks up. She is just rattling on, out of the fullness of her heart. “Isn’t it a shame Naaman is not in Israel with the prophet! He would be healed in a few seconds.” It never occurs to her to doubt the prophet’s ability–granted to him by God–to heal Namaan. Just get to Israel, and, boom, we’ll see a healed Naaman. No problemo.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of her faith, however. Remember, she has been taken into slavery. She is separated from her family. Her hopes of a normal happy life among her people, are completely shattered by her having been taken captive. She has lost her home, her family, her people, her freedom, her language, her hope of marriage and children and grandchildren. (She had to learn a new language and probably is talking to Naaman’s wife in Aramaic rather than in her native Hebrew.) She is a slave working for whatever her masters decide to give her. Will she be protected by them? Or treated shamefully? Namaan and his wife seem to be treating her well enough, or she wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking as she had done. But what about the rest of the Arameans?
Despite all the frightening and discouraging things she has been through, she doesn’t distrust God! She knows He is in sovereign control. He let her become a slave of the Arameans? Okay, so He did. She doesn’t think or say that God is being unfair to her, or that He doesn’t exist. No, somehow this most unusual young lady continues to believe in God and to trust Him.
As great as is the faith of this “little girl,” I think even more remarkable is her generosity of spirit. If it had been me in her situation, my thoughts would have run along these lines: “So, Naaman is a leper, huh? Well, that suits him perfectly. He holds me as a slave just because I got captured in Israel, but God is in ultimate control. This leprosy is God’s covenantal judgment on Naaman. Naaman wrongly turned me into a slave, and God rightly allows Naaman to be a leper. Suck on that, mighty captain of the Arameans!” Of course I would have said none of this aloud. I would have taken silent compensation for the wrongs done to me, by brooding to myself week after week, year after year.
However, the little slave girl didn’t think like that. No, where she was, she loved, and wished the best for everyone. Naaman is her slave master, and has leprosy? Darn it! Get him to Samaria, and we’ll get him cured of his leprosy. “I wish my master were . . . ” etc.
This is one astonishing young lady. Is it possible she could be an example to us, in both her faith and in her generosity of spirit? Perhaps the Holy Spirit intended us to learn from her, and we are just slow to appreciate her greatness.
There are other lessons here. She is young. We don’t know how young. She is a “little girl,” but she could be seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, or some other age. We simply don’t know. The Holy Spirit thought it best not to tell us her exact age. Great decision! What we know without a shadow of doubt is that a young person can be someone of great faith and of great generosity of spirit. How do we know that? Because she did it! The little slave girl could be the patron saint of every young Christian. (She could be the patron saint of every old Christian as well!)
She is female. Here is a young female who, because of her great faith in God and her great generosity of spirit, and because she simply prattled on about how the prophet could easily heal Naaman, set in train great events. The story of Naaman, which follows in 2 Kings 5:6-27, is one of great historical/theological interest. This female started the story rolling. Is it possible that Christianity has no need of modern feminism? That what we need is biblical Christianity? That if we exercise biblical Christianity we all, male and female, will find our place of usefulness? That the little slave girl is an example to all of us? That we need to be like her, whether we are male or female, and things will go well with us, and also go well with others? Well, it’s a theory.
I like to think about Naaman’s wife and Naaman. They are pagans, clueless about the God of the Bible. But already they have been treating the little slave girl well enough that she is not afraid to babble out her artless, crazy thoughts about the prophet in Samaria.
And then, in a split second, they immediately are possessed of a nutty, impossible hope. A silly little slave girl speaks, in Hebrew-accented Aramaic, about her God, and the slave masters pay attention immediately. (Perhaps her behavior had impressed upon them that she was a person of excellent character.) Of course it was all ridiculous. Unless it wasn’t. Naaman, no doubt encouraged by his intelligent wife, goes to his king, his pagan king master. Who doesn’t laugh, and instead immediately sends Naaman off to get healed by the prophet of the Israeli God.
Isn’t this a reminder to us that pagans are frequently pre-Christians, and just don’t know it yet? Many of us who are Christians now were pre-Christians at one time, exactly like Naaman and (no doubt) his wife. We are all, Naaman and the rest of us, saved by grace, which can show up in surprising ways.
We are not told, by the Holy Spirit, what happened to the little slave girl when Naaman returned from Samaria, healed of his leprosy. Clearly this is another good decision by the Holy Spirit. We know that Naaman was a person capable of showing gratitude. That is made clear in the passages of Scripture telling us of his actions with Elisha and Gehazi. So when he got back to Aram, we can be completely certain that Naaman and his wife acted generously to the little slave girl.
Why not tell us the details? I think perhaps He wants us to focus on the character, the faith, the generosity of spirit, of the little slave girl. The story for us is not, “The little slave girl did this, and she had great reward.” The story is, “The little slave girl had great faith and showed great generosity of spirit, despite her unpromising situation.” The Holy Spirit did not want to risk us missing the main point. That is the main point: do what is wise and right, and let consequences be what they may.
That does not mean that we don’t burn to know what exactly happened to the little slave girl! Of course we do, and no doubt the Holy Spirit understands our interest, and I am very hopeful that some day I will be able to find out much more about the little slave girl and her subsequent life on earth.
The little slave girl could not know, when she spoke up wishing that her master be healed from his leprosy, what the consequences would be. Naaman’s wife could have said, “Please don’t forget to sweep the porch today. And we don’t need to hear any more about Israel or Samaria.” And that would have been the end of it.
Instead, the consequences were immense, and incredibly good. The consequences for the little slave girl were also immense. They were also incredibly good, no matter what happened to her when Naaman returned home.
Picture the eternal consequences for her. She is one of the most celebrated human beings in world history. The Holy Spirit has recorded her story in the Bible in a manner that makes it impossible to ignore her. Countless thousands, perhaps millions, of us want to meet and talk to her, thank her and pay tribute to her in person. Perhaps every day, in eternity, she meets new people who love and admire her already, because they met her in the Bible.
She is nameless in Scripture, but she is not nameless in eternity. This astonishing “little girl” will continue to teach mankind how to behave, as long as the Bible is read.