Maid of Naaman’s Wife
The Woman Who Shared Her Faith
The whole of Naaman’s fascinating story revolves around the nameless, captive little maid who belonged to Israel. Do you never wonder why this maid’s name is not given, while another maid’s is &--;Rhoda? Some twenty words cover all we know of this Jewish female slave whose record consists of only one remark, which is often sufficient to describe a character as it does in the story of this nameless heroine. Mary Hallet reminds us that “one of the most amazing things about Bible stories is their sheer restraint. With one or two deft strokes a scene is painted, a character is sketched, or an incident described.... There is, I say, something astonishing in the terse poetry of the Bible.” How true this observation is in the three brief paragraphs in which principal characters are portrayed, the scene laid, and the play presented. From what is recorded of the captive maid we gather that—
She Was a Believer
The home from which she was forcibly taken was a godly Hebrew one in which God was honored, and His servant, Elisha, was revered. Young though the maid was, she feared the Lord and her incorrigible faith was a flame lighting the spirit of every other person in the drama. Naaman and his wife, the Syrian king, the servants who quickened Naaman’s spirit, and the prophet Elisha himself, all felt the impact of a little maid who was wholly the Lord’s and believed implicitly in His power. Brought to live among idolaters, she clung to her own faith in the living God and sought to share her knowledge of Him with others. Hers was a strong, contagious faith, enabling her to live without any feeling of homesickness in an alien land, and any resentment against her captors. Her love for God inspired her to love her masters and to win her way into their affection and confidence. She never hid her light under a bushel. Although only a maid, this godly girl did not feel she was too unimportant to influence others.
She Was a Slave
Think of the tears and tragedy wrapped up in the phrase, “Brought away captive out of the land of Israel.” Nothing but a slave, the Hebrew girl was counted among “the spoils of war.” During one of the Syrian incursions or flying raids, she was stolen and taken across the border. Perhaps the raid occurred at night and she was aroused by the groans of those who were being slaughtered, among them those of her own father. All at once she felt the grasp of a cruel raider, and was wrenched from all that was dear to her heart. That tragic night she lost all that made life precious—all her dear ones, and even liberty itself—and was taken to the slave market of Damascus where Naaman secured her as a servant for his wife. Can you not imagine how bewildered, frightened and tearful this lone and sorrowful figure must have been when Naaman secured her? Heaven has seen oceans of tears shed by slaves, and heard their groans of anguish, and God-fearing men like Shaftesbury and Lincoln have arisen to loose the captive’s chains. How the dear girl dragged away by the Syrians must have turned her heart heavenward for the protecting care of the Jehovah who had promised to be as a covert from the tempest!
She Was a Maid
Among the girls taken as slaves, some were used to labor in the fields and stables of their chaptors, others had a higher rank in the social life of Naaman’s day and became house servants and were given as maids-in-waiting to the mistress of a home. It was in this capacity that the Jewish girl whom Naaman had appropriated, served his wife. While such a lowly station was inferior to the position she occupied at home before it was plundered by the Syrians, she yet became attached to her master whom she admired as a “mighty man of valour,” and to her mistress to whom she was most loyal and whose confidence she held. While Naaman’s wife was not a follower of Jehovah, she must have respected the religious faith of her maid who doubtless expressed it on more than one occasion, and who certainly lived it in her captured home. Reading between the lines we somehow feel that the Syrian lady was kind to the lonely slave, and treated her more as a confidant. The possibilities and environment of the maid were limited but she had a strong faith and a loving heart, and although humble, was true to her God in a moment of need. Thus she is remembered throughout succeeding generations. Does not her fascinating story, brief though it is, teach us the far-reaching influence of the humblest and most insignificant in God’s service? Godly maids and nurses, with an appropriate sense of their responsibility, wield a tremendous influence over their fellow-servants, and also over children and parents in a home. It was thus with the nursemaid in the home of the Earl of Shaftesbury to whom that great reformer said he owed his soul. His parents had little interest in his well-being but his pious nurse loved him, filled his young days with joy, and led him to the Saviour. Shaftesbury owed much to that nursemaid, and he never forgot her. Those in lowly spheres of labor should ever remember that their opportunities of service for the Lord are not as restricted as they think.
She Was a Herald
As she dutifully waited upon Naaman’s wife, the captive maid came to know about the great soldier’s disease, and how concerned her mistress was over his condition. Perhaps one day while the maid was waiting upon her she expressed the feeling, “If only something could be done for my husband’s leprosy, how relieved I would be. While it is not a severe type of the disease, I wish some means of curing him could be found.” The maid might have noticed how the incurable disease was preying upon the mind and body of her kind master. This shadow over the household gave the maid her opportunity, and having learned to sing the song of the Lord in a strange land, she was ready to tell her distressed mistress that her husband could be cured. Listen to the cry that forced itself from the heart of this young Hebrew herald! &--;
Would God my Lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
Because of her concern, Naaman’s wife was willing to welcome any sympathy and snatch at any hint of relief for her husband. The pity and yet faith in the face of her maid did not escape her, and she immediately told the leprous man of the good news her maid had so positively declared.
Naaman believed what the captive maid had said, took her word to his ruler who, impressed with the testimony of the girl, sent an embassy to the king of Israel asking that Elisha might be allowed to cure his brilliant but diseased commander. While it might have been the diplomatic thing to do on the part of King Benhadad in his letter to King Joram, and Naaman arrived in great pomp at the house of the prophet Elisha, his pride received a blow when he was met by Gehazi, Elisha’s servant who conveyed to Naaman the message that if he desired to be cured of his leprosy he must bathe himself seven times in the muddy water of Jordan. At first, Naaman was enraged and humiliated, but with a temper somewhat cooled by his servants, and remembering the maid’s convincing testimony as to Elisha’s power as a miracle-worker, Naaman carried out the prophet’s instructions and came out of the river after the seventh bathing completely healed of his leprosy. He went home to Syria not only with a body thoroughly healed but also with a cleansed soul. No longer a worshiper of idols, he became an avowed worshiper of Jehovah, and received Elisha’s benediction on his confession of faith.
How the little maid must have felt rewarded for her loyalty to God for her part in the entire episode. Wordsworth wrote of her as “one in whom persuasion and belief had ripened into faith, and faith became a passionate intention.” Had she not expressed her faith as her mistress expressed her anxiety over her husband’s leprosy, the narrative before us would never have been written, and we should have “missed one of the finest bits of literary perfection and of religious inspiration in the Scriptures.” Mackintosh Mackay wrote of the little captive maid as, “The First Girl Guide” because, “in the first place she was a guide to Naaman, a guide to him to those waters of blessing in which alone he could find healing. And in the second place, she evidently belonged in spirit to that sisterhood who believe in doing a kind action every day.”
We have no doubt whatever that the maid’s mistress came to share her husband’s newly-found faith in God, and their home became thoroughly transformed. A star can be placed upon the Jewish girl’s head as the one who had brought such relief and blessing to it. Because of her acceptance of her lowly lot, and her simple faith and sweet intercession, that despised captive, too obscure to be called by any name, will be held in everlasting remembrance. As a true daughter of Abraham she was true to God in an idolatrous family. While we have no further word about the maid after her faithful testimony, we would believe that Naaman did not forget his young benefactress, as the chief butler forgot his friend, Joseph. The valiant soldier had a generous heart, and wanted to reward Elisha with a gift as a token of his gratitude for the gift of healing, but the prophet refused any gift. Gehazi had different thoughts, however, and the liberal way Naaman treated Gehazi revealed how generous he was. We wonder how the restored mighty man of valor treated the captive maid after his return. Did he reward her for all she had meant to him with her freedom, sending her home to surviving relatives with rich gifts to establish herself among her own? Whatever recompense Naaman gave his wife’s wonderful maid we know that it was an expression of his grateful heart and noble character.