2 Kings 5 gives a fascinating account of the encounter between Naaman the Aramean and the prophet Elisha. Although Elijah is not a priest, the encounter between the two men contains many priestly elements. The account starts off with Naaman, a non-Israelite suffering from a common skin rash that was discussed at length in Leviticus 14, 15. What should be noted is that in Leviticus anyone with leprosy was considered impure and unfit to enter the presence of God, or to even be in the community. In these chapters of Leviticus we observe priestly duties and rituals in abundance. Hence, we can draw a parallel of priestly elements between Leviticus 14, 15 and 2 Kings 5:1. We observe a slight difference from priestly rituals and responsibilities in Naaman’s case. Naaman is not an Israelite, and thus has no need to enter the temple or come into the presence of the Holy, God. But this leprosy bothers Naaman and he needs to be cured even though he will not be entering the temple to meet God. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing that he will in some way have an encounter with God, and thus needs to cross over to that state of purity first.
Naaman’s wife is then informed in 2 Kings 5:3 by his Hebrew slave girl about a prophet who can cure him. “If only my Lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Here, the young Hebrew girl advises them to seek the assistance of the prophet. This is different from the priestly thoughts that runs through Leviticus where a leper is to receive instruction from the priest, not a prophet, to be cured. “This shall be the ritual for the leprous person at the time of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest” (Leviticus 14:2). There are other variations to the priestly elements that are in Exodus 14, 15. Instead of the priest going out to meet Naaman in a marginalized area, Naaman is the one who goes out to meet the prophet. Here we start to see this priestly element becoming a prophetic element. Yet, there is still some slight marginalization similar to that of the priestly element where boundaries are maintained. Naaman does not come into Elisha’s house or presence. “So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him (2 Kings 5:9, 10). This is yet another priestly element, that persons were not to come into contact with the leper, because the leper is considered to be contagious, and the other person would then become unclean. Elisha is preserving his purity and status by not coming into direct contact with Naaman because as a prophets, he is in constant contact with God. Boundaries are also part of a prophetic element, in that the prophets would usually be somewhere near the temple and speak out against the King’s current administration or to give advice and to constantly remind them that God’s prophets are among them, and thus they should not be going after other gods or be depressed about current situations. “Let him come to me that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8)
Naaman is then instructed, “Go wash in to the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). Again, we have another priestly element of washing or bathing in water to become clean or healed. The same instruction formed part of the priestly ritual in healing or restoring lepers in Leviticus. “On the seventh day he shall shave all his hair…then he be clean.” This same verse, 2 Kings 5:10, contains another priestly element; the number seven. Part of the priestly ritual for be healed from leprosy required the infected person to stay outside of the campsite for seven days. But, whereas in Leviticus where the leper had to spend seven days outside the camp before he can be revisited by the priest, Naaman is told to wash seven times in the Jordan river to receive his cleansing and restoration. A receives other major difference again is that