Discovering Naaman’s hypocrisy A genealogical account of Jonathan Edwards’ exegesis of 2 Kings 5


  • Thomas Underhill


American Religious History, Post-reformation Studies


It is a curious detail that may stimulate a moment’s reflection for a reader of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, or alternatively pass unnoticed. Naaman, the Syrian general whose healing and apparent conversion is recounted in 2 Kings 5, is used by Edwards as an example of counterfeit affections. Modern Bible readers are unlikely to be accustomed to this reading of the Naaman story, which is customarily taken as a remarkable example of the conversion of an Old Testament Gentile to the worship of Yahweh. But far from being an isolated comment, this exegetical judgement on and practical use of the character of Naaman was maintained by Edwards throughout his life, and even seems to have been a favourite example in his sermons. This paper traces Edwards’ consistent approach to this biblical text through his works, and then delves back further to investigate its ancestry in the commentarial and devotional sources which formed the environment in which his engagement with Scripture took place.