Abana and Pharpar

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

Abana and Pharpar were two rivers in the ancient city of Damascus in Syria, which Naaman, the leprous Syrian General, thought were better than all the rivers in the land of Israel. Although these two rivers were possibly cleaner, fresher, and more beautiful than river Jordan, they lacked what Naaman needed.

Leprosy was an infectious, wasting, and stigmatic skin disease in that era. It was a national catastrophe for a king or other high-ranking officials like Naaman to suffer from this disease. As expected, there was no medical cure; therefore, anyone with leprosy was condemned to suffering, seclusion, and eventual isolated death. In desperation, Naaman accepted the suggestion of an Israelite captive to visit Elisha, the prophet in Samaria.

When Naaman came to Samaria, Elisha instructed him to go to the river Jordan and dip himself seven times. Naaman, outraged by Elisha’s instruction, said 

“Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean?”.

But Naaman was a man of great humility. He listened to the counsel of his servants to obey the prophet’s instruction. And when he washed in Jordan, the leprosy was not only healed, but his flesh became as that of a baby. Naaman had a double miracle—he was healed and had heavenly plastic surgery for his skin!

Jordan, possibly muddy, dirty, and unappealing, was where Naaman received his healing, not in the beautiful Abana and Pharpar. History has sufficiently instructed us that there is a difference between the beauty of outward appearance and substance. Abana and Pharpar could symbolically be a beautiful home without peace, religion without a relationship with God, Christian formality without God’s presence and power, a “wonderful church service” with no tangible changes in people’s problems, “angelic” fiancée who turns out to be a living hell at home, etc. 

Furthermore, God often uses people that are not the people’s favorites. These servants of God may not always be the most charismatic or “people-person,” but they have the divine substance that meets the needs of people. We want the healing of the numerous leprosies plaquing people today, not the empty beauty of Abana and Pharpar; we want solutions, not appearances of “all is well,”, especially in these days of social media.

May the Lord help us never to miss our Jordans for the outward beauty of Abana and Pharpar.


Is there an Abana and Pharpar that is blurring the substance of your river Jordan?

Apply the Word

We need wisdom from God—not to be carried away by outward appearance. Although people might appear happy and well, they are not always happy and well. May the Lord help us all to pursue substance rather than impressions.

Ask the Lord to help us never to allow substance and not outward appearances to control our lives.

Read & Watch

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