2 Kings 5
15Then [Naaman] returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”
It is a remarkable claim, since Naaman lives in a world with many gods. Perhaps he only means that no other god can compare. That’s what you would expect at the time. The contrast between this God who heals and frees with all the gods of the ancient world is so wide that is as though all the other gods are nothing. Of course, Israel will come to assert that in fact the gods of the other nations are not gods at all. They are stone and wood, gold and silver. They cannot speak. They cannot hear. They cannot heal or hold accountable. There are spirit beings in the world, sure, but no gods.
The God of Israel has always been bigger than the land. Most gods, like kings, had a jurisdiction, a realm where they ruled. The god of rain, perhaps, but usually the god of a place: the god of Moab, the God or Edom, the god of Aram. Even God’s with the same name are worshipped under the name of a place, the Baal of Peor, for example, or “Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron”. But Israel is the name of a people not a place, the sons of Jacob (renamed Israel) not the coastal plains, central highlands, and rift valley of the Levant. The God of this people, Israel, speaks in Haran, beyond the Euphrates, when he calls Abram to leave his father’s home. God is with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in their journeys. God is with Joseph in Egypt and Moses in Midian and leads the Israelites through the sea into freedom. God meets them on the mountain to teach them God’s way and guides them through the wilderness. God is not a god of a place. His sanctuary is a tent that travels.
But Naaman thinks of the God of Israel as the god of the land of Israel. So when he goes back to his former existence, he asks for “as much earth as a pair of mules can carry” that he might pray to the LORD on God’s home turf.
What Naaman does not yet comprehend – and what we, too often, fail to remember – is that the whole earth is God’s holy land.