The Shunammite Woman
2 Kings 4:8-37
The introduction to the Shunammite woman’s story immediately shows her kindness and hospitality. She not only urged the prophet Elisha to eat food when he passed through town but she also told her husband that they should make a room for him to stay whenever he come through their town (2 Kings 4:8-10).
- It is an important to note that she did not ASK her husband if they could make a room for him but it was a statement (Rice 2018).
- These rooms are often called “prophet chambers” and are a room where preachers and missionaries are entertained and feel at home (McGee 1977).
- She also obviously believed in God since she acknowledged that Elisha was a man of God.
- It can also be interrupted that her husband believed in God as well as it is not documented in the text that he disagreed with her or objected.
One day when Elisha came to stay with the Shunammite woman and her husband in the chamber, he thought to ask her what he could do for her after all that she had done for him and his servant. She responded by saying, “ I have a house among my people (2 Kings 4:13).”
- Her response was humble due to her not asking for anything in return.
- When we do good works for others we should not do it to receive anything back in return.
- People we do good deeds for do not owe us; good deeds should be seen as a gift, not as a “loan” that has be paid back and that is how the Shunammite woman displayed her hospitality.
Elisha was not satisfied with the woman not being blessed due to all she had done for him and his servant. So, the servant noticed she did not have a son and her husband was old. Therefore, Elisha called her in and told her she would have a son next year, and she responded, “No, my lord, O man of God: do not lie to your servant (2 Kings 4:16).”
- Most people describe her as a “woman of faith” but I think its important to note that she also doubted, by telling Elisha not to lie to her as she questioned his promise as some people compare to Sarah (Shemesh 2002).
- Doubt is a natural human instinct and its usually our first response, but learn from the Shunammite woman that faith will get you farther than doubt.
They indeed were blessed with a son but his head was injured one day and he died soon after. After the child died, she immediately called her husband and told him to send a servant and a donkey. Unlike, when she told him they should build a room for Elisha, he questioned her about going to Elisha to save her son. Her response to her husbands questioning was, “All is well.” Therefore, she saddled the donkey and her and a servant and traveled to find Elisha herself (2 Kings 4:22-25)
- Usually when a son is born in the Bible, the name is mentioned. But some scholars believe there are no names in this story including the child to keep the main focus on Elisha and the power of God (Amit 2003).
- Her continuation of going to find Elisha after her husbands questioning, shows the faith that the Shunammite woman is so greatly known for (Rice 2018).
- The text does not state whether anyone else besides her and the servant went to find Elisha and it also doesn’t state the gender of the servant, therefore it was a brave act to travel to Mount Carmel, another example of her faith.
When Elisha saw the Shunammite woman he sent his servant to ask if she, her husband, and son were okay. And she responded, “All is well.” But when she reached Elisha she told him, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’” Elisha told the servant to take his staff and place it on the face of the child. But the Shunammite woman refused to leave without Elisha and he listened to her and followed (2 Kings 4:26-31).
- She showed persistence and perseverance by not leaving without Elisha (Shields 1993).
- She knew that Elisha was a man of God and the power of God was within Elisha and not the staff.
- The Shunammites womans way to reach/get to God was through Elisha and by going to Elisha she was taking her problem to God.
The servant placing the staff on the face of the child did not work. Therefore, when Elisha reached the house he went into the room and shut the door and prayed to the LORD. He laid on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands and the flesh of the child became warm. He did it once more and the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. He then tells the Shunammite woman to pick up her son (2 Kings 4:32-37).
- The point of Elisha having to pray to God for the son to return back to life was to prove that the power was in prayer and in God and not in an object such as the staff (Klein 2017).
- If the staff on the boys face would of brought the child back to life, God would not have received the glory but the staff would of.
- The son was a blessing from God and it was suddenly taken away from her, but by raising him the dead, God was given the glory. If he wouldn’t of came back to life, it would of left a negative thought towards God for the readers (Dawson 2018).
- The story of the Shunammite woman shows the importance of hospitality. Since she blessed a man of God, God blessed her in return with a son (Keathley 2004).
- When we bless people of God, God also blesses us. However, we should be like the Shunammite woman and not EXPECT a blessing for our good deeds, but bless others through kindness and hospitality with or without a blessing in return.
Amit, Yairah. “A Prophet Tested: Elisha, the Great Woman of Shunem, and the Story’s Double Message.” Biblical Interpretation, vol. 11, no. 3, 2003, pp. 279-294.
Dawson, Sonja, Rev. “Would You Dare to Hope again?” Los Angeles Sentinel May 2009: 2. ProQuest. 9 Apr. 2018 .
McGee, J. Vernon, et al. “1 2 Samuel Thru the Bible.” AbeBooks, Greenhaven Pr, 1 Jan. 1977, www.abebooks.com/book-search/kw/thru-the-bible-1-5-5-volume-set-j-vernon-mcgee/.
Keathley, J H. “The Shunammite Woman Receives a Son (2 Kings 4:8-17).” Bible.org,8 June 2004, bible.org/seriespage/9-shunammite-woman-receives-son-2-kings-48-17.
Klein, Reuven C., (Rudolph). “gehazi and the Miracle Staff of Elisha.” Jewish Bible Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 2, 2017, pp. 103.
Rice, Gene. “A Great Woman of Ancient Israel (2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6).” Journal of Religious Thought 60-63.1-2 (2008): 69-VI. ProQuest. 9 Apr. 2018 .
Shemesh, Yael. “In Praise of Elisha.” Va-Yera – Yael Shemesh, Bar-Ilan University’s International Center for Jewish Identity., 26 Oct. 2002,www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/vayera/she.html.
Shields, Mary E. “Subverting a Man of God, Elevating a Woman: Role and Power Reversals in 2 Kings 4.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 18.58 (1993): 59-69.