2 Kings 4


In this chapter we read about various miracles of mercy, we know they are miraculous because no one really knows how they were done.

We must also bear in mind that 2 Kings 4-8:6, isn’t in chronological order, but presented in a way to demonstrate the continued work of Elisha in showing the Israelites that God is way more powerful than the Canaanite gods, especially Baal.

‘The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’ Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, ‘except a small jar of olive oil.’ Elisha said, ‘Go around and ask all your neighbours for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.’ She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’ 2 Kings 4:1-7

The Widow’s Olive Oil

Since Elisha took over from Elijah, he was constantly proving to himself to those around him that he was a true prophet of God. He did this by performing various miracles and here we find God showing he was with Elisha when he performed a miracle of creation.

The wife of one of the prophets cries out to Elisha and tells him that her husband had died and now his creditor has come to make her two sons slaves. During this time in Israel’s history, God’s prophets weren’t really valued by the people and were not supported. This poor woman, when her husband died was left with nothing but debt to pay.

The creditor wanted to take her two sons as slaves, this was in accordance with God’s law, if any debt couldn’t be paid, then a person could give themselves to the creditor as a slave until the debt was settled. The person who gave themselves as a slave had to stay and work for the creditor until the debt was totally cleared or until the year of Jubilee, Leviticus 25:39-40 / Deuteronomy 15:12-18.

After enquiring what the woman had in her house, she replied nothing except a small jar of olive oil, that word ‘jar’ in Hebrew is the word ‘acuwk’, and it’s the only time the word is found within the Bible.

The jar would have been very small and although the N.I.V. tells us it was ‘olive oil’ within the jar, we simply don’t know, in all likelihood, it would have a been very expensive oil, or perfume, Mark 14:3-9, because, after the miracle, she had enough to sell for herself and enough to pay off her debt.

The first miracle and the last miracle recorded in this chapter are similar to the feeding of the four thousand, Matthew 15:32-39 / Mark 8:1-9, and the feeding of the five thousand, Matthew 14:13-21 / Mark 6:31-44 / Luke 9:12-17 / John 6:1-14, as done by Jesus. They are also similar in nature to what Elijah did when he fed the widow of Zarephath and her son, 1 Kings 17:10-16.

Matthew Henry in his commentary says the following.

‘God did not provide her with some small gratuity but gave her real help. He set her up in the world to sell oil and put a liberal stock into her possession, to begin with. The greatest kindness one can do for poor people is, if possible, to help them in a way of providing for themselves through their own industry and ingenuity. The great need of our own nation, currently, is to enable all able-bodied persons to support themselves, instead of merely doling out a monthly check’.

The Shunammite’s Son Restored To Life

‘One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, ‘I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.’ One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Call the Shunammite.’ So he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha said to him, ‘Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’ She replied, ‘I have a home among my own people.’ ‘What can be done for her?’ Elisha asked. Gehazi said, ‘She has no son, and her husband is old.’ Then Elisha said, ‘Call her.’ So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. ‘About this time next year,’ Elisha said, ‘you will hold a son in your arms.’ ‘No, my lord!’ she objected. ‘Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!’ But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.’ 2 Kings 4:8-17

What I love about this woman is her faith, she could have easily reaped some benefits from Elijah who was travelling around, but instead, she used it as an opportunity to glorify God and serve him.

She knows that Elijah is a holy man of God and she offers him hospitality, food and a room fitted out with everything he needs but she never asks for anything in return.

Elisha wants to know what he can do for her, speak to the king or the commander of the army and when he finds out she didn’t have any children because her husband was old and she was probably past the age of giving birth, Elisha tells her she will have a son but she thinks that she is being misled.

The miracle which happened here was seen in the fact that God gave her bodily strength to conceive and give birth to a son.

This type of miracle has happened many times throughout the Scriptures.

1. The birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, Genesis 18:1-15.

2. The birth of Samson to Manoah and his wife, Judges 13:2-25.

3. The birth of Samuel to Elkanah and his wife Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:1-28.

4. The birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias and Elizabeth, Luke l:39-57.

5. The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary, Luke 1:26-45.

‘The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. He said to his father, ‘My head! My head!’ His father told a servant, ‘Carry him to his mother.’ After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. She called her husband and said, ‘Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.’ ‘Why go to him today?’ he asked. ‘It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.’ ‘That’s all right,’ she said. She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, ‘Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.’ So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Look! There’s the Shunammite! Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’ ‘Everything is all right, she said. When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, ‘Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why.’ ‘Did I ask you for a son, my lord?’ she said. ‘Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?’ Elisha said to Gehazi, ‘Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.’ But the child’s mother said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So he got up and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, ‘The boy has not awakened.’ 2 Kings 4:18-31

We must take note that when the child grew, doesn’t mean he was an adult, but he was a small boy, we know because the servant easily carried him to Elisha’s private room, 2 Kings 4:23.

He was out in the fields and complained about his head. We don’t know exactly what the ailment was, it could possibly have been sunstroke but whatever his ailment was it resulted in him dying.

Both parents knew that their child was dead, but we’re not told what kind of help the Shunammite woman expected from Elisha. The dead child’s mother was absolutely unwilling to admit the child’s death to anyone until she had accomplished her appeal to Elisha.

When she reached Elisha at Mount Carmel, she took hold of his feet, and it appears that she was looking for some kind of words of comfort from the prophet. Instead of receiving some words of comfort, she received word that everything is going to be well.

Sadly, Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, did as Elisha told him to do, but the boy remained dead and so he goes back to inform Elisha.

‘When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, ‘Call the Shunammite.’ And he did. When she came, he said, ‘Take your son.’ She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.’ 2 Kings 4:32-37

When Elisha reaches the house and finds the boy dead, he enters the room, shuts the door and prays. He then lays upon the child, in a strange manner.

It’s difficult to know if he was trying to raise the boy back to life at this point or if he simply showing remorse over the death of the mother’s son. One thing for sure is that God has in mind to bring him back from the dead.

We can only imagine the joy in the boy’s mother’s heart as Elisha tells her to take her son. Notice that she ‘took her son and went out’, I’m sure this was a time of celebration, where she wanted to share the wonderful news about her son with her friends and neighbours.

I’m also sure that she would have given credit and glory to God as she tells them about what Elisha had done. This in turn would let everyone know that Elisha was a true prophet of God and that God was working through him.

There are only three resurrection stories recorded in the Old Testament.

1. This one.

2. The raising of the son of the widow of Zarephath by Elijah, 1 Kings 17:17-23.

3. The resurrection of the man who was being buried, and who, when the burial party was threatened by looters, was hastily cast into the tomb of Elisha and was restored to life by his contact with the bones of that prophet, 2 Kings 13:20-21.

In the New Testament, we have a few more resurrection stories recorded.

1. The raising of the daughter of Jairus, Matthew 9:18-26.

2. The raising of the son of the widow of Nain, Luke 7:12-18.

3. The raising of Lazarus, John 11:1-44.

4. The raising of Dorcas, Acts 9:36-41.

5. The raising of Eutychus, Acts 20:10-12.

6. The resurrection of the saints who came out of their graves after the resurrection of Christ, Matthew 27:53.

7. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:5–8.

Death In The Pot

‘Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, ‘Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.’ One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, ‘Man of God, there is death in the pot!’ And they could not eat it. Elisha said, ‘Get some flour.’ He put it into the pot and said, ‘Serve it to the people to eat.’ And there was nothing harmful in the pot.’ 2 Kings 4:38-41

When Elisha returns to Gilgal he finds there is a famine in the region, this is possibly the same famine which is mentioned in 2 Kings 8:1.

It appears that famine was so bad that the company of prophets were cooking anything that could be found in order to eat. They found some herbs and a wild vine, which wasn’t meant for human consumption.

After preparing the stew, they soon realise there is something not right with it and cry out, ‘there is death in the pot!’ It’s clear that this wild vine was extremely toxic and if they had fully consumed it, they would have died.

Notice that Elisha didn’t throw it away, he simply added some flour to the mix. The miracle here is seen in the fact that the contents of the pot could be eaten, but now they are edible. Because Elisha performed this miracle, this tells us that the other prophets didn’t have the same miraculous abilities as him.

This miracle would have let the other prophets know that Elisha was God’s ‘special’ prophet, in terms of him taking the lead role after Elijah. This miracle would also let other people know that Elisha was God’s true prophet and God was working through him.

Feeding Of A Hundred

‘A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. ‘Give it to the people to eat,’ Elisha said. ‘How can I set this before a hundred men?’ his servant asked. But Elisha answered, ‘Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’ Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.’ 2 Kings 4:42-44

The miracle recorded here was shown in the fact that one hundred men could be fed with such a small amount of food. This miracle and the first miracle recorded in this chapter, 2 Kings 4:1-7, are similar to the feeding of the four thousand, Matthew 15:32-39 / Mark 8:1-9, and the feeding of the five thousand, Matthew 14:13-21 / Mark 6:31-44 / Luke 9:12-17 / John 6:1-14, as done by Jesus.

They are also similar in nature to what Elijah did when he fed the widow of Zarephath and her son, 1 Kings 17:10-16.

This again would prove to all the people that Elisha was God’s true prophet and that God was working through him.

Go To 2 Kings 5


"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."