51. The Shunammite Woman, Quite A Character


by Katie Beckham

In 2 Kings chapter 4 and chapter 8 we read about a woman from the village of Shunem. We are never told her name, but her hospitality and faith make her worth remembering.

‘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.’ 2 Kings 4:8-10

Some translations identify this woman as wealthy or prominent.

Do you think her wealth or prominence made it easy for her to show hospitality to Elisha?

Does your perception of your wealth or status ever become a factor in being hospitable?

How can motivation affect your attitude about hospitality?

Hospitality seems to come so naturally for some, but for others opening their home is difficult.

Is it easy for you? Why or why not?

Is being hospitable even important?

What does the Bible say about it?

Read the following verses and discuss

1 Timothy 5:3-10 / Titus 1:6-9 / 1 Peter 4:8-10 / Romans 12:13-20 / Matthew 25:31-46

‘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 4:11-17

The Shunammite woman’s act of hospitality was rewarded with a son. What an incredible gift!

Think about a time when you have shown hospitality.

What blessings did you receive?

‘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.’ 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 4:18-36

In the face of tragedy, the Shunammite woman told her husband and Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, that ‘everything is all right’ 2 Kings 4:23 / 2 Kings 4:26.

Why do you think she was able to respond that way?

How did her faith shape her response (words and actions) to the death of her son?

‘Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, ‘Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the LORD has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.’ The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years.’ 2 Kings 8:1-2

Again, we see the Shunammite woman needing to rely on her faith.

Do you think her past experiences with Elisha, the man of God, made it easier to have faith and do what he told her to do?

‘At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to appeal to the king for her house and land. The king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, and had said, ‘Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done.’ Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land. Gehazi said, ‘This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’ The king asked the woman about it, and she told him. Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, ‘Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.’ 2 Kings 8:3-6

Gehazi’s conversation with the king lead to the Shunammite woman’s land being returned to her.

Why is it important to remember and talk about the great things God has done and is doing in our lives?

What can happen when we talk about how God is at work in our lives?


"But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me"