The Widow’s Oil (4:1-7)
27-30 When Elisha understood that her son had died, he gave his staff to Gehazi and told him to go quickly to the boy and lay the staff on his face (verse 29). The staff didn’t have magic power; it represented God’s power. The staff didn’t bring the boy back to life, but it may have prevented further decomposition of the boy’s body.
The boy’s mother didn’t have faith in Gehazi’s mission. She told Elisha that he needed to go too, and that she wouldn’t leave without him (verse 30).
31-37 So Elisha went with the woman to see her son. And just as Elijah had raised up a widow’s son years before (1 Kings 17:1722), so Elisha by God’s power raised the Shunammite’s son to life19 (verse 35).
Death in the Pot (4:38-41)
38-41 In this section the writer describes how Elisha, by adding flour, rendered a stew fit to eat. Some unidentified gourds had been added to a stew Gehazi was preparing for the company of prophets at Gilgal, and when the prophets tasted the bitterness of the gourds they thought the stew had been poisoned. When Elisha added flour, the bad taste disappeared and everyone ate the stew without harm.
We are not told if the gourds were truly poisonous; neither are we told exactly how the flour corrected the stew. Like the salt Elisha had put into the spring at Jericho (2 Kings 2:19-22), the flour symbolized the healing and purifying power of God. God, not the flour, made the stew safe to eat.
Feeding of a Hundred (4:42-44)
42-44 Here the writer recounts how Elisha fed a hundred men with twenty loaves of bread. The loaves in biblical times were much smaller than the loaves of bread we are accustomed to today; twenty of these small loaves would never have been enough to feed one hundred men. Even Gehazi was embarrassed to set such a meager portion before the men (verse 43). The bread was multiplied through the power of God’s word spoken by Elisha. Centuries later, God’s incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, also multiplied loaves—just five of them—and with them He fed five thousand men, in addition to women and children (see Mark 6:35-44). The God who created heaven and earth out of nothing can easily feed many people with just a few loaves!
Four miracles have been described in this chapter; each one demonstrates not only God’s power but also His love. In the first miracle (verses 1-7), God delivered a woman and her family from servitude. In the second miracle (verses 8-37), God first gave life and then restored life to a child—both times giving great joy to the child’s mother. In the third miracle (verses 3841), God kept men from being poisoned; and in the fourth (verses 42-44), He kept men from being hungry. Through Elisha’s ministry, God revealed His love for His people—just as through Jesus’ ministry God reveals His love for people today.20