2 Kings 4

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Elisha and the Widow's Oil

1 Now the wife of one of the 1sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, 2but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves."
2 And Elisha said to her, "What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?" And she said, "Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil."
3 Then he said, "Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.
4 Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside."
5 So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.
6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another vessel." And he said to her, "There is not another." Then the oil stopped flowing.
7 She came and told the 3man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest."

Elisha and the Shunammite Woman

8 One day Elisha went on to 4Shunem, where a 5wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food.
9 And she said to her husband, "Behold now, I know that this is a holy 6man of God who is continually passing our way.
10 Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there."
11 One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there.
12 And he said to 7Gehazi his servant, "Call this Shunammite." When he had called her, she stood before him.
13 And he said to him, "Say now to her, 'See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to 8the commander of the army?'" She answered, "I dwell among my own people."
14 And he said, "What then is to be done for her?" Gehazi answered, "Well, she has no son, and her husband is old."
15 He said, "Call her." And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway.
16 And he said, "At this season, 9about this time next year, you shall embrace a son." And she said, "No, my lord, 10O man of God; 11do not lie to your servant."
17 But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time 12the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.

Elisha Raises the Shunammite's Son

18 When the child had grown, he went out one day to his father among the reapers.
19 And he said to his father, "Oh, 13my head, my head!" The father said to his servant, "Carry him to his mother."
20 And when he had lifted him and brought him to his mother, the child sat on her lap till noon, and then he died.
21 And she went up 14and laid him on the bed of the 15man of God and shut the door behind him and went out.
22 Then she called to her husband and said, "Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may quickly go to 16the man of God and come back again."
23 And he said, "Why will you go to him today? It is neither 17new moon nor Sabbath." She said, "All is well."
24 Then she saddled the donkey, and she said to her servant, "Urge the animal on; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you."
25 So she set out and came to the man of God 18at Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, "Look, there is the Shunammite.
26 Run at once to meet her and say to her, 'Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?'" And she answered, "All is well."
27 And when she came 19to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, "Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me."
28 Then she said, "Did I ask my lord for a son? 20Did I not say, 'Do not deceive me?'"
29 He said to Gehazi, 21"Tie up your garment and 22take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, 23do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And 24lay my staff on the face of the child."
30 Then the mother of the child said, 25"As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So he arose and followed her.
31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. Therefore he returned to meet him and told him, "The child 26has not awakened."
32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed.
33 So he went in and 27shut the door behind the two of them 28and prayed to the LORD.
34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as 29he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm.
35 Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up 30and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
36 Then he summoned Gehazi and said, "Call this Shunammite." So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, "Pick up your son."
37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. 31Then she picked up her son and went out.

Elisha Purifies the Deadly Stew

38 And Elisha came again to 32Gilgal when 33there was a famine in the land. And as 34the sons of the prophets 35were sitting before him, he said to his servant, 36"Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets."
39 One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were.
40 And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it.
41 He said, "Then bring flour."37And he threw it into the pot and said, "Pour some out for the men, that they may eat." And there was no harm in the pot.
42 A man came from 38Baal-shalishah, 39bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, 40"Give to the men, that they may eat."
43 But his servant said, "How can I set this before a hundred men?" So he repeated, "Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and have some left.'"
44 So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.

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2 Kings 4 Commentary

Chapter 4

Elisha multiplies the widow's oil. (1-7) The Shunammite obtains a son. (8-17) The Shunammite's son restored to life. (18-37) The miracle of healing the pottage, and of feeding the sons of the prophets. (38-44)

Verses 1-7 Elisha's miracles were acts of real charity: Christ's were so; not only great wonders, but great favours to those for whom they were wrought. God magnifies his goodness with his power. Elisha readily received a poor widow's complaint. Those that leave their families under a load of debt, know not what trouble they cause. It is the duty of all who profess to follow the Lord, while they trust to God for daily bread, not to tempt him by carelessness or extravagance, nor to contract debts; for nothing tends more to bring reproach upon the gospel, or distresses their families more when they are gone. Elisha put the widow in a way to pay her debt, and to maintain herself and her family. This was done by miracle, but so as to show what is the best method to assist those who are in distress, which is, to help them to improve by their own industry what little they have. The oil, sent by miracle, continued flowing as long as she had empty vessels to receive it. We are never straitened in God, or in the riches of his grace; all our straitness is in ourselves. It is our faith that fails, not his promise. He gives more than we ask: were there more vessels, there is enough in God to fill them; enough for all, enough for each; and the Redeemer's all-sufficiency will only be stayed from the supplying the wants of sinners and saving their souls, when no more apply to him for salvation. The widow must pay her debt with the money she received for her oil. Though her creditors were too hard with her, yet they must be paid, even before she made any provision for her children. It is one of the main laws of the Christian religion, that we pay every just debt, and give every one his own, though we leave ever so little for ourselves; and this, not of constraint, but for conscience' sake. Those who bear an honest mind, cannot with pleasure eat their daily bread, unless it be their own bread. She and her children must live upon the rest; that is, upon the money received for the oil, with which they must put themselves into a way to get an honest livelihood. We cannot now expect miracles, yet we may expect mercies, if we wait on God, and seek to him. Let widows in particular depend upon him. He that has all hearts in his hand, can, without a miracle, send as effectual a supply.

Verses 8-17 Elisha was well thought of by the king of Israel for his late services; a good man can take as much pleasure in serving others, as in raising himself. But the Shunammite needed not any good offices of this kind. It is a happiness to dwell among our own people, that love and respect us, and to whom we are able to do good. It would be well with many, if they did but know when they are really well off. The Lord sees the secret wish which is suppressed in obedience to his will, and he will hear the prayers of his servants in behalf of their benefactors, by sending unasked-for and unexpected mercies; nor must the professions of men of God be supposed to be delusive like those of men of the world.

Verses 18-37 Here is the sudden death of the child. All the mother's tenderness cannot keep alive a child of promise, a child of prayer, one given in love. But how admirably does the prudent, pious mother, guard her lips under this sudden affliction! Not one peevish word escapes from her. Such confidence had she of God's goodness, that she was ready to believe that he would restore what he had now taken away. O woman, great is thy faith! He that wrought it, would not disappoint it. The sorrowful mother begged leave of her husband to go to the prophet at once. She had not thought it enough to have Elisha's help sometimes in her own family, but, though a woman of rank, attended on public worship. It well becomes the men of God, to inquire about the welfare of their friends and their families. The answer was, It is well. All well, and yet the child dead in the house! Yes! All is well that God does; all is well with them that are gone, if they are gone to heaven; and all well with us that stay behind, if, by the affliction, we are furthered in our way thither. When any creature-comfort is taken from us, it is well if we can say, through grace, that we did not set our hearts too much upon it; for if we did, we have reason to fear it was given in anger, and taken away in wrath. Elisha cried unto God in faith; and the beloved son was restored alive to his mother. Those who would convey spiritual life to dead souls, must feel deeply for their case, and labour fervently in prayer for them. Though the minister cannot give Divine life to his fellow-sinners, he must use every means, with as much earnestness as if he could do so.

Verses 38-44 There was a famine of bread, but not of hearing the word of God, for Elisha had the sons of the prophets sitting before him, to hear his wisdom. Elisha made hurtful food to become safe and wholesome. If a mess of pottage be all our dinner, remember that this great prophet had no better for himself and his guests. The table often becomes a snare, and that which should be for our welfare, proves a trap: this is a good reason why we should not feed ourselves without fear. When we are receiving the supports and comforts of life, we must keep up an expectation of death, and a fear of sin. We must acknowledge God's goodness in making our food wholesome and nourishing; I am the Lord that healeth thee. Elisha also made a little food go a great way. Having freely received, he freely gave. God has promised his church, that he will abundantly bless her provision, and satisfy her poor with bread, ( Psalms 132:15 ) ; whom he feeds, he fills; and what he blesses, comes to much. Christ's feeding his hearers was a miracle far beyond this, but both teach us that those who wait upon God in the way of duty, may hope to be supplied by Divine Providence.

Cross References 40

  • 1. See 2 Kings 2:3
  • 2. [Leviticus 25:39-41; 1 Samuel 22:2; Nehemiah 5:5; Matthew 18:25]
  • 3. See Deuteronomy 33:1
  • 4. Joshua 19:18
  • 5. [1 Samuel 25:2; 2 Samuel 19:32]
  • 6. [See ver. 7 above]
  • 7. 2 Kings 5:20, 21, 25; 2 Kings 8:4, 5
  • 8. 2 Samuel 19:13; [2 Kings 5:1]
  • 9. Genesis 18:14; [Genesis 17:21]
  • 10. [See ver. 7 above]
  • 11. ver. 28
  • 12. [See ver. 16 above]
  • 13. [Psalms 121:6]
  • 14. ver. 32
  • 15. [See ver. 7 above]
  • 16. [See ver. 7 above]
  • 17. [Numbers 28:11]
  • 18. 2 Kings 2:25
  • 19. ver. 25
  • 20. ver. 16
  • 21. See 1 Kings 18:46
  • 22. [Exodus 7:19; Exodus 14:16; Acts 19:12]
  • 23. Luke 10:4
  • 24. [Exodus 7:19; Exodus 14:16; Acts 19:12]
  • 25. See Ruth 3:13
  • 26. [John 11:11]
  • 27. ver. 4; Matthew 6:6; [Matthew 9:25; Mark 5:37, 40; Luke 8:51]
  • 28. 1 Kings 17:20
  • 29. 1 Kings 17:21; [Acts 20:10]
  • 30. [See ver. 34 above]
  • 31. 1 Kings 17:23; Hebrews 11:35; [2 Kings 8:1, 5]
  • 32. 2 Kings 2:1
  • 33. 2 Kings 8:1
  • 34. See 2 Kings 2:3
  • 35. Deuteronomy 33:3; Luke 10:39; Acts 22:3; [2 Kings 2:3, 5]
  • 36. Ezekiel 24:3
  • 37. [2 Kings 2:21; Exodus 15:25]
  • 38. [1 Samuel 9:4]
  • 39. [1 Samuel 9:7]
  • 40. See Matthew 14:16-21; Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 6:37-44; Mark 8:4-9; Luke 9:13-17; John 6:5-13

Chapter Summary


This chapter treats of the miracles of Elisha, of his multiplying a poor widow's pot of oil for the payment of her husband's debts, 2Ki 4:1-7 of obtaining a son for a Shunamitish woman, who had been very hospitable to him, 2Ki 4:8-17, of his raising up her son to life when dead, 2Ki 4:18-37, of his curing the deadly pottage made of wild gourds, 2Ki 4:38-41, and of his feeding one hundred men with twenty barley loaves, 2Ki 4:42-44.

2 Kings 4 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.