2 Kings 4

1 Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried unto Elisha, saying, Thy slave, my husband, is dead; and thou knowest that thy slave feared the LORD; and the creditor is come to take my two sons to be his slaves.
2 And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? Tell me what thou hast in the house? And she said, Thy handmaid has nothing in the house except a flask of oil.
3 And he said, Go, borrow vessels from all thy neighbours, empty vessels; borrow not a few.
4 Then enter in and shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons and pour out into all those vessels, and as each one is full, set it aside.
5 So she went from him and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her, and she poured out the oil.
6 And when the vessels were full, she said unto her son, Bring me yet another vessel. And he said unto her, There are no more vessels. Then the oil stopped flowing.
7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell this oil and pay thy debtors and live thou and thy sons of the rest.
8 And it also happened that one day Elisha passed through Shunem, where there was an important woman, and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat bread.
9 And she said to her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us continually.
10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall, and let us set for him there a bed and a table and a stool and a lampstand so that when he comes to us, he shall turn in there.
11 And it came to pass one day that he came there, and he turned into the chamber and slept there.
12 Then he said to Gehazi, his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
13 And he said unto Gehazi, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been diligent for us with all this care; what shall I do for thee? Dost thou have need that I speak for thee unto the king or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among my own people.
14 And he said, What then shall we do for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she has no child, and her husband is old.
15 Then he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
16 And he said, At the appointed time, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, No, my lord, thou man of God, do not deceive thy handmaid.
17 But the woman conceived and gave birth to a son at the appointed time that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.
18 And when the child was grown, it came to pass one day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.
19 And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a servant, Carry him to his mother.
20 And when he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees until noon and then died.
21 Then she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God and shut the door upon him and went out.
22 And calling her husband, she said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men and one of the asses that I may run to the man of God and come again.
23 And he said, Why must thou go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath. And she said, Peace.
24 Then she caused the ass to be saddled and said to her servant, Lead and go forward; slack not the pace for me except I bid thee.
25 So she went and came unto the man of God to Mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi, his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite.
26 Run now, I pray thee, to meet her and say unto her, Dost thou have peace? And thy husband? And the child? And she answered, Peace.
27 And when she came to the man of God in the mountain, she caught him by the feet. And Gehazi came near to thrust her away; but the man of God said, Let her alone, for her soul is bitter within her; and the LORD has hid it from me and has not revealed it to me.
28 Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? Did I not say, Do not deceive me?
29 Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins and take my staff in thy hand and go; if thou meet anyone, salute him not; and if anyone salutes thee, answer him not again, and lay my staff upon the face of the child.
30 Then the mother of the child said, As the LORD lives and as thy soul lives, I will not leave thee. And he arose and followed her.
31 And Gehazi had gone on before them and had laid the staff upon the face of the child, but there was neither voice, nor attention. Therefore he went again to meet him and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.
32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was laid dead upon his bed.
33 He went in therefore and shut the door upon both of them and prayed unto the LORD.
34 Then he went up and lay upon the child and put his mouth upon his mouth and his eyes upon his eyes and his hands upon his hands; thus he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.
35 Then he returned and walked through the house to and fro and went up and stretched himself upon him again; and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
36 And he called Gehazi and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And as she was coming in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.
37 Then she entered in and fell at his feet and bowed herself to the ground and took up her son and went out.
38 And Elisha returned to Gilgal. Then there was a famine in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, so he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot and make pottage for the sons of the prophets.
39 And one went out into the field to gather herbs and found a wild vine and gathered his lap full of wild grapes and came and shred them into the pot of pottage, for they knew them not.
40 So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of that pottage, that they cried out and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat it.
41 But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot, and he said, Pour out for the people that they may eat. And there was no evil thing in the pot.
42 Then a man came from Baalshalisha, who brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of wheat in the head. And he said, Give unto the people that they may eat.
43 And his minister said, How can I set this before one hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat, for thus hath the LORD said, They shall eat, and some shall be left over.
44 So he set it before them, and they ate, and some was left over, 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.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO 2 KINGS 4

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 Jubilee Bible

(from the Scriptures of the Reformation)

edited by Russell M. Stendal

Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2010