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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 4

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

Now there cried a certain woman. — Here we have miraculorum congeriem. In this fourth chapter four signal miracles are set forth done by Elisha, worthily called Thaumaturgus, or, the wonder worker.

Unto Elisha. — Who had so lately relieved the three kings in their necessity, and therefore she believed that he both could and would help her, a distressed prophet’s widow.

Thy servant my husband is dead. — And died in debt; which he needed not to have done, if he would have complied with Jezebel, and fed on her trough, as others did; but he chose rather to keep faith and a good conscience, as Luther did, who refused a cardinalship when it was offered him; and when he lay a-dying, made his will for his wife and children on this manner, Domine Deus, gratias ago tibi quid volueris me esse pauperem super terrain et mendicum, … Lord God, I thank thee for my present poverty, and now, I pray thee, take care of my poor wife and children, to whom I cannot bequeath house, lands, possessions, moneys. But I humbly beseech thee to feed them, breed them, teach them, keep them, as thou hitherto hast done me, O Father of the fatherless, and Judge of the widows.

Thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord. — The Rabbis and some others have thought that this was good Obadiah’s widow, and that he, by feeding the Lord’s prophets in those perilous times, had spent his estate, and died indebted to the king, to whose father he had been steward. But this is not very likely.

Verse 2

And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.

What shall I do for thee? — Pay thy debts for thee I cannot; but if any way else I may bestead thee, I shall do it.

What hast thou in the house? — viz., Toward the payment of thy debts, which thou oughtest to endeavour to thine utmost.

Thy handmaid hath not anything. — Of any value. Hereby it appeareth that she was left very poor, yet speaketh she very respectfully of her late husband all along.

Verse 3

Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, [even] empty vessels; borrow not a few.

Even empty vessels. — They must be empty hearts, saith Bernard; empty of self, and all ungodly lusts, which God will fill with the oil of grace: Intus existens prohibet alienum, else that precious liquor would be spilt upon the ground.

Borrow not a few.Ne paucifices. Let not men be constrained in their own heart; there is enough in God.

Verse 4

And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

Thou shalt shut the door upon thee. — It was time to shut the door, saith a reverend man, when many greater vessels must be supplied from one little one. But why must the door be shut? (1.) That she might be the more free to pray; Matthew 6:6 (2.) That she might manifest her own faith, and not be hindered by the unbelief of others; see Mark 6:5-6 (3.) That it might not be thought that the oil was by anybody secretly conveyed into the house to them.

Verse 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.

And shut the door, … — This her prompt and present obedience was a noble fruit of her heroical faith. She doth not reason, as Naaman did, but run; she doth not dispute, but despatch the prophet’s commands. God loveth Curristas non Quaeristas, saith Luther.

And she poured out. — And the more she poured out, the more she might; the angels making new supplies of oil continually, saith A Lapide.

Verse 6

And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, [There is] not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.

There is not a vessel more. — The cruse never ceased running, till there was no room; so elsewhere God never ceased abating, till Abraham stopped begging.

Verse 7

Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

And live thou and thy children of the rest. — This was more than she desired of the prophet. God is oft better to his people than their prayers, than their hopes. Men must likewise see to it, that their ministers’ widows and children have a comfortable subsistence.

Verse 8

And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where [was] a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And [so] it was, [that] as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.

That Elisha passed to Shunem. — Abishag’s country. 1 Kings 1:3 See Joshua 19:18 . And the Rabbins say that this good Shunammite was Abishag’s sister’s daughter.

Where was a great woman. — Great in wealth, and great also in virtue, as the Chaldee understandeth it. Cavens sibi a peccato. - Chald. Paraph.

Verse 9

And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this [is] an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.

Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man. — Holiness will as little be hid as light, fire, musk, … A holy man is like a crystai glass with a clear lamp in the midst of it.

Which passeth by us continually. — Shunem was not far from mount Carmel; and this prophet went still about doing good.

Verse 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 candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.

Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall. — Where he may be privately, and without disturbance. She knew the tumult of a large family, unfit for the quiet meditations of a prophet; retiredness is most meet for the thoughts of a seer.

Verse 11

And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.

And he turned into the chamber, and lay there. — To the great benefit, no doubt, of the whole family, who received many divine instructions from him, and were much helped on by his prayers and holy practices.

Verse 12

And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.

Call this Shunammite. — Gehazi it seemeth was sent to call her, but withal to acquaint her with the business, - viz., that if she had any suit to the king or his general, …, - and to bring back her answer; whereupon consulting with Gehazi what was to be done for her, and understanding by him that she had no child, Elisha bade Gehazi call her, as 2 Kings 4:15 .

Verse 13

And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what [is] to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.

Behold thou hast been careful for us. — A gracious man is a grateful man, and studieth retribution.

I dwell among mine own people. — Privately and peaceably, having no business at court; not affecting great friendships, nor groaning under great oppressions. All this was well, if it might have held. The old Greeks gave this grave counsel, saith Suidas,

“ αλευ απο μειζονος ανδρος .” - Suidas.

i.e., Keep aloof from great ones. And the Latin poets say well,

Dulcis inexpertis cultura potentis amici,

Expertus metuet … - Horat.

Vive tibi, quantumque potes, praelustria vita. ” - Ovid.

But what hold is there of these earthly things? saith another; how long is the Shunammite thus blessed with peace? Stay but a while, you shall see her come on her knees to the king of Israel, pitifully complaining that she was stripped of house and land: and how Gehazi is fain to do that good office for her, which was not accepted from his master. Bp. Hall. Those that stand fastest upon earth, have but slippery footing. No man can say that he shall not need friends.

Verse 14

And he said, What then [is] to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.

What then is to be done for her? — So great a prophet disdaineth not to consult and advise with his servant; and all his care is how to express his thankfulness to his hostess.

Verse 15

And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.

Call her. — See on 2 Kings 4:12 .

She stood in the door. — By a commendable modesty. So Genesis 18:10 .

Verse 16

And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, [thou] man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.

About this season,i.e., About this time twelve months from now.

Thou shalt embrace a son. — God dealeth with his servants, as the prophet here did with this Shunammite, when he bade her ask what she needed, and tell him what he should do for her, and she found not anything to request at his hands; he sends for her, and makes her a free promise of that which she most wanted and desired - a son. So, oft God is pleased to give his servants what they forget or presume not to ask.

Verse 17

And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.

And the woman conceived. — The like whereunto fell out in the last age: for Dr Sandys departing the land for fear of Queen Mary, and taking leave of his hostess, who was childless, and had been married eight years, he gave her a fine handkerchief and an old royal of gold in it, thanking her much, and said, Be of good comfort; ere that one whole year be past, God shall give you a child, a boy. And it came to pass that day twelve months lacking one day, God gave her a fair son. Act. and Mon., 1894.

Verse 18

And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.

Went out to his father to the reapers. — This Shunammite, though rich, yet had himself the oversight of his harvest labourers: so had Boaz. Ruth 2:4 ; Ruth 3:2-7 This was good husbandry.

Verse 19

And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.

And he said to his father, My head, my head. — The sunbeams in that hot season of harvest had beaten hard upon his head, and made him sick. The Latins call a sick man Aegrum, from the pitiful moan he maketh, crying, Ai, Ai . ai, ai, vox dolentis. But what an undivine inference was that of the Bishop of Hereford in his sermon at Oxford upon this text, in the reign of Edward II - pursued at that time by his queen and son - that an aching and sick head of a kingdom was of necessity to be taken off, and no otherwise cured! Dan., Hist., 216.

Till noon, and then died. — The child was well, sick, and dead, and all in the space of four or five hours. A sore trial; and a fair warning to all parents not to love their little ones too much, lest God soon take away the earthly idol.

Verse 21

And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut [the door] upon him, and went out.

And laid him on the bed of the man of God. — She had heard, belike, how Elijah had restored to life a widow’s dead child. 1 Kings 17:21 This therefore that she here did was an act of her faith, whereby also she "received her dead raised to life again." Hebrews 11:35 Faith is the best lever at a dead lift.

Verse 22

And she called unto her husband, and 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.

Send me, I pray thee. — As a pious and a prudent matron, though she might do much with her husband, whose heart safely trusted in her, yet she would do nothing of moment without his consent.

Verse 23

And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? [it is] neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, [It shall be] well.

Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? — Her husband knew nothing then of the child’s death.

It is neither new moon, nor sabbath. — On which days good people in those evil times were wont to repair to God’s holy prophets to hear the word and receive instruction.

And she said, It shall be well. — Heb., Peace. Tostatus rendereth it Vale, farewell. The Vulgate, not well, Vadam, I will go; this had been too peremptory and unseemly.

Verse 24

Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not [thy] riding for me, except I bid thee.

Drive, and go forward. — Put on as fast as thou canst. Dolor addidit alas; grief rideth without reins, where there is but any hope of help.

Verse 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:

Behold, yonder is that Shunammite. — That good Shunammite, which "showeth out of a good conversation her works with meekness of wisdom." Sir Thomas Moore was out when he said, Men commit faults often, women only twice, that they neither speak well nor do well.

Verse 26

Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, [Is it] well with thee? [is it] well with thy husband? [is it] well with the child? And she answered, [It is] well.

And she answered, It is well. — It is, or would be. Well it is howsoever for the present, and it will be better hereafter.

Verse 27

And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul [is] vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid [it] from me, and hath not told me.

She caught him by the feet. — Which she held fast, to show the instance of her request, and the strength of her confidence, together with her firm resolution, not to leave him till she had that she came for, as 2 Kings 4:30 .

Verse 28

Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?

Did I desire a son of my lord? — Was I too desirous, or unduly importunate? for if so, the loss of the child had been just upon me. Strong affections will be strong afflictions.

Did I not say, Do not deceive me? — Nay, did not you say, Do not lie to me? And was that a fit word to a man of God? was there not something of unbelief in it?

Verse 29

Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.

If thou meet any man, salute him not. — Stand not tattling, much less cracking, that thou shalt with that staff of mine raise a dead child. Some Rabbis think Gehazi did so; Ridebat Gehazi dicendo obviis, Credisne baculum istum vitam restituere? - R. Eliezer, cap. 33. and thence that means proved ineffectual. But it seemeth rather to be the mother’s unbelief that made it so.

Verse 30

And the mother of the child said, [As] the LORD liveth, and [as] thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.

And he arose, and followed her. — As our Saviour also, upon a like occasion, arose and followed Jairus, Matthew 9:18-19 not taking offence at his weak faith, nor turning him off, as presuming to prescribe.

Verse 31

And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but [there was] neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.

But there was neither voice nor hearing. — God withholding his power and help till the prophet himself came and renewed the dead. Hereby was allegorically signified, saith one, that the law was used before the coming of Christ to revive the dead in sin. But this being done in vain, Christ afterwards came with his Spirit, and gave life unto them that believe.

Verse 32

And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, [and] laid upon his bed.

And laid upon his bed. — See on ver. 21.

Verse 33

He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.

And prayed unto the Lord. — This staff of his - whatever became of the other - was long enough, he knew, to reach up to heaven, to knock at those gates, yea, to wrench them open.

Verse 34

And 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: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.

And put his mouth upon his mouth. — The Septuagint adds, And breathed upon him. See on 1 Kings 17:21 . Christ risen again thus applied to the dead soul, quickeneth it.

Verse 35

Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

Then he returned, and walked, … — He found the mercy coming, and he sets to work with more vehemency and intention of desire, such as made him thus various in his actions, postures, and gestures. This is usual with those that are very earnest in their prayers. Hannah writhed her lips; Solomon spread his arms; the publican beat his breast; Christ cast himself grovelling on the ground; Elijah put his face betwixt his knees, …

And the child sneezed seven times. — Thereby venting and expelling those humours that oppressed his brains, and stopping the passages of the vital spirits, had suffocated him. His grief lay in his head, 2 Kings 4:19 overheated by the sun. Aestus et aestas et Graecorum εοχαρα fit ab Hebraea Esch, Ignis. - Becman.

And the child opened his eyes. — Thus the work is done by degrees and with difficulty, mystically showing how hard it is to raise one dead in sins and trespasses, and to bring the work to any good effect. To comfort a wounded conscience is as great work, saith Luther, as to raise one from the dead.

Verse 36

And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.

Take up thy son. — Now two sons in one, and never so dear to thee, I daresay, as now. God knows how to commend his favours to us, and to make them double welcome.

Verse 37

Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.

And took up her son, and went out. — Singing as she went, "This my son was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." Luke 15:24

Verse 38

And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and [there was] a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets [were] sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.

See the pottage. — The propbets were poor, and glad of pottage. Nescio quomodo bonae mentis sorer est paupertas. Petron. The saints are kept at hard commons, but have their keeping of free cost. The wicked have larger provisions, but pay sweetly.

Verse 39

And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred [them] into the pot of pottage: for they knew [them] not.

Of wild gourds his lapful — This is taken to be coloquintida, which is very bitter, saith Valesius, De Sac. Plalos., cap. 36. so that physicians call it Fel terrae, the gall of the earth.

Verse 40

So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O [thou] man of God, [there is] death in the pot. And they could not eat [thereof].

Death in the pot. — For this drug is not only bitter, but poisonous and pernicious, causing cruel torments.

Verse 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 harm in the pot.

Then bring meal. — Which yet could not have made the pottage wholesome and savoury, but by a miracle.

Verse 42

And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.

And brought the man of God. — The prophets, in the fail of priests, who were now not to be found in Israel, taught the people, and took up their dues from such pious persons as brought them in out of conscience.

Twenty loaves of barley. — Little ones, likely.

Verse 43

And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave [thereof].

And his servitor. — Gehazi, who was no stranger to his master’s miracles, but continued a Pettifidian , or small faith.

Verse 44

So he set [it] before them, and they did eat, and left [thereof], according to the word of the LORD.

And they did eat, and left. — It grew in their hands, as Matthew 14:20 John 6:12-13 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 4". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/2-kings-4.html. 1865-1868.
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