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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 4

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-7

The Widow's Oil Multiplied.

v. I. Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets, the prophet disciples as found in several communities in Canaan, unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant, my husband, is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord; he had been a God-fearing prophet in truth, and not in name only; and the creditor is come to take unto him my two Sons to be bond-men, for this the law permitted to the next year of jubilee, Leviticus 25:39.

v. 2. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? He asked her first to suggest some way of helping her. Tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not anything in the house save a pot of oil, literally, "anointing oil," such as was used after the bath.

v. 3. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. She was not to be bashful about asking her neighbors.

v. 4. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, to keep out every interruption, noise, and distraction, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

v. 5. So she went from him, and, having borrowed vessels as she had been told, shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out, in a steady stream.

v. 6. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, namely, those she had on hand, 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, it ceased flowing when the available vessels were all filled.

v. 7. Then she came and told the man of God, leaving it to his wisdom to decide how she should dispose of the oil. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, satisfy the creditor and thus get rid of him, and live thou and thy children of the rest, namely, of the money which remained after paying her creditor. God is ever the Father of the widows and the orphans and has, in many a case, provided all that certain ones needed to support their body and life, even in an evidently miraculous manner.

Verses 8-17

Elisha and the Shunammite

v. 8. And it fell on a day, just about that time, that Elisha passed to Shunem, a city in the northern part of the Plain of Jezreel, on the slope of the Little Hermon, where was a great woman, one of considerable local prominence; and she constrained him to eat bread, to partake of her hospitality. And so it was that as oft as he passed by, probably on his way to and from Mount Carmel, he turned in thither to eat bread.

v. 9. And she, after this had happened a number of times, said unto her husband, Behold, now, I perceive that this Is an holy man of God, not a fraud, a wandering false prophet, such as may have infested the roads, just as they do today, which passeth by us continually.

v. 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. What she suggested was a walled upper chamber, one built upon the fiat roof of the house, which could be reached by an outside stairway, with walls which would be a protection against every kind of weather.

v. 11. And it fell on a day, it happened at another time, that he came in thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there, resting from his long journey.

v. 12. And he said to Gehazi, his servant, of whom nothing else is known, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him, that is, Gehazi, who thereupon communicated to her the rest of Elisha's words.

v. 13. And he said unto him, before he went down, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care, she had shown them all possible careful consideration, the most painstaking hospitality; what is to be done for thee? What would she ask in return? Wouldest thou be spoken for to the king or to the captain of the host? Elisha had great influence with the most important men in the country and might easily have gotten favors for the woman. And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. She was well content with her position among the lowly and did not long for life at court.

v. 14. And he said, What, then, is to be done for her? In what way could he show his appreciation of the kindness shown? And Gehazi answered, making a conjecture which was based upon the general opinion in the nation, Ver ily, she hath no child, a fact which was considered a disgrace, if not a curse of God, in Israel, and her husband is old. Where seemed to be little hope for the Shunammite to enjoy the blessing of a child.

v. 15. And he said, desiring to communicate with her directly, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door, her modesty and respect not permitting her to advance into the room.

v. 16. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, in the natural course of events, thou shalt embrace a son. And she, almost overwhelmed by the prospect which exceeded her fondest hopes, said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. She feared the disappointment following unfulfilled hopes.

v. 17. And the woman conceived and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. In this way did the Lord reward the woman for her kindness to His servant. It is He who also today gives children, the fruit of the womb, to believing parents, as His reward, and they will appreciate them accordingly.

Verses 18-37

The Shunammite's Son Restored to Life

v. 18. And when the child was grown, having become a boy of some size, it fell on a day that he went out to his father to the reapers, at the time of harvest, the hottest time of the year.

v. 19. And he said unto his father, My head, my head! He was evidently suffering from a sunstroke. And he, probably believing it to be a passing attack, said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.

v. 20. And when he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees, where she held him in apprehensive fear, till noon, and then died.

v. 21. And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, intending to keep his death secret for awhile, at least until she had started on her trip, and shut the door upon him, and went out. She had her plan made and did not intend to let any one or anything interfere with her preparations.

v. 22. And she called unto her husband and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, for since it was harvest, she would be satisfied with only one servant to accompany her, instead of the customary two, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God and come again.

v. 23. And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath, the times when religious assemblies were held and the people came to the prophets for instruction. And she said, It shall be well, literally, "Peace," that is, Never mind, don't worry!

v. 24. Then she saddled an ass and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, literally, "Do not hinder the riding," he should have the beast keep up a regular, swift pace, except I bid thee.

v. 25. So she went and came unto the man of God to Mount Carmel, some twenty miles to the west. 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.

v. 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? These were the usual questions seeking information concerning the welfare of such as one had not seen for a while. And she answered, when Gehazi put these questions to her, It is well, again equal to: Never mind; don't worry! an expression by which she wanted to pacify the questioner without giving definite information.

v. 27. And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet, falling down before him and taking hold of his knees in the overwhelming power of her grief. But Gehazi came near to thrust her away, considering it improper for the prophet to be urged in that manner. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her, full of bitter questionings, and the Lord hath hid it from me and hath not told me.

v. 28. Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? Did I not say, Do not deceive me? She did not state the cause of her bitterness outright, but Elisha could easily draw his conclusions. She had not asked for a son, but now that she had lost the child of her old age, she felt more deeply stricken than before.

v. 29. Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, for a rapid trip, 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; he was to let no delay interfere with his journey, for he was the representative of the prophet, and his mission required haste and concentration. And lay my staff upon the face of the child. The laying of the prophet's staff on the boy's face was not intended to act as a magic, but had the purpose of taking from the minds of men all superstitious ideas.

v. 30. And the mother of the child, fearing that the prophet would not personally go to Shunem, said, As the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. She insisted that he come in person. And he arose and followed her.

v. 31. And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice nor hearing, no reaction, no response; the Lord did not intend the miracle to be performed in this way. Wherefore he went again to meet him and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.

v. 32. And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, not merely unconscious as Elisha may have hoped, and laid upon his bed.

v. 33. He went in therefore and shut the door upon them twain, himself and the dead boy, and prayed unto the Lord.

v. 34. And he went up, namely, on the bed, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands, to impart warmth to the corpse; and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm, recovering from the chill of death.

v. 35. Then he returned and walked in the house to and fro, as one under the stress of a great emotion, awaiting the fulfillment of his prayer; and went up and stretched himself upon him. And the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

v. 30. 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.

v. 37. Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, overcome by emotions of wonder and gratitude, and took up her son, and went out. Such miracles as that here recorded, but much more those related of Jesus of Nazareth, are the guarantee of the general resurrection at the end of the days.

Verses 38-44

Among Tthe Sons of the Prophets

v. 38. And Elisha came again, at some other time, to Gilgal, in the hill country of Central Canaan. And there was a dearth in the land, a severe famine; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, receiving instruction from him as their teacher. And he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets, who evidently took their meals in common.

v. 39. And one, one of the pupils, went out into the field to gather herbs, any greens which might still be available, and found a wild vine, a plant on the order of a grape-vine, either a wild cucumber or the poisonous colocynth, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage; for they knew them not, they were not familiar with the plant and its dangerous properties.

v. 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! From the bitterness and the immediate evil effect they concluded that the food was poisonous and fatal. And they could not eat thereof.

v. 41. But he said, Then bring meal, this being merely an outward symbol or token of the miracle which was performed. 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, there was no longer any evil effect from eating the food it contained.

v. 42. And there came a man from Baal-shallsha, a district somewhat to the west of Gilgal, and brought the man of God bread of the first-fruits, for these, by Law, belonged to the servants of Jehovah, twenty loaves of barley and full ears of corn in the husk thereof, roasted ears of grain, which he carried in a sack. And he, Elisha, said, Give unto the people that they may eat.

v. 43. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? The quantity was not large enough to feed such a great number of people. He said again, Give the people that they may eat; for thus saith the Lord, He had revealed this fact to Elisha, They shall eat and shall leave thereof.

v. 44. So he set it before them, and they did eat, the quantity being increased in a miraculous manner in the course of the meal, and left thereof, according to the word of the Lord, as in the case of the greater miracles of Christ, Matthew 14:16; Matthew 15:36; John 6:11-12. The Lord, according to His bountiful goodness, takes care of His children, for He is fully able to satisfy all their wants

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/2-kings-4.html. 1921-23.
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