Elisha Augments the Widow's Oil.
1. there cried a certain woman of the wives of the
sons of the prophets—They were allowed to marry as well as
the priests and Levites. Her husband, not enjoying the lucrative
profits of business, had nothing but a professional income, which, in
that irreligious age, would be precarious and very scanty, so that he
was not in a condition to provide for his family.
the creditor is come to take unto him my two
sons to be bondmen—By the enactment of the law, a creditor
was entitled to claim the person and children of the insolvent debtor,
and compel them to serve him as bondmen till the year of jubilee should
set them free.
2-4. a pot—or cruet of oil. This
comprising her whole stock of domestic utensils, he directs her to
borrow empty vessels not a few; then, secluding herself with her
children, [the widow] was to pour oil from her cruse into the borrowed
vessels, and, selling the oil, discharge the debt, and then maintain
herself and family with the remainder.
6. the oil stayed—that is, ceased to
multiply; the benevolent object for which the miracle had been wrought
having been accomplished.
Promises a Son to the Shunammite.
8. Elisha passed to Shunem—now Sulam, in
the plain of Esdraelon, at the southwestern base of Little Hermon. The
prophet, in his journey, was often entertained here by one of its pious
and opulent inhabitants.
10. Let us make a little chamber—not
build, but prepare it. She meant a room in the oleah, the porch,
or gateway (2Sa 18:33; 1Ki 17:19), attached to the front of the house,
leading into the court and inner apartments. The front of the house,
excepting the door, is a dead wall, and hence this room is called a
chamber in the wall. It is usually appropriated to the use of
strangers, or lodgers for a night, and, from its seclusion, convenient
for study or retirement.
13-16. what is to be done for
thee?—Wishing to testify his gratitude for the hospitable
attentions of this family, he announced to her the birth of a son
"about this time next year." The interest and importance of such an
intelligence can only be estimated by considering that Oriental women,
and Jewish in particular, connect ideas of disgrace with barrenness,
and cherish a more ardent desire for children than women in any other
part of the world (Ge 18:10-15).
2Ki 4:18-37. Raises Her Dead
19. My head, my head!—The cries of the
boy, the part affected, and the season of the year, make it probable
that he had been overtaken by a stroke of the sun. Pain, stupor, and
inflammatory fever are the symptoms of the disease, which is often
22. she called unto her husband—Her
heroic concealment of the death from her husband is not the least
interesting feature of the story.
24. Drive, and go forward—It is usual
for women to ride on asses, accompanied by a servant, who walks behind
and drives the beast with his stick, goading the animal at the speed
required by his mistress. The Shunammite had to ride a journey of five
or six hours to the top of Carmel.
26-28. And she answered, It is well—Her
answer was purposely brief and vague to Gehazi, for she reserved a full
disclosure of her loss for the ear of the prophet himself. She had met
Gehazi at the foot of the hill, and she stopped not in her ascent till
she had disburdened her heavy-laden spirit at Elisha's feet. The
violent paroxysm of grief into which she fell on approaching him,
appeared to Gehazi an act of disrespect to his master; he was preparing
to remove her when the prophet's observant eye perceived that she was
overwhelmed with some unknown cause of distress. How great is a
mother's love! how wondrous are the works of Providence! The Shunammite
had not sought a son from the prophet—her child was, in every
respect, the free gift of God. Was she then allowed to rejoice in the
possession for a little, only to be pierced with sorrow by seeing the
corpse of the cherished boy? Perish, doubt and unbelief! This event
happened that "the works of God should be made manifest" in His
prophet, "and for the glory of God."
29-31. take my staff … and lay … upon
the face of the child—The staff was probably an official rod
of a certain form and size. Necromancers used to send their staff with
orders to the messengers to let it come in contact with nothing by the
way that might dissipate or destroy the virtue imparted to it. Some
have thought that Elisha himself entertained similar ideas, and was
under an impression that the actual application of his staff would
serve as well as the touch of his hand. But this is an imputation
dishonorable to the character of the prophet. He wished to teach the
Shunammite, who obviously placed too great dependence upon him, a
memorable lesson to look to God. By sending his servant forward to lay
his staff on the child, he raised [the Shunammite's] expectations, but,
at the same time, taught her that his own help was
unavailing—"there was neither voice, nor hearing." The command,
to salute no man by the way, showed the urgency of the mission, not
simply as requiring the avoidance of the tedious and unnecessary
greetings so common in the East (Lu 10:1), but the exercise of faith and prayer.
The act of Gehazi was allowed to fail, in order to free the Shunammite,
and the people of Israel at large, of the superstitious notion of
supposing a miraculous virtue resided in any person, or in any
rod, and to prove that it was only through earnest prayer and
faith in the power of God and for His glory that this and every miracle
was to be performed.
34. lay upon the child, &c.—(see
1Ki 17:21; Ac 20:10). Although this contact with a dead body
would communicate ceremonial uncleanness, yet, in performing the great
moral duties of piety and benevolence, positive laws were sometimes
dispensed with, particularly by the prophets.
35. the child sneezed seven times, and the child
opened his eyes—These were the first acts of restored
respiration, and they are described as successive steps. Miracles were
for the most part performed instantaneously; but sometimes, also, they
were advanced progressively towards completion (1Ki
18:44, 45; Mr 8:24, 25).
2Ki 4:38-41. Purifies Deadly
38. there was a dearth in the land—(see
on 2Ki 8:1).
the sons of the prophets were sitting before
him—When receiving instruction, the scholars sat under their
masters. This refers to their being domiciled under the same roof
Set on the great pot—As it is most
likely that the Jewish would resemble the Egyptian "great pot," it is
seen by the monumental paintings to have been a large goblet, with two
long legs, which stood over the fire on the floor. The seethed pottage
consisted of meat cut into small pieces, mixed with rice or meal and
39. went out into the field to gather
herbs—Wild herbs are very extensively used by the people in
the East, even by those who possess their own vegetable gardens. The
fields are daily searched for mallow, asparagus, and other wild
wild vine—literally, "the vine of the
field," supposed to be the colocynth, a cucumber, which, in its
leaves, tendrils, and fruit, bears a strong resemblance to the wild
vine. The "gourds," or fruit, are of the color and size of an orange
bitter to the taste, causing colic, and exciting the nerves, eaten
freely they would occasion such a derangement of the stomach and bowels
as to be followed by death. The meal which Elisha poured into the pot
was a symbolic sign that the noxious quality of the herbs was
lap full—The hyke, or large cloak, is
thrown loosely over the left shoulder and fastened under the right arm,
so as to form a lap or apron.
2Ki 4:42-44. Satisfies a
Hundred Men with Twenty Loaves.
43. They shall eat, and shall leave
thereof—This was not a miracle of Elisha, but only a
prediction of one by the word of the Lord. Thus it differed widely from
those of Christ (Mt 15:37; Mr 8:8; Lu 9:17; Joh