The woman from the Old Testament in today’s story is unnamed. It is not because she was insignificant. Many women’s names are left to our imaginations such as Lot’s wife and daughters. In 2 Kings 4:8- 37, we read the story of the Shunammite woman’s interactions with the prophet Elisha.
She is introduced as a well-to-do and prominent woman who showed hospitality to the prophet whenever he passed though the town of Shunam. Elisha frequently stopped at her home for a meal, and one day,
“She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”
Elisha was grateful for this kindness, and I’m certain was pleased with having the comforts of home while on the road with his ministry. He had his servant Gehazi ask his hostess what he could do for her to show his thanks. She replied that she was content with what she had. He asked if he could speak to the King or Captain of the Guard on their behalf in case there was some dispute, but they needed nothing.
Elisha and Gehazi discussed this further and the servant pointed out that the couple had no son and her husband was old. This is significant in that the family name would not be passed on, and there was no heir to inherit their great possessions. But when Elisha told the woman she would have a son in the next year, she said, “No. Don’t get my hopes up. I didn’t ask you for this.” She must have given up hope for a child after many years of infertility and struggled with the disappointment month after month, year after year. She was not willing to reopen that wound.
Nevertheless, a year later she did have a son, just as Elisha prophesied. The boy grew until he was old enough to join his father in the fields one day. But he suddenly was struck with severe head pain, so his father had a servant carry the boy home to his mother. After a few hours, the boy died in his mother’s lap.
Normally, the burial would take place within a very short time, but the Shunammite woman did not tell anyone about her son’s demise. Rather, she carried him up to Elisha’s room on the roof, lay him on the bed, shut the door and went out. Then she asked her husband for a servant and donkey, told her husband she was going to see Elisha. When her husband asked why, she said, “All is well,” then set off quickly. It could have been as far as twenty miles to Mt. Carmel where the prophet had his school, but she did not stop.
Elisha and Gehazi saw her coming from a distance and asked if there was trouble, but she did not disclose the reason for her trip to Gehazi, but rather said, “It is well.” Then she knelt at Elisha’s feet in bitter distress.
“Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”
He understood that the child was dead and sent his servant to awaken him, but the woman refused to return home unless Elisha went with her.
“ When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 3He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.”
Once having loved a child, she now had a great need. She knew to whom she had to go because she recognized that the prophet Elisha was a man who exercised the power of God and could use it to restore her son to life. The miracle in itself was remarkable, but this woman was also remarkable though in a very human way…in ways we, too, can follow.
- She was content with what she had;
- She honored her husband in seeking his approval for the building project and her journey;
- Had discernment regarding the prophet’s needs and the servant Gehazi’s lack of power (as we see later, he was greedy and a deceiver);
- She did not judge a dire situation by appearances, but
- Spoke words of faith
She would have been aware that Elijah had raised a widow’s son from death and surely remembered her own son’s miraculous conception; therefore, she maintained her faith when the boy died, proven by her words and actions.
The Shunammite Woman is an example to us today. How many times do we:
- Envy those with more than we have, whether it’s financial, children, great spouse, etc.
- Disrespect a spouse by ignoring their counsel, demeaning them to others;
- Trust those who are untrustworthy rather than using discernment;
- Fail to pray in faith for our needs or the needs of others.
Are you able to relate to this woman’s situation whether in showing hospitality, setting a good example for young women as to how to relate to their husbands, believing God for miracles? Please feel free to share.
*** In the last post I asked for suggestions on O.T. women you’d like to discuss. Who fascinates, scares, encourages you–one that I have not already written about? Let me know and I’ll enter you in a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card. But reply by Saturday, November 9. I’m looking forward to some great conversations.
(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Har-Noy, Southern District, Israel)