The creditors are about to take the children of a widow of a prophet as slaves for debt she cannot pay. Elisha becomes her redeemer, as she has no kin to do so for her. In verses 2-7, the oil God provides in abundance from the little that she has is enough to pay her debts and provide for her and her sons.
The kindness of the Shunnamite woman in providing food and generous shelter for Elisha whenever he came her way (verses 8-10) prompts him to desire to do something for her. She was wealthy, and needed no help in the same regard as the widow. When Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, tells him that the woman has no son and that her husband is old, he tells the disbelieving woman that she will embrace a son the next year; and it was so. Some years passed, as the child had grown, was struck ill, then died (verse 18-20). So the woman went to Mount Carmel to appeal to Elisha, “the man of God” she had befriended. Elisha sends Gehazi with his staff, and instructions to raise the boy; but the woman stayed with him, sure that no less than Elisha’s own intervention would do. That did turn out to be the case; and Elisha’s healing of the boy reminds us of the similar deed of Elijah for the widow in 1 Kings 17:17-22.
Then in verses 38-44, Elisha purifies a pot of stew that the famine-stricken prophets had perceived to have been poisoned by the wild gourds one of them had added; and then provides in abundance for a hundred more men, using meager resources (this latter, on a smaller scale, being similar to Jesus feeding the multitude in Matthew 14:13-21). This chapter is intended to once again demonstrate God’s awesome power; and that His will is going to be done.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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