Chapter 4 of 2nd Kings is going to be rockin’! Got some awesome stories to go through and cross references to follow. I just read the entire chapter in preparation.
A Widow’s Plea
A certain woman, one of the wives of the sons of the prophets, comes unto Elisha and says, “My husband, thy servant, is dead. And now the creditor is coming to take my two sons away to the bondsmen.”
Cross reference Matthew 18:25. This is the middle of the parable of the guy who owes 10,000 talents and is forgiven but the servant doesn’t forgive his debtor and throws him in prison. The king finds out and is wroth, and tosses him in prison. Remember that story? Anyway, the specific verse, 25, is talking about how the servant of the king would be paying off his debt. All the members of his house would be sold into slavery and all the possessions he had would be sold. Up to 10,000 talents worth. In this widow’s case, it was just her two sons. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still too much. No mom wants to sell her two sons into slavery to pay off a debt.
Elisha asks her what she wants him to do. What does she have in her home? She says nothing save a pot of oil. Ok, stop there. Example time! What does this sound like? A person asks a prophet, or in the case of what I’m thinking about, God, what to do in an impossible situation. God says, what do you want me to do? The person acts to the best of their ability and the Lord blesses their actions with a solution. I’m thinking of the brother of Jared! This story has some parallels with what the brother of Jared did. Even though the widow didn’t necessarily come up with a solution like glowing rocks, how could she? She has a pot of oil and two sons. Not a lot to work with. Hence Elisha’s questions of, “What hast thou in thy house?” She must have been confused at how this pot of oil could in any way mitigate her debt, let alone pay it off. But, putting her faith in Elisha, she offered up her only material possession, the pot of oil.
Fill the Vessels With Oil
Elisha tells her to gather all the vessels she can from her neighbors. Don’t borrow a few, but a lot. When she has completed that, shut the door upon her and her sons and start pouring the oil into the vessels, setting aside the ones which are full. I want to know the significance of oil. How expensive was it? Nothing in the Bible Dictionary. Why do you think she had to shut the door when she did what Elisha asked? Keep out unbelievers or curious persons wondering why she was gathering all these vessels? Does closing the doors signify the sacredness and personalness of what is about to happen? I don’t know. I can only think of one example similar to this. It was when Jesus raises the daughter of Jairus from the dead. There were many people gathered about his home. When Jesus arrived, he told the people to go away because she was only sleeping. This allowed Jesus to be alone with the family. After Jairus’ daughter came back to life, I think he told them not to tell anyone what had happened that day. I think a similar thing happened with this lady. She was to do this thing quietly and not share what happened with anyone. It seems too sacred. Hence the closing of the doors.
Verse 6. When the vessels were full, she asked for another and her son said there were no more empty vessels. And that was when the oil stopped. She was left with not just one pot of oil but had filled every other vessel with oil she borrowed. She went and told Elisha what had happened. He tells her to sell the oil, pay the debt and live with your children in rest. Imagine being this mother. Newly widowed with two young sons. No money with the creditors coming to collect all she had. I can only imagine the wonder she had at being able to fill all the vessels with one pot. And the hope that sprang from within upon being told to sell all the oil, and pay off the debt. And the unimaginable joy and gratitude towards God as she was selling oil and receiving the money to pay off her creditors.
Dear reader, if God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, would not these miracles continue to occur? I believe they do. On a personal basis. One of these little things that God blesses us with. When we are faithful to the principles and covenants of the Gospel, we shall always prosper and God will always take care of us. We need only to exercise the faith to allow him to work miracles in our lives.
Introduction to the Shunemite Woman
One day, Elisha is passing through Shunem. A great woman constrains him to eat bread. Everytime thereafter he passed through Shunem, he ate at her house. Where is Shunem? What is the significance, if any, of this situation? Cross reference Joshua 19:18. Shunem is marking one border of the inheritance land of Issachar. The other cities that make up the border are Jezreel and Chesulloth. Map time! Ok, the only city I can find is Jezreel. Look at map 3 and you can see the inheritance allotted to the tribe of Issachar. Jezreel is indeed forming the westernmost border of the land. It looks like the Jordan River forms the eastern border of their land so Chesulloth and Shunem are on the North and South of the border. But which one belongs where I can’t say.
Who is this unnamed “great woman?” Great in faith? Great in prominence? All the above? She must have made quite an impression on Elisha if he went there every time after he passed through. I suppose as Elisha passed through this city, the woman began to realize he was a holy man of God. They set aside a room for him when he came to stay.
If she is just barely realizing he is a holy man, Elisha must have impressed her some other way than talking about religion and God. Makes me wonder what their conversations included. I was just thinking that maybe lots of people think that becuase the Bible is the most prominent record of the people at this time in the world, people only talked about religion and religious things. But I think people back then were not so different from people nowadays. I think it was possible to hold conversations with strangers or friends without bringing up the topic of religion. Still, I would have liked to hear what they talked about.
The next installment will continue with more detail of who this woman is and how she is helped by Elisha. Stay tuned!