|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-7 Elisha's miracles were acts of real charity: Christ's were so; not only great wonders, but great favours to those for whom they were wrought. God magnifies his goodness with his power. Elisha readily received a poor widow's complaint. Those that leave their families under a load of debt, know not what trouble they cause. It is the duty of all who profess to follow the Lord, while they trust to God for daily bread, not to tempt him by carelessness or extravagance, nor to contract debts; for nothing tends more to bring reproach upon the gospel, or distresses their families more when they are gone. Elisha put the widow in a way to pay her debt, and to maintain herself and her family. This was done by miracle, but so as to show what is the best method to assist those who are in distress, which is, to help them to improve by their own industry what little they have. The oil, sent by miracle, continued flowing as long as she had empty vessels to receive it. We are never straitened in God, or in the riches of his grace; all our straitness is in ourselves. It is our faith that fails, not his promise. He gives more than we ask: were there more vessels, there is enough in God to fill them; enough for all, enough for each; and the Redeemer's all-sufficiency will only be stayed from the supplying the wants of sinners and saving their souls, when no more apply to him for salvation. The widow must pay her debt with the money she received for her oil. Though her creditors were too hard with her, yet they must be paid, even before she made any provision for her children. It is one of the main laws of the Christian religion, that we pay every just debt, and give every one his own, though we leave ever so little for ourselves; and this, not of constraint, but for conscience' sake. Those who bear an honest mind, cannot with pleasure eat their daily bread, unless it be their own bread. She and her children must live upon the rest; that is, upon the money received for the oil, with which they must put themselves into a way to get an honest livelihood. We cannot now expect miracles, yet we may expect mercies, if we wait on God, and seek to him. Let widows in particular depend upon him. He that has all hearts in his hand, can, without a miracle, send as effectual a supply.
Verse 1. - Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying. We learn from this that the "sons of the prophets" were not merely, all of them, college students, but included fathers of families, who cannot have lived a cloistered life, but must have had separate homes for themselves and their families. Such persons may still have taught in the prophetical schools, as do the married tutors and professors of modern universities. Thy servant my husband is dead. Elisha had, it seems, known her husband, who had been his "servant," not literally and in deed, but in will and heart, i.e. always ready to serve him. She recalls this fact to his memory, to predispose him in her favor. And thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord. Here was a second ground for Elisha's interference - the woman's husband had been a God-fearing man, one who not only acknowledged Jehovah, but worshipped him in spirit and in truth. There is a Jewish tradition, or legend, that the woman's husband was the Obadiah of 1 Kings 18:3-16, but no dependence can be placed on it. Obadiah, the "governor of Ahab's house," can scarcely have been one of the "sons of the prophets." And the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to he bondmen. In primitive communities, men borrowed upon their personal credit, and the primary security for debt was regarded as being their own persons, the value of their labor, and that of those dependent on them. In Greece and Rome, originally, as in the Hebrew community, borrowers ordinarily raised money by pledging their persons, and, if they could not pay when the debt became due, went into servitude with their children. The Mosaic Law presupposes this state of things, and permits its continuance, but in two respects interferes to modify it:
(1) by requiring that the service exacted shall not be severe (Leviticus 25:43, 46), but such as was commonly rendered by hired servants (Leviticus 25:39, 40); and
(2) by limiting the period of service to the date of the next jubilee year (Leviticus 25:40, 41). In the instance brought here under our notice, it would seem that the creditor had not proceeded to claim his rights until the debtor died, when he on-forced them against the man's children (comp. Nehemiah 5:1-8).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha,.... This, according to the Targum, was the wife of Obadiah, who had hid the prophets by fifty in a cave in the times of Ahab; and so Josephus (q), and it is the commonly received notion of the Jewish writers; though it does not appear that he was a prophet, or the son of a prophet, but the governor or steward of Ahab's house; she was more likely to be the wife of a meaner person; and from hence it is clear that the prophets and their disciples married:
saying, thy servant my husband is dead; which is the lot of prophets, as well as others, Zechariah 1:5.
and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord; her husband was well known to the prophet, and known to be a good man, one of the 7000 who bowed not the knee to Baal, for the truth of which she appeals to Elisha; and this character she gives of her husband, lest it should be thought that his poverty, and leaving her in debt, were owing to any ill practices of his:
and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen; which it seems were allowed of when men became poor and insolvent, and died so, to which the allusion is in Isaiah 1:1; see Gill on Matthew 18:25. Josephus (r) suggests, that the insolvency of this man was owing to his borrowing money to feed the prophets hid in the cave; and it is a common notion of the Jews that this creditor was Jehoram the son of Ahab; and in later times it was a law with the Athenians (s), that if a father had not paid what he was fined in court, the son was obliged to pay it, and in the mean while to lie in bonds, as was the case of Cimon (t), and others.
(q) Antiqu. l. 9. c. 4. sect. 2.((r) Ibid. (s) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 6. c. 10. (t) Cornel. Nep. in Vita Cimon. l. 5. c. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2Ki 4:1-7. 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 Kings 4:1 Parallel Commentaries
2 Kings 4:1 NIV
2 Kings 4:1 NLT
2 Kings 4:1 ESV
2 Kings 4:1 NASB
2 Kings 4:1 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible