2 Kings 4:31
And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff on the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Why he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) There was neither voice, nor hearing.1Kings 18:29; see margin, and Isaiah 21:7.

Wherefore he went again.And he came back to meet him (Elisha).

The child is not awaked.The lad woke not.

The Rabbis explain Gehazi’s failure by assuming that he had disobeyed his master’s injunction by loitering on the way. This is contradicted by the narrative itself. He had acted with all despatch. Others blame him on other grounds, which, in the absolute silence of the text, cannot be substantiated. The prophet says no word of censure when he receives the announcement of the failure. Bähr thinks that Elisha himself was at fault in supposing he could transfer the spirit and power of a prophet to his servant; and acted in over-haste without a Divine incentive. (Comp. 2Samuel 7:3 seq.)

The true explanation is suggested in the Note on 2Kings 4:29. (Bähr is wrong in taking the staff to be other than a walking staff. A different word would be used for rod or sceptre.)

2 Kings 4:31. There was neither voice nor hearing — No sign of life appeared, which Gehazi, probably through unbelief, expected would be the case. It is likely the power was withheld, which might have accompanied the laying on of the staff; because the prophet having changed his mind, and yielded to her request that he would go with her, did alter his course of proceeding, and not join his prayers with Gehazi’s action. Or, perhaps, God did not see fit that the child should come to life again by the touch of the staff, lest it might be thought that he had only lain in a swoon, which at length went off of itself. The child is not awaked — That is, not revived; death being oft and fitly compared to a sleep, because of the resurrection, which will in due time follow it, and here followed speedily, which makes the expression peculiarly proper in this place.4:18-37 Here is the sudden death of the child. All the mother's tenderness cannot keep alive a child of promise, a child of prayer, one given in love. But how admirably does the prudent, pious mother, guard her lips under this sudden affliction! Not one peevish word escapes from her. Such confidence had she of God's goodness, that she was ready to believe that he would restore what he had now taken away. O woman, great is thy faith! He that wrought it, would not disappoint it. The sorrowful mother begged leave of her husband to go to the prophet at once. She had not thought it enough to have Elisha's help sometimes in her own family, but, though a woman of rank, attended on public worship. It well becomes the men of God, to inquire about the welfare of their friends and their families. The answer was, It is well. All well, and yet the child dead in the house! Yes! All is well that God does; all is well with them that are gone, if they are gone to heaven; and all well with us that stay behind, if, by the affliction, we are furthered in our way thither. When any creature-comfort is taken from us, it is well if we can say, through grace, that we did not set our hearts too much upon it; for if we did, we have reason to fear it was given in anger, and taken away in wrath. Elisha cried unto God in faith; and the beloved son was restored alive to his mother. Those who would convey spiritual life to dead souls, must feel deeply for their case, and labour fervently in prayer for them. Though the minister cannot give Divine life to his fellow-sinners, he must use every means, with as much earnestness as if he could do so.There was neither voice nor hearing - Compare 1 Kings 18:29.

The child is not awakened - See 2 Kings 4:20. The euphemism by which death is spoken of as a sleep was already familiar to the Jews (see 1 Kings 1:21 note).

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. Neither voice, nor hearing, i.e. neither speech nor sense, nor any sign of life, to wit, in the child; which disappointment might proceed from hence, that Elisha having changed his mind, and yielded to her importunity to go with her, did alter his course, and not join his fervent prayers with Gehazi’s action, but reserved them till he came thither.

Not awaked, i.e. not revived; death being oft and fitly compared to a sleep, as Psalm 76:5 Daniel 12:2, because of the resurrection which will in due time follow it, and here followed speedily, which makes the expression most proper in this place. And Gehazi passed on before them,.... The prophet and the Shunammite:

and laid the staff upon the face of the child; as he was ordered:

but there was neither voice nor hearing: it seems as if he spoke when he laid the staff on the child, but it heard and answered him not, so that there was no sign of life in it:

wherefore he went again to meet him; upon the road between Carmel and Shunem:

and told him, saying, the child is not awaked; by which he expresses its being dead; or, if he knew nothing of its death, he supposed it fast asleep, which was the reason of its not hearing and answering, though the former seems best.

And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
31. there was neither voice, nor hearing] In the margin both A.V. and R.V. give ‘attention’ as the literal meaning of the last word. It is the same which in the account of Elijah’s contest with the Baal-priests (1 Kings 18:29) is translated ‘any that regarded’. Here it means that no sign of returning life was seen. The word is used as an adverb ‘diligently’ after the cognate verb ‘to hearken’ in Isaiah 21:7.

Wherefore he went again] R.V. returned. The same word is so rendered below in verse 35.

The child is not awaked] This does not mean that Gehazi thought the child was not dead. He knew this as well as the mother. But ‘sleep’, even in the Old Testament, is used for its more dreadful sister ‘death’. Cf. Job 14:12; Psalm 13:3; Jeremiah 51:57. The common phrase on the death of a king is ‘he slept with his fathers’. See 1 Kings 1:21.Verse 31. - And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff on the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Gehazi did as he had Been told, executed his mission faithfully; but there was no apparent result. The child was not reused by the staff being placed across his face. All remained still and silent as before. Although on some occasions it has pleased God to allow miracles to be wrought by the instrumentality of lifeless objects, as when Elisha's hones resuscitated a dead man (2 Kings 13:21), and when virtue went out from the hem of our Lord's garment (Mark 5:25-34), and still more remarkably, when "handkerchiefs or aprons from the body of Paul were brought unto the sick, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits were case out of them" (Acts 19:12); yet the instances are, comparatively speaking, rare, and form exceptions to what may be called the usual Divine economy of miracles. Miracles are, as a general rule, attached in Scripture to intense unwavering faith - faith, sometimes, in those that are the objects of them, almost always in those that are the workers of them. The present case was not to be an exception to the general rule, the circumstances not calling for an exception. The power of faith was to be shown forth once more in Elisha, as not long previously in Elijah (1 Kings 17:19-23); and Israel was to be taught, by a second marvelous example, how much the effectual fervent prayer of a faithful and righteous man avails with the Most High. The lesson would have been lest had the staff been allowed to effect the resuscitation. Wherefore he - i.e. Gehazi - went again to meet him - i.e. Elisha - and told him, saying, The child is not waked. It is clear from this, that Gehazi had expected an awakening; but there is nothing to show what the prophet himself had expected. We are certainly not entitled to conclude, with Peter Martyr,' that "Elisha did wrong in attempting to 'delegate his power of working miracles to another;" or even, with Starke, that "Elisha gave the command to Gehazi from over haste, without having any Divine incentive to it." When the prophet saw her מנּגד (from the opposite), that is to say, saw her coming in the distance, and recognised her as the Shunammite, he sent Gehazi to meet her, to ask her about her own health and that of her husband and child. She answered, shalom, i.e., well, that she might not be detained by any further discussion, and came to the prophet and embraced his feet, to pray for the help of the "holy man of God." Gehazi wanted to thrust her away, "because it seemed to him an immodest importunity to wish to urge the prophet in such a way as this, and as it were to compel him" (Seb. Schm.); but the prophet said, "Let her alone, for her soul is troubled, and Jehovah has hidden it from me and has not told me."

(Note: All that we can infer from these last words with regard to the nature of prophecy, is that the donum propheticum did not involve a supernatural revelation of every event.)

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