Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.Elisha multiplieth the widow’s oil, 2 Kings 4:1-7. He is lodged by a Shunammite woman, who is barren: he promiseth her a son; which is born, 2 Kings 4:8-17; dieth, and is raised by Elisha, 2 Kings 4:18-37. At Gilgal he healeth the deadly pottage, 2 Kings 4:38-41; and feedeth one hundred men with twenty loaves and ears of corn, 2 Kings 4:42-44.
The sons of the prophets, though they were wholly devoted to sacred employment, were not excluded from marriage, no more than the priests and Levites. Thy servant did fear the Lord; his poverty therefore was not procured by his idleness, or prodigality, or rather, wickedness; but by his piety, because he would not comply with the king’s way of worship, and therefore lost all worldly advantages. To be bond-men; either to use them as his slaves, or to sell them to others, according to the law; of which see Exodus 21:2 Leviticus 25:39 Isaiah 1:1 Matthew 18:25.
And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.What shall I do for thee? how shall I relieve thee, who am myself poor?
What hast thou in the house, which may contribute to the payment of thy debts, or, at least, to the satisfaction of thy creditors, who may perchance deal favourably with thee through my persuasion?
Save a pot of oil; which was useful for divers things about the service of God, and health, or delight, or ornament, and other uses of men. See Judges 9:9.
Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.Shut the door upon thee; partly, that none may hinder thee from minding thy work of filling and removing the vessels, which will require attention and diligence; partly, that thou alone mayest enjoy the benefit of it; partly, lest any of thy creditors should break in upon thee, and seize upon thy borrowed vessels before they are filled; partly, that thy mind being freed from distraction, may be wholly employed in prayer and praising of God; and partly, that it may be manifest that this is the work of God alone.
Pour out; out of the pot, in which God multiplied the oil from time to time.
So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.Unto her son; to one of them, for she had two, 2 Kings 4:1. The oil stayed, to teach us, that we should not waste any of God’s good creatures, and that God would not work miracles unnecessarily.
Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.First do justice to others, and then take care of thyself and children.
And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.To Shunnam a city in Issachar, near Mount Carmel, Joshua 19:17,18, whither the prophet frequently went.
Was a great woman; for estate, or birth and quality. See Genesis 24:35 1 Samuel 25:2.
She constrained him, by her importunate desire.
To eat bread; to take his repast there.
And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.An holy man of God; a prophet, as Judges 13:6, and that of eminent holiness, by our kindness to whom we shall procure a blessing to ourselves.
Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.Let us make a little chamber on the wall, that he may be free from the noise of family business, and enjoy that privacy which, I perceive, he desireth for his prayers and meditations. He will not be troublesome or chargeable to us; he cares not for rich furniture or costly entertainment, and is content with bare necessaries.
And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.i.e. Before the prophet, in the door of his chamber, as it is said, 2 Kings 4:15. The relation seems to be a little perplexed, but may be thus conceived. It is in this verse recorded, in the general, that the prophet sent Gehazi to call her, and that she came to him upon that call; then follows a particular description of the whole business, with all the circumstances, first, of the message with which Gehazi was sent when he went to call her, and of her answer to that message, 2 Kings 4:13, and of Gehazi’s conjecture thereupon, 2 Kings 4:14, and then of her coming to the prophet at his call; which is there repeated to make way for the following passages.
And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.What is to be done for thee? wherewith shall I recompense all thy care and kindness to me and my servant?
To the king, or to the captain of the host; with whom he justly had great power for his eminent service, 2Ki 3.
I dwell among mine own people; I live in love and peace among my kindred and friends; nor have I any cause to complain of them, or to seek relief from higher powers.
And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.What then is to be done for her? hast thou observed any thing which she wants or desires? For the prophet kept himself much in his chamber, whilst Gehazi went more freely about the house, as his occasions led him.
And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.Out of reverence, humility, and modesty, waiting till he came to her, or called her further in to him.
And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.According to the time of life; of which phrase See Poole on "Genesis 18:10".
Do not lie unto thine handmaid; do not delude me with vain hopes. She could not believe it for joy, and supposed the prophet might say thus either for her trial, or from his own private judgment and affection, and not by warrant from God.
And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.His head was grievously pained; which possibly came from the heat of the harvest season, to which he was exposed in the field.
And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.No text from Poole on this verse.
And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.Shut the door upon him; partly in hopes that this might contribute something to the child’s restitution to life, she having in all probability had an account of the like miracle done by Elijah, 1 Kings 17:21; and partly that she might for the present conceal the death of the child; which if it had been known, would have filled her husband with grief, and hindered her journey, and opened the mouths of the enemies of God and his prophets to blaspheme; whereas she had a confidence put into her by God, that the prophet could and would restore her son.
And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well.New moon and sabbath were the chief and usual times in which they resorted to the prophets for instruction, for which he supposed she now went, not suspecting but that the child was well by this time.
It shall be well; my going will not be troublesome to him, nor prejudicial to thee or me. Heb. peace, i.e. peace be to thee, farewell; or, be contented, let me go.
Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.No text from Poole on this verse.
So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite:No text from Poole on this verse.
Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.So it was in some respects, because it was the will of a wise and good God, and therefore best for her. Or, it shall be well: though the child be dead, I doubt not by God’s blessing upon thy endeavours it shall live again, and do well. But she answers ambiguously, and briefly too, that, she might sooner come to the prophet, and more fully open her mind to him.
And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.She caught him by the feet; she fell at his feet, and touched them, as a most humble and earnest suppliant. Compare 1 Samuel 25:24 Matthew 28:9. Withal, she intimated, what she durst not presume to express in words, that she desired him to go along with her. Gehazi came near to thrust her away; judging this posture indecent for her, and offensive to his master.
Let her alone, for her soul is vexed within her; disturb her not, for this uncouth gesture is a sign of some extraordinary grief.
The Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me; whereby he signifies that what he knew or did was not by any virtue inherent and abiding in himself, but only from God, who revealed to him only what and when he pleased. Compare 2 Samuel 7:3.
Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?This child was not given to me upon my immoderate desire, for which I might have justly been thus chastised, as Rachel was, Genesis 30:1, compared with Genesis 35:18; but was freely promised to me by thee in God’s name, and from his special grace and favour; and therefore I trust both thou didst pray for it, and God design it as a blessing, and not as an affliction, as now it proves, unless thou dost obtain the child for me a second time, which I know thou canst do, and I humbly beg thee to do.
Do not deceive me, with vain hopes of a comfort that I should never have? And I had been much happier if I had never had it, than to lose it so quickly. Therefore thou art in some measure concerned to revive my dead hopes, and to continue to me the great blessing which thou hast procured.
Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.Gird up thy loins; tie up thy long garments about thy loins for expedition. See 1 Kings 18:46. Make no delays nor stops by the way, neither by words nor actions, but go with all possible speed. Compare Luke 10:4. He requires this haste, that the miracle might be done secretly and speedily, before the child’s death was divulged, which might cause many inconveniences. See Poole "2 Kings 4:21". Lay my staff upon the face of the child; for God can work a miracle by the most unlikely and contemptible means, as he did by a rod, Exodus 14:16, and a mantle, 2 Kings 2:8.
And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.I will not leave thee, until thou goest home with me. For she had no great confidence in Gehazi, nor was her faith so strong as to think that the prophet could work so great a miracle at this distance, and by his staff; which possibly was one reason why this did no good. Compare Matthew 9:18 13:58 17:20.
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.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 when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.No text from Poole on this verse.
He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.Upon them twain; upon himself and the dead child, that he might pray to God without distraction, and might more freely use all those gestures and means which he thought fit.
And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.He went up, and lay upon the child; and although some ceremonial uncleanness might seem to be contracted by the touch of this dead body, yet that was justly to give place to a moral duty, and to an action of so great piety and charity as this was, especially when done by a prophet, and by the instinct of God’s Spirit, who can dispense with his own laws.
His mouth upon his mouth, & c; one part upon another successively; for the disproportion of the bodies would not permit it to be done together. Compare 1 Kings 17:21 Acts 20:10.
The flesh of the child waxed warm; not by any external heat, which could not be transmitted to the child’s body by such slight touches of the prophet’s body; but by a natural heat, proceeding from a principle of life, which was already infused into the child, and by degrees enlivened all the parts of his body.
Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.Walked in the house to and fro: he changeth his postures for his own necessary refreshment, and walked to and fro, exercising his mind in prayer to God, and faith, for the accomplishment of this work.
Went up, and stretched himself upon him; repeating his former actions, to teach us not to be discouraged in our prayers, if we be not speedily answered, but to wait with patience, and continue, and be instant in prayer, till we obtain what we seek for.
The child opened his eyes; so the work begun in the former verse is here perfected. Although miracles were for the most part done in an instant, yet sometimes they were done by degrees, as here, and 1 Kings 18:44,45 Mr 8:24,25.
And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.Come in unto him, Heb. come to him, to wit, to the door of his chamber; where probably he met her with this joyful message.
Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.She went in; into his chamber, and, after she had done him honour, to the bed where the child lay, whence she took him, and went her way.
And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.Elisha came again to Gilgal; where he came with Elijah, 2 Kings 2:1; where was a school of the prophets, whom he designed to comfort concerning the present dearth and their other discouragements, and to confirm in the profession and practice of religion, and to instruct in the duties of the present season.
Sitting before him; at his feet, as scholars to be taught by him. See 2 Kings 2:3 Acts 22:3.
Seethe pottage: he provides no delicious meats, but mere necessaries, to teach them the contempt of worldly delights.
And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.A wild vine; a plant called coloquintida, whose gourds or leaves resemble the leaves of a vine, and are very bitter and pernicious to the eater.
So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.There is death in the pot, i.e. some deadly thing; which they gathered from its excessive bitterness, by which possibly some of them might discern what it was.
But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.He cast it into the pot, together with the pottage which they had taken out of it. There was no harm in the pot: the meal took away that hurtful quality, not by its natural power, which could do little in so short a time, but by the supernatural blessing of God upon it.
And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.Bread of the first-fruits, which were the priest’s due, Numbers 18:12; but these, and probably the rest of the priest’s dues, were usually brought by the pious Israelites, according to their ability and opportunity, to the Lord’s prophets; partly because they did a great part of the priest’s office, and partly because they were not permitted to carry them to Jerusalem; and they might reasonably think that their circumstances, being extraordinary, would warrant their giving of them to extraordinary persons; and that those ceremonial institutions ought to give place to the greater laws of necessity and mercy to the Lord’s prophets. And this passage seems to be noted here, not only on occasion of the following miracle; but also that by this one instance we might understand how so many schools of the prophets were supported.
Twenty loaves; small loaves, as appears, both because one man brought them all so far, and because otherwise there had been no miracle here. Give unto the people, to wit, the sons of the prophets, who were then present with him, 2 Kings 4:38.
And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.No text from Poole on this verse.
So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.No text from Poole on this verse.