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.
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).
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.
Verse 2. - And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? Elisha acknowledges at once the call upon him to do something for the woman. This is, no doubt, in part, because she is a widow. Widows were, in the Law, especially commended to the attention and care of the faithful. As Bahr says, "It is a well-known feature of the Mosaic Law, one which is distinctly prominent, that it often and urgently commands to succor the widows and the fatherless, and to care for them (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 24:17, 19; Deuteronomy 26:12; Deuteronomy 27:19). They are mentioned as representatives of the forsaken, the oppressed, and the necessitous as a class (Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10; Matthew 3:5; Baruch 6:37). It is especially emphasized and praised in Jehovah, that he is the Father and Judge (i.e. Protector of the rights) of the widows and the fatherless (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5; Psalm 146:9; Isaiah 9:17, etc.). Neglect and contempt of them are counted among the heaviest offences (Psalm 94:6; Job 22:9; Ezekiel 22:7); just as, on the other hand, compassion and care for them is a sign of the true fear of God, and of true piety. (Job 29:12; Job 31:16; Tobit 1:7; James 1:27). Elisha could also gather from the tone of the woman's address that she, like her late husband, was God-fearing. Tell me, what hast thou in the house? Hast thou anything, that is, which thou canst soil, and so pay the debt? And she said, Thins handmaid hath not anything in the house, save a pot of oil; literally, save an anointing of oil; i.e. so much oil as will suffice for one anointing of my person.
Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.
Verse 3. - Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. God stints not in his gifts (Isaiah 55:1). When he offers them, men should take advantage of the offer largely, in the same spirit in which it is made (see below, 2 Kings 13:19).
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.
Verse 4. - And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons. The miracle was to be performed secretly. Attention was not to be called to it - perhaps because otherwise the prophet would have been overwhelmed with applications from others; perhaps because the act was not a mere mechanical one, but required that, during its performance, the hearts of the woman and of her sons should be lifted up in prayer and adoration and thankfulness to God for the mercy which he was bestowing. Interruption from without would have interfered with the frame of mind which was befitting the occasion. Compare our Lord's secret performance of many miracles. And shalt pour out into all those vessels - i.e. those which thou shalt have borrowed - and thou shalt set aside that which is full; i.e. as each vessel is filled, it shall be removed and set aside, and one of the empty vessels substituted - that the pouring might be continuous.
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.
Verse 5. - So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons - i.e. obeyed exactly the prophet's orders - who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out; literally, they bringing the vessels to her, and she pouring out. The modus operandi had been left to the woman and her sons, and was thus arranged and ordered, so that there was no confusion nor hurry.
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.
Verse 6. - And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. It did not occur to her that all the vessels had been already filled; so she asked her son for another, that she might fill it. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more; i.e. all the vessels that we have in the house are full; there remains no empty one. And the oil stayed. God will not have waste. If the oil had continued to flow, it would have fallen on the floor of the house, and have been of no service to any one. Therefore, when all the vessels were full, there was a sudden stoppage.
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.
Verse 7. - Then she came and told the man of God; i.e. Elisha (comp. vers. 9,16, 21, 22, etc.). She did not feel entitled to make use of the oil which she had got by his instrumentality without first telling him and receiving his directions respecting it. The prophet gave them with all plainness and brevity. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest. The oil in the vessels was more than sufficient for the discharge of the debt. The prophet directs the woman to sell the whole, and, after satisfying the claim of her creditor with part of the money, to support herself and her children on the remainder.
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.
Verses 8-37. - 2. The promise of a child to the Shunammite woman, and the restoration of the child to life. Verse 8. - And it fall on a day, that. The expression seems to be archaic. It occurs only here and in the opening chapters of the Book of Job (Job 1:6, 13; 2:1). The most literal rendering would be, and the day came when. Elisha passed to Shunem. Shunem was a village of Galilee, situated in the territory assigned to Issachar (Joshua 19:18). It is reasonably identified with the modern Solam, at the south-eastern foot of the Gebel Duhy, or "Little Hermon," a "flourishing village encompassed by gardens" (Porter), and "in the midst of the finest corn-fields in the world" (Grove), on the edge of the Plain of Esdraelon. Elisha, in his progression to different parts of the northern kingdom, happened to come on one occasion to Shunem. Where was a great woman. Houbigant strangely translates, "a tan woman," maintaining that a woman would not be called "great" in the sense of "wealthy" during her husband's lifetime; but no other commentator has accepted his view. The meaning seems to be that she was a woman of substance, one well-to-do, perhaps one that had brought her husband the bulk of his wealth. And she constrained him to eat bread; i.e. she invited him in as he passed her house, and would take no denial. Compare Lot's pressing hospitality, as related in Genesis 19:1-3. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. Elisha, it appears, had frequent occasion to pass through Shunem on his way from Carmel to visit the cities of Galilee, or versa. It became his habit, on these journeys, to eat his meals at the house of the rich Shunammite. Hence arose a kindly feeling on both sides and a close intimacy.
And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
Verse 9. - And she said unto her husband, Beheld now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God. Not all the soi-disant men of God were truly religious and God-fearing. In Elisha's time, as in all others, there were among the teachers of religion some who were "wolves in sheep's clothing:' The Shunammite woman, after a certain length of acquaintance, came to the conclusion that Elisha deserved the title which he commonly bore, was truly a "man of God," a real devoted servant of Jehovah. She therefore wished to do more for him than she had hitherto done. Which passeth by us continually; i.e. who passes through our village, and has his meals with us so frequently.
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.
Verse 10. - Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall. Thenius understands "a walled chamber," which he supposes to have been "built upon the flat roof of the house;" but it is more probable that a small addition to the existing upper chamber of the house is meant - a tiny room resting partly upon the wall of the house, partly projecting beyond it, balcony fashion. Such sleeping-chambers are common in Oriental dwellings. And let us set for him there a bed, aria a table, and a stool, and a candlestick; raffler, a bed, and a table, and a chair, and a lamp - the necessary furniture of an apartment which was to be used, not only; as a sleeping-chamber, but also for retirement, for study, and perhaps for literary composition. And it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. In the intervals between his active ministrations, a prophet would naturally desire quiet retirement, security from interruption. He would need to reflect, to meditate, to pray, perhaps to write. The Shunammite's proposal shows, not only kindness, but thoughtfulness and appreciation.
And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
Verse 11. - And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there; i.e. slept there, passed the night there.
And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
Verse 12. - And he said to Gehazi his servant. Gehazi is here mentioned for the first time. He seems to have been Elisha's "servant" in a lower sense than Elisha had been Elijah's. Still, his position was such that on one occasion (2 Kings 8:4, 5) a king of Israel did not disdain to hold a conversation with him. Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him; i.e. before Gehazi. Elisha communicates with the woman through his servant, or at any rate in his presence, probably to prevent any suspicion of impropriety arising in the mind of any one. The prophet of the Lord must not be evil spoken of.
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.
Verse 13. - And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful - literally, anxious - for us with all this care - or, anxiety; i.e. thou hast taken all this trouble in lodging both me and my servant, and in attending on us - what is to be done for thee? or, What is there that thou wouldest have done for thee? Is there anything that we can do for thee in return? Wouldest thou be spoken for to the king? Elisha assumes that he has credit at court, and offers to use it in the Shunammite's favor, if she has any request to prefer. We see something of his influence in 2 Kings 6:9-12, 21-23; 2 Kings 8:4-6. Or to the captain of the host? i.e. the person whose authority and influence was next to that of the king. And she answered, I dwell among mine own people; i.e. "The court is nothing to me. I want nothing from it. I have no wrong to complain of, no quarrel with any of my neighbors, so as to need the help of one m power. I dwell peaceably among them. They are 'my own people' - friends or dependents." The reply is that of one perfectly content with her position. Perhaps she aims at impressing on Elisha that she has had no selfish motive in what she has done for him, but has merely wished to honor God in his prophet.
And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.
Verse 14. - And he said - he, Elisha, said to Gehazi - What then is to be done for her? If the woman will suggest nothing herself, can Gehazi suggest anything? Has he heard her express any wish? Does he know of any boon that would be welcome to her? Evidently the woman's disinterestedness has increased the prophet's desire to do something for her. b It does not appear that the woman had made any complaint or exhibited any special anxiety on the subject of offspring. But Gehazi knows, that to be barren is regarded by all Hebrew women as a re-preach, that it exposes them to scorn and contumely (1 Samuel 1:6, 7), and that offspring is universally, or all but universally, desired. He therefore assumes that the Shunammite must wish for it. And Elisha accepts his suggestion without a moment's hesitation.
And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
Verse 15. - And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door; rather, the doorway. The same word in Hebrew stands both for "doorway" and for "door." It would seem that the woman came at once on being called, but, out of modesty and respect, would not advance beyond the entrance of the apartment.
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.
Verse 16. - And he - i.e. Elisha - said, About this season, according to the time of life - rather, when the time comes round; literally, revives; i.e. about this time next year - thou shalt embrace a son; i.e. "a son shall be born to thee, whom thou wilt embrace, as mothers are wont to do." And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. Like Sarah, the woman was incredulous; she could not believe the good tidings, and thought the prophet was only raising hopes to disappoint them. Her words, "Do not lie unto thy servant," are less harsh in the original, being merely equivalent to the "Do not deceive me" of ver. 28.
And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.
Verse 17. - And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life; rather, as the Revised Version gives the passage, the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season, when the time came round, as Elisha had said unto her. The event was exactly as predicted; the child was born at the same season of the ensuing year.
And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.
Verse 18. - And when the child was grown - not grown up, for he was still a "child" (Ver. 30, 31, 35, etc.), but grown to be a boy, perhaps four or five years old - it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. The corn-fields about Shunem attract the admiration of travelers. The husband of the Shunammite, the owner of several, was in one of them, superintending the cutting of his corn by the reapers; and the boy joined him there, as he had probably often done before. Country children delight in watching the various operations of the farmstead.
And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.
Verse 19. - And he said unto his father, My head, my head. Sunstroke was common in Palestine (Psalm 121:6; Isaiah 49:10; Judith 8:2, 3), and would be most frequent and most fatal at the time of harvest. The cry of the child is at once most touching and most natural. And he said to a lad; literally, to the lad-probably the lad who had attended the" young master" to the field. Carry him to his mother; i.e. take him indoors, and let his mother see to him. No wiser directions could have been given.
And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.
Verse 20. - And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon. It was in the morning, therefore, that the child received his sunstroke - an unusual, but not an unknown, occurrence. In the East the sun often becomes intensely hot by ten o'clock. And then died. There is no ambiguity here, no room for doubt; the child not only became insensible, but died. The historian could not possibly have expressed himself more plainly.
And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.
Verse 21. - And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God. One cannot be certain what thoughts were working in the poor bereaved mother's heart; but probably she entertained some vague notion that the prophet might be able to resuscitate her child, and thought that, until his presence could be obtained, the next best thing was to place the child where the prophet's presence had lately been. Elijah had placed on his own bed the child whom he restored to life (1 Kings 17:19); and the fact may have been known to the Shunammite. She certainly did not expect mere contact with the bed to resuscitate her child. And shut the door upon him. Either that the body should not be disturbed, or rather that the death should not be known. It is clear that, from whatever motive, the woman wished to conceal the death of the child until she had seen what Elisha could do for her. She neither told her husband nor the servant who accompanied her. And went out; i.e. quitted the prophet's apartment, closing the door as she quitted it.
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.
Verse 22. - And she culled unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses. She "called to her husband" from the house, without calling him into the house, expressing her desire to visit Elisha, without stating the object of her visit, and asked for the necessary riding-animal and escort. The nearest part of Carmel was at least fourteen or fifteen miles from Shunem, so that she could not walk, That I may run - i.e., hasten - to the man of God. "Man of God" was evidently the designation by which Elisha was known in the house (vers. 16, 21, 25). And some again; i.e. return home before nightfall.
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.
Verse 23. - And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? it is neither new moon nor sabbath. The husband demurred; he saw no occasion for the journey. It was not either "new moon" or "sabbath" - times when evidently the prophets conducted services, which were attended by pious persons from the neighborhood: what could she want of Elisha? He had evidently no idea that the child was dead. Probably he had not realized to himself that he was in any danger. And she said, It shall be well. She uttered the single word shalom, literally, "peace," but used, like the German gut, or the English "all right," to content an inquirer without giving him a definite answer. And the husband accepted her assurance, and did not press for an explanation. The ass and the servant were placed at her disposal without more words.
Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.
Verse 24. - Then she saddled an ass; rather, then she saddled (i.e. "caused to be saddled") the ass - the particular animal which her husband had placed at her disposal. And said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; i.e. "set the ass in motion, and then proceed steadily forward." In the East, each donkey has its driver, who sots it in motion, and regulates its pace. The rider leaves all to him. Slack not thy riding for me - rather, slacken me not the riding (Revised Version), or, slacken not my riding; i.e. "do not lessen the pace of my riding" - except I bid thee.
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:
Verse 25. - So she went and came unto the man of God to Mount Carmel. Carmel was to Elisha what Gilead had been to Elijah in his early days - a place for solitary retirement and meditation, where, free from disturbance, he might hold communion with nature and with God. It was not usual for his disciples to intrude upon him there, except at stated times, when gatherings were held at his residence for edification and for worship. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off - literally, over against him; i.e. coming towards him (ἐρχομένην, LXX.) - that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite. The prophet knew her at a distance, probably by her attire and carriage. We may gather, from her husband's words in ver. 23, that she was one of those who had been accustomed to attend the gatherings on new moons and sabbaths.
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.
Verse 26. - 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? Elisha feels that there must be something the matter, to account for the Shunammite's coming to him so unexpectedly. His anxiety is aroused, and, in his impatience to know what has happened, instead of waiting for the woman's arrival, he bids his servant run, and ask what is the matter. Some misfortune, he supposes, must have happened either to her, or to her husband, or to the child. And she answered, It is well. She gave, as before to her husband (ver. 23), the ambiguous answer, "Peace," intending thereby merely to put off Gehazi, and not explain herself to any one but his master.
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.
Verse 27. - And when she earns to the man of God to the hill - rather, the mountain; i.e. Carmel, where Elisha's residence was - she caught him by the feet (comp. Matthew 18:29; Mark 5:22; Mark 7:25; Luke 8:41; John 11:32). It has always been usual in the East to embrace the feet or the knees, in order to add force to supplication. But Gehazi came near to thrust her away. He regarded the act as one unduly familiar or unduly importunate, and interfered to protect and release his master. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her. Elisha would not have the woman disturbed. He saw that she was in deep distress, and, if there was anything unseemly in her action according to the etiquette of the time, excused it to her profound grief and distraction. The ordinary mind is a slave to conventionalities; the superior mind knows when to be above them. And the Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. God had not informed Elisha, by inward miraculous illumination, of the illness of the child, or its death, or the wild hopes stirring in the afflicted mother's mind, which induced her to make her long and troublesome journey. We need not feel surprised at this. There is always a limit to the miraculous; and facts that may be learnt by a little inquiry are but rarely communicated supernaturally.
Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?
Verse 28. - Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? The woman does not directly reveal her grief. Great sorrow is reticent, cannot endure to put itself into words. But she sufficiently indicates the nature of her trouble by the form of her reproach. "Did I ask for a son? Did I make complaint of my childlessness? Had I been importunate, and obtained my son of thee by much asking, I would not have complained. But I did not ask. I did not even snatch greedily at the offer. I demurred. I said, 'Do not deceive me.' But now thou hast done worse than deceive me. Thou hast kept the word of promise to the ear, and broken it to the hope. It is greater misery to have a child and lose him, than never to have had one at all." All this, and more, seems to be involved in the woman's words. And the prophet fully understood their meaning.
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.
Verse 29. - Than 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. The object of all these injunctions is haste. Lose not a moment. Go as quickly as thou canst to the house where the child lies. Spend no time in greetings on the way. Slack not. Tarry not. And lay my staff upon the face of the child. What effect the prophet expected from this act, we are not told. Gehazi appears to have expected that it would at once cause a resuscitation (ver. 31); but there is no evidence that the prophet participated in the expectation. He may have done so, for prophets are not infallible beyond the sphere of the revelations made to them; but he may only have intended to comfort and cheer the mother, and to raise in her an expectation of the resuscitation which he trusted it would be allowed him to effect.
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.
Verse 30. - And the mother of the child said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth (comp. 2 Kings 3:2, 4, 6), I will not leave thee. Apparently, the woman supposed that Elisha intended to do nothing more, but trust the child's recovery to such virtue as might inhere in his staff. But her own resolution was long ago taken - she would be content with nothing less than bringing the prophet face to face with her dead child. She "will not leave" him till he consents to accompany her to her home. And he arose, and followed her; as, no doubt, he had intended from the first.
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.
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."
And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.
Verse 32. - And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed (comp. ver. 21). The child remained where his mother had laid him.
He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.
Verse 33. - He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain - that he might not be interrupted during his efforts to restore the child's life (comp. ver. 4) - and prayed unto the Lord. Probably his heart had been lifted up in inarticulate prayer from the time that he realized the calamity which had befallen the Shunammite; but now he went down on his knees, and lifted up his voice in outspoken words of prayer.
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.
Verse 34. - 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; following the example set him by his master and predecessor, Elijah (1 Kings 17:21). The idea may in both cases have been to fit the Body for reinhabitation by the soul (see ver. 22), through the restoration of warmth to it. And he stretched himself upon the child; i.e. brought his flesh as close as he could to the flesh of the child, covering the body and pressing on it, to force his own bodily warmth to pass into it. The word used, יִגְהַר, is different from that in 1 Kings 17:21, which is יִתְמֹדֵד, and implies a closer contact. And the flesh of the child waxed warm. Elisha's efforts had an effect; the child's Body was actually warmed by them.
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.
Verse 35. - Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; literally, once and once fro; took, i.e., a single turn up and down the large room adjoining his bed-chamber - scarcely with any remedial object, but as men do when they are in distress and doubt. And went up, and stretched himself upon him - i.e. repeated his former act, laying himself upon the child, and warming it - and the child sneezed seven times - showing the recovery of suspended respiration - and the child opened his eyes; i.e. came to himself.
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.
Verse 36. - And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite; i.e. tell her to come here. No time was to be lost in restoring the child to his mother, now that he was alive again. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son; i.e. lift him up, take him in thine arms, feel him to be all thine own once more.
Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.
Verse 37. - Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground; in acknowledgment of the boon conferred on her. In the East such prostrations are common, and denote at once gratitude and humility. And took up her son, and went out. (On some later circumstances in the life of the woman, see 2 Kings 8:1-6.)
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.
Verses 38-41. - 3. The healing of the unwholesome pottage. Verse 38. - And Elisha came again to Gilgal; i.e. revisited Gilgal, where he had been previously with his master (2 Kings 2:1), either casually, or perhaps on one of his regular circuits (Keil) to visit the schools of the prophets. And there was a dearth in the land - probably the dearth again mentioned in 2 Kings 8:1 - and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him. Some translate "the sons of the prophets dwelt with him" (Vulgate, Luther, Bishop Hersley); but our version is probably correct. The LXX. give ἀκάθηντο; and Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 16:1; Ezekiel 33:31; with Zechariah 3:8, show that ישׁבים לפני may have the meaning of "sitting in the presence of a person." And he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot - i.e. the one great pot that there would be in the house - and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets. Even in a famine there would be some vegetables produced on which life might be sustained.
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.
Verse 39. - And one went out into the field to gather herbs. One of the sons of the prophets, probably, went out into the neighboring country, and looked about for any wild fruits or vegetables that he could see anywhere. And found a wild vine. Not a wild grape vine (Vitis labrusea), the fruit of which would have been harmless, but some cucurbitaceous plant, with tendrils, and a growth like that of the vine. And gathered thereof wild gourds. The exact kind of gourd is uncertain. Recent critics have mostly come to the conclusion that the vegetable intended is the Cucumis agrestis or Ecbalium elaterium, the "squirting cucumber" of English naturalists. This is a kind of gourd, the fruit of which is egg-shaped, has a bitter taste, and bursts when ripe at a slight touch, squirting out sap and seeds. The main ground for this conclusion is etymologieal, פַקֻּעֹת being derived from פקע, "to crack" or "split." Another theory, and one which has the ancient versions in its favor, identifies the "gourd" in question with the fruit of the colocynth, which is a gourd-like plant that creeps along the ground, and has a round yellow fruit of the size of a large orange. This fruit is exceedingly bitter, produces colic, and affects the nerves. His lap full; as many as he could carry in the sinus, or large fold, of his beged, or shawl. And came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not; i.e. the sons of the prophets, who stood by and saw them shred into the pot, did not recognize them, or did not know that they were unwholesome.
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.
Verse 40. - 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. Either the bitter flavor alarmed them, or they began to feel ill effects from what they had swallowed, which, if it was colocynth, might very soon have produced stomachache or nausea. Rushing, therefore, at once to the worst possible supposition, they concluded that they were poisoned, and exclaimed, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!" "If eaten in any large quantity," says Keil, "colocynths might really produce death." And they could not eat thereof; i.e. they could not continue to eat the pottage - all stopped eating.
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.
Verse 41. - But he said, Then bring meal. Elisha seems not to have hesitated for a moment. Prompt measures must be taken, if poisoning is even suspected. He has meal brought - not that meal has any virtue in itself against colocynth, or against any other deleterious drug. But he acts, now as always, under Divine direction, and is instructed to use meal on this occasion, as he used salt in healing the waters of Jericho. The meal, as Keil observes, "might somewhat modify the bitterness and injurious qualities of the vegetable," whatever it was, but "could not possibly take them entirely away. The meal, the most wholesome food of man, was only the earthly substratum for the working of the Divine effluence which proceeded from Elisha, and made the noxious food perfectly wholesome." And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out now for the people - i.e., the assembled company of sons of the prophets - that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot. Such as had faith in Elisha, and continued to eat of the pottage, found no ill result. What they ate did them no harm.
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.
Verses 42-44. - 4. The feeding of a hundred men on twenty loaves. Verse 42. - And there came a man from Baal-shalisha. "Baal-shalisha" is reasonably identified with the "Beth-shalisha" of Eusebius and Jerome, which they place twelve Roman miles north of Diospolis, or Lydda (now Ludd). By "north" we must probably understand "northeast," since the "land of Shalisha" lay between the territories of Ephraim and Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:4). The position thus indicated would not be very far from the Gilgal (Jiljileh) of 2 Kings 2. and 2 Kings 4:38. And brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits. It is clear that the more pious among the Israelites not only looked to the prophets for religious instruction (ver. 23), but regarded them as having inherited the position of the Levitical priests whom Jeroboam's innovations had driven from the country. The firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil were assigned by the Law (Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 18:4, 5) to the priests. Twenty loaves of barley. The "loaves" of the Israelites were cakes or rolls, rather than "loaves" in the modern sense of the word. Each partaker of a meal usually had one for himself. Naturally, twenty "loaves" would be barely sufficient for twenty men. And full ears of corn; i.e. a few ripe ears of the same corn as that whereof the bread was made. Ears of corn were offered as firstfruits at the Passover (Leviticus 23:10), and were regarded as the most natural and becoming tokens of gratitude for God's harvest mercies. In the husk thereof; rather, in his bag, or in his sack (see the Revised Version). And he said, Give unto the people - i.e., to the sons of the prophets who dwelt at Gilgal - that they may eat.
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.
Verse 43. - And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? The servant felt that the quantity was quite insufficient, and thought it absurd to invite a hundred men to sit down to a meal, which would not satisfy a fifth of the number; but Elisha repeated his command. He said again, Give the people, that they may eat. This time, however, he added an explanation of the proceeding: for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. God had supernaturally intimated to him that the quantity of food would prove ample for the hundred men; they would show that they had had enough by leaving some of it. And the result was as predicted.
So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.
Verse 44. - So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the Lord. We are not expressly told how the miracle was wrought, whether by an augmentation of the quantity of the food supernaturally produced, or by a lessening of the appetites of the men, as Bahr supposes. But the analogy of our Lord's miracles of feeding the multitudes, whereof this is a manifest type, makes it probable that in this case also there was a miraculous increase of the food. The object of the writer in communicating the account is certainly not merely to show how the Lord cared for his servants, but to relate another miracle wrought by Elisha, of a different kind from those previously related. He is occupied with Elisha's miracles through this entire chanter and through the three next.