2 Kings 4:1
Parallel Verses
New International Version
The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."

King James Bible
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.

Darby Bible Translation
And a woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha saying, Thy servant my husband is dead, and thou knowest that thy servant feared Jehovah; and the creditor is come to take my two children to be bondmen.

World English Bible
Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets to Elisha, saying, "Your servant my husband is dead. You know that your servant feared Yahweh. Now the creditor has come to take for himself my two children to be slaves."

Young's Literal Translation
And a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets hath cried unto Elisha, saying, 'Thy servant, my husband, is dead, and thou hast known that thy servant was fearing Jehovah, and the lender hath come to take my two children to him for servants.'

2 Kings 4:1 Parallel
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Now there cried a certain woman - This woman, according to the Chaldee, Jarchi, and the rabbins, was the wife of Obadiah.

Sons of the prophets - תלמידי נבייא talmidey nebiyaiya, "disciples of the prophets:" so the Targum here, and in all other places where the words occur, and properly too.

The creditor is come - This, says Jarchi, was Jehoram son of Ahab, who lent money on usury to Obadiah, because he had in the days of Ahab fed the Lord's prophets. The Targum says he borrowed money to feed these prophets, because he would not support them out of the property of Ahab.

To take unto him my two sons to be bondmen - Children, according to the laws of the Hebrews, were considered the property of their parents, who had a right to dispose of them for the payment of their debts. And in cases of poverty, the law permitted them, expressly, to sell both themselves and their children; Exodus 21:7, and Leviticus 25:39. It was by an extension of this law, and by virtue of another, which authorized them to sell the thief who could not make restitution, Exodus 22:3, that creditors were permitted to take the children of their debtors in payment. Although the law has not determined any thing precisely on this point, we see by this passage, and by several others, that this custom was common among the Hebrews. Isaiah refers to it very evidently, where he says, Which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves; Isaiah 50:1. And our Lord alludes to it, Matthew 18:25, where he mentions the case of an insolvent debtor, Forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded Him to be Sold, and his Wife and Children, and all that he had; which shows that the custom continued among the Jews to the very end of their republic. The Romans, Athenians, and Asiatics in general had the same authority over their children as the Hebrews had: they sold them in time of poverty; and their creditors seized them as they would a sheep or an ox, or any household goods. Romulus gave the Romans an absolute power over their children which extended through the whole course of their lives, let them be in whatever situation they might. They could cast them into prison, beat, employ them as slaves in agriculture, sell them for slaves, or even take away their lives! - Dionys. Halicarn. lib. ii., pp. 96, 97.

Numa Pompilius first moderated this law, by enacting, that if a son married with the consent of his father, he should no longer have power to sell him for debt.

The emperors Diocletian and Maximilian forbade freemen to be sold on account of debt:

Ob aes alienum servire liberos creditoribus, jura non patiuntur.

- Vid. Lib. ob. aes C. de obligat.

The ancient Athenians had the same right over their children as the Romans; but Solon reformed this barbarous custom. - Vid. Plutarch in Solone.

The people of Asia had the same custom, which Lucullus endeavored to check, by moderating the laws respecting usury.

The Georgians may alienate their children; and their creditors have a right to sell the wives and children of their debtors, and thus exact the uttermost farthing of their debt. - Tavernier, lib. iii., c. 9. And we have reason to believe that this custom long prevailed among the inhabitants of the British isles. See Calmet here.

In short, it appears to have been the custom of all the inhabitants of the earth. We have some remains of it yet in this country, in the senseless and pernicious custom of throwing a man into prison for debt, though his own industry and labor be absolutely necessary to discharge it, and these cannot be exercised within the loathsome and contagious walls of a prison.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge


3110 B.C.


2 Kings 4:38 And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him...

2 Kings 2:3,5 And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said to him...

1 Kings 20:35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his neighbor in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray you...

thy servant did fear

Genesis 22:12 And he said, Lay not your hand on the lad, neither do you any thing to him: for now I know that you fear God...

1 Kings 18:3 And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:

Nehemiah 7:2 That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man...

Psalm 103:11,17 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him...

Psalm 112:1,2 Praise you the LORD. Blessed is the man that fears the LORD, that delights greatly in his commandments...

Psalm 115:13 He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.

Psalm 147:11 The LORD takes pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

Ecclesiastes 8:12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God...

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Malachi 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD listened, and heard it...

Malachi 4:2 But to you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth...

Acts 13:26 Men and brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and whoever among you fears God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

Revelation 15:4 Who shall not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name? for you only are holy: for all nations shall come and worship before you...

Revelation 19:5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all you his servants, and you that fear him, both small and great.

the creditor

Leviticus 25:39,40,48 And if your brother that dwells by you be waxen poor, and be sold to you; you shall not compel him to serve as a bondservant...

Nehemiah 5:2-5 For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live...

Nehemiah 10:31 And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath...

Jeremiah 34:14 At the end of seven years let you go every man his brother an Hebrew, which has been sold to you; and when he has served you six years...

Matthew 18:25,30,35 But for as much as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had...

James 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgment.

When the Oil Flows
'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.'--2 KINGS iv. 6. The series of miracles ascribed to Elisha are very unlike most of the wonderful works of even the Old Testament, and still more unlike those of the New. For about a great many of them there seems to have been no special purpose, either doctrinal or otherwise, but simply the relief of trivial and transient distresses.
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

That the Grace of Devotion is Acquired by Humility and Self-Denial
The Voice of the Beloved Thou oughtest to seek earnestly the grace of devotion, to ask it fervently, to wait for it patiently and faithfully, to receive it gratefully, to preserve it humbly, to work with it diligently, and to leave to God the time and manner of heavenly visitation until it come. Chiefly oughtest thou to humble thyself when thou feelest inwardly little or no devotion, yet not to be too much cast down, nor to grieve out of measure. God ofttimes giveth in one short moment what He
Thomas A Kempis—Imitation of Christ

Cross References
Matthew 18:25
Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

Leviticus 25:39
"'If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves.

Leviticus 25:48
they retain the right of redemption after they have sold themselves. One of their relatives may redeem them:

1 Samuel 22:2
All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

2 Kings 2:3
The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, "Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?" "Yes, I know," Elisha replied, "so be quiet."

2 Kings 6:9
The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: "Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there."

Nehemiah 5:2
Some were saying, "We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain."

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