The Shunammite and Her Lands
2 Kings 8:1-6
Then spoke Elisha to the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go you and your household…

This narrative is the sequel to the history of the Shunammite in 2 Kings 4. It furnishes another instance of how God cares for and rewards his people.

I. ELISHA'S WARNING. In chronological order this narrative seems to precede the cure of Naaman, while Gehazi was still the servant of the prophet. A famine of long duration was about to descend on the land, and Elisha gave timely warning to the Shunammite to take refuge somewhere else.

1. The good are often sharers in the calamities of the wicked. This famine was no doubt sent on Israel as a punishment for sin. God's prophet foretold it, as Elijah had foretold the drought in the days of Ahah (1 Kings 17:1). Famines and similar calamities do not come uncalled for. They are instruments used by God in his moral government (Ezekiel 14:21; Amos 4.). And in the distresses brought upon the world by sin God's people are often sharers. The innocent are involved in the sufferings of the guilty (Ezekiel 21:3, 4). This lady of Shunem, now probably a widow, is compelled, by the approach of famine, to abandon home and lands and rural comfort for a sojourn among idolaters.

2. The good, notwithstanding, are marvelously protected amidst the calamities of the wicked. It was God's mercy to this Shunammite, who in former days had befriended his prophet, which now led to her being warned beforehand. God's rewards for kindness shown to his servants are not soon exhausted. It was sad to be involved in the famine, but it would have been sadder had she not received this warning to withdraw in good time. Thus God, by a special providence, cares for and watches over the interests of his people. He guides their steps, and is a Shield to them from trouble.

3. The good are provided for amidst the calamities of the wicked. The Shunammite was directed to sojourn with her household wherever she could find a refuge. She believed the word of the man of God, obeyed it, and went to sojourn in the land of the Philistines. There she abode for the seven years that the famine lasted, and during that period was sufficiently provided for. It was an act of faith on the part of the Shunammite to take this step, for she had nothing to go upon in regard to this famine but the prophet's bare word. That, however, was held sufficient, and she left all to do as he had bidden her. God's people are always safe in acting on his commands. When Elijah was sent to hide by the brook Cherith, the ravens were "commanded" to feed him; and when he was told to go from there to Zarephath, a widow woman was similarly c, commanded" to sustain him (1 Kings 17:4, 8). As God provided for Jacob and his household in Egypt in a time of famine, so he prepares a provision for all his people who humbly trust him. "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing" (Psalm 34:10).

II. THE SHUNAMMITE'S RETURN. At length, through the ceasing of the famine, the way was open for the Shunammite to come back. Her return was:

1. After long exile. Seven years had she been absent from the land of Jehovah. During that period she had lived amidst Philistine surroundings. Her spirit must often have been grieved at the idolatrous and heathenish sights she witnessed; for what moral communion could she have with the worshippers of Dagon? Nor could she now, as of old, saddle her ass, and repair to the prophet on sabbaths and new moons for consolation and instruction. Exile of this sort would be painful to her spirit, as it was to that of the psalmist (Psalm 42:4, 6). God in his providence often thus deprives his people for a time of the privilege of ordinances, perhaps through sickness, perhaps through removal to new scenes, perhaps through the interposition of direct obstacles. There was in the Shunammite's case a famine of the Word as well as of bread. These things try faith, and operate to the quickening of spiritual desire.

2. To meet a new trial. The Shunammite came back to her home, to find that, in her long absence, her house and lands had been alienated from her. Probably, as deserted by their owner, they had become the property of the crown (ver. 6). Or some neighboring proprietor may have possessed himself of the abandoned fields. In any case, it was a sore discovery for the Shunammite to make, on her return, that she could no longer obtain her own. The trial of coming back seemed almost greater than that of going away. Might not the same providence that had cared for her in Philistia have watched over her possessions at home? It was God who had called her thence: might he not have secured that, when she returned, she would get her own? The issue of this trial should encourage believers not too readily to distrust the Almighty. It came to be seen that God had been caring for her in her absence - had, so to speak, been putting out her lands at interest for her, so that, when they were restored, she "received her own with usury" (Matthew 25:27).

III. THE SHUNAMMITE'S APPEAL. The most striking part of the story is yet to come. Having no other remedy, the Shunammite appealed to the king, as first magistrate, to restore to her her lands. "She went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land." We note concerning her appeal:

1. Its justice. The Shunammite had a good and just cause. Kings and magistrates are set to administer justice. Yet it is possible that, but for the circumstances next narrated, the impoverished lady might have cried long enough before her possessions were restored to her. It is difficult to get the holders of unlawfully acquired property - especially in land - to yield up again their title to it. The cry of the poor does not always penetrate, as it should do, to the ear of justice.

2. Its providential opportuneness. It is God's prerogative to maintain the cause of the oppressed (Psalm 9:4, 9, 10), and he was preparing the way for this cause being heard. The circumstances are remarkable, showing how entirely all events are in the hand of God, how what we call accidental conjunctures are really providences, and how, without overriding human freedom, all things, even the most ordinary, are working together for good to those who love him.

(1) It happened that, just as the Shunammite approached, her son being with her, to present her prayer, the king and Gehazi, Elisha's servant, were talking together of the wonderful works of the prophet. "Tell me, I pray thee," said the king, "all the great things that Elisha hath done." Jehoram, though a wicked man (2 Kings 9:22), had yet, as we have formerly seen, a certain susceptibility to good in him. His was a divided nature. He had a reverence and respect for Elisha; he knew the right; he took pleasure in hearing of Elisha'8 wonderful deeds. Yet he never took God's Law truly into his heart. How many are like him (Ezekiel 33:30-33)!

(2) In particular, Gehazi was relating to the king how Elisha had restored the dead son of the Shunammite to life. How singular, we say, that this should have been the subject of conversation at that very moment! But it was God who ordered that this should come about. We find a very similar instance in the case of King Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther. He could not sleep, and ordered the chronicles of his kingdom to be read before him. It was the night when Haman's plot was ripe for the destruction of Mordecai, but the passage read was that which told how Mordecai had made known a conspiracy against the king's life. This saved him, and led to Haman's own destruction (Esther 6.). The wheels within wheels in God's providence are truly marvelous. He lifts up one and casts down another by the simplest possible means.

(3) As Gehazi was speaking, the Shunammite and her son stood before them, and cried to the king. No doubt in great surprise, Gehazi said, "My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life." The ear of the king was now effectually gained.

3. Its success. The woman, being asked to state her plea, did so, and her request was at once granted. Not only were her house and land restored to her, but recompense was made for all the fruits of the field since the day she had left it. Thus she received back in abundance all she possessed. She not only got justice, but generosity. How good it is to be a friend of God! "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). With him for our Advocate, what need we fear? Having given this woman the greater gift, in reward for her kindness to his prophet, he does not withhold from her any lesser gift. So may the believer reason, if God "spared not his own Son," etc. (Romans 8:32). - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.

WEB: Now Elisha had spoken to the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, "Arise, and go, you and your household, and stay for a while wherever you can; for Yahweh has called for a famine. It shall also come on the land seven years."

The Potent Influence of a Good Man
Top of Page
Top of Page