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2 Kings 4

page 578
page 579
they failed. 27Then the king of Moab took his oldest son, who would have been the next
king, and sacrificed him as a burnt offering on the wall. So there was great anger against
Israel,* and the Israelites withdrew and returned to their own land.
Elisha Helps a Poor Widow
One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried
out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord.
But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.”
2“What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?”
“Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied.
3And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. 4Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive
oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”
5So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after
another. 6Soon every container was full to the brim!
“Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons.
“There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.
7When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive
oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”
Elisha and the Woman from Shunem
8One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she
urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he
would stop there for something to eat.
9She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy
man of God. 10Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed,
a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”
11One day Elisha returned to Shunem, and he went up to this upper room to rest. 12He
said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the woman from Shunem I want to speak to her.” When
she appeared, 13Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tell her, ‘We appreciate the kind concern you
have shown us. What can we do for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king
or to the commander of the army?’”
Mic 6:7
Gen 18:14
Lev 25:39-41, 48
Neh 5:2-5
1 Kgs 17:12
2 Kgs 4:32
1 Kgs 12:22
Josh 19:18
Matt 10:41
Rom 12:13
3:27 Or So Israel’s anger was great. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
4:1-44 This chapter records five of God’s miracles through Elisha:
(1) providing money for a poverty-stricken widow (4:1-7); (2) prophesying that a child would be born to a barren woman (4:14-17); (3) raising
a dead boy to life (4:32-37); (4) purifying poisonous food (4:38-41); and
(5) providing food for 100 men (4:42-44). These miracles show God’s
tenderness and care for those who are faithful to him.
Sea of
20 mi
20 km
Jordan River
Elisha often stayed
with a kind couple
in Shunem. In return
for the couple’s
kindness, Elisha
prophesied that they
would have a son.
Years later, the son
suddenly died, and
his mother traveled
to Mount Carmel
to find Elisha. He
returned with her
and raised the boy
from the dead. Elisha
then went to his
home in Gilgal.
When reading the Old Testament, it is easy to focus on God’s harsh
judgment of rebellious people and to minimize his tender care for those
who love and serve him. Seeing God at work providing for his followers helps us keep his severe justice toward the unrepentant in proper
4:1 Poor people and debtors were allowed to pay their debts by selling
themselves or their children as slaves. God ordered rich people and creditors not to take advantage of these people during their time of extreme
need (see Deuteronomy 15:1-18 for an explanation of these practices).
This woman’s creditor was not acting in the spirit of God’s law. Elisha’s
kind deed demonstrates that God wants us to go beyond simply keeping
the law. We must also show compassion and take action to help.
4:6 The woman and her sons collected jars from their neighbors, pouring
olive oil into them from their one flask. The olive oil was used for cooking, for lamps, and for fuel. The oil stopped pouring only when they ran
out of containers. The number of jars they gathered was an indication
of their faith. God’s provision was as large as their faith and willingness
to be obedient. Beware of limiting God’s blessings by a lack of faith and
obedience. We have a great King. Because he loves us, we can bring great
requests to him. God is able to do infinitely more than we can ask, think,
or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
4:9 The woman from Shunem realized that Elisha was a man of God, so
she prepared a room for him to use whenever he was in town. She did
this out of kindness and because she sensed a need, not for any selfish
motives. Soon, however, her kindness would be rewarded far beyond
her wildest dreams. How sensitive are you to those who pass by your
home and flow through your life who need hospitality—especially those
who teach and preach God’s Word? What about travelers who visit your
church? What special needs do they have that you could meet? Look for
ways to serve and help.

2 Kings 4
“No,” she replied, “my family takes good care of me.”
14Later Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?”
Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.”
15“Call her back again,” Elisha told him. When the woman returned, Elisha said to
her as she stood in the doorway, 16“Next year at this time you will be holding a son in
your arms!”
“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like
17But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following
year she had a son, just as Elisha had said.
18One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working
with the harvesters. 19Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!”
His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.”
20 So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around
noontime he died. 21She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then
FEW “REPL ACEMEnTs” in sCRiPTURE were as effective as Elisha, who was
Elijah’s replacement as God’s prophet to Israel. But Elisha had a great example to
follow in the prophet Elijah. He remained with Elijah until the last moments of his
teacher’s life on earth. Elisha was willing to follow and learn in order to prepare to do
the work to which God had called him.
Both Elijah and Elisha concentrated their efforts on the particular needs of the people around
them. The fiery Elijah confronted and exposed idolatry, helping to create an atmosphere where
people could freely and publicly worship God. Elisha then moved in to demonstrate God’s
powerful yet caring nature to all who came to him for help. He spent less time in conflict with
evil and more in compassionate care of people. The Bible records 18 encounters between Elisha
and people in need.
Elisha saw more in life than most people because he recognized that God brought more to life.
He knew that all the good that we are and have comes to us from God. The miracles that occurred
during Elisha’s ministry put people in touch with the personal and all-powerful God. Elijah would
have been proud of his replacement’s work.
We, too, have great examples to follow—people in Scripture and those who have positively
influenced our lives. We must resist the tendency to think about the limitations that our family
backgrounds or environments have created for us. Instead, we should ask God to use us for his
purposes—perhaps, like Elijah, to take a stand against great wrongs or, like Elisha, to show compassion for the daily needs of those around us. Ask him to use you as only he can.
Strengths and
• Elijah’s successor as a prophet of God
• Had a major impact on four nations: Israel, Judah, Moab, and Aram
• A man of integrity who did not try to get rich at others’ expense
• Did many miracles to help those in need
Notable fact:
• Had a ministry that lasted over 50 years
Lessons from
his life:
• In God’s eyes, one measure of greatness is the willingness to serve the poor as well as the
• Effective replacements not only learn from their masters but also build upon their masters’
Vital statistics:
• Where: Prophesied to the northern kingdom
• Occupations: Farmer, prophet
• Relative: Father: Shaphat.
• Contemporaries: Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel, Jehu
Key verse:
“When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I can do for you
before I am taken away.’ And Elisha replied, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your
spirit and become your successor.’” (2 Kings 2:9)
Elisha’s story is told in 1 Kings 19:16—2 Kings 13:20. He is also mentioned in Luke 4:27.
4:16 This woman would receive the same favor from the Lord as Sarah
did many years before. And like Sarah, she reacted in disbelief (Genesis
18:10-15). She was probably afraid to believe after many years of dashed
hopes. Perhaps the promise of a child seemed too incredible to possibly
be true. Despite her skepticism, the Lord remained faithful, and she did
have a child as Elisha had said. Just as he did for the woman from Shunem,
God remains faithful to us even when his promises are beyond our ability
to hope or believe.
01, 02, 15, 16
03, 04, 17, 18
05, 06
09, 10
11, 12
13, 14
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