Elisha and the Shunammite Woman

Reading time 12 minutes.

Today is Mother's Day in the United States. A day set aside to honor and recognize mothers. Now that I am a mother of three I recognize the work and self-sacrifice it takes to be a mother. Until you have the job, or are married to one who has that job it is hard to fathom the dedication and responsibility that is required. The level of service is determined by the individual. How involved one gets with their children, whether natural, adopted or the neighbors kids, is a free will decision. 

There are several sections in the Word of God that give us examples of mothers and I am going to step ahead chronologically and visit one that took care of Elisha, the prophet that Elijah anointed. After all, it is Mother's Day.

II Kings 4:
:8  And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, 
        where was a great woman; [she had wealth or position in the community]
    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.
:9 And she said unto her husband, 
        Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, 
            which passeth by us continually.
:10   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.

She did not have to do this. Her kindness to continually provide food for him on his journeys is customary in the east. But, she went out of her way to make sure it was her house he stopped at. She then goes farther and requests of her husband that they build an apartment for him so that he may also have a place for himself as he traveled. (First Time-Share in the Bible :-) This is going beyond custom and she asks nothing in return. She has the satisfaction of serving the Man of God.

:11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, 
    and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
:12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, 
        Call this Shunammite. 
    And when he had called her, 
    she stood before him.
:13 And he [Elisha] said unto him, [Gehazi]
        Say now unto her, [customary for a prophet or master  to speak via the servant]
            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.

She isn't doing this for the recognition, she is happy to serve him.

"Careful for us with all this care" is the figure of speech Polyptoton - repetition of the same part of speech in different inflections. The intended emphasis is "exceedingly careful." With great care.

:14 And he said, 
        What then is to be done for her? 
    And Gehazi answered, 
        Verily she hath no child, 
        and her husband is old.
:15 And he said, 
        Call her. 
    And when he had called her, 
    she stood in the door.
:16 And he said, 
        About this season, 
            according to the time of life, 
        thou shalt embrace a son. 
    And she said, 
        Nay, my lord, 
man of God, 
        do not lie unto thine handmaid.

 Or, "do not deceive me." The facts say her husband is too old. She also has not asked for anything for herself, she is happy to serve.

:17 And the woman conceived, [she must have believed him]
    and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, 
        according to the time of life.

Remember, it is a disgrace in the east to not have children. What great joy she must have had when Elisha told her she would have a child and when she conceived she must have been greatly elated. 

:18  And when the child was grown, 
    it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.
:19 And he said unto his father, 
        My head, my head. 
    And he said to a lad, 
        Carry him to his mother. [Mom's do the ministering oftentimes]
:20 And when he had taken him, 
    and brought him to his mother, 
    he sat on her knees till noon, 
    and then died.

Oh, what a heartbreaking tragedy. Her only child, her gift from God, is dead. She has every right to be distraught. But she doesn't let her grief overtake her. She remains strong. She figures that if the man of God gave her her son he can help her. His reputation has probably also preceded him. In previous chapters (which we will look at in a few weeks) Elisha learned well from Elijah and did notable miracles in the unbelieving nation of Israel.

:21 And she went up, 
    and laid him on the bed of the man of God, 
    and shut the door upon him, 
    and went out.
:22 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.
:23 And he said, 
        Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? 
        it is
neither new moon, nor sabbath. 
    And she said, 
        It shall be

Look at her believing. She did not even confess to her husband that the child had died. 

:24 Then she saddled an ass, 
    and said to her servant, 
        Drive, and go forward; 
        slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.
:25 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:
: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? 
    And she answered,
         It is well.

She confesses the truths that God will take care of her and her own if she is faithful to Him. She is reserving her request for healing for the Man of God.

:27 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.
:28 Then she said, 
        Did I desire a son of my lord? 
        did I not say, 
            Do not deceive me?
:29 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.
:30 And the mother of the child said, 
the LORD liveth, 
        and as thy soul liveth,
        I will not leave thee. 
    And he arose, 
    and followed her.
:31 And Gehazi passed on before them, 
    and laid the staff upon the face of the child; 
        but there was neither voice, nor hearing. 
                [the Shunamite didn't believe Gehazi could could raise her son, her believing was in the Man of God]
    Wherefore he went again to meet him, [Gehazi returned to Elisha]
     and told him, saying, 
        The child is not awaked.

This could have been the last straw for the Shunamite. When her son did not get up she could have broken down. Her faith carried her. However, she still believed it was possible for her son to live.

:32 And when Elisha was come into the house, 
    behold, the child was dead, 
laid upon his [Elisha's] bed.
:33 He went in therefore, 
    and shut the door upon them twain, 
    and prayed unto the LORD.
: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: 
    and he stretched himself upon the child; 
    and the flesh of the child waxed warm.

Here is the figure of speech Polysyndeton - Many Ands. The repetition of 'and' giving emphasis and importance to each individual item. They draw our attention to the actions and the earnest of what Elisha was doing. Even though the child became warm he was not yet alive and Elisha stops to beseech God for the child's deliverance and wait for instructions--revelation.

:35 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.
:36 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.
:37 Then she went in, 
    and fell at his feet, 
    and bowed herself to the ground, [thankfulness to the Man of God first]
    and took up her son, 
    and went out.

The Shunammite woman trusted God and served His prophet. She did not ask anything for her service yet she was rewarded with a son. When all seemed lost she remained confident that God could deliver her son. She stood strong on God's delivering power. She could have only gotten this strength by learning about God and what He has done and His promises. She spent time worshipping Him. That is why she had the confidence to go to God's prophet and request deliverance. 

We, as mothers, and husbands, need to cultivate our relationship with God. Especially in the good times so that His strength is there for us when circumstances are not so good. 

Be Word conditioned not circumstance controlled.