The Shunammite Woman – The Godly Woman (VIII)

II Kings 4:8-37
The Shunammite woman quite early, worked out what sort of man Elisha was. She had been prepared to regularly provide him with a meal, but when she determined that “this is a holy man of God” (v.9), she resolved to expand her hospitality. Quite properly, demonstrating her attitude towards her husband and Elisha, she asked her husband if they could prepare a furnished room for him. She would “neither lay out his money nor invite strangers to his house, without consent asked or obtained.” [1]

Elisha appreciated her hospitality, and said so. Could he do her a favour? She had no requests. Gehazi pointed out to Elisha that she had no son. For any childless woman, with an aging husband (v.14), this was a source of great anguish. When he promised her that “at this season next year you will embrace a son,” she said to Elisha, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant” (v.16).

To receive a son miraculously when her husband was old and childless, would be a dramatic instance of God’s saving power, demonstrated to Abraham, Isaac, Manoah and Elkanah. Abraham in entertaining angels, had received the promise of a son (Gen.18:10). Now, she who had received a prophet in the Name of the Lord, received a prophet’s reward.

The subsequent death of the boy was doubly galling for this woman, who had become a mother miraculously. Yes, she had lost her son. But she had originally received this son, through a promise from God, via a prophet. The promised son, is now a dead son!

There is another aspect to this drama. Yes, her husband was the father, but she knew he could have no role in bringing him back to life. The boy had been conceived miraculously; now, he had to be resurrected miraculously. Her only hope was God, and His prophet Elisha. When this woman sets out to find the prophet,

she deliberately hid the death of her son from her husband and servants. If the death became public, Elisha’s miracle and the Lord’s blessing would have been widely defamed. Privately, she was blunt with Elisha to the point of rudeness. Publicly, she was totally concerned with his good name and the honour of the Lord. She was a woman who was a strong, if not a difficult friend, and one who would make a dangerous enemy. [2]

When the Shunammite woman finds Elisha, she has a few words to say. Her attitude was:

1)      “You and your God gave me this son. I did not ask for him.”

2)      “Remember when I told you, ‘Don’t deceive me?’”

3)      “What have you done?”

4)      “I’m holding you and your God accountable.”

5)      “Now give him back to me alive!”

She clearly implied that, by giving her a son and then taking him away, the Lord and Elisha had deceived her. She was very close to blasphemy, but Elisha did not rebuke her…in spite of her bluntness, the woman clung to Elisha as her one hope. [3]

It is impossible not to be full of respect for this plain-spoken and forthright woman. Like the woman who fell at Jesus’ feet weeping, washed them with her tears, and kissed them in appreciation (Luke 7:38), when the Lord restored the boy to life through Elisha, she “fell at his [Elisha’s] feet and bowed herself to the ground, and she took up her son and went out” (v.37).

An amazing woman, this Shunammite, and the story crackles with the strong reality of her presence, still alive in its impact across the centuries. She believed the honour of God was at stake in her distress, and she acted accordingly. Her reward was in harmony with her faith. She loved her son as much as her life and more, but it was the honor of God that governed her actions.[4]

Wouldn’t you want to be like her?


[1] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, 1709, Vol. 2, p.726.

[2] Rushdoony, R. J., “Chariots of Prophetic Fire,” 2003, p.99.

[3] Rushdoony, p.99.

[4] Rushdoony, p.99-100.

  1. mike thom, 12 February, 2012

    Our women’s group at church recently studied this portion of Scripture. Here is the hymn that I wrote for the study. I’d be happy to send the music if you would have a use for it.

    Oh, what can I do, said the Shunammite’s wife,
    For God’s holy man passing through?
    I’ll offer him food and a drink on his way,
    His strength to refresh and renew.
    But this is too little for all that my God
    Has given through this honored guest.
    A room with a bed and a lamp and a chair
    Will greet him with all of my best!

    Oh, what can I do, said the man of the Lord,
    For all of this care you have shown?
    I’ll go to the king and speak highly of you,
    Bring armies to guard all you own.
    But that is too little for all of your care!
    God has greater treasures than these!
    Your arms, so long empty, will soon hold a child –
    God’s mercy will answer your pleas.

    Oh, where shall I go in my deepest distress?
    The woman cried out in her pain;
    When death, uninvited, brings darkness and gloom,
    What hope will my spirit sustain?
    I’ll flee to the God of all mercy and love
    I’ll bring Him my sorrows and fears
    I’ll trust in the goodness of all that He does
    And ponder His grace through my tears.

    Come, take now your son, said the man of the Lord,
    Rejoice in God’s mercy and pow’r!
    Though sadness and sorrow may enter through sin,
    Your Savior will come in that hour.
    His kindness will wipe every tear from your eyes;
    His word will supply all your need;
    And on that Great Day when the dead shall arise,
    You’ll greet Him, your Savior indeed!

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