Would you call yourself an emotional individual? How do you respond when tragedy hits? Can you handle yourself during a crisis or do you break down into hysterics?
In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at the Shunammite woman, a take charge woman of few words. But when tragedy hit, she could’t hide the emotions bubbling inside.
2 Kings chapter 4 goes directly from the prophet’s widow to the Shunammite woman. The two could not be more different. One was destitute; the other wealthy. One a widow; the other married. One had two sons; the other was barren. Both, however, needed a miracle, which the prophet Elisha provided.
As a prophet, Elisha traveled from city to city, serving and teaching wherever he went. One of his journeys was through the city of Shenum . One day a notable woman who lived in Shenum with her husband saw him passing through town and invited him in for a meal. One thing led to another, and it became their custom that each time he came through, he would stop and sup with them.
The woman could tell that the holy man of God was growing older and the traveling was taxing him. She wanted to ease his load a bit, so she suggested to her husband that they add on an upstairs bedroom and furnish it for him so that when he passed through he might spend the night and rest up before continuing on his journey.
Elisha was so pleased with the Shunammite woman’s generous hospitality that he wanted to return the favor and bless her. He had his servant Gehazi ask her if she wanted Elisha to put in a good word to the king or the commander of the army. She refused, saying they had no need for such a favor.
Undeterred, Elisha asked Gehazi if he had any ideas of how Elisha could bless the Shunammite woman. Gehazi pointed out she was childless and her husband was old.
Perfect! Elisha called the woman up to his room. She stood in the doorway to find out what he needed. Instead of a request, he made a prophecy. He told her that in the next year she would have a son.
“No, my lord, Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant.” She’d accepted her barrenness and didn’t want to get her hopes up only to have them dashed.
But true to his word, she conceived, and a year later was blessed with a baby boy.
The child grew. Then one day he went out to the fields to be with his father, but while he was out there, he developed a terrific headache. The father instructed a servant to carry the son to his mother. She held him in her arms until noon that day. Then he died.
The woman carried him upstairs to Elisha’s room and laid him on the bed. She closed the door behind her and asked her husband for a servant and a donkey so that she might go to Elisha.
Her husband wanted to know why she needed Elisha since it wasn’t the New Moon or the Sabbath. All she told him was, “It is well”.
She saddled her donkey and told the servant to go as fast as he could and to not slow down unless she told him. Then they made the trek over 25 miles to Mount Carmel where she found Elisha.
Elisha saw her from a distance and sent Gehazi to greet her and to find out if all was well with her, her husband, and her son. She brushed him aside with, “It is well,” and continued towards Elisha.
When she reached Elisha she fell down and grabbed his feet. Gehazi tried to push her away, but Elisha knew something was troubling the woman. He just didn’t know what it was.
“Did I ask a son of my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’”
Elisha then knew something was wrong with her son. He turned to Gehazi and told him to take his staff and go to the boy and lay the staff on him. Gehazi departed, but the woman persisted.
“As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.”
He got up and followed her back to her home. On the way they met Gehazi who told him he’d not been able to awaken the child.
Elisha got to the house, went up to the upper room, and closed the door behind him. He prayed to the Lord and stretched himself over the child, and the child warmed. Elisha went downstairs, paced and prayed, then went back upstairs. He stretched himself over the boy again, and this time the boy sneezed 7 times and opened his eyes.
Elisha called to Gehazi and told him to get the boy’s mother. When she came to the room, he told her to pick up her son. She went in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground, then she picked up her son and carried him out.
I always thought that was the end of the story of the Shunammite woman, but it’s not. We meet her again in 2 Kings 8.
By this point it’s just the woman and her son and Elisha tells her there’s about to be seven year famine in the land so she needs to find somewhere else to live for awhile. She takes her son and servants and they live in the land of the Philistines for seven years.
At the end of the famine, she returns and goes to the king to make an appeal for her house and her land. In the meantime, the king is talking with Gehazi and he’s telling him all the great things Elisha has done, including raising the Shunammite woman’s son from the dead. When she comes to the king, Gehazi says, this is the woman I was telling you about. She confirms Gehazi’s story that Elisha did in fact raise her son from the dead.
So the king appoints an officer to her, telling him to restore to her all that was hers and to give to her the proceeds of the field from the time she was gone.
Wow! That’s quite a story for an unnamed woman, isn’t it? So let’s get to work unpacking it.
First, what do we know about this Shunammite woman? She was a wealthy woman who lived on the main road through Shunum. She was married to an older man, and they had no children.
She is a woman of action, not words. She goes about life taking care of others in a most determined way.
Unlike most of the barren women we meet in the Bible, this woman seems to have been at peace with not having children. When Elisha tells her she’s going to have a son, she’s short with him. It’s one thing to have accepted her lot in life as it was, but she didn’t want to get her hopes up and then have them dashed to pieces.
But Elisha is a man of his word. She has her baby and treasures him as he grows. It’s interesting her reaction when her son dies, though. She holds him until he dies, then she places him on the upstairs bed, closes the door, and tells her husband she’s going to see Elisha. He asks why she’s going, but he doesn’t ask about their son. He was with him when he took sick. Why would he not ask how he was doing? And why didn’t the wife mention it? Instead, she merely says, “It is well,” and goes on her way.
She tells the servant to go as quickly as he can to get to Elisha. When Gehazi approaches her, she brushes him off, with another “It is well”. She didn’t come all that way to meet with a servant. No, she wants to see the prophet himself, and she won’t leave him until he agrees to go with her.
Can’t you picture this woman? She’s a no nonsense woman of few words who calmly does what needs to be done. She sees a need. She fills it. She has a need. She goes to the source to fix it. She’s cool and in control except when she gets to Elisha and she falls down at his feet and insists that he go with her. Then once he agrees to see her son, she’s back to in control.
If you’re anything like me, and you’re dramatic and emotional over every little thing, it’s easy to think that women like the Shunammite woman don’t feel as deeply as we do. We may be jealous, wishing we were more calm and collected rather than emotional wrecks. But we can’t see the inner turmoil boiling under the surface. No one can remain stoic all the time. The Shunammite woman tried to hold it all in, but despite her best efforts, it all eventually poured out.
What about you? Are you an hyper sensitive or are you stoic like this woman? Do you do your best to bottle up any emotion, not letting anyone see the raw feelings inside? What are you afraid of? Are you afraid if they ever leak out you’ll not be able to contain them anymore? Are you afraid people will think less of you if they know you have feelings? Do you equate emotions with weakness?
Isn’t it wonderful that God gave us glimpses of all different women so that we could see all levels of the spectrum? Don’t you love that even if you never tell a soul what you’re feeling, He still knows. He knows the desires of your heart. He knows your deepest heartache. And He’s there for both. He longs to give you all that you need and to comfort you in your time of sorrow. All you have to do is to give it to Him.
Lord God, thank you for this story of the Shunammite woman. Thank you for seeing her innermost desire for a son. Thank you for bringing Elisha into her life so that when she she was in need, You had already placed in her life the answer to her prayers. Lord, be with us as well. Provide for us those deep desires we have that we may be too afraid to even voice. We know that You know them and when the time is right, You’ll provide. Be with us during our times of sorrow. Watch over us. Comfort us. Send Your helpers to help us. Forgive us for those times we lose sight and think we have to do everything ourselves. Remind us of how very near You are to us. We love You so very much. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
That concludes today’s episode of All God’s Women. Tune in next week when we look at Naaman’s wife, a Syrian woman who learned about the Hebrew God through her maid.
2 Kings 4
2 Kings 8
Bible Study Review
- Why did the Shunammite woman build a guest room for Elisha?
- How did Elisha repay her for her kindness?
- How did Elisha save the woman from famine?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why did the woman get angry when Elisha told her she’d have a baby?
- Why did she dismiss Gehazi’s attempt to heal her son?
- How did the woman react to the healing of her son?
- Have you settled in your current situation because you’re afraid of getting your hopes up?
- How do you respond to tragedy?
- Are you willing to fight to save your family?
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