The prophet’s widow was an unnamed wife of one of the sons of prophets. He died leaving a great debt.
Have you ever been in debt? Have you ever had others demanding from you what you didn’t have to give? Have you ever witnessed a miracle?
In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at the Prophet’s Widow, a woman with debt collectors knocking on her door and she had no way to repay them.
The Prophet’s Widow in the Bible
The Bible is filled with God granting miracles for widows. Each widow faced difficulties far beyond anything they could handle on their own. And in each case, God showed them that they weren’t alone and that He cared for them. He provided for them in ways they didn’t expect, and in doing so, demonstrated His amazing love for them.
We meet the Prophet’s Widow in 2 Kings chapter 4. We’re told she was one of the wives of the sons of the prophets. During this time in history God rose up prophets like Elisha who held prophecy schools where they tutored or trained other prophets in the ancient Law.
This woman’s husband was one of those students. This was his calling. He dedicated his life to studying and serving God which meant he was dependent on others to provide for him financially. But these were difficult times. The people of Israel were struggling. The prophet had to take out a loan in order to provide for his family. Then he died, leaving his helpless widow owing money and having no way to pay off the debt.
The Prophet’s Widow and Elisha
The widow went to Elisha and pleaded her case. She reminded him that her husband had studied with him and that he had feared the Lord, but now he was dead and the creditor was threatening to take her two sons as slaves if she didn’t pay off the loan.
Elisha asked her what she had in her house. She had nothing to offer but a jar of oil.
Elisha told her to go to all of her neighbors and borrow empty vessels from them. He encouraged her to gather as many as she could. Once she had the jars, jugs, and pots collected she was to shut the door behind her and she and her sons would pour the oil they had into the vessels they’d gathered. As they filled up the vessels they were to set aside the ones that were full.
The widow did exactly as he instructed. Her sons would hand her an empty jar. She’d fill it with oil from her original container. Then they’d set it aside and grab a new jar to fill. They continued until all the vessels were full.
She went back to Elisha to ask what she was to do next. He told her to sell the oil, pay back the debt, and she and her sons could live off of whatever remained.
This is a short story, but so much packed into it.
Here is a young woman who’s had a difficult life. She depended on her husband to provide for her and their sons, but he was so busy studying and serving that he didn’t bring in enough income to meet their basic needs. To make matters worse, he died, leaving her with a debt she had no way of paying.
Losing a spouse is hard enough, but now, while this woman is still dealing with the grief of her loved one, she discovers that he took out a loan and she’s required to pay it off. Not only that, but the debt collector is trying to take away her two sons and turn them into slaves. She’s all alone and desperately trying to protect her children. She needs a miracle.
The life of a minister’s wife can be difficult. When the husband is supposed to provide for the family, and he’s busy studying and serving and the family suffers, it’s easy to feel resentful, to get angry with the husband and with God. The husband may have been called by God, but the wife may feel she’s just along for the ride with no say in the situation.
In this case, the widow appears to have been supportive of her husband. But she wasn’t prepared for his death. We’re not told of her praying to God herself, but she did know to go to God’s man for direction, and possibly, a miracle.
What was she expecting when she went to Elisha for help? Was she looking for a handout? For him to pay the debt? For him to take up a love offering? Did she expect a miracle or was she more practical minded?
We’ll never know what went through her head, but we do know that when Elisha gave her an assignment to do, she willingly obeyed without question. And when she completed the task, she again went to him for the next step. She did exactly what he instructed to the letter.
I love this example of a miracle because it required action from the recipients. There were so many possibilities to this story. Elisha could have just given her the money she needed. He could have prayed and had God send away the debt collector or have the money delivered to her by someone else.
Elisha had the widow AND her sons going to their neighbors and asking for vessels. This was a humbling activity. It takes courage to go to your neighbors and ask them for something. Chances are, their neighbors were struggling as well, so they likely didn’t have money or food to spare. But they did have extra containers. So they willingly gave.
Then Elisha had the widow and her sons closing the door before filling the jars. This was not a miracle to be witnessed by the masses, but rather a private blessing for this little family to see God at work.
How special that Elisha involved the sons in the gathering and filling. These two boys were facing a terrible future unless God intervened. They had to be scared. But how precious that they were able to be active participants in the miraculous provision for their needs.
They went door to door collecting. They handed those empty vessels to their mom and watched as she filled them with oil. They saw first hand how the oil from one jar filled enough jars to not only pay off their father’s debt, but for the family to live off of.
What an amazing lesson they witnessed to see how God cared for them and provided for them. For the rest of their lives, those boys would always remember that time when they were facing being sold into slavery but God interviewed by multiplying a pot of oil.
What Can We Learn From the Prophet’s Widow’s Story?
What about you? Are you feeling pressure to provide for your family but you don’t know how you’re going to? Are debt collectors knocking on your door or calling you on the phone? Do you stare at the bills and wonder how on earth they’re ever going to get paid?
God loves you. And just as He provided for the prophet’s widow, so He can provide for you.
First, go directly to God. Tell Him your situation. Ask Him what you’re supposed to do. He already knows, but He wants to hear it from you. And He needs to know you’re listening.
Right now, feel free to press pause, and get on your knees and pour out your heart to the Lord Jesus. Plead your case. Admit your helplessness. Beg for His mercy and provision. Then sit back and listen to what He has to say. Get out your Bible. Read the story of the prophet’s widow in 2 Kings 4. Read a psalm or two. Ask God to make it obvious what you’re supposed to do. Then do it.
He may ask you to do something that’s humbling. It will likely take faith on your part. It may require you to look around at what you have and do something with the resources He’s already blessed you with. The widow didn’t have much. But she did have oil. What do you have?
Lord God, these are difficult times for so many. Covid has stolen so much from so many, destroying businesses, eliminating jobs, taking away hope for the future. But hard times is nothing new.
You are our Provider when we have nothing. You give freely to those in need. We ask today that you be with those women who are struggling financially, especially those who are widows or single moms.
For those who are being threatened by others and are feeling helpless, be their Defense. Watch over and protect those who are vulnerable. Give guidance and wisdom so that we know exactly what to do in whatever situation we may find us in. Forgive us when we lose faith and forget what an awesome God You are. Thank you for loving us always. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
That concludes this week’s episode of All God’s Women. Tune in next week when we talk about the Shunammite woman, a wealthy woman who experienced a life and death miracle from God.
Prophet’s Widow Bible Study
Bible Study Review
- Why did the widow go to Elisha?
- How did Elisha help her?
- How were the widow’s sons involved in the miracle?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why does God allow godly men to die young?
- What could the widow’s husband have done differently?
- Why did Elisha have them pouring the oil in the privacy of their home?
- Have you ever been in as desperate a situation as the widow was in?
- Who do you turn to in times of trouble?
- Think of a time God provided for your financial needs.
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