Sharon Wilharm Bible Storyteller

Worn Out Women: Prophet’s Widow

Last week we looked at Naomi, a widow woman who grew bitter, feeling like God had rejected her. In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at the Prophet’s Widow in 2 Kings. She found herself in a desperate situation and blamed God for her misfortune. Fortunately, like Naomi, she knew where to turn in her time of need.

The Widow’s Story

The widow’s husband had been a godly man, a prophet in training, studying and preparing to be a spiritual leader, but he’d died, leaving behind a large debt.

Struggling to take care of her young sons in the midst of her grief, the widow’s troubles were compounded when the debt collector came knocking on her door, threatening to take away her sons and turn them into slaves if she couldn’t repay the debt right away.

Though the prophet’s widow was so frantic she could hardly think straight, she knew where to go during her time of trouble. The prophet’s widow ran to Elisha in despair. She pleaded for help, reminding him how her husband had been a man of God and this was how God repaid him.  

Rather than giving her money or offering to pay off the debt, Elisha asked how he could help her and what she had to offer.

All she had in the house was a pot of oil. So he gave her specific instructions. Go get as many empty containers as you can borrow from your neighbors. Be sure to get plenty. Then, once you’ve got them all, shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour oil into each of the containers, and set them aside as you fill them.

Rather strange advice, but she didn’t question him. Instead they did as he told her. Her sons handed her jars, she filled each one, then they set them aside. When they filled up the last jar, the oil flow stopped.

She went back to Elisha and asked him what to do with all the oil. He told her to sell it to pay off her debt then they could live off of what was left over.

The Widow’s Situation

I love this story because of all it’s many layers.

First, this woman’s husband had dedicated his life to service to God, training with Elisha and learning all he could about the Lord. But a life of ministry, especially in the early years, does not provide much financially. It’s a life of trusting that God will provide.

At some point, however, the woman’s husband had run into financial difficulties, and had taken out a loan. He went into debt to provide for his family, assuming that once he was done with his training, he’d be able to pay it off.

But life doesn’t always turn out as expected, and this man of God died unexpectedly. Instead of providing for his family, he left them in a worse situation than they would have been.

His widow could have just cursed God, but she didn’t. She may not have known God in the way that her husband did, but she knew who to turn to to get help.

Elisha could have taken care of the widow’s debt. It would have been the logical thing to do. Scripture is full of admonitions to take care of the widows and orphans. She was a widow in need. Surely he could have found a way to help her, and he did, but not in the way she expected.

Elisha asked her what she had. He wanted to take the resources she had and use them to meet her need. All she had was a jar of oil, so that’s what he worked with.

He told her and her sons to go door to door asking the neighbors for empty vessels. This had to be humbling but yet it was something that the neighbors could easily help her with. Everyone had an empty pot lying around that they didn’t mind contributing to help out a neighbor in need. It wasn’t doing them any good. More power to her if she wanted it.

Elisha was very clear that they should get lots of jars, not just a few. It was probably pretty easy to get the first few, but then they had to expand their circle and ask people they might not know as well. They had to keep soliciting even when they were ready to quit.

Then once they had as many as they could get, they all went inside and started pouring the oil. They poured until they could pour no more. And then, once they sold enough to pay off the debt, they lived off the rest of the proceeds.  

We usually think as moms that it’s our responsibility to do all the heavy lifting, and we are the ones who do the bulk of the work. But it’s so important that we allow others to help us and work with us.

The widow needed the wisdom of Elisha to guide her. She was in a desperate situation. She wasn’t equipped to handle it on her own.

She wanted to protect her boys, but rather than keeping them clueless to the situation, Elisha made them a part of the solution. They all worked together as a family. Each had their job to do, and together, they were able to pay off the creditor and provide for their well-being.

Though it was awkward begging from the neighbors, what a blessing it was for both the family and the neighbors to witness the miracle of God providing through the seemingly worthless empty vessels.

And, of course, the instruction to get as many jars as they could. Do we ever settle for the minimum when God wants to bless us to the maximum? He would only dispense as much oil as they had containers to hold it.

It’s much like the parable of the talents. We need to make the most of what God gives us in order for Him to fully bless us. In this case, the widow and her sons did as instructed, and their cup overflowed, not just meeting their immediate need, but continuing on long afterwards.

Your Situation

We must all go through the wilderness at some point in our lives. We all go through times when we are worn out and weary, weak with exhaustion, worried that our best days are behind us. We may even go through desperate situations like the prophet’s widow, struggling to keep her sons from being taken away and sold into slavery, all while grieving the loss of her beloved husband.

The prophet’s widow had certainly heard her husband talk about God. She knew enough about God to know that He could help her in her time of need, but it wasn’t until she was in a desperate position that she experienced firsthand the amazing wonder of God providing for her and her sons in a miraculous way.

If you’re feeling worn out and weary today, overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding you, know that God places us in these situations in order to draw us nearer to Him and to reveal Himself in a more personal way. He knows that when we’re stripped away of all that we’re clinging to, when we lose all hope, when we think that all is gone, that’s when we go running to God.

Joshua 1:9 assures us. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Though we may feel alone, we are never forsaken. God is always with us, wherever we may be.

Worn out women Bible study
Click HERE to go to the Prophet’s Widow Bible study.


Lord God, thank you for the wilderness experiences. Lord, you know how much we hate going through difficult times. You know how horrible grief is, and the effects that the loss of a loved one has on our lives. But thank you for never abandoning us, never leaving us on our own. Thank you for always being by our side, guiding us through our darkest days. Thank you for the blessings you provide for us in ways we could have never expected. Forgive us for those times we get caught up in our fear and lose faith. During those times, draw us near and ease our worries. We love you so very much. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Joshua 1:9

Tune in next week when we look at another worn out and weary woman, the Widow of Nain.

Remember, this month is a 5-week Bible study of worn out and weary women. Head over to the Bible study page for daily scripture study, lessons, activities, and questions, as well as guidance for starting your own in-home group Bible study.

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