Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Shunammite Woman

Today's post comes from the monthly Bible study that I teach at my church. We are going through woman of the Bible.  This past weekend, I taught about the Shunammite woman found in 2 Kings 4:8-37.  Here is the text for that passage:
Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat food.She said to her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. 10 Please, let us make a little walled upper chamber and let us set a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; and it shall be, when he comes to us, that he can turn in there.”11 One day he came there and turned in to the upper chamber and rested. 12 Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” And when he had called her, she stood before him. 13 He said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Behold, you have been careful for us with all this care; what can I do for you? Would you be spoken for to the king or to the captain of the army?’” And she answered, “I live among my own people.” 14 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “Truly she has no son and her husband is old.” 15 He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 Then he said, “At this season next year you will embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant.”17 The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her.
18 When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father to the reapers. 19 He said to his father, “My head, my head.” And he said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door behind him and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and return.” 23 He said, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” And she said, “It will be well.” 24 Then she saddled a donkey and said to her servant, “Drive and go forward; do not slow down the pace for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she went and came to the man of God to Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her at a distance, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Behold, there is the Shunammite. 26 Please run now to meet her and say to her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?’” And she answered, “It is well.” 27 When she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came near to push her away; but the man of God said, “Let her alone, for her soul is troubled within her; and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask for a son from my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me’?”29 Then he said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins and take my staff in your hand, and go your way; if you meet any man, do not salute him, and if anyone salutes you, do not answer him; and lay my staff on the lad’s face.” 30 The mother of the lad said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” And he arose and followed her. 31 Then Gehazi passed on before them and laid the staff on the lad’s face, but there was no sound or response. So he returned to meet him and told him, “The lad has not awakened.”32 When Elisha came into the house, behold the lad was dead and laid on his bed. 33 So he entered and shut the door behind them both and prayed to the Lord. 34 And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm. 35 Then he returned and walked in the house once back and forth, and went up and stretched himself on him; and the lad sneezed seven times and the lad opened his eyes. 36 He called Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Take up your son.” 37 Then she went in and fell at his feet and bowed herself to the ground, and she took up her son and went out.
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."

What great faith the Shunammite woman had!  Oh, that we could have that faith in our lives.  This story begins by telling us about this woman, who was never named in the Scripture.  She was a prominent woman - she was well known in her town.  We learn later on that she and her husband had no children, and her husband was older.  The Shunammite woman recognized that Elisha was a man of God, and she realized that she could be a blessing to him by providing him a place to stay in her home when he came through town.  She and her husband built a little room for Elisha, and they became good friends with him.

Elisha wanted to do something nice for the Shunammite woman, so he sent his servant Gehazi to ask her what she wanted.  In her humbleness, she said that she did not want anything from them.  She was doing the hospitable thing for Elisha, and she did this thing to get no recognition for herself.  She wanted to help him, and her reward for that was internal.  How many times in life do we want recognition for the things that we do?  It is so easy for us to want external recognition for out deeds.  We need to be like the Shunammite woman and seek the internal reward instead.  I wonder if her humble nature is part of the reason that she was characterized as a prominent woman?  I'm sure it helped!

Because the Shunammite woman did not give Elisha an answer as to what he could do for her, he came up with the answer on his own (with the help of the Lord). Gehazi reminded Elisha that the Shunammite woman had no children, and her husband was old.  In that day and time, if a woman became a widow and had no children, she essentially had nothing and was worth nothing.  She would have had a hard time if that had happened to her.  So, Elisha told her that at this season next year, she would give birth to a son.  Her response to this was bewilderment, and possibly unbelief.  She had not expected to ever give birth, and I think she was prepared for what her life would hold without any children.

Of course, as things of God happen, she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had said that she would.  At this point in the story, between verses 17 and 18, many years pass.  We don't know how many years for sure, but enough that her son is now old enough to go to the field with his father, but young enough to still be held on her lap (as we read in verse 20).  Throughout these years, the Shunammite woman continues to live her life as she always had.  Elisha continues to pass through their town and stay with them on his journeys.  They develop a great friendship, one that continues to last for years to come.

And then, tragedy strikes.  One day, while working in the field, the boy complains of a headache.  We don't know exactly what happened to him, but we can guess.  Maybe a stroke?  A brain aneurysm?  Whatever it was, it was enough to kill him.  The son was brought to his mother, and she held him on her lap until he died.  As a mother, I am not sure what I would have done in this situation.  The Shunammite woman remained calm.  Would I have acted that same way?  Or would I have panicked, screamed out in anger, shut myself up in my room?  I hope that I would have the faith to act as the Shunammite woman did in this circumstance.  She did not panic.  She did not cry out in anger.  However, she did take immediate action.

She laid her son on Elisha's bed, and then began the trip to Mount Carmel to see Elisha.  She did tell her servant to make the donkey go as fast as it could, and not to stop for anything.  This is where we see the urgency in her.  She was still human, she was still a mother.  She was not dilly-dallying by any means.  But, she did maintain her composure.  When she got close to Mount Carmel, Elisha recognized her from a distance.  This shows how good their relationship was.  He knew it was the Shunammite woman from afar.  I imagine that Elisha got a little nervous when he saw her.  There was no reason why she should be coming to Mount Carmel at that time.  It wasn't the Sabbath, the new moon, or a special feast (the typical times to come make sacrifices).  We also learn that God did not tell Elisha in advance that she was coming, which must have been an unusual feeling for him.  Elisha sends his servant Gehazi to see what is going on.

Once again, this woman is amazing!  When Gehazi approached her, she could have lost it.  She could have freaked out and let it all out on him.  But instead, she said, "It is well."  It's fine, she said.  Her faith in God was so strong that she was able to say things were fine, when her son was laying dead in her house.  But she knew that God was in control of the situation.  If God chose to bring her son back to life, glory to God.  If God chose to keep her son dead, glory to God.  God is sovereign, and she knew that God was going to do the right thing for her.

She approached Elisha and told him what was going on.  Then, she said that she did not ask for a son from Elisha.  She was perfectly fine and content without having a son.  However, because of Elisha, she now had a son, and he was now dead.  She wanted Elisha to come back to her house to help her out.  Here again, we see the raw emotion coming out in her.  She loved her son, this child that she did not ask for.  She wanted Elisha to do whatever he could do to help her out.  But, I think she was prepared to accept the result, no matter what it was.

As we read in the Scripture, Elisha comes back to her house, and by the miraculous power of God, the son of the Shunammite woman was healed.  Look at verse 37.  Before the woman picked her son up, she bowed to the ground.  This was not an act of worship to Elisha.  This was an act of worship to God.  The Shunammite woman knew that God was sovereign and that He chose to heal her son.  She recognized that she needed to give God the glory before she did anything else.  Do we forget sometimes to give God the glory and recognition that He deserves?  Oh sisters, let us never forget to recognize God and the wonderful works that He does for us on a daily basis!  Let us live our lives in constant faith and recognition of Him.

The Shunammite woman's story does not end here.  We read about her again in 2 Kings 8.

Now Elisha spoke to the woman whose son he had restored to life, saying, “Arise and go with your household, and sojourn wherever you can sojourn; for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will even come on the land for seven years.” So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God, and she went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. At the end of seven years, the woman returned from the land of the Philistines; and she went out to appeal to the king for her house and for her field. Now the king was talking with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, saying, “Please relate to me all the great things that Elisha has done.” As he was relating to the king how he had restored to life the one who was dead, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and for her field. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, this is the woman and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.”When the king asked the woman, she related it to him. So the king appointed for her a certain officer, saying, “Restore all that was hers and all the produce of the field from the day that she left the land even until now.”
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."
At this time, there is about to be a seven year famine in the land.  Elisha warns her and her family to leave the land for seven years so they will not have to deal with the famine.  The relationship between Elisha and this family has continued throughout all of these years.  She listens to him, and goes away for seven years.  When that time is up, she comes back.  However, her house and her land is no longer hers.  Once again, tragedy strikes.  Now, this woman has lost everything that has ever belonged to her.  And once again, her behavior is one that we all need to learn from.  She did not panic, she did not scream out in anger, she did not feel helpless.  Once again, she recognized that God was in control, and she was going to be fine.

In God's sovereignty and grace, and in the way He amazingly orchestrates events in our lives, Elisha's servant Gehazi was having a conversation with the king about the works of Elisha.  Gehazi is telling the king about the Shunammite woman, and how Elisha brought her son back to life all those years ago.  It "just so happens" (by God's sovereign hand) that the Shunammite woman walks in at that very moment to petition to the king for her home.  The king asks her to recount the events of Elisha, and she does so.  She also tells what has happened with the famine, and how she had been gone for seven years, and has come back to live.

The king grants her her home again.  Not only that, he grants her the produce that her field has produced for the last seven years.  The Shunammite woman was blessed seven times over for her faith in God and doing what God asked her to do.

It would be so easy for us to read a story like this one and think that God will bless us seven times more abundantly for doing His will.  I'm not going to sit here and say that God will not give you things.  There are many people on earth who have lots of things.  But, that is not the purpose of the story of the Shunammite woman.  I do not want you to read into this story that God will give you things if you choose to have faith in Him.  The purpose of this story is to see how the Shunammite woman's faith in God was so extreme that she was able to handle tragedy in her life twice, and still maintain her composure and faith that God was going to do the right thing for her.  She did not let life's circumstances get in the way of her worship of God.  Instead, her faith in God helped her to live her life in a way that we can look at her and learn the proper way to live our lives.

Oh sisters, I pray that you have faith like the Shunammite woman.  I pray that you live your life the way that she did, with faith, with composure, no matter what life's circumstances may bring.  I pray that we recognize the sovereignty of God, and that He is going to do what is right in our lives.


  1. Oh, my! So valuable -

    "The purpose of this story is to see how the Shunammite woman's faith in God was so extreme that she was able to handle tragedy in her life twice, and still maintain her composure and faith that God was going to do the right thing for her. She did not let life's circumstances get in the way of her worship of God. Instead, her faith in God helped her to live her life in a way that we can look at her and learn the proper way to live our lives."

    Thank you for sharing this passage from Scripture. I've read it before, but never really pulled it apart as you've done!

  2. This Shunnamite woman's story has been on my mind lately,so what a blessed coincidence to read the story again through your vision. How the Lord provides for us during our sorrowful and harshest times through God's servants and messengers. May I have this strong faith as the Shunammite woman.

    God bless
    Diana @

    1. Thanks, Diana! I love how the Lord works through "coincidences"!


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