The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Commentary on 2 Kings 4:8-11, 15-16a

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 28, 2017

The following is from a Protestant reference work, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. The excerpt has no theological issues which should concern Catholics. Text in red indicate my additions.

2 Kings 4:8

8. And it fell on a day] From its use elsewhere the Hebrew noun, as here, with the article signifies ‘on that day’, ‘at that time’, and indicates a closer connexion with the preceding narrative than would be gathered from the A.V. But see below, verses 11 and 18.

Elisha passed to Shunem] In Jos 19:18, Shunem is among the places allotted to the tribe of Issachar. It is also mentioned as the place where the Philistines encamped before the battle of Gilboa (1 Sam 28:4). It has been identified with Solam, a village situate on the little Hermon about 3 miles north of Jezreel. When Elisha was travelling either from Samaria or Jezreel to Carmel, Shunem lay on his road. The place is mentioned as being the home of Abishag (1 Kings 1:3) and from that is derived the Jewish tradition which makes the Shunammite woman of the present narrative to have been the sister of Abishag.

a great woman] The adjective is used to signify wealthy in 1 Sam 25:2, of Nabal, and 2 Sam 19:32 of Barzillai, who is described as ‘a very great man’. As the Shunammite woman had a husband still alive, it would be more natural to speak of him as ‘great’ in the sense of ‘rich’, and perhaps here the meaning is rather ‘influential’. She was clearly a person of independent character, and one who could act when the occasion demanded it.

she constrained him to eat bread] The journeys of Elisha to and fro had somehow become known to her and she offered him hospitality. This was the usual way in the East, where houses for public entertainment were uncommon.
as oft as he passed by] Apparently the allusion is to such rounds as the chief of the prophetic colleges would make to the different centres at which they were gathered. That Elisha’s visits were frequent is clear from the next verse.

2 Kings 4:9

she said unto her husband] The woman was not content with providing food, but out of reverence for the character of the visitor, desired to provide a lodging also.

I perceive that this is a holy man of God] Probably before the first invitation the woman had learnt something of Elisha’s work and the reason of his frequent journeys. Now when he became their guest she had full opportunity of enquiring from Gehazi, and observing for herself the way in which he laboured to keep alive the true worship of God in the land. The existence of a family like this of the Shunammite is evidence that amid much corruption God was not yet forgotten in the ten tribes. The name ‘man of God’ was applied to Elijah (1 Kings 17:24) by the widow of Zarephath after she had beheld what great things God did through his ministry. She added also ‘the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth’, which probably represents much of the feeling of the Shunammite when she spake of Elisha as ‘holy’.

2 Kings 4:10

Let us make] The R.V. brings ‘I pray thee’ to follow these words according to the Hebrew order.

a little chamber … on the wall] The Hebrew might mean either a chamber with a wall, a walled room, in contradistinction to one built of wood, or a building above the usual roof of the house and so supported by the walls. The latter seems to be the sense required here, for it is said (verse 21) that the mother went up when she wished to lay the dead child upon the prophet’s bed. As the roofs of Eastern houses can be reached by a staircase from outside, a chamber on the housetop (cf. Prov 21:9; Prov 25:24) would furnish the sort of privacy which Elisha would desire. He could also thus come in and go out without being mixed up with the movements of the household.

a bed] The articles here named form the proper furniture of an Eastern room, where a superabundance of such articles is nowhere found.

a stool] The word is that which is often rendered ‘throne’, and it probably in this case means the couch or divan which runs along the wall of an Eastern dwelling-room.

he shall turn in] The verb, which is the same as in verse 8, is that which Lot employs (Gen 19:2) in his invitation to the two angels. Preparation was made so that the prophet and his servant might be at rest, and come and go when they pleased. As a halting place in a long journey it would be very acceptable.

2 Kings 4:11

No comment is offered on this verse which reads: Now, there was a certain day, when he came, and turned into the chamber, and rested there. It simply states that the purpose for which the “little chamber” was furnished was fulfilled.

2 Kings 4:14

And he said] Clearly, to Gehazi. This the LXX. adds.

Verily she hath no child] R.V. son. The R.V. is correct, though it seems from the whole narrative that the woman was childless. Of the great grief felt from want of children we learn in the history of Hannah (1 Sam 1:10-11). Gehazi had probably learnt that this was a sorrow in the family at Shunem.

2 Kings 4:15

And he said. Call her] It would seem from these words that the woman had gone away at once after saying she had no wants which needed a petition to the king or the captain of the host.

she stood in the door] Her reverence for Elisha kept her at the threshold.

2 Kings 4:16a
The “a” following 16 indicates the first part of the verse.

according to the time of life] R.V. when the time cometh round. The literal sense of the verb is explained on the margin of R.V. = liveth, or reviveth. The phrase is the same which is used Gen 18:14 to the childless Sarah before the birth of Isaac.


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