Melachim 2/Kings 2-Chapter 4: The miracles of Elisha with the widow and Shunamite woman, and famine

Chapter 4: The miracles of Elisha with the widow and Shunamite woman, and famine

1.      Elisha miraculously helps a destitute widow:

  • A destitute widow cries to Elisha for help against her creditors: A woman, who was the widow of one of the disciples of the prophets [i.e. Ovadyah[1]], cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant, my husband, has died, and you know that your servant feared Hashem; and now the creditor [i.e. Yehoram the son of Achav, who would lend him money with interest] has come to take my two children for himself as slaves [in exchange for payment of the debt].”
  • Elisha blesses her jugs to constantly refill with oil: Elisha said to her, “What can I do for you? Tell me what you have in your house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing at all in the house except for a jug of oil.” He said to her, “Go borrow many empty vessels from all your neighbors and do not suffice with borrowing only a few vessels. After you borrow the vessels, and bring them home, you shall then close the door with you and your sons inside your house [as miracles are to take place in modest settings[2]] and you shall then pour from your jug of oil into all these vessels, and carry away the vessels that are filled with oil [to fill up the next jug].” So, she [borrowed the vessels from her neighbors] and went away from Elisha and closed the door with her and her sons inside. They kept on bringing her empty vessels and she kept on filling them with oil until there were no more vessels left to fill and so the oil stopped. [In addition to this miracle, God caused the price of oil to go up in order to help the poor widow make a nice profit on the sale of her oil.[3]]
  • She sells the oil and makes enough money to pay her creditors: After the jugs of oil were filled, she came back to Elisha for further instructions [as she was unsure if she should sell now or wait for the price to further go up[4]], and he told her that she should go sell the oil in order to pay her debt, and then use the remaining oil for her and her sons to live off [for the rest of their lives until the resurrection[5]].

2.      Elisha and the Shunamite woman:

  • Elisha eats by the home of a prominent Shunamis woman: Elisha traveled to a town named Shunem, and there he met a prominent woman [who was the sister of Avishag Hashunamis[6]] who pressed upon him to eat a meal in her home, and so it was that whenever he would pass through the city, he would stop there to eat a meal.
  • The Shunamis prepares a room for Elisha for him to stay whenever he comes by: The Shunamis woman said to her husband, “Behold, I have been made known that he is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly [as whenever he comes there are no flies on the table, and I never find any stains on his bedding[7]]. Let us designate for him a small room in the upper chamber, and place there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that when he comes to us, he will have where to stay.”
  • Elisha blesses the woman with a son after staying in the room: When Elisha once again arrived to the city, he was led to his new room by the attic and he laid down there. Elisha then called to Geichazi his servant and asked him to summon the Shunemite woman so that he can bless her for all that she has done for him. And so he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha then told Geichazi to tell her, “You have busied yourself on our account with all this trouble, is there anything that I can do for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or to the general of the army?” She replied, “I dwell amongst my nation [and have no need for you to speak to anyone about me as I have no one to fear, and there is no one who troubles me[8]].” Elisha then asked Geichazi [after she left his presence] as to what if anything can he do for her to repay her for her goodness and kindness? Geichazi then replied and told Elisha that she does not have any sons and her husband is old [and is not capable of naturally having children[9]].” So, Elisha once again instructed his servant Geichazi to summon her, and so he summoned her, and she stood at the doorway. Elisha then said to her, “At this exact time next year you will embrace a son.” She replied in disbelief saying, “My master who is a Man of God, please do not fail your maidservant [by blessing me with a son who will not live, and only bless me if the son will merit to live so that I do not have to bury him[10]].”
  • The Shunamis woman gives birth to a son: So it was that the Shunamis woman conceived and gave birth to a son at that same time a year later, just as Elisha had spoken to her.
  • The child has a debilitating headache and dies as a result: The child grew up and one day when he went out to join his father in the field together with all the other harvesters, he told his father that he is suffering from a terrible debilitating headache. His father thus instructed to the servant to carry him to his mother [to take care of him]. And, so he was carried to his mother, and he lay on her knees until noon, and died. She took her dead son with her up to the attic, into the room designated for Elisha and laid him on Elisha’s bed, and closed the door with him inside and left.
  • The Shunamis asks her husband for a servant and donkey so she can chase after Elisha: She called for her husband and told him to send to her one of the servants and one of the mules so that she can run up to Elisha and return. Her husband responded to her perplexed not understanding why she needed to go greet him “as it is neither the Rosh Chodesh, nor Sabbos [which were the dates that she was accustomed to greet him[11]].” She replied to her husband that he has nothing to worry about and everything is okay and that she is simply going to greet him. [She hid from her husband her purpose of travel, and did not tell him that their son had died, as miraclesare usually done in a modest fashion.[12]]
  • The Shunamis travels to Elisha by Mt. Carmel: She saddled the mule, and she told her servant to travel forward [quickly[13]] with the mule and that he should not stop from riding unless she tells him to do so. They traveled and she eventually arrived to Elisha who was located by Mt. Carmel. Elisha saw her from a distance and proclaimed to his servant Geichazi that the Shunamite woman is approaching them. He instructed Geichazi to run towards her, and ask her as to how she was doing, and inquire as to the well-being of her husband and son. When asked, she replied that everyone is doing well [as she did not want to begin the conversation with bad tidings, and did not want to tell the servant anything[14]].
  • The Shunamis approaches Elisha and tells him of her son’s death: She walked up to Elisha who was on the mountain, and she grabbed hold of his feet. Geichazi approached her in order to push her away, however, Elisha told Geichazi to let her be, as he can tell that her soul is bitter [as something terrible has happened to her], and Hashem had hid it from him and did not tell him [through prophecy as to what had happened to her son]. She then said to Elisha, “Did I ever ask you to bless me with a son? Didn’t I ask you not to fool me [and bless me with a son who will not live]?”
  • They all get up and travel back to her dead son: Elisha instructed Geichazi to prepare for quick travel and take with him his staff in his hand [and go travel to the woman’s dead son and try to resurrect him with his staff]. He instructed him, “If you meet anyone on the way of your journey, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer him. When you arrive to her home, you shall approach the child and place my staff on the lad’s face.” However, the lad’s mother refused the offer and persisted to Elisha that he himself travel and perform the miracle. She said to him, “I swear by the life of God and by your life, that I will not leave you [until you do as I say and travel together with me back home[15]].” And so [due to lack of choice] Elisha rose and traveled back with her.
  • Geichazi is unsuccessful in resurrecting the child: Geichazi went ahead of them [as per the instructions of Elisha], and he arrived at the home and placed the staff on the lad’s face, although it was unsuccessful in doing anything. There was no sound nor any movement from the land and so Geichazi returned to Elisha and told him that the lad had not awakened.
  • Elisha resurrects the child: Elisha arrived at the house, and found that the lad was indeed dead, and was laying on his bed. Elisha came and closed the door leaving both of them inside, and he prayed to Hashem. He went up and lay on top of the child, and placed his mouth on the child’s mouth and his eyes on the child’s eyes and his palms on the child’s palms, and he lay flat on top of him, and the child’s flesh became warm as a result. Elisha repeated this action several times [i.e. seven[16]], going down from the bed onto the ground to pray in between each time. The lad then sneezed up to seven times, and the lad opened his eyes. Elisha then called Geichazi and asked him to summon the Shunamis woman [to come see that her son is now alive] Geichazi called her, and she came to him, and Elisha instructed her to pick up her son. She came and fell at his feet and bowed to the ground and picked up her son and left.

3.      Elisha miraculously provides food during famine:

  • Poisonous mushrooms are accidentally fed to the students: Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in the land, and the disciples of the prophets were sitting before him. Elisha instructed his servant to prepare a large pot on top of the fire and cook a stew for the students. One of the students went out to the field to gather herbs to be cooked and he found a vine in the field and gathered from it wild [poisonous[17]] mushrooms until his garment was full. He came and threw them into the pot of stew, as they did not know [that it was poisonous]. The students each had a bowl poured for them to eat and in the midst of their eating they realized that they were eating poison [as the food was extremely bitter[18]], that they cried out to Elisha and said, “There is death in the pot” and they could not continue to eat.
  • Elisha fixes the poisonous food with flour: Elisha instructed them to place flour into the pot, and then instructed all the students to eat from it and indeed they could taste no more harmful substances in the pot.
  • Elisha is given bread which miraculously feeds all the students: A man arrived from the country of Baal-Shalishah, and he brought to Elisha bread of Bikkurim, twenty loaves of barley bread, and sheaves of fresh grain in their shells, and Elisha instructed for the bread to be given to the students for them to eat. His servant however exclaimed that there is not enough bread to go around for all the one hundred men. But, Elisha persisted and said that the bread should be given to them to eat, for so has Hashem said that they should eat it and there will even be leftovers. And so it was that the bread was placed before them, and they ate and there were leftovers as Hashem had promised.

[1] Rashi 4:1

[2] Rashi 4:4

[3] Rashi 4:6

[4] Rashi 4:7

[5] Rashi 4:7

[6] Rashi 4:8

[7] Rashi 4:9

[8] Rashi 4:13

[9] Metzudos Dovid 4:14

[10] Rashi 4:16

[11] See Metzudos Dovid 4:23

[12] Metzudos Dovid 4:23

[13] Rashi 4:24

[14] Metzudos Dovid and Ralbag 4:26

[15] See Metzudos Dovid 4:30

[16] Ralbag 4:35

[17] Rashi 4:39

[18] Radak 4:39

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.