Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the
prophets--They were allowed to marry as well as the priests and
Levites. Her husband, not enjoying the lucrative profits of business,
had nothing but a professional income, which, in that irreligious age,
would be precarious and very scanty, so that he was not in a condition
to provide for his family.
the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen--By
the enactment of the law, a creditor was entitled to claim the person
and children of the insolvent debtor, and compel them to serve him as
bondmen till the year of jubilee should set them free.
2-4. a pot--or cruet of oil. This comprising her whole stock of
domestic utensils, he directs her to borrow empty vessels not a few;
then, secluding herself with her children, [the widow] was to pour oil
from her cruse into the borrowed vessels, and, selling the oil,
discharge the debt, and then maintain herself and family with the
6. the oil stayed--that is, ceased to multiply; the benevolent object
for which the miracle had been wrought having been accomplished.
SON TO THE
8. Elisha passed to Shunem--now Sulam, in the plain of Esdraelon, at
the southwestern base of Little Hermon. The prophet, in his journey,
was often entertained here by one of its pious and opulent inhabitants.
10. Let us make a little chamber--not build, but prepare it. She meant
a room in the oleah, the porch, or gateway
attached to the front of the house, leading into the court and inner
apartments. The front of the house, excepting the door, is a dead wall,
and hence this room is called a chamber in the wall. It is usually
appropriated to the use of strangers, or lodgers for a night, and, from
its seclusion, convenient for study or retirement.
13-16. what is to be done for thee?--Wishing to testify his gratitude
for the hospitable attentions of this family, he announced to her the
birth of a son "about this time next year." The interest and importance
of such an intelligence can only be estimated by considering that
Oriental women, and Jewish in particular, connect ideas of disgrace
with barrenness, and cherish a more ardent desire for children than
women in any other part of the world
19. My head, my head!--The cries of the boy, the part affected, and
the season of the year, make it probable that he had been overtaken by
a stroke of the sun. Pain, stupor, and inflammatory fever are the
symptoms of the disease, which is often fatal.
22. she called unto her husband--Her heroic concealment of the death
from her husband is not the least interesting feature of the story.
24. Drive, and go forward--It is usual for women to ride on asses,
accompanied by a servant, who walks behind and drives the beast with
his stick, goading the animal at the speed required by his mistress.
The Shunammite had to ride a journey of five or six hours to the top of
26-28. And she answered, It is well--Her answer was purposely brief
and vague to Gehazi, for she reserved a full disclosure of her loss for
the ear of the prophet himself. She had met Gehazi at the foot of the
hill, and she stopped not in her ascent till she had disburdened her
heavy-laden spirit at Elisha's feet. The violent paroxysm of grief into
which she fell on approaching him, appeared to Gehazi an act of
disrespect to his master; he was preparing to remove her when the
prophet's observant eye perceived that she was overwhelmed with some
unknown cause of distress. How great is a mother's love! how wondrous
are the works of Providence! The Shunammite had not sought a son from
the prophet--her child was, in every respect, the free gift of God. Was
she then allowed to rejoice in the possession for a little, only to be
pierced with sorrow by seeing the corpse of the cherished boy? Perish,
doubt and unbelief! This event happened that "the works of God should
be made manifest" in His prophet, "and for the glory of God."
29-31. take my staff . . . and lay . . . upon the face of the
child--The staff was probably an official rod of a certain form and
size. Necromancers used to send their staff with orders to the
messengers to let it come in contact with nothing by the way that might
dissipate or destroy the virtue imparted to it. Some have thought that
Elisha himself entertained similar ideas, and was under an impression
that the actual application of his staff would serve as well as the
touch of his hand. But this is an imputation dishonorable to the
character of the prophet. He wished to teach the Shunammite, who
obviously placed too great dependence upon him, a memorable lesson to
look to God. By sending his servant forward to lay his staff on the
child, he raised [the Shunammite's] expectations, but, at the same
time, taught her that his own help was unavailing--"there was neither
voice, nor hearing." The command, to salute no man by the way, showed the
urgency of the mission, not simply as requiring the avoidance of the
tedious and unnecessary greetings so common in the East
but the exercise of faith and prayer. The act of Gehazi was allowed to
fail, in order to free the Shunammite, and the people of Israel at
large, of the superstitious notion of supposing a miraculous virtue
resided in any person, or in any rod, and to prove that
it was only through earnest prayer and faith in the power of God and
for His glory that this and every miracle was to be performed.
34. lay upon the child, &c.--(see
Although this contact with a dead body would communicate ceremonial
uncleanness, yet, in performing the great moral duties of piety and
benevolence, positive laws were sometimes dispensed with, particularly
by the prophets.
35. the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes--These
were the first acts of restored respiration, and they are described as
successive steps. Miracles were for the most part performed
instantaneously; but sometimes, also, they were advanced progressively
(1Ki 18:44, 45;
Mr 8:24, 25).
38. there was a dearth in the
the sons of the prophets were sitting before him--When receiving
instruction, the scholars sat under their masters. This refers to their
being domiciled under the same roof (compare
Set on the great pot--As it is most likely that the Jewish would
resemble the Egyptian "great pot," it is seen by the monumental
paintings to have been a large goblet, with two long legs, which stood
over the fire on the floor. The seethed pottage consisted of meat cut
into small pieces, mixed with rice or meal and vegetables.
39. went out into the field to gather herbs--Wild herbs are very
extensively used by the people in the East, even by those who possess
their own vegetable gardens. The fields are daily searched for mallow,
asparagus, and other wild plants.
wild vine--literally, "the vine of the field," supposed to be the
colocynth, a cucumber, which, in its leaves, tendrils, and fruit,
bears a strong resemblance to the wild vine. The "gourds," or fruit,
are of the color and size of an orange bitter to the taste, causing
colic, and exciting the nerves, eaten freely they would occasion such a
derangement of the stomach and bowels as to be followed by death. The
meal which Elisha poured into the pot was a symbolic sign that the
noxious quality of the herbs was removed.
lap full--The hyke, or large cloak, is thrown loosely over the left
shoulder and fastened under the right arm, so as to form a lap or
43. They shall eat, and shall leave thereof--This was not a miracle of
Elisha, but only a prediction of one by the word of the Lord. Thus it
differed widely from those of Christ