2 Kings 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 2 Kings 4)

Verse 1

[1] Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

Prophets — Who, though they were wholly devoted to sacred employment, were not excluded from marriage, any more than the priests and Levites.

Fear the Lord — His poverty therefore was not procured by his idleness, or prodigality; but by his piety, because he would not comply with the king's way of worship, and therefore lost all worldly advantages.

Bondmen — Either, to use them as his slaves, or to sell them to others, according to the law.

Verse 2

[2] And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.

What shall I — How shall I relieve thee, who am myself poor?

Verse 7

[7] Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

Unto her son — To one of them: for she had two, verse 1.

The oil stayed — To teach us, that we should not waste any of his good creatures; and that God would not work miracles unnecessarily. We are never straiten'd in God, and in his power and bounty, and the riches of his grace. All our straitness is in ourselves. It is our faith that fails, not his promise. Were there more vessels, there is enough in God to fill them, enough for all, enough for each.

Verse 8

[8] And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.

Great — For estate, or birth and quality.

Verse 9

[9] And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.

This is — A prophet, and that of eminent holiness: by our kindness to whom, we shall procure a blessing to ourselves.

Verse 10

[10] Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.

On the wall — That he may be free from the noise of family business, and enjoy that privacy, which, I perceive, he desireth for his prayers and meditations.

A bed, … — He will not be troublesome or chargeable to us: he cares not for rich furniture or costly entertainment, and is content with bare necessaries.

Verse 12

[12] And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.

She stood — The relation seems to be a little perplexed, but may be thus conceived. It is in this verse recorded in the general, that the prophet sent Gehazi to call her, and that she came to him upon that call: then follows a particular description of the whole business, with all the circumstances, first, of the message with which Gehazi was sent when he went to call her, and of her answer to that message, verse 13, and of Gehazi's conjecture thereupon, verse 14, and then of her coming to the prophet at his call: which is there repeated to make way for the following passages.

Verse 13

[13] And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.

I dwell — I live among my kindred and friends; nor have I any cause to seek relief from higher powers.

Verse 14

[14] And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.

He said — Hast thou observed any thing which she wants or desires? For the prophet kept himself much in his chamber, whilst Gehazi went more freely about the house, as his occasions led him.

Verse 16

[16] And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.

Do not lie — Do not delude me with vain hopes. She could not believe it for joy.

Verse 17

[17] And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.

Time of life — See note on Genesis 18:10.

Verse 21

[21] And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.

Bed of the man of God — Being apt to believe, he that so soon took away what he had given, would restore what he had taken away. By this faith women received their dead raised to life. In this faith she makes no preparation for the burial of her child, but for his resurrection.

Verse 23

[23] And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well.

New moon, … — Which were the usual times in which they resorted to the prophets for instruction.

It shall be well — My going will not be troublesome to him, nor prejudicial to thee or me.

Verse 26

[26] Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.

It is — So it was in some respects, because it was the will of a wise and good God, and therefore best for her. When God calls away our dearest relations by death, it becomes us to say, it is well both with us and them. It is well, for all is well that God doth: all is well with them that are gone, if they are gone to heaven. And all is well with us that stay behind, if by the affliction we are furthered in our way thither.

Verse 27

[27] And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.

The feet — She fell at his feet and touched them, as a most humble and earnest supplicant. Withal, she intimated, what she durst not presume to express in words, that she desired him to go along with her.

Let her alone — Disturb her not, for this gesture is a sign of some extraordinary grief.

Hid it — Whereby he signifies, that what he knew or did, was not by any virtue inherent in himself, but from God, who revealed to him only what and when he pleased.

Verse 28

[28] Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?

She said — This child was not given to me upon my immoderate desire, for which I might have justly been thus chastised, but was freely promised by thee in God's name, and from his special favour.

Deceive me — With vain hopes of a comfort that I should never have. And I had been much happier if I had never had it, than to lose it so quickly.

Verse 29

[29] Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.

Gird up — Tie up thy long garments about thy loins for expedition.

If thou meet, … — Make no delay nor stop by the way, neither by words nor actions.

Verse 30

[30] And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.

Will not leave thee — Until thou goest home with me. For she had no great confidence in Gehazi, nor was her faith so strong as to think that the prophet could work so great a miracle at this distance.

Verse 31

[31] And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.

Neither voice — Neither speech, nor sense, nor any sign of life, in the child. This disappointment might proceed from hence, that Elisha having changed his mind, and yielded to her importunity to go with her, did alter his course, and not join his fervent prayers with Gehazi's action.

Not awaked — Not revived.

Verse 33

[33] He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.

Shut the door — Upon himself and the dead child, that he might pray to God without distraction, and might more freely use those means which he thought fit.

Verse 34

[34] And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.

And put — One part upon another successively; for the disproportion of the bodies would not permit it to be done together.

Grew warm — Not by any external heat, which could not be transmitted to the child's body by such slight touches of the prophet's body; but from a principle of life, which was already infused into the child, and by degrees enlivened all the parts of his body.

Verse 35

[35] Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

He walked — He changeth his postures for his own necessary refreshment, and walked to and fro, exercising his mind in prayer to God.

And went — Repeating his former actions, to teach us not to be discouraged in our prayers, if we be not speedily answered.

Opened his eyes — So the work begun in the former verse is here perfected. Although miracles were for the most part done in an instant, yet sometimes they were done by degrees.

Verse 36

[36] And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.

Unto him — To the door.

Verse 40

[40] So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.

Death — That is, some deadly thing.

Verse 41

[41] But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.

Into the pot — Together with the pottage which they had taken out of it.

Verse 42

[42] And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.

First fruits — Which were the priests due, Numbers 18:12, but these, and probably the rest of the priests dues, were usually brought by the pious Israelites, according to their ability and opportunity, to the Lord's prophets, because they were not permitted to carry them to Jerusalem.