2 Kings 4:8-37 – Elisha and the Shunammite Woman


2 Kings 4:8-37


The birth, death, and resurrection of the son of a wealthy Shunammite woman testify to her decisive action in a crisis and the power of God as mediated through Elisha.


In return for all that a wealthy woman from Shunem has done for him, Elisha offers to assist her with the king. When she refuses, Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, suggests that the childless woman might appreciate the promise of a son. Despite her protests, for fear of false hopes, the woman conceived and bore a son, as Elisha had promised. Miracle one.

Several years later, the son of the prophet’s promise mysteriously dies. His mother’s decisive action and determined response bring them both to the prophet at Mt. Carmel, who immediately responds to her distress, matching her decisive and determined action with prayer that results in the resuscitation of the lifeless boy. Miracle two.

The story, clearly reminiscent of Elijah’s resuscitation of the widow’s son in 1 Kings 17:17-24, is told with considerable literary skill. An important difference lies in the lack of a statement testifying to the prophet’s power or God’s activity (compare 1 Kings 17:22). This probably means that the intention of the story is not to legitimate Elisha’s call as in the Elijah tale. The story has influenced the story of Jesus’ raising of the widow’s son in Luke 7:11-17.