Bible Commentary: 2 Kings 4:1-17, 38-44

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2 Kings 4:1-17, 38-44

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The Widow's Oil, Childless Woman and Other Miracles 

As we already saw, God, who had given Elisha a double portion of the spiritual power that Elijah had had, empowered Elisha thereby to perform miracles. And mighty miracles they were. A widow, believing that God would do what Elisha had announced, received supernaturally so much oil that she could sell it and pay off all her debts with the money and still live off the rest (verses 1-7). Elisha also prophesied accurately to a Shunammite woman who had shown kindness to him, but who was without child, that she would have a child within a year (verses 8-17). We are reminded of God's promise to Sarah that she would have a child, too, within a year (compare Genesis 18:10-14 Genesis 18:10-14 [10] And he said, I will certainly return to you according to the time of life; and, see, Sarah your wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. [11] Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. [12] Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? [13] And the LORD said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? [14] Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
American King James Version×
; Genesis 21:1-2 Genesis 21:1-2 [1] And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had spoken. [2] For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
American King James Version×
). In reading the entire story of Elisha's friendship with the woman at Shunem, we are also reminded of his predecessor, Elijah, who had a rather similar friendship with the widow of Zarephath (compare 1 Kings 17:8-16 1 Kings 17:8-16 [8] And the word of the LORD came to him, saying, [9] Arise, get you to Zarephath, which belongs to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain you. [10] So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray you, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. [11] And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray you, a morsel of bread in your hand. [12] And she said, As the LORD your God lives, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. [13] And Elijah said to her, Fear not; go and do as you have said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it to me, and after make for you and for your son. [14] For thus said the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth. [15] And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. [16] And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Elijah.
American King James Version×
). The parallel will become even more apparent in a later reading.

Elisha caused a stew of poisonous wild gourds to be transformed into healthy food (2 Kings 4:38-41 2 Kings 4:38-41 [38] And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said to his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets. [39] And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not. [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 you man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof. [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.
American King James Version×
), and he fed 100 people with 20 loaves of barley bread and some grain (verses 42-44). This last incident reminds us of Christ's miracles centuries later, when He fed masses of people with a few loaves of bread and some fishes. In both instances, the source of miracle working power was the same—the Spirit of God. In fact, both Christ, while here on earth as a human being, and Elisha had those powers only because God's Spirit was working in and through them. While a man, Christ Himself said that He of Himself could do nothing (John 5:30 John 5:30I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me.
American King James Version×
), i.e., nothing supernatural on His own. He needed the power of the Father (John 14:10 John 14:10Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works.
American King James Version×
). Peter later testified that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38 Acts 10:38How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
American King James Version×