International Sunday School Lesson Study Notes
Lesson Text: 2 Kings 8:1-6 Lesson Title: Acting on a Widow’s Behalf
Second Kings Chapter 8 records an incident that occurred during the ministry of the prophet Elisha, although the prophet himself is not the main character. The incident recorded in 2 Kings 8 also mainly involves the widowed woman of Shunem, Elisha’s servant Gehazi, and a king. But it is important that these events took place during Elisha’s ministry.
Elisha’s ministry followed the prophet Elijah and was focused on the northern kingdom, Israel. His ministry took place during the reigns from King Jehoram (2 Kings 2:1-8:15) to King Jehoash (2 Kings 13:10-25). Most of the stories recorded about Elisha’s ministry took place during the reign of Jehoram. Elisha’s work was basically the same as that of Elijah: resistance to the worship of Baal. In addition, his ministry is most remembered for the miracles God worked through the life of this mighty man of God. One of those miracles is the basis of our lesson text.
While passing through “Shunem” a city located near the plain of Jezreel (Joshua 19:18), Elisha made acquaintance with “a great woman” unnamed, but referred to by biblical students as “The Shunammite Woman” (2 Kings 4:8). She suggested to her husband that they build a room for the prophet to use in his travels. It was built, furnished and evidently used frequently by Elisha (2 Kings 4:9-10). Because of his thankfulness to the woman and her husband, Elisha told the childless couple that they would have a son. The son was born, but a few years later was suddenly taken in death (2 Kings 4:14-20).
Having great confidence in Elisha, the heartbroken woman immediately went to where Elisha was on Mount Carmel and sought his help concerning her dead child. Elisha first sent his servant Gehazi, but Gehazi was unable to restore the young boy. Elisha then came, prayed, and stretched himself upon the body of the child until God restored his life. The mother obviously responded with great joy (2 Kings 4:25-37). From there Elisha would move to other places and God would work through him in the lives of other people. But in God’s providence and sovereignty he would again be a part of the life of “The Shunammite Woman” which is the focus of today’s lesson.
Leaving Home during Difficult Days (2 Kings 8:1)
“Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.”
It is most likely that the directions given to the woman by Elisha were actually spoken several years before the time specified in verse 3. However, at some point in time Elisha “spake…unto the woman” and gave her directions concerning the coming “famine.” Some might think that Elisha had already done enough for this woman by raising her son from the dead. But this is a new day with a new need and Elisha is ready to follow the bidding of the Lord. Since “…the LORD had called for a famine” the man of God living close to God knew of the coming danger and did not keep what he knew to himself. Thinking of the family that had previously shown him kindness in preparing a room for him to rest and pray, he now seeks to help them again.
The “woman” is identified as the “woman…whose son he had restored to life.” Because her husband was old at the time of their son’s birth (2 Kings 4:10), it is possible that he has since died and is not in the home to help provide or give guidance for the coming famine. This woman is now a widow facing a famine. She does have a “household” which would include servants and family members. She has responsibilities. A famine could mean the end for her, her son, and all her “household.” Elisha directs her to “sojourn wheresoever” she can. The important thing is to get away from the coming famine and find a place of food and protection wherever she can.
Sometimes God sent famines in the Old Testament to chasten His people because of their disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:17, 48). It is not specifically stated or known why this famine came but it is certain God had a purpose. A “famine” is mentioned in 2 Kings 4:38 called a “dearth” and could possibly be the “famine” mentioned here or it could be another entirely different “famine.” Either way, this “famine” is not just something that happened. The Bible says, “…for the LORD called for a famine.” “Called” means “God determined.” God is always in control no matter what happens in life. And it must always be remembered that God is God and can order or prevent events in life at His own discretion. God is not a servant to our ways or our suggestions. If you think about it logically, a barren woman who was miraculously blessed with a son, held him in her arms as he died, then saw him raised from the dead and has since buried her husband, you would think she has been through enough. Why should this widow woman who had been a woman of great wealth and invested in the life of one of God’s choice prophets now be subjected to a “famine?”
The answer is not recorded in scripture but it most certainly is recorded in the mind and heart of God. She was a woman of remarkable character and faith as seen in her provision for God’s man in times of prosperity and her running to God’s man’s in times of tragedy when her son died. If God had provided during her times of barrenness and even times of death surely he would provide during this time of famine.
“And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.”
The woman’s willingness and quickness to obey the directions given by Elisha indicate her trust in him. She takes her “household” and all she has and travels to “the land of the Philistines” and stays there “seven years.” The “land of the Philistines” is an area located South West of Israel along the Mediterranean Sea. The fact that the famine was somewhat confined or localized in Israel may indicate that it was a punishment on Israel for a particular sin.
It is refreshing to know that there was still someone in Israel who valued a sent message of God from the man of God. While it is obvious that our land is filled with voices and self proclaimed prophets and preachers who preach their own message for their own gain, there are still men of God preaching and warning sinners of coming judgment. Do you know such a man? Is your life connected with anyone who hears from God and communicates what he hears? If so, listen and obey the man of God and the word from God.
Don’t take lightly the actions of this woman. It is never an easy thing to leave home and everything you have worked for and secured. She had no idea if she would ever be able to return or if there would be anything left if she did return. Life is about faith in God. Our hope is not in deeds and titles but in the living God. Faith is more than claiming things. Faith is also trust. And in this case a woman must trust the word of God coming from the man of God.
Note: We should always be careful when we say earthquakes, floods, terrorist’s attacks, storms and tragedies are a punishment and judgment from God. Sometimes we just don’t know. However, we should never view these events as just acts of nature or common occurrences. We serve a God who does punish sin. Yes, even in nations such as America and other self-centered countries who seem to think they are above divine retribution. Israel never got by with disobedience to God and neither will nations today who willfully violate God’s commandments.
Returning Home after Difficult Days (2 Kings 8:3-6)
“And it came to pass at the seven year’s end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land.”
At this point in the story we are introduced to several new characters. At the end of the “seven years” the woman “returned out of the land of the Philistines” and based on her actions when she came home found someone else occupying her home and her property. During her seven year absence some neighbor or stranger had unlawfully seized her property and home. That was not an uncommon thing to happen in a famine when people are dispersed and many never return to their home or land. Widows were especially susceptible to this type of threat because a widow would be less likely to protest it or have the means to challenge her loss (Isaiah 10:2; Matthew 23:14).
The “king” is most likely King Jehoram. We are not told if she appealed to any lower courts or lower authorities before taking her case to the king. The Bible says “…she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land.” She is a bold and determined woman to take her case to the king. In 2 Kings 4:12-13, Elisha had told her that if she needed him to speak to the king for her about any matter that he would be willing to do so. So, for her to not ask Elisha to intervene for her before the king but rather “cry” herself speaks volumes about this woman.
Her actions in going directly to the “king” also raise some other interesting questions. Did she not have a kinsman redeemer like Ruth? Was it possible that the “king” had acquired her property? These questions are not answered in the text but they are interesting to think about. The facts are simply that this woman has obeyed God and left during a famine and has now returned home and home is in the hands of someone else. Will there be any justice?
“And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done. And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to th eking for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.”
This is a most amazing verse in the story. Just as the woman arrives to appeal to the king to restore her land, Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was telling the king about Elisha raising the Shunammite’s son! In fact, it is this writer’s opinion that Gehazi was telling the king the entire story of Elisha and all the miracles God had performed through him and this widow woman walked in just as Gehazi told the king about the raising of her son. Coincidence, absolutely not! Good timing on the part of Gehazi? A thousand times no. This is nothing less than the providence of God! She has been out of the country for “seven years.” Elisha and her couldn’t have pulled this off even if they had possessed the technology we have today. This is nothing less than the marvelous providence of God. Can’t you just hear Gehazi say, “And on one occasion, Elisha raised a dead woman’s son, it was so…My lord, O king, this is her. This woman who is here in front of you, she’s the one who had her dead son raised. In fact, O king, that’s the boy right there with her!” Hallelujah!!
Note: Often times God does the same for us and we don’t even recognize it. Oh we of little faith! It may be that you could see more of God’s hand in your life if you talked more about what He has already done. Don’t create a story of God’s intervention in your life. Look around and see it for yourself. And when you do, magnify Him for it!
“And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now.”
Ordinarily, the king would have been only slightly moved by the circumstances of this widow woman. But today he is greatly moved. Divine providence has so ordered matters that the king is eager to answer her cry. He “asked the woman” and received satisfactory answers to her questions. Again, the Bible isn’t specific about what he “asked the woman.” It is this writer’s opinion (and no more than that) that the king talked to her more about her son and the miracle of God in her life than about her land. Information about her home and land was probably tacked on the end of their conversation.
“So the king appointed unto her a certain officer…” means he appointed a certain individual to guide her through the process of restoring her land. That was most gracious of the king.
Illus. I remember a night many years ago when a preacher friend called me concerning a mutual friend we both were trying to help. Our friend was hurting deeply and lived in another city which limited our ability to help. Knowing no one near our friend we did the only thing we could do. We prayed and asked God for help. After prayer the Lord reminded me of a man I met several years earlier at North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC. He told me, “If I can ever help you, let me know.” I called him and he was on vacation in Wyoming but was willing to help. In less than 20 minutes he told me where to send our hurting friend and then I remember these most special words, “Tell your friend and his wife there will be a woman named _____ who will meet them at the door of the clinic. She will stay with them and help them through the night.” Oh, the wonderful, mighty, gracious, and glorious providence of God!
Not only did the king provide a personal security for the woman, he also provided a profitable solution to her problem. His instruction to the appointed officer was to “restore” everything that was hers, even to the point that she received whatever had been grown and was productive on the land while she was away. What a surprise this must have been to the woman who probably wondered if she would even be allowed to speak to the king. The king’s judgment was nothing less than the intervention of God.
One final thought about this story. If the king in this story was Jehoram, then we should remember that Jehoram’s father was King Ahab and his mother was Jezebel. Jehoram’s mother and father had a bad reputation and attitude toward acquiring land. In 1 Kings 21 they actually stole Naboth’s vineyard and committed murder in the process. It is a wonderful testimony to God’s grace that their son, Jehoram, possessed a different attitude toward acquiring land than did his parents. Things can change!
Accidents do not happen, at least not in God’s economy! It was no accident that Elisha met this woman in Shunem. The burden to build Elisha a prophet’s room was directed by God. The miracle for her son was according to God’s plan. The famine, the flight to the land of the Philistines and the return home was all directed by God. And who can deny that her entrance before the king at the exact moment her son’s resurrection was being discussed was anything less than the hand of God.
Doctor J. Vernon McGee once said, “The providence of God is like a living hand in the glove of history. It’s nothing but lifeless form without it.” God always does more than you and I can imagine or think (Ephesians 3:20).
Maybe today you are facing a spiritual famine. It might not be a famine of punishment for sin but it is nevertheless a famine. Don’t minimize or make light of who you are and what you are going through. Trust God to take care of you where you are and trust Him to arrange the circumstances for your victory today and in the future (Psalm 37:25).
Contact Information Office: 828-758-2818Click to contact me.
Physical Location311 Abington Rd. N.W. Lenoir, N. C. 28645
Mailing Address311 Abington Rd. N.W. Lenoir, N. C. 28645
Designed by TTM Consulting