Study Notes

2Kings 4:1-26


So far, we have seen that after Elijah was caught up into heaven, Elisha became the prophet of Israel in his place. Now as we enter into chapter 4 of 2Kings, we get a view into the miraculous ministry of Elisha.

4:1 Taking Children For Slaves

As we have discussed before, slavery was an unfortunate reality in ancient cultures. Often, the collateral for taking out a loan was the person's own self and family. This woman found herself in a terrible situation - her husband had borrowed money, but then died. With no way to pay it back, her sons would be sold into slavery.

4:2-7 The Multiplied Oil

Elisha directed the woman into a miracle of God. The Lord miraculously multiplied oil that she was able to sell to both repay the debt and have money to live on.

This passage of Scripture ministered to me mightily this week. I realized that many of us are frequently in similar situations. We're in a bind, we're in bondage, with the threat of losing everything. And there's nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do about it.

What did Elisha tell the widow? He asked her, "What do you have?" She had nothing. The house was empty, her provision was gone. Just a small amount of oil.

Now I want you to notice something. The word translated "jar" here is from a Hebrew root word meaning "anointing." She only had enough for one anointing of her body. She literally said, "All I've got is an anointing of oil."

What is oil symbolic of in the Scriptures? The Holy Spirit. We see in Zechariah 4 that an angel was speaking to Zechariah. The angel showed him a vision of an oil lamp. But instead of the oil having to be beaten from the olives of olive trees by hand, there were two olive trees providing the oil directly.

Zech. 4:4-6 Then I answered and said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, "What are these, my lord?" So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." Then he answered and said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts."

The vision showed that the Holy Spirit was the source. The Spirit is equated with oil elsewhere in Scripture. You recall the account of the prophet Samuel anointing David. Of how...

1Sam. 16:13 ...Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward...

The anointing of oil symbolized the Holy Spirit anointing David. Peter also said,

Acts 10:38 " {You know of} Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit...

And so an anointing of oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

Back to our story: the woman was in a bind. Elisha asked her, "What do you have?" All she had was an anointing of oil.

If you are in a similar situation, with no way out, no equity, no capital, no nest egg, no other source of provision, I ask you, "What do you have?" If you're saved today, you have what is sufficient - you have an anointing of the Holy Spirit. You've got no money, you've got no escape, you've got no way to get out of this bind. But you do have the Holy Spirit. And that is enough.

Elisha told her to borrow vessels from all her neighbors. As we have discussed many times before, earthen vessels are symbolic of people. As the apostle Paul said, this light of the knowledge of the glory of God is a treasure.

2Cor. 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels...

People are earthen vessels. And they can contain the oil of the Spirit, or they can be empty. The widow was surrounded by neighbors whose vessels were empty. Elisha told her to borrow as many as she could. Many of your neighbors also are empty vessels - they don't have the oil of the Spirit. They've never responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Have you overcome shyness, self-centeredness, or apathy to go to your neighbors and say, "Can I borrow you? Can you lend me your ear? I'd like to get some of your time."

And then, pour into them. Minister the good news of Jesus offering forgiveness of sins to them. Fill them to overflowing. Keep pouring into the vessels of these neighbors until there are no more left. Until one day you look around and say, "Where's the next one?" And your son tells you, "Mom, there are no more. You've brought everybody in the entire neighborhood to Jesus! You've filled every empty vessel on our street!"

Now here's the great part - remember that the original circumstance was being in a bind, no way to get out of this difficult circumstance, that terrible situation. But if I'm busy about the Lord's business - if I'm busy pouring into other people - suddenly I stop, look around, and I say, "Wow - while I was busy pouring, God provided the way out. He made the way miraculously while I was busy pouring!"

Very often, I have found that the deliverance comes through the very vessels I was pouring into!

4:8-10 The Hospitable Woman

Elisha passed over to Shoo-NAME, a city in the territory of the tribe of Issachar. As he was walking by a certain woman's house, she convinced him to come in and eat with her family. She did this every time she saw him pass by. But she didn't stop with only food. She had her husband add a bedroom in the house to give him a place to stay.

This is what is called hospitality. Most Christians that I have talked to about hospitality seem to think that hospitality means being able to throw a nice dinner party, to set a nice table. If you invite your friends over, you usually get credited with having "the gift of hospitality."

But the word hospitality doesn't mean that. It literally means, "friend to strangers." You remember the parable of the Lord when He tells the group on His left,

Matt. 25:41-43 "...Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me {nothing} to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in..."

When they protest, saying, "When did we ever see you as a stranger, hungry and thirsty?" He answers,

Matt. 25:45 "...Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me."

How important it is that we stretch our comfort zone, to reach out to strangers, to be hospitable.

Notice how the hospitality took shape. They provided food, a bed, and table and chair, and a lampstand for him. The food gave him the necessary provision for his physical needs. The bed gave him rest for his weariness. The table and chair gave him a place to stay, a place to call home. But all of this hospitality is only a temporary help if we do not provide the most essential thing: the lampstand. We must provide the strangers with the light of the world, Jesus Christ. That is the reason for showing hospitality, to have the opportunity to give the light.

4:11-17 Elisha Prophesies Of A Son

Elisha was blessed, and asked his servant, "What is to be done for her?" Often, we think that we are giving people when we provide for a need that we see. But Elisha's heart for blessing was not just responding to an existing need. He actively looked for how he could bless her.

And as God has done for so many other women in Scripture, He gave her a child.

4:18-21 The Son Dies

The son appears to have had some sort of aneurism or other deadly internal affliction that killed him within hours.

I want us to notice something: when God provides a blessing, it is not trouble-free. I have seen people's faith shaken when they thought that God had provided, but then there was a snag. I thought the Lord provided this car for me, but it broke down after only a month. I thought the Lord had opened up this job for me, but the boss has really turned out to be a hothead." Just because there are difficulties does not mean that it wasn't a blessing from God. There may be potholes along the way, but He knows what He's doing.

Jer. 29:11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.

Don't lose sight of God's blessings just because there's a rough road to travel.

4:22-24 The Woman Goes To Elisha

When the woman wanted to rush off to Elisha, her husband said, "Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath." In other words, "Why would you want him? It's not Sunday morning.?" So many people box God in, believing that He only works in certain ways, and only on certain days.

They actually get offended when they see you breaking out of that mold. I wonder how many of you have received grief from your spouse, your family, your friends or coworkers for being Thursday night attendees? "Come on, church is for Sunday mornings! Aren't you going a little overboard, taking this religion thing a little too far?"

And yet you know the value of seeking the Word of God any day of the week, even every day of the week. As the Scripture says,

Rom. 14:5-6 One man regards one day above another, another regards every day {alike.} Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord...

You have learned how God can speak to you at times other than Sunday morning! The Shunamite woman believe the same thing.

4:25-26 It Is Well

The Shunamite woman's son had died, yet when asked how her family was, she responded, "It is well." It seems to me that this woman had incredible faith.

This verse always reminds me of another person of great faith, who also said, "it is well." Horatio Spafford was a Chicago lawyer in the 1800's. He, his wife Anna, and their four daughters were set to sail to Europe for a vacation, when he was delayed and was forced to join them later. Halfway into the trip, their ship collided with another. His wife was rescued from the sea, but their four daughters drowned.

Horatio immediately sailed for Europe, to join his wife. During the trip, the captain of his ship pointed out to him the spot where the ship had gone down. You can imagine the torment in his heart, the overwhelming sorrow and sadness that would have engulfed him, had he not had faith to know that he would one day see his daughters again in heaven.

As he looked out over the ocean that had swallowed his four daughters, he wrote these words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows, roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Tho Satan should buffet, tho trials should come,
Let his blest assurance control
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well, it is well;
It is well, it is well with my soul.

If your son died in your arms, if your daughters were drowned in the sea, would you be able to sing this hymn? Would you be able to say, "it is well with my soul?"

Next week, we will see the continuation of this story, complete with its happy ending.

Go to next study

Go to previous study