Now Elisha said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, "Arise, you and your household, and go and live as a foreigner wherever you can. For the LORD has decreed a seven-year famine, and it has already come to the land."
I. A COMMAND OBEYED. Elisha's command seemed a hard one. This woman of Shunem was to arise with her household, and leave her home and farm for seven years. He told her, indeed, that there was to be a famine in the land. But she might have wanted more proof. She might have said, "Well, I shall wait till I see some signs of the famine. It is a great hardship to have to get up in this way and leave my home, without any immediate reason. What if Elisha's fears should turn out to be untrue? May not the famine be as bad anywhere else?" So men often reason when God gives them some command or points out to them the way of salvation. Lot lingered, when urged to depart out of Sodom, though the very angels of God had come to warn him of his doom. So men linger still, when urged to flee from the wrath to come. They linger, though every day is bringing them nearer to eternity. They linger, though they know not the day nor the hour when the Son of man may come. Whether it be the path of salvation or the path of Christian service which God calls us to tread, let us not linger, let us not hesitate to obey, but, like this woman of Shunem, let us do at once what God commands.
II. LOSS INCURRED. This woman actually did suffer by her prompt obedience. She escaped the famine, indeed, but she lost her land. On this subject Dr. Thomson says, in 'The Land and the Book,' "It is still common for even petty sheikhs to confiscate the property of any person who is exiled for a time, or who moves away temporarily from his district. Especially is this true of widows and orphans, and the Shunammite was now a widow. And small is the chance to such of having their property restored, unless they can secure the mediation of some one more influential than themselves. The conversation between the king and Gehazi about his master is also in perfect keeping with the habits of Eastern princes; and the appearance of the widow and her son so opportunely would have precisely the same effect now that it had then. Not only the land, but all the fruits of it would be restored. There is an air of genuine verisimilitude in such simple narratives which it is quite impossible for persons not intimately familiar with Oriental manners to appreciate, but which stamps the incidents with undoubted certainty." We may incur loss from a worldly point of view by obeying a command of God. But which do we prefer - worldly gain or a conscience at peace with God? Which less is greater - the loss of a few pounds, or the loss of our heavenly Father's smile? Even if we do lose by it - it is best to do the will of God, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
III. QUESTIONS ASKED. We are not told what led to this remarkable conversation which Jehoram had with Gehazi. Perhaps the time of famine had humbled him. Perhaps he was becoming penitent for his threat of taking Elisha's life. Perhaps it was mere idle curiosity. But at any rate, here is the King of Israel inquiring of Gehazi, "Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done." Gehazi, at this time, loved to think and speak of Elisha. He had been a good master to him. His deeds were worth recording. And so Gehazi proceeds to tell the story of Elisha's mighty deeds.
1. We ought to be ready to answer questions about our Master. They may proceed from curiosity, from wrong motives, Never mind. Our answer, given in a Christian spirit, may be the means of disarming ridicule. It may be an opportunity for us to tell the old, old story of the cross.
2. We ought not to be ashamed of our Master. He is "the chiefest among ten thousand... and altogether lovely." His Name is above every name. The Name, the life, the works, the words, of Jesus ought to be a favorite theme with us.
IV. RESTITUTION MADE. When God's time comes, how very easily he can fulfill his purposes! Gehazi had just reached that part of his story where Elisha restored the Shunammite's son to life, when, to his astonishment and delight, the Shunammite herself appeared on the scene. She came with her petition to the king that he would cause her house and land to be restored. Gehazi, not, perhaps, very regardful of courtesy or etiquette, calls out in the fullness of his joy, "My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life." The king, whose feelings had already been touched by the pathetic narrative of the little lad carried home from the harvest-field to die, touched also by the entreaty of the woman for the restoration of her lost property, and perhaps recognizing the hand of Providence in the remarkable events of that day, gives orders that not only her land, but the fruits of it from the day she left, should be restored to her. That was wholesale restoration and restitution. Who shall say it was unjust? What a disgorging there would be, if all who have taken money or land from others by unlawful means, all who have extorted unjust rents, were compelled to restore their ill-gotten gains! The Shunammite had not suffered, after all, by her obedience. "No one hath forsaken houses, or lands, or father, or mother, or friends... but he shall receive an hundredfold more in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting." - C.H.I.
Then spake Elisha unto the woman.I. HIS COUNSEL IS VALUABLE, AND GRATEFULLY ACTED UPON. Here we see how the kindness shown by the Shunammite receives still further reward. There is nothing so fruitful in blessing as kindness. In the great dilemmas of life we seek counsel, not from the frivolous and wicked, but from the wise and good. A good man has the destiny of many lives in his hands; a word from him has great weight.
II. HIS BENEFICENT ACTS ARE THE THEME OF POPULAR CONVERSATION (ver. 4). A good action cannot be hid. Sooner or later it will emerge from the obscurity in which it was first done, and become the talk of a nation, until it reaches even royal ears. All good actions do not attain such distinguished popularity. There were many good things that Elisha said and did of which history takes no notice. A good act may be remembered and applauded for generations, while the name of the actor is unknown.
III. HIS HOLY AND UNSELFISH LIFE IS A TESTIMONY FOR JEHOVAH IN THE MIDST OF NATIONAL APOSTASY. In the darkest night of national apostasy, Israel was favoured with an Elisha, whose divinely-illumined life threw a bright stream of light across the gloom. How deplorable the condition of that nation from which all moral worth is excluded!
IV. HIS REPUTATION IS THE MEANS OF PROMOTING THE ENDS OF JUSTICE (vers. 5, 6). There was surely a Divine providence at work that brought the suppliant Shunammite into the presence of the king at the very moment when Gehazi was rehearsing the great works of Elisha. Justice triumphed; her land and all its produce for the seven years were restored to her. It requires power to enforce the claims of justice, and the highest -kind of power is goodness. The arrangements of justice are more likely to be permanent when brought about by the influence of righteous principles, than when compelled by physical force. The presence of a holy character in society is a powerful check upon injustice and wrong.
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