A Great Woman
2 Kings 4:8-17
And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was…

The monotony of a woman's life is, perhaps, its greatest trial. Such a round of daily trivialities occupy her attention that, even though heart and conscience may be right, the body and nerves not unfrequently suffer. The "strain" and "over-pressure" from which her husband often suffers are not supposed in any way to affect her: his life is in the rush, but hers in the calm; he is mixing with men, and taking part in all the movements of the day, while she is in the nursery and the home-place, with her easy duties and sheltered position. Yet while we have the story of the lady of Shunem before us, we cannot but see how possible it is for the life of a woman to be great even in the midst of very contracted interests. This woman lived at home with her husband, and Was occupied with household cares; but she never lost her own individuality, never allowed her little duties to make her little also; she stands before us as a great woman, indeed — greater in character than any circumstances or position could possibly have made her.

1. As we read the narrative several points reveal her true greatness, and stand out as examples to us all; and the first is her kindness. She cared for others. In our modern speech this expression means a great deal. "Do you care for him?" is a question full of significance; for when a woman loves she does care very much indeed. And this woman had a kind heart, whose sympathies centred at home, but reached out to all who needed her care; and this heart, which royally ruled her whole being, had servants in eyes that were quick to see and hands that were swift to bless.

2. The lady of Shunem exhibited, also, that quality of greatness which is submission. Much nonsense is talked about the equality of the sexes; but no one can read this history without suspecting that, in this case — a rare one, no doubt — the woman was more than the equal of the man. Had she been conscious of the fact it would have gone far to change it; but she was not.

3. The loyalty of the Shunammite was another proof of her greatness. That she had everything she wanted, and nothing to wish for, we cannot imagine. Serenely contented as she might have been, she would have been less, or more, than a woman if greater possessions and a higher position would not in themselves have been acceptable. But she counted nothing a rise in life that took her away from her own people.

4. The marvellous self-control of the Shunammite was another element in her greatness. How quiet she was during all the tests that came to her!

5. The self-control of the Shunammite was no more marked than the great force of character which in this case, as in every other, accompanied it. The strong individuality of this truly great woman shone out in all the circumstances of her life. She 'had that subtle power, with which only a few people are trusted, but which, in man or woman, is invariably felt by others. Her mastery of self gave her in great part the mastery over her fellows; but her natural abilities were great, and no littlenesses spoiled them. She seems always to have had her own way; but that was because her way was the best.

6. It was godliness, most of all, that made the woman of Shunem great. It is true that we are not told that she feared God; but we can see that written between the lines of everything that is said respecting her. It was because Elisha was "a holy man of God" that the hospitality of her home was offered to him. It was the sustaining power of religion that made her strong to declare, "It is well."

(Marianne Farningham.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.

WEB: It fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman; and she persuaded him to eat bread. So it was, that as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat bread.

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