Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Books of Kings in conjunction with this article.
Listening to God’s Messenger
As a person I have to say that sometimes it is difficult to listen. There are times when I prefer not to listen to anyone, but in particular there are times when it seems difficult to really listen to a messenger of Jehovah. Each of us has the tendency to hesitate in listening. We each have our pre-formulated ideas, concerns, and answers. It matters not if it is the message of the Bible itself, or someone who embodies the Bible’s message, truth is each of us is skeptical to message and messenger. If I were to only relate to my own personal resistance to listening to God’s message, it would be reason enough to find the Shunammite woman1 an amazing incident in Biblical history. Simply stated, every time, whether one chooses to actually hear the message or not, listening coupled with appropriate reaction to the message does make the difference.
The Shunammite Woman
Interestingly enough, II Kings chapter eight is not the first time that we see the Shunammite woman. Because of the first verse of chapter eight, we are beckoned to recall earlier information in II Kings. Who is this “woman whose son [Elisha] had restored to life”? In order to answer that, we need to turn back to chapter four to find the prior details.
II Kings chapter four provides a tremendous amount of information about this Shunammite. The King James says that she was a “great woman”2 while the Complete Jewish translates it as a “well-to-do woman”. Yet, Strong’s definition adds that it could be understood as “noble” but also as “older” which is interesting when you see how her husband is describe as “old”.3 His description does not necessitate that she is older, it just records their situation. So in any event, no matter how the Hebrew word is translated, this woman was remarkable.
We are told that she is married4 and that she entreated her husband to provide for what she perceived to be a “holy man of God.”5 From this brief record of events we see that she wants to treat the one she perceives as a messenger from God with respect and dignity, providing for his room and board. Recorded in what seems to be a repayment scenario, we see Elisha speaking with his servant Gehazi, in which the Shunammite is asked how she can be repaid.6 After some discussion, it is determined that she has never had children and her husband is old, but Elisha says that she will have a child, and specifically a son.7
This great Shunammite lady considered the message of Elisha to be tremendous. So powerful was his message that she begged him not to be telling her lies.8 In due time, it came to pass that she was able to conceive and deliver a male child.9 Not that a daughter was considered non-valuable, but they were considered of a different status in this biblical culture, nonetheless, this was a glorious day for a woman who had never had children. How much more remarkable is it, when it is possible that she, like Sarah, was able to conceive and bear a child in her later years? She truly had been blessed. She had been given something that almost all women, worldwide, desire – children. How precious that son must have been.
But as life would have it, tragedy arose. Her son was cut down. Not by old age. Not even by an enemy. Instead, he lost his life to natural disease. He was out in the field working with his father10 and as he was working something caused him to suffer a major headache. It does not seem that Scripture tells us the ailment, just that he complained of what must have been a tremendous headache.11 This lad, who had begun his transition to manhood, was taken home and came to his mother’s knee receiving her care when his life flowed from his body in the grasp of his mother’s love.12
While triumph and tragedy came to this Shunammite woman, her tremendous loss would also become a tremendous blessing. As the history unfolds, she went to Elisha about her boy’s death and received a gift that most mothers could only hope for. She received back the life of her son, by the power of Jehovah the boy was healed, revived and made alive.13
The Rest of the Story
The account of the Shunammite family in II Kings four is powerful for the believers in Jehovah – Trust in Jehovah always. And in that same account Jehovah encourages his believers to render aide and to ask for help from his holy men. While we feel blessed, thankful and uplifted by the good things that are done, at the same time it can be difficult to not only hear but also listen to the messenger of YHWH.
Sometimes the messenger is esteemed and perhaps even thanked when he does something of personal benefit, but consider the fact that Elisha told the same Shunammite woman to leave the area and seek protection, anywhere but at home, because dangerous times14 were coming to God’s people. How likely would we be as believers to listen to that message? Elisha’s message, the messenger’s news, would have been not just difficult to hear, but also to accept. In short, she was told to uproot her entire household and seek safety elsewhere. This is tantamount to turning your back on everything you have ever loved. But she did as she was instructed; she sought shelter; and found it in the enemy’s land. After the danger, the famine, had passed she returned home.
Because of her attitude of listening, she returned home to blessings. She received back not only her land but also back wages of the earnings of that land.15 The lesson: there are times that we have to give up the things that we know and have become accustomed to in order to receive greater blessings from Jehovah. The application for us – What have you left in order to obtain greater blessings? What will you have to leave in order to receive? But take careful notice of the passage, what appeared to have been lost (her earlier life) was returned in full but with more. As we can see from II Kings four and eight, over the course of a lifetime we may need to face that challenge several times in order to receive greater blessings. In order to be blessed further, we must listen. Are we listening? It is my prayer that YHWH brings greater blessings to your life.
1. “Shunammite Woman.” II Kings 4.8, 12; NASB.
2. “Great Woman.” II Kings 4.8a; NASB.
3. “Old Husband.” II Kings 4.14; NASB.
4. “Marital Status.” II Kings 4.9a; NASB.
5. “Holy Man of God.” II Kings 4.9b; NASB.
6. “Repayment Scenario.” II Kings 4.12-16; NASB.
7. “Have a Son.” II Kings 4.16a; NASB.
8. “It’s No Lie.” II Kings 4.16b; NASB.
9. “A Son Is Born.” II Kings 4.17; NASB.
10. “Working with Father.” II Kings 4.18; NASB.
11. “What a Headache.” II Kings 4.19; NASB.
12. “The Young Lad Dies.” II Kings 4.19-20; NASB.
13. “The Young Lad Lives.” II Kings 4.32-37; NASB.
14. “Dangerous Times – Famine.” II Kings 8.1-2; NASB.
15. “Blessings of her Return.” II Kings 8.3-6; NASB.