The story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman is found in 2 Kings 4:8-37 and is the story of miracles. The woman from Shunem is one of the unnamed women of the Bible but her testimony of faith is one we can still learn from today.
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman
Second Kings 4 focuses on some of the miracles performed by Elisha, but let’s zoom in on the story about the woman of Shunem. During a visit to Shunem, Elisha was taken care of by a wealthy woman and her husband. She offered him an open invitation of hospitality and whenever he was in the area, he would stay at her house.
Eventually, the Shunammite woman convinced her husband to prepare a small room for Elisha where he could stay whenever he wanted to. Out of gratitude, Elisha asked her if there was anything he could do for her. Her response was that she didn’t need anything.
The truth wasn’t that she didn’t want anything; it was that what she wanted was so big she didn’t know how to share it. Her dreams were too big to be spoken. Determined to repay her kindness, Elisha asked his servant for advice. Gehazi pointed out that the woman had no children and her husband was old.
Gehazi got it right – the Shunammite woman’s greatest desire was to have a child. The prophet told the Shunammite woman that she would have a son. Her response to Elisha showed how amazing the idea of becoming a mother was to her:
“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that” (2 Kings 4:16 NLT).
Elisha’s prophecy was fulfilled and everything was good until the Shunammite woman’s son died. The woman of Shunem goes to see Elisha and refused to let go of his foot until he had raised her child from the dead. Meanwhile, Elisha had sent his servant ahead to lay his staff on the child.
This page may contain affiliate links. Read the full affiliate disclosure.
But Gehazi was unable to raise the child from the dead. It was not until Elisha had prayed and laid himself on the child twice was the boy resurrected.
Who is the Shunammite Woman in the Bible?
But who was the Shunammite woman? The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of information about the woman from Shunem, however, a little Bible research tells us that Shunem was one of the cities allotted to the tribe of Issachar (Joshua 19:17-18). The woman from Shunem was probably from the Issachar tribe.
The Bible calls her a great woman. Some translations say she was wealthy. But the Hebrew word used in that sentence had many nuances. Gâdôwl, (pronounced gaw-dole’) means great (in any sense); hence, older, high, long, loud, mighty, more, noble. The statement that she was a great woman could have meant that she was older, wealthy, or nobler.
The Shunammite woman had a lot of faith. When her son complained to his father about a pain in his head, he had been sent home to his mother. The child had died in her arms.
But, this woman from Shunem didn’t panic. She started living her faith. She put her son on Elisha’s bed and made plans. How she knew where to find Elisha is anyone’s guess. But she left the house knowing Elisha could raise her son from the dead and that’s what was going to happen.
She traveled 20 miles to Mount Carmel without letting anyone know anything was wrong with the child. She held on to Elisha because she had no doubts he would be able to bring her son back to life.
The Woman from Shunem’s Faith
I know you probably think I’m reaching, so let’s go to the Bible and read what it says:
So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. She sent a message to her husband: “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.”
“Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.”
But she said, “It will be all right.”
So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down unless I tell you to.”
As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, your husband, and your child?’”
“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.” — (2 Kings 4:20-26 NKJV, emphasis added)
Twice, in this short narrative, the Shunammite woman reassures someone that everything will be alright. The woman of Shunem’s faith reminds me of Abraham in Genesis 22. Abraham knew that God had told him to sacrifice his son Isaac yet, when he left his young men at the foot of the hill, his words were:
“We will worship and then we will come back to you (Genesis 22:5, emphasis added).”It may look impossible but bold faith sees with spiritual eyes remembering that nothing is impossible with God. #facingourfears #hebrews12endurance Click To Tweet
The woman from Shunem had Abrahamic faith. She believed her son would be raised from the dead and she knew Elisha could do it. The strength of this woman’s testimony was that she refused to walk in fear. When her son died, she could have grieved.
Wailing, crying, and mourning would all have been natural responses to the death of a child. But she did none of those things. She pushed through her fear and reached out to the one person she knew could give her what she wanted-her son, alive again.
Learning from the Shunammite Woman
We have the same opportunity to trust God as the Shunammite woman did. One clear step she took in faith was to speak not what her situation was but what she wanted it to be. She never once lamented over her predicament, at least not out loud. We see her speaking what she wants to be true: it will be alright. Everything is fine.
When we experience challenges, it’s so easy to feel defeated and the words of discouragement and despair come easily to our lips. But the Shunammite woman spoke faith, life and truth.
Speaking hope over our situations may seem like the hardest thing we can do when life is hard, but the Shunammite woman reminds us that though it is difficult, it’s not impossible. May I remind you, sweet friend, that God is with you? He gives you the power to speak things that are not seen into being. Do not speak defeat and discouragement. Speak life, hope, and faith. Like the Shunammite woman, speak victory over your circumstances.
How Did God Reward the Shunammite Woman?
It’s not often when unnamed characters in the Bible show up in more than one place. But the story of the Shunammite woman did not end when Elisha raised her son from the dead. She shows up again in 2 Kings 8. Second Kings 8 begins with these words,
Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.” The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years. — (2 Kings 8:1-2 NIV).
This statement shows that the Shunammite woman and Elisha retained their relationship. We don’t know if Elisha continued to stay at her home when he stopped in Shunem. However, we can infer that she trusted him. Let’s look at the passage again to find our proof.
- The woman believed Elisha when he told her there would be a famine in the land.
- She moved her entire family to live among the Philistines at his word.
- She stayed away from her home for seven years.
When she returned to Shunem, she no longer had access to her home. Now, this may not seem like a reward but let’s look a little deeper.
Second Kings 8 tells us that the Shunammite woman went to the king to ask for him to reinstate her land to her. I don’t know the process involved in having someone’s land transferred from the king to an individual, but I want to ask, what are the odds?
Someone (I forget who) once said there are no coincidences in the Bible. Isn’t it interesting that just as the Shunammite woman goes into see the king, Gehazi had just finished telling him about some of the miracles Elisha had done, specifically the time Elisha had raised a woman’s son from the dead.
There are no coincidences in the Bible, there’s only Providence. God showed up (again) in the Shunammite woman’s life and He restored all that she had lost when she went to live among the Philistines.
Serving God is not a lucky charm which safeguards you against hardship or ensures that you will get all you ever dreamed of. Quite the contrary. Living a Christian life will be fraught with challenges, but the Shunammite woman teaches us that we can trust God to be faithful when we step out in faith.
Challenge: What is one thing that you can trust God for today?
You may also like: