The first two incidents in this chapter illustrate that God cares for women, even the most helpless of them. That is phenomenal when you think of what a low status women were given in Near Eastern cultures. This was especially true for widows.
The events in this chapter are not necessarily in chronological order. We do not know the location of the incident in 4:1-7. It might have been in Bethel, Gilgal, or Jericho where the prophet schools were located. The widow had a debt, and it was common in the ancient Near East for children to be taken away as slaves if a debt could not be paid.
Note again that Elisha's miracles were often done in private, meeting individual needs in contrast to Elijah's more public ministry. God provided oil enough for all the jars to be filled so she could sell them and pay her debts and live on. The number of jars she provided was according to her faith.
The next woman had her husband build a special guest room for Elisha when he came through town. Elisha wanted to give her a gift. He wanted to know if she had any complaint or petition to bring before the king or captain of the army, but she said, "I live among my own people." That is a perplexing statement. Here is an explanation of the phrase:
I dwell (says she) among my own people, that is, "We are well off as we are, and do not aim at preferment.’’ It is a happiness to dwell among our own people, that love and respect us, and to whom we are in a capacity of doing good; and a greater happiness to be content to do so, to be easy, and to know when we are well off. Why should those that live comfortably among their own people covet to live delicately in kings’ palaces? It would be well with many if they did but know when they were well off.
(Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (2 Ki 4:8). Peabody: Hendrickson.)That is a pretty amazing expression of contentment considering that the woman was barren, and this was not acceptable in that culture. If her husband were to die, she would have no one to care for her.
Like Sarah in Genesis 18 and against all odds, the Shunammite woman is promised a son by Elisha, and the miracle happens only to have the son die at a young age. This was so that God could manifest His miraculous power by raising the boy from the dead. The boy sneezed seven times, and apparently, this indicates a work of God (2 Kings 5:14).
We will hear about this woman again in 2 Kings 8:3, 4 where she will need to be spoken for to the king. Stay tuned!
The incident of the poisonous stew and the multiplication of bread are further proof of the power of God during the time of the famine! The 100 men were probably the "company of the prophets" referred to in 4:38.
The widowed woman's jars were filled in proportion to her faith. How many jars would you go and gather? Would you believe that the Lord could fill them all?
I, the Lord, am your God,
Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
(Psalm 81:10, NASB95)
I want to open my mouth wide. I want to get an abundance of jars for the Lord to fill.
How about you?
What is your wildest prayer of faith? Open your mouth wide!
Lord, we believe. Amen.