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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 4

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



Elisha multiplieth the widow’s oil, 2 Kings 4:1-7.

He is lodged by a Shunammite woman, who is barren: he promiseth her a son; which is born, 2 Kings 4:8-17;

dieth, and is raised by Elisha, 2 Kings 4:18-37.

At Gilgal he healeth the deadly pottage, 2 Kings 4:38-41;

and feedeth one hundred men with twenty loaves and ears of corn, 2 Kings 4:42-44.

Verse 1

The sons of the prophets, though they were wholly devoted to sacred employment, were not excluded from marriage, no more than the priests and Levites. Thy servant did fear the Lord; his poverty therefore was not procured by his idleness, or prodigality, or rather, wickedness; but by his piety, because he would not comply with the king’s way of worship, and therefore lost all worldly advantages. To be bond-men; either to use them as his slaves, or to sell them to others, according to the law; of which see Exodus 21:2; Leviticus 25:39; Isaiah 1:1; Matthew 18:25.

Verse 2

What shall I do for thee? how shall I relieve thee, who am myself poor?

What hast thou in the house, which may contribute to the payment of thy debts, or, at least, to the satisfaction of thy creditors, who may perchance deal favourably with thee through my persuasion?

Save a pot of oil; which was useful for divers things about the service of God, and health, or delight, or ornament, and other uses of men. See Judges 9:9.

Verse 4

Shut the door upon thee; partly, that none may hinder thee from minding thy work of filling and removing the vessels, which will require attention and diligence; partly, that thou alone mayest enjoy the benefit of it; partly, lest any of thy creditors should break in upon thee, and seize upon thy borrowed vessels before they are filled; partly, that thy mind being freed from distraction, may be wholly employed in prayer and praising of God; and partly, that it may be manifest that this is the work of God alone.

Pour out; out of the pot, in which God multiplied the oil from time to time.

Verse 6

Unto her son; to one of them, for she had two, 2 Kings 4:1. The oil stayed, to teach us, that we should not waste any of God’s good creatures, and that God would not work miracles unnecessarily.

Verse 7

First do justice to others, and then take care of thyself and children.

Verse 8

To Shunnam a city in Issachar, near Mount Carmel, Joshua 19:17,Joshua 19:18, whither the prophet frequently went.

Was a great woman; for estate, or birth and quality. See Genesis 24:35; 1 Samuel 25:2.

She constrained him, by her importunate desire.

To eat bread; to take his repast there.

Verse 9

An holy man of God; a prophet, as Judges 13:6, and that of eminent holiness, by our kindness to whom we shall procure a blessing to ourselves.

Verse 10

Let us make a little chamber on the wall, that he may be free from the noise of family business, and enjoy that privacy which, I perceive, he desireth for his prayers and meditations. He will not be troublesome or chargeable to us; he cares not for rich furniture or costly entertainment, and is content with bare necessaries.

Verse 12

i.e. Before the prophet, in the door of his chamber, as it is said, 2 Kings 4:15. The relation seems to be a little perplexed, but may be thus conceived. It is in this verse recorded, in the general, that the prophet sent Gehazi to call her, and that she came to him upon that call; then follows a particular description of the whole business, with all the circumstances, first, of the message with which Gehazi was sent when he went to call her, and of her answer to that message, 2 Kings 4:13, and of Gehazi’s conjecture thereupon, 2 Kings 4:14, and then of her coming to the prophet at his call; which is there repeated to make way for the following passages.

Verse 13

What is to be done for thee? wherewith shall I recompense all thy care and kindness to me and my servant?

To the king, or to the captain of the host; with whom he justly had great power for his eminent service, 2 Kings 3:0.

I dwell among mine own people; I live in love and peace among my kindred and friends; nor have I any cause to complain of them, or to seek relief from higher powers.

Verse 14

What then is to be done for her? hast thou observed any thing which she wants or desires? For the prophet kept himself much in his chamber, whilst Gehazi went more freely about the house, as his occasions led him.

Verse 15

Out of reverence, humility, and modesty, waiting till he came to her, or called her further in to him.

Verse 16

According to the time of life; of which phrase See Poole on "Genesis 18:10".

Do not lie unto thine handmaid; do not delude me with vain hopes. She could not believe it for joy, and supposed the prophet might say thus either for her trial, or from his own private judgment and affection, and not by warrant from God.

Verse 19

His head was grievously pained; which possibly came from the heat of the harvest season, to which he was exposed in the field.

Verse 21

Shut the door upon him; partly in hopes that this might contribute something to the child’s restitution to life, she having in all probability had an account of the like miracle done by Elijah, 1 Kings 17:21; and partly that she might for the present conceal the death of the child; which if it had been known, would have filled her husband with grief, and hindered her journey, and opened the mouths of the enemies of God and his prophets to blaspheme; whereas she had a confidence put into her by God, that the prophet could and would restore her son.

Verse 23

New moon and sabbath were the chief and usual times in which they resorted to the prophets for instruction, for which he supposed she now went, not suspecting but that the child was well by this time.

It shall be well; my going will not be troublesome to him, nor prejudicial to thee or me. Heb. peace, i.e. peace be to thee, farewell; or, be contented, let me go.

Verse 26

So it was in some respects, because it was the will of a wise and good God, and therefore best for her. Or, it shall be well: though the child be dead, I doubt not by God’s blessing upon thy endeavours it shall live again, and do well. But she answers ambiguously, and briefly too, that, she might sooner come to the prophet, and more fully open her mind to him.

Verse 27

She caught him by the feet; she fell at his feet, and touched them, as a most humble and earnest suppliant. Compare 1 Samuel 25:24; Matthew 28:9. Withal, she intimated, what she durst not presume to express in words, that she desired him to go along with her. Gehazi came near to thrust her away; judging this posture indecent for her, and offensive to his master.

Let her alone, for her soul is vexed within her; disturb her not, for this uncouth gesture is a sign of some extraordinary grief.

The Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me; whereby he signifies that what he knew or did was not by any virtue inherent and abiding in himself, but only from God, who revealed to him only what and when he pleased. Compare 2 Samuel 7:3.

Verse 28

This child was not given to me upon my immoderate desire, for which I might have justly been thus chastised, as Rachel was, Genesis 30:1, compared with Genesis 35:18; but was freely promised to me by thee in God’s name, and from his special grace and favour; and therefore I trust both thou didst pray for it, and God design it as a blessing, and not as an affliction, as now it proves, unless thou dost obtain the child for me a second time, which I know thou canst do, and I humbly beg thee to do.

Do not deceive me, with vain hopes of a comfort that I should never have? And I had been much happier if I had never had it, than to lose it so quickly. Therefore thou art in some measure concerned to revive my dead hopes, and to continue to me the great blessing which thou hast procured.

Verse 29

Gird up thy loins; tie up thy long garments about thy loins for expedition. See 1 Kings 18:46. Make no delays nor stops by the way, neither by words nor actions, but go with all possible speed. Compare Luke 10:4. He requires this haste, that the miracle might be done secretly and speedily, before the child’s death was divulged, which might cause many inconveniences. See Poole "2 Kings 4:21". Lay my staff upon the face of the child; for God can work a miracle by the most unlikely and contemptible means, as he did by a rod, Exodus 14:16, and a mantle, 2 Kings 2:8.

Verse 30

I will not leave thee, until thou goest home with me. For she had no great confidence in Gehazi, nor was her faith so strong as to think that the prophet could work so great a miracle at this distance, and by his staff; which possibly was one reason why this did no good. Compare Matthew 9:18; Matthew 13:58; Matthew 17:20.

Verse 31

Neither voice, nor hearing, i.e. neither speech nor sense, nor any sign of life, to wit, in the child; which disappointment might proceed from hence, that Elisha having changed his mind, and yielded to her importunity to go with her, did alter his course, and not join his fervent prayers with Gehazi’s action, but reserved them till he came thither.

Not awaked, i.e. not revived; death being oft and fitly compared to a sleep, as Psalms 76:5; Daniel 12:2, because of the resurrection which will in due time follow it, and here followed speedily, which makes the expression most proper in this place.

Verse 33

Upon them twain; upon himself and the dead child, that he might pray to God without distraction, and might more freely use all those gestures and means which he thought fit.

Verse 34

He went up, and lay upon the child; and although some ceremonial uncleanness might seem to be contracted by the touch of this dead body, yet that was justly to give place to a moral duty, and to an action of so great piety and charity as this was, especially when done by a prophet, and by the instinct of God’s Spirit, who can dispense with his own laws.

His mouth upon his mouth, & c; one part upon another successively; for the disproportion of the bodies would not permit it to be done together. Compare 1 Kings 17:21; Acts 20:10.

The flesh of the child waxed warm; not by any external heat, which could not be transmitted to the child’s body by such slight touches of the prophet’s body; but by a natural heat, proceeding from a principle of life, which was already infused into the child, and by degrees enlivened all the parts of his body.

Verse 35

Walked in the house to and fro: he changeth his postures for his own necessary refreshment, and walked to and fro, exercising his mind in prayer to God, and faith, for the accomplishment of this work.

Went up, and stretched himself upon him; repeating his former actions, to teach us not to be discouraged in our prayers, if we be not speedily answered, but to wait with patience, and continue, and be instant in prayer, till we obtain what we seek for.

The child opened his eyes; so the work begun in the former verse is here perfected. Although miracles were for the most part done in an instant, yet sometimes they were done by degrees, as here, and 1 Kings 18:44,1 Kings 18:45; Mark 8:24,Mark 8:25.

Verse 36

Come in unto him, Heb. come to him, to wit, to the door of his chamber; where probably he met her with this joyful message.

Verse 37

She went in; into his chamber, and, after she had done him honour, to the bed where the child lay, whence she took him, and went her way.

Verse 38

Elisha came again to Gilgal; where he came with Elijah, 2 Kings 2:1; where was a school of the prophets, whom he designed to comfort concerning the present dearth and their other discouragements, and to confirm in the profession and practice of religion, and to instruct in the duties of the present season.

Sitting before him; at his feet, as scholars to be taught by him. See 2 Kings 2:3; Acts 22:3.

Seethe pottage: he provides no delicious meats, but mere necessaries, to teach them the contempt of worldly delights.

Verse 39

A wild vine; a plant called coloquintida, whose gourds or leaves resemble the leaves of a vine, and are very bitter and pernicious to the eater.

Verse 40

There is death in the pot, i.e. some deadly thing; which they gathered from its excessive bitterness, by which possibly some of them might discern what it was.

Verse 41

He cast it into the pot, together with the pottage which they had taken out of it. There was no harm in the pot: the meal took away that hurtful quality, not by its natural power, which could do little in so short a time, but by the supernatural blessing of God upon it.

Verse 42

Bread of the first-fruits, which were the priest’s due, Numbers 18:12; but these, and probably the rest of the priest’s dues, were usually brought by the pious Israelites, according to their ability and opportunity, to the Lord’s prophets; partly because they did a great part of the priest’s office, and partly because they were not permitted to carry them to Jerusalem; and they might reasonably think that their circumstances, being extraordinary, would warrant their giving of them to extraordinary persons; and that those ceremonial institutions ought to give place to the greater laws of necessity and mercy to the Lord’s prophets. And this passage seems to be noted here, not only on occasion of the following miracle; but also that by this one instance we might understand how so many schools of the prophets were supported.

Twenty loaves; small loaves, as appears, both because one man brought them all so far, and because otherwise there had been no miracle here. Give unto the people, to wit, the sons of the prophets, who were then present with him, 2 Kings 4:38.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 4". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/2-kings-4.html. 1685.
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