2 Kings 4:32-37 Elisha Heals a Woman’s Son
Posted by adventbiblestudy on October 2, 2013
2 Kings 4:32-37 NLTse When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead, lying there on the prophet’s bed. (33) He went in alone and shut the door behind him and prayed to the LORD. (34) Then he lay down on the child’s body, placing his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. And as he stretched out on him, the child’s body began to grow warm again! (35) Elisha got up, walked back and forth across the room once, and then stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes! (36) Then Elisha summoned Gehazi. “Call the child’s mother!” he said. And when she came in, Elisha said, “Here, take your son!” (37) She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs.
If your having deja vu all over again, your not the only one. This story is similar to the one about Elijah praying to save the widow’s son in the last study were we also took a brief look at 2 Kings 4:1-7. As usual, things are repeated for a reason. We have the tendency to miss details or forget lessons. I always wonder when I meet people who seldom refer to scripture, but prefer to rely on memory. Here we will let scripture explain scripture.
There may be a question if this story about Elisha and the child is a prophecy? First we need to review this chapter because there is a large amount of misunderstanding between the boy who fell sick and the widows sons. A quick review of the chapter will show the sick boy’s mother was married to a rich man. She welcomed Elisha into her home whenever he passed by. So we shouldn’t confuse her son with the widow’s son in 1 Kings chapter 17. We also can’t confuse Elijah with Elisha. Elijah transferred his roles to Elisha. We can see a symbol of a new era. We should be aware God’s lesson is moving in a different direction using some of the same elements while introducing new and different details. After all, the entire series of the prophecies about Jesus have been teaching one lesson after another.
Without a doubt, child is the key word in 2 Kings 4:32-37. A few other words are repeated, but we can’t be sure they would help lead us to the proper texts. We know the parallel texts in the New Testament will have something to do with a child being healed. The search is on. One of the first texts that comes to mind is, “When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. He went inside and asked, ‘Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.’ The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. Holding her hand, he said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means ‘Little girl, get up!’ And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.” (Mark 5:38-43 NLTse). This seems like a good fit and one many people would choose, but— check the introduction and summary for Mark chapter 5. It appears to be a poor match for 2 Kings 4. The search continues.
Another story that comes to mind and will show up on a search using the word, “son,” is the one where Jesus raised a widow’s son. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. (Luke 7:12-15 NLTse). Once again, the context of this chapter is not a good match for 2 Kings 4.
These two stories appear to be decent proof texts, but proper Bible study is not a search to find texts to support a predetermined concept. Proof text studies are stuck on human thoughts and worldly concepts. Bible study is much more than searching for texts to complete a though. Bible studies that rely on locating texts to support individual thoughts, doctrines, traditions, or prophetic interpretations may satisfy personal ambitions and impress a number of people with limited knowledge of the Bible and proper study methods, but those types of studies will never reveal the real lessons God placed in His Word. The problem with so called Bible studies relying only on locating proof texts is they rarely consider context. What is context? How do you determine context of a verse, chapter, or book in the Bible? It is an easy process to follow.
Many people like to teach the Bible is a book of mysteries. It is a mystery for people with preconceived ideas and little or no knowledge of Bible study as its taught in scripture. That’s right – the Bible contains lessons showing how its meant to be studied. These methods were discovered long ago and are still locked away in books written hundreds of years ago. Simple methods to study God’s Word became hidden away in man made phrases the normal person would need a dictionary to unravel. Soon simple Bible study methods were buried under terminology invented to discourage common people from mastering concepts Jesus taught to fishermen, a tax collector and disciples with no previous experience. This was Jesus’ way of telling us, “no experience necessary.”
One simple Bible study method used and illustrated here teaches the concept of repetition. First of all you need to learn to look at the Bible as a simple letter. Think of the Bible as a simple letter from your father. He wants you to understand – right? How would your dad drive home an important point? If he didn’t write a letter, I’m sure you heard the process in his speech. He repeats words he wants you to pay attention to. Right? Does that bring back childhood memories? God did the same thing with His letter, the Bible. Much of the New Testament is made up of letters. In all the books and letters in the Bible, the author repeated key words to make sure readers would see the main thought in each verse and between verses. This explains why we look for words that are the same, similar and related. This is why I went through the process of highlighting words for you. I’m sure you’ve seen how the main thought pops off the page. Now we are beginning to study the way God intended His Word to be read. Proof of this study method is in the Gospels. Look at how Jesus taught His disciples. Jesus used events in His lessons. Notice how many of those events had to be repeated before the disciples finally caught onto the lessons? Feeding thousands is a good example. The second time Jesus feed a large crowd He tested the disciples to see if they learned from the first event. After failing the test, Jesus repeated the lesson. Afterwords Jesus asked them why they failed to learn the first time. Many other events were repeated so we would see the pattern throughout the Gospels and not miss this important detail – and rule of Bible study.
The easiest way of checking context is compare the texts in question to the introduction and summary of the chapter and book. Some of the best examples are Peter’s letters. They are short and often misunderstood. Much of Peter’s writings are taken out of context. Look at the first few verses in Peter’s letters for his introduction. His entire letter follows this theme. Remember, Peter became very consistent after learning his lesson. You know the old saying, “you learn most from your mistakes.” Peter must have learned a lot during the forty days Jesus retaught His disciples.
The prophecies Jesus fulfilled also teach basic Bible study rules. As the prophecies progress in order throughout the Bible, God’s Word adds one lesson after another. The lesson your reading now continues the sequence as it moves us into a new level of study. I hope you don’t think I’ve been using this depth of study for years. As I write this, its as new to me as it is to you while your reading. I am not introducing a new method of study, Inductive study has been around for years. You can search the Internet to find dozens of sites trying to explain how to use this method. What’s new is the method of explaining how to use the simple steps of an Inductive study. Trying to learn without examples is rough. That’s why I try to explain steps as the lesson unfolds. God arranged His prophecies about Jesus in a particular order that takes us from one step to the next. All I do is try to keep the explanations simple and understandable. This may sound like a long winded explanation, but brings out two important points. These lessons will allow people with little experience teaching Bible study to explain the simple steps. The second point is — God’s Spirit will guide you to an easier, more personal way to explain these study then I am able to provide.
Some times God’s Spirit takes us in an unexpected direction. This is one of the lessons we will see in this Bible study. We looked at two possible verses which seemed like a logical fit, but we have to show respect for the Author. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLTse). Don’t forget to check the context in Isaiah 55. Does Isaiah 55 refer to studying God’s Word?
Once we go a step further by comparing the introduction and summation in the Old Testament chapter containing the prophecy with the New Testament chapter recording how Jesus fulfilled it, we will see how the two chapters compliment one another. There is one story in the Gospels that fits all three criteria:
- A greater fulfillment by Jesus.
- A parallel Introduction.
- A parallel Summary.
Matthew 15:21-28 NLTse Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. (22) A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” (23) But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” (24) Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep–the people of Israel.” (25) But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” (26) Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” (27) She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their master’s table.” (28) “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.At first glance, Matthew 15:21-28 does not seem to be a very good fit for 2 Kings 4:32-37. There seems to be a number of contrasts. We have to remember – God uses contrasts to make a whole. Evening and morning make a day. Man and wife make a family. Jesus came to teach equality. He used a Samaritan to teach one of His greatest lessons. Jesus crisscrossed the lake to teach His disciples equality as He ministered to Jews on one side, Gentiles on the other. It makes sense when Jesus heals a young girl to teach a fulfillment of the lesson Elijah began to teach. Another interesting point to consider is how the story about Elisha has so many similarities to Elijah’s story when he prayed and laid on top of a widow’s son to heal him. Elisha represents a movement to the new with double share of the Spirit. Hence, we should expect to see and receive a double share of God’s Spirit in the lesson Elisha’s story points to.
The word child is one of the main key words in 2 Kings 4:32-37. In Matthew 15, Jesus talks about children receiving bread. Elisha prayed for a son. Jesus healed a daughter. Elijah had to spread his entire body over the boy twice. Jesus spoke and the child was healed from a distance. All the evidence points to a greater fulfillment by Jesus. Although the key word used to locate the New Testament texts is only used once in Matthew 15:21-28, the connection reminds us to also look for similar and related words. Son and daughter are related words. This study also teaches how to look deeper into the personality of of the two stories – and the Author. Look at how the the woman in 2 Kings 4 would not give up and how Elisha’s servant tried to push her away. But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the LORD has not told me what it is.” (2 Kings 4:27 NLTse). Jesus’ disciples also tried to discourage the woman and asked Jesus to send her away. What lesson is repeated here? In both we see the concern a woman has for a son or daughter illustrating God’s concern for us. We finally catch on when we see lessons repeating. When we see key words repeated, we find the theme. When we see key thoughts repeated, we understand the lesson.
The Bible has to studied slowly. One lesson has to sink in before your ready for the next. It took Jesus over three years to teach His disciples the simple concepts we are covering here. One of the main lessons Jesus taught was how to pray and rely on God’s Spirit to reveal the answers. I have to admit, I would have missed some important points if I didn’t put this study away and pray. Here’s the process I follow in my studies:
- Collect the texts to study.
- Highlight words that are the same, similar, or related.
- Put the study aside and pray.
- Look at the texts and identify the key thought.
- Use key words that are highlighted to search for related texts.
- Compare the main thoughts in the introductions and summations in the two chapters.
- Highlight words that are the same, similar, or related in the chapters introductions and summations.
- Compare the key words in the chapters introductions and summations.
- Put the study aside and pray.
- Begin writing by paying attention to the key words.
- Expand writing to include the key thoughts.
- Put the study aside and pray.
- Write the conclusions.
- Pray and review
Many people fail to listen when they pray. I first ask for forgiveness and claim the blood Jesus shed. This reminds me how dependent I need to be on Christ. Once I have been cleaned by Jesus’ blood, I claim His promise, I ask Jesus to open the path for me to approach God’s throne. I then ask God’s Spirit to reveal lessons in the texts I am studying. I let God’s Spirit choose the points to consider. It may be the verses that began the study. It may be a comparison of the introductions or summations to the chapters. It may be something else in the chapters. I may be told to look back to one of the previous chapters containing the Old Testament or New Testament texts. The fact of the matter is, I have to listen. I have to go through the learning stage before I can graduate to the teaching stage.One detail about prayer I don’t want you to forget to mention. The world turned God’s time around and messed up communication with Him in the process. Many people use daily devotions. They suggest you to read devotions in the morning. WRONG!!!! God created the evening then the morning. This is the process we need to follow in prayer. When we pray during the day we open ourselves up to every distraction Satan can throw at us. We need to pray in the evening, and again in the morning. God will answer in both evening and morning when we experience the fewest distractions.
Points to remember while praying and studying:
- You are comparing two or more stories.
- One is a form of prophecy leading to a greater fulfillment.
- Together the stories teach a far greater lesson than what can be seen viewing them individually.
Basics points to consider, pray about and listen for answers to:
- Look at similarities.
- Look at contrasts.
- Look at who is involved in each of the stories.
- What relationship do they have with other characters?
- What is their motive and background?
- When did the stories take place?
- What events led into the stories?
- Is there a relationship between events leading into the stories?
Similarities are found in three major locations:
- Original related texts
- Introduction to each chapter
- Summation of each chapterDuring prayer ask why there are contrasts in the texts. Similarities as well as differences are keys pointing to deeper lessons. Following is a list accumulated from the two texts we have been comparing so far.ElishaPrayed for a rich woman’s son.JesusHealed a foreign woman’s daughter.
A rich woman is greater than a foreign woman.
A Son is greater than a daughter.
Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus to send the woman away.
Gehazi pushed the woman away.
Greater lessons these details point to:
Jesus and God show no favoritism.
Jesus’ disciples were no better than Elisha’s servant.
Once you pray –God’s Spirit will bring details like this to mind. Once you look at the sequence presented, you will see other deeper lessons. Some people like to make deities out of Jesus’ disciples. Remember in Daniel and Revelation when Daniel and John saw angels? Both fell to their knees to worship the angels. Both times the angel told them to get up and called Daniel and John fellow servants. This is not telling us Daniel and John are equivalent to angles. It shows us we are all equal in God’s eyes. We have no right to elevate anyone above us. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses made mistakes. Its impossible for us to learn from their errors until we see their mistakes for what they are and study stories about them close enough to understand why they made mistakes. When we see one chapter comparing a prophet to Jesus, we should expect to see contrasts. No one was perfect except Jesus. Sometimes the life of the prophets and other characters point to Jesus, other times their lives are a contrast to show us a lesson.
When we compare the introductions to 2 Kings 4 and Matthew 15, we compare similarities and contrasts which relate to the same theme. There can be a number of both physical and spiritual details to consider.
2 Kings 4:1-7 NLTse One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the LORD. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.” (2) “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. (3) And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. (4) Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.” (5) So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. (6) Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. (7) When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”
Matthew 15:1-9 NLTse Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. (2) “Why do your disciples disobey our age-oldtradition?” they demanded. “They ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” (3) Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? (4) For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father ormother must be put to death.’ (5) But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ (6) In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. (7) You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, (8) ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (9) Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.'”
A casual reading of the two introductions shows how one explains the other. To explain the connections we first identify keys words which are repeated. Key words will the the same. similar, or related words. Once we have the words in each text highlighted, go back and look for words that are the same, similar, or related between the two introductions. One set of words stick out, “prophets,” and “disciples.” Both share the role of leading people to God. These two words actually set the tone for each introduction. Other thoughts, which are not highlighted here are related. The creditor plays the same role in the story with Elisha as the Pharisees and teachers of religious law do in the story with Jesus. Based on the key words, the main focus in 2 Kings 4:1-7 in on the oil and jars. Its a little difficult to explain exactly what oil represents in the Bible, so for the time being we will restrict its meaning to context. The next set of key words show that context. God provided oil to pay the widow’s debts to a creditor and save her sons from slavery. Notice – we are not claiming oil represents anything, but letting the context explain why God gave it to the widow and how she used it. Compare this to how the religious leaders tried to restrict Jesus and His disciples.
Obviously the key word in Matthew 15:1-9 is, “tradition.” This key word has to relate to Elisha and the widow. How is the answer explained by the other key words in Matthew 15:1-9? Father, parents, and mother are also repeated. Mother is a direct connection to widow. Father and parents expand on that theme. Jesus explains how man-made ideas replaced God’s Word. The same applies to the widow. Did the creditor follow God’s law about credit and debts? Remember, debts were forgiven and slaves set free after seven years. We don’t know all the details or circumstances the widow faced – the details didn’t seem important – God was showing His concern and ability to provide no matter how people changed the rules. Just before Jerusalem fell to Babylon, God gave the city one last chance. If Jerusalem freed all their slaves, God promised to spare the city. The leaders agreed. They freed all the slaves. Shortly after Babylon left, with no threat outside the city gates, they reinstated slavery. That was the last straw. God handed Jerusalem over to Babylon. God can move an army of thousands as easily as he can send a stream of oil flow from a single container.
Not only do these two chapters show how God’s laws will be laid aside for man-made traditions, together they show the lack of compassion the world has. Jesus expanded the subject to father – mother – and family, which places a direct bearing on the lack of compassion the creditor had on the widow and her sons. If the widow would have lost her sons, her land, home, livestock, business, everything was next. Together these verses show the motive of the creditor in 2 Kings 4. The introductions show the world’s motives. The summations show God’s motive.
2 Kings 4:42-44 NLTse One day a man from Baal-shalishah brought the man of God a sack of fresh grain and twenty loaves of barley bread made from the first grain of his harvest. Elisha said, “Give it to the people so they can eat.” (43) “What?” his servant exclaimed. “Feed a hundred people with only this?” But Elisharepeated, “Give it to the people so they can eat, for this is what the LORD says: Everyone will eat, and there will even be some left over!” (44) And when they gave it to the people, there was plenty for all and some left over, just as the LORD had promised.
Matthew 15:29-39 NLTse Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. (30) A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. (31) The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel. (32) ThenJesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” (33) The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?” (34) Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.” (35) So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. (36) Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd. (37) They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. (38) There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. (39) Then Jesus sent the people home, and he got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.
Its not by chance 2 Kings 4 and Matthew 15 summations share the same theme. They’re so close they hardly need an explanation – but provide the ideal explanation showing how important it is to study within context. Who knew Elisha was the forerunner of feeding more people with less food? The parallel stories get more interesting when we look at the similarities. One of the first we see – both Elisha and Jesus had leftover bread – a spiritual lesson you can cover on your own. Notice how Elisha had faith to tell his servant to distribute the bread – even tough it looked like it would never be enough. Elijah’s servant doubted at first, but followed orders. This is a lesson Jesus’ disciples should have known, but for some reason they missed it. That’s why Jesus tested them. The example was in scripture long before the disciples were tested by Jesus. Remember, God always gives the answer before He tests you. The widow already had the oil, as well as the widow Elijah met already had flour and oil. God works with what He already gave you. Don’t ever forget that.
I love the way God’s lessons build and build to a climax. This only happens when we study by following the simple rules of context. Who would have imagined all these stories linked together like pieces of a puzzle giving us a full view of the scene God prepared for us long before any of us were born.
Long ago I told you what was going to happen. Then suddenly I took action, and all my predictions came true. For I know how stubborn and obstinate you are. Your necks are as unbending as iron. Your heads are as hard as bronze. That is why I told you what would happen; I told you beforehand what I was going to do. Then you could never say, ‘My idols did it. My wooden image and metal god commanded it to happen!’ You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled, but you refuse to admit it. Now I will tell you new things, secrets you have not yet heard. They are brand new, not things from the past. So you cannot say, ‘We knew that all the time!’ “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new, things you never heard of before. For I know so well what traitors you are. You have been rebels from birth. Yet for my own sake and for the honor of my name, I will hold back my anger and not wipe you out. I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering. I will rescue you for my sake– yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished, and I will not share my glory with idols! (Isaiah 48:3-11 NLTse).
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