And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life. — 2 Kings 8:5
God is always ahead of us, and He can work behind the scenes to resolve difficult situations if we will ask Him. This was illustrated to me at a time when the environment at my job was very competitive. There was a “dog-eat-dog” mentality among some staff members, who would do whatever it took to get ahead of another person. I had been told to watch my back because nobody else could be counted on to look out for me.
A particular manager was doing everything he could to move up the ladder of success, and at one point he began to say negative things about me to my superiors behind my back. To my face he appeared to be a support and friend, but other managers warned me of what was happening. My first tendency was to go straight to my area manager and clear up the false stories. However, my wife encouraged me to pray about it and to not get involved in my own defense, and I decided that was good advice. We both went to prayer on the issue. For a while it looked as if I might lose my job, yet I continued to do the best work I could, praying for God’s wisdom and guidance, and not getting involved in the politics of my workplace. Just when the situation looked hopeless to me, in an amazing way the truth was revealed to the district management, and I was told my job was safe. God had heard our prayers and worked on my behalf.
God was also working in the life of the Shunammite woman in today’s text. It appears that before the impending famine, she’d had considerable wealth that could have been lost if she had not made correct business decisions. Instead of using her own thinking, she had obeyed Elisha’s advice and left her house and property to move to another land for the duration of the famine. Seven years later, when she returned, her property was inhabited by strangers, and it seemed all was lost.
However, instead of defeat, the result of years of obedience and faith in God paid off. As she went before King Joram to attempt to reclaim her land, God was already working in her behalf. Imagine coming into a court to defend your cause, and hearing your name and family being talked about! That is what happened. Providentially, Elisha’s servant was telling the king at that precise moment about this woman’s son being raised from the dead and how God had cared for her and her family. The Shunammite woman was able to tell the king of the loss of all her property. The resulting miracle was more than the woman could have imagined. The king appointed people to make sure she not only got her home and land back, but also the profit that had been gained while she was gone!
God cares about His people and often intervenes in ways unknown to us. He has a perfect plan for us. If we are quick to obey, and truly trust that He is in charge of what happens to us, it may surprise us what the Lord can do because He goes before us.
Chapter 8 begins with more accounts of Elisha’s ministry, some of which are not recorded in chronological order. The events regarding the Shunammite woman must have taken place before Gehazi became a leper (2 Kings 5:27), so they would have transpired between 848 and 841 B.C., when the reign of King Joram and the ministry of Elisha overlapped.
The Shunammite woman, of the tribe of Issachar, lived in Shunem. This was a small village to the southeast of Mount Carmel, where the modern city of Solem is located. Elisha stopped often at Shunem while passing through the area. The Shunammite couple was wealthy and built a room for Elisha to stay in whenever he came through.
One day Elisha warned the Shunammite woman to flee with her household to a neighboring land, because the Lord had shown him that there was to be a seven year famine. He told her she could suffer great loss and perhaps even her life if she stayed in Shunem. It appears that her husband had died because he is not mentioned at this time.
The Shunammite woman obeyed the warning of Elisha and fled to the land of the Philistines. After the famine was over, she and her family moved back to Shunem, where she found that her property and home had been confiscated either by a stranger or the king. She had lost everything. She went before King Joram to plead her cause, just as Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, was telling the king about this woman’s son being restored to life. The woman quickly verified Gehazi’s story, causing the king to be moved to give her all her land, her home, and even the income that had been earned off the land during her seven year absence.
In verse 7, the text moves ahead without reflecting the time lapse that included the healing of Naaman, the Syrian commander. This portion of Scripture gives another example of the political influence that Elisha had because of the power of God that was working through him. Elisha traveled to Syria, where King Ben-hadad was deathly sick. Knowing of the healing of Naaman and some of the miracles done by Elisha, he requested help.
Ben-hadad was a common name given to the Syrian kings who reigned at that time. There were at least two, and possibly three, kings with the same name. Most historians identify the king in today’s text as King Ben-hadad II, who ruled in Damascus.
Historians state that King Ben-hadad II was a weak ruler who failed to protect the far-reaching conquests of his father, and Israel began to regain her land and fortunes during his reign. It was with this background that King Ben-hadad, when he was sick and appeared to be dying, sent for the Prophet Elisha. He sent the man he thought was his most trusted official, Hazael, to Elisha to seek for the help of God.
Elisha told Hazael that the king would recover from his illness, but then added that he would die. Elisha stunned Hazael by just staring at him. Then Elisha began to weep, and told Hazael that he would kill the king, take his throne, and would murder many of God’s people. Hazael pretended to be shocked at this pronouncement.
Yet, when Hazael returned to King Ben-hadad, he only recounted part of the prophecy — that the king would recover. The king must have been healed that very day, for the next day Hazael killed him and became king in his stead. The prophecy of Elisha was fulfilled as Hazael turned against the Israelites and ravaged much of their land (2 Kings 10:33).
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah
B. Jehoram of Israel
3. The ministry of Elisha
h. The care for the Shunammite woman (8:1-6)
i. The predictions of Elisha in Damascus (8:7-15)
(1) Ben-hadad’s recovery, but murder (8:7-10)
(2) Hazael’s usurpation (8:11-13)
(3) Elisha’s words fulfilled (8:14-15)
We serve a God who is way ahead of us. Having faith and complete trust in Him will bring us peace and blessings.