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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Kings 4

Elisha multiplies the widow’s oil. (1-7) The Shunammite obtains a son. (8-17) The Shunammite’s son restored to life. (18-37) The miracle of healing the pottage, and of feeding the sons of the prophets. (38-44)

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Elisha multiplies the widow’s oil

1 Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

2 And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.

3 Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.

4 And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

5 So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.

6 And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.

7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

The Shunammite obtains a son

8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.

9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.

10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.

11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.

12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.

13 And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.

14 And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.

15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.

16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.

17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.

The Shunammite’s son restored to life

18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.

19 And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.

20 And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.

21 And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.

22 And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.

23 And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well.

24 Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.

25 So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite:

26 Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well:

27 And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.

28 Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?

29 Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.

30 And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.

31 And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.

32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.

33 He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.

34 And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.

35 Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

36 And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.

37 Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.

The miracle of healing the pottage, and of feeding the sons of the prophets

38 And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.

39 And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.

40 So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.

41 But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.

42 And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.

43 And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.

44 So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Prophets. Josephus (ix. 4.) intimates that this man was Abdias; (3 K. xviii. 13.) and the Rabbins pretend that Joram was the creditor. But these traditions are destitute of proof; and we know not that Abdias was a prophet. C. — Serve him, not as slaves, for the Hebrews were not thus to be sold, except they had commited some crime. Salien, A.C. 913. See Lev. xxv. 39. — But the condition of mercenaries was perhaps little different; (H.) and we find that people were sold for debt. Ex. xxi. 7. Isai. l. 1. The same practice seems to have continued till our Saviour’s time. Matt. xviii. 25. Children were regarded as part of a person’s property. Halicar. ii. p. 96. Plut. in Solon et Luculls. The custom of selling children continued for a long time in our islands.

Ver. 2. Anoint me, for delicacy or health. Matt. vi. 17. M. — To abstain from this unction, in the East, was a great mortification. 2 K. xiv. 2. Deut. xxviii. 40. Sanctius supposes, that the woman intended the oil to anoint her body for interment. Matt. xxvi. 12. Heb. asuc, occurs no where else, and my signify a pot, or “skin of oil.” The woman had nothing else. The original does not say what she intended to do with it. C. — She might use it for food: (3 K. xvii. 12.) but the Sept. agree with the Vulg. H.

Ver. 6. Stood. The grace of God ceases to flow, when the soul is full of vanity. S. Bern. — Charity does not increase, when it bestows nothing. S. Aug. ser. 206. de Temp.

Ver. 8. Sunam, the birth-place of the beautiful virgin Abisag, (3 K. i. 3.) at the foot of Thabor, (C.) and not above a mile from Carmel, v. 23. T. — Great woman, “renowned for piety” (Arab.) and riches, v. 13. T. M. — “Fearing sins.” Chal. This was true greatness! H. — Eliseus often passed by her house, when he went to visit the colleges at Bethel, Jericho, &c. M.

Ver. 10. Chamber. Heb. adds, “on the wall,” (H.) or surrounded “with walls,” at the top of the house, where strangers usually lodged. C. — After being entertained the first day with the family, they might retire, and live, as if they were at home; some presents being sent to them daily, at least among the Greeks of rank. Vitruv. vi. 10. — The apartment of Eliseus might be separate from the house, that he might be less distracted in his meditations. M. Vatable. — Candlestick, on which many lamps, or even wood, might burn. Exod. xxv. 27. C.

Ver. 13. He said, or “he had said;” (Junius and Piscator) so that we may include this and the following verse within a parenthesis, as alluding to what had passed before; (C.) unless the woman, out of modesty, did not come into the chamber of the prophet, who addressed her by an interpreter, (M.) or servant. H. — Army. Eliseus had acquired great influence with Joram, in the war with Moab. C. — The ancient canons exhort bishops to present the petitions of the poor to the prince. Grotius. — People. I have nothing to fear, (H.) and am not in want. T. — I have no quarrel with any person. C. — I am of too mean a condition to have anything to do at court. Abul.

Ver. 14. No son. The desire of one was very natural, particularly to people in good circumstances (M.) and of the Hebrew nation. H.

Ver. 16. Womb. Heb. “At this season, according to the time of life, (H. or of a woman with child, M.) thou shalt embrace a son” in thy arms. H. See Gen. xviii. 10. C. — If is added by S. Jerom, agreeably to an usual form of speaking. M. — The prophet assures the woman, that she will not only live, but also bear a son, and nurse him. — Lie, deceive, (v. 28. H.) or flatter me with vain hopes. C. She might think that the prophet was not actually inspired. M. — Through joy, she could hardly believe. See Luke xxiv. 41. H.

Ver. 19. Carry. This interpretation suits with the occasion, and is conformable to the Sept. and Chal. M. — Lit. “conduct him,” but he was sick and little. H.

Ver. 21. Bed, esteeming it as a relic, (H.) or wishing to excite the man of God to pray for her child, and to conceal its death from her husband. M.

Ver. 23. Moon, a day of devotion, (Num. x. 10. C.) or probably of obligation, like the sabbath, on which no long journey could be undertaken, (T. v. 8.) unless for the sake of piety, (Ex. xxvi. 8.) as Sunam is a place six or seven leagues, (C.) or eight hours’ walk from Carmel. Adrichom. M. — Piety was not so far decayed in Israel but many fervent souls still went to hear the prophets. C. It seems this woman had often made such journeys. M. — Go. Heb. “peace.” Prot. “it shall be well:” let me depart. She is unwilling to reveal the reason of her journey; but her husband was so well convinced of her virtue, that he placed no obstacle in her way. Perhaps he might partly guess what was the matter, as he had sent the child home sick, and saw his wife so desirous to visit the prophet. H.

Ver. 24. And do. Heb. “unless I bid thee.” Some translate, “urge me not to get up, unless,” &c. Chal. Arab. &c. They suppose that she went on foot, and that the ass was designed for Eliseus. Vatab.

Ver. 26. Well. She declines mentioning what she wanted to the servant, in order that she might speak to the prophet in person. M. — She might also rationally hope that the child was well in another world. H.

Ver. 27. Her. Being aware of the extreme circumspection and modesty of his master. — Told me. Hence it appears that the prophets were not inspired at all times, 2 K. vii. 3. “that they might be sensible that what they had was a gift of God.” S. Greg. hom. in 11 Ezech.

Ver. 28. A son. Better had it been for me not to have become a mother, than to be so soon delivered of my child. M.

Ver. 29. Salute him not. He that is sent to raise to life the sinner spiritually dead, must not suffer himself to be called off, or diverted from his enterprise, by the salutations or ceremonies of the world. Ch. — So must the preachers of the gospel diligently fulfil their important office. Luke x. 4. S. Greg. hom. 17. Urbanity is not reprehended; but no human transaction ought to impede what is divine. S. Amb. ib. In ancient comedies, slaves are always represented in a hurry. The Jews will not salute any person when they are going to their synagogues, for fear of being distracted in their devotions. C. — Eliseus requires the utmost expedition, that the favour might be the greater, Qui cito dat, bis dat. M. — He would also prevent his servant from telling any one what he was about, that he might not be touched with vanity, and thus hinder the miracle, which some think was nevertheless the case. R. Salomon. Theod. q. 17. T.

Ver. 31. The child is not risen. By the staff of Eliseus is represented the rod of Moses, or the old law, which was incapable of restoring life to mankind, then dead by sin. It was necessary that Christ himself should come in our flesh, to restore us to life again. In this, Eliseus, as a figure of Christ, behoved to go in person to restore the dead child to life. Ch. — S. Aug. (c. Faust. xii. 35.) shews that many like things recorded in the Old Testament are figures of the New. W. — Many of the fathers observe, that this miracle was intended to shew the necessity of the Incarnation to redeem lost man. The staff did not therefore restore life. Some lay the blame on Giezi; others on the woman, who required the prophet to come in person; and others suppose that Eliseus followed herein his own spirit. But all this is destitute of proof. C. — He might alter his mind (T.) at the request of the woman, and to imitate Elias; (3 K. xvii. 21.) all by God’s direction. H. — He had before trusted that God would perform the miracle by means of the staff, as he did formerly by the rod of Moses, or by the mantle of Elias. M.

Ver. 34. Warm. Arab. adds, “by his breath,” as when God breathed a soul into Adam. Theodor. q. 18. — Some Greek interpreters have, “he breathed upon him,” &c.

Ver. 35. Upon him. Sept. “he breathed,” &c. C. — Other copies, (Alex. and Vat.) “he bent down upon the child seven times, and the child opened his eyes.” — Gaped. Prot. “sneezed;” (H.) in which interpretation, Junius, Mont. &c. agree. Arab. “he turned his eyes about seven times.” Others, “he trembled,” (C.) or sighed; (M.) or Eliseus “clasped him in his arms,” &c. The child died of a headache; (v. 19.) and sneezing is accounted good for alleviating the pain. Sternutamenta capitis gravedinem emendant. Pliny xxviii. 6. C.

Ver. 37. Ground. To honour the saint, who had done her such a kindness. M.

Ver. 38. Galgal, where he had been often before. — Dwelt. Heb. “sat,” like disciples attending to the instructions of their master. Acts xxii. 3. C. — To one, &c. Heb. and Sept. “to his servant,” Giezi. M. — Eliseus provided for the temporal as well as for the spiritual wants of his followers. H. — The famine had been sent by God, to punish the idolatry of the people. C. viii. 1. M.

Ver. 39. Wild herbs. Heb. oroth. Sept. arioth, may denote any thing that could be “gathered.” — Gourds: colocynthides. They resembled cucumbers; but were so bitter, that they were styled, “the gall of the earth.” Vallesius, (Phil. c. 36.) who observes, that a small quantity may cause death, (c. 37.) and that the remedy used by the prophet was supernatural; though Lemnius (c. 7.) asserts, that the mixture of barley-flour would take away the bitterness. T. — It has, in effect, that tendency; but the hand of God must still be acknowledged. C.

Ver. 40. Death, poison, &c. Matthiole accounts this fruit poisonous.

Ver. 42. Baalsalisa, 15 miles south of Diospolis, and to the north of Jerusalem. C. — His scrip. Hebrew bctsiklono. Prot. “in the husk thereof.” Carmel, means a greenish ear of corn, (H.) which might be rubbed in the hand, and so eaten. C.

Ver. 43. Men. The disciples of Christ found the like difficulty. Jo. vi. 9. M. — God multiplied the provisions for these 100 men, (C.) living in the community at Galgal. H.