A Great Woman (The Shunammite Woman) Part I  By Scarlett Stough


She had everything, almost everything. Her husband owned land on which he produced a living that made them wealthy. She had the best of everything to wear and to eat. She had a comfortable home and servants. Her husband trusted her to carry out her responsibilities and indulged her requests. She had his love and respect. Only one thing was missing and she had stopped hoping. Although she was blessed in every other way, she had no child. She was determined to focus on what she had and on what she could do, not on the sorrow within the empty place in her heart--the ache for a child of her own.

She had noticed the travelers on the way to Shunem. She invited them to stop to eat and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She and her husband could enjoy their conversation and hear some news from other parts of Israel. And besides, offering hospitality to travelers was the right thing to do.

As she listened to Elisha and his servant Gehazi, she realized that Elisha was “a holy man of God,” set apart for the Lord’s work. She suggested to her husband that they add a room onto their flat roof so that Elisha would have a place to stay every time he came that way.

Elisha wanted to reward this Shunammite woman’s kindness. He sent Gehazi to find out what she would like. Elisha offered to speak to the king or the commander of the army on her behalf. But she was in no need of any political favors or military protection.

Gehazi had realized she had no son and her husband was old. When her husband died, the land would pass to his nearest male relative. Then she would lose all she now enjoyed unless she gave birth to a son who could inherit.

Elisha, by the authority and power that God had given him, promised she would give birth to a son the next year.

“Please don’t lie to me,” she pleaded. She had suffered disappointment year after year. She did not want to hope in vain. The boy was born as Elisha had promised. Elisha continued to enjoy her hospitality as often as they traveled near her home. (II Kings 4:8-17)

The woman’s name is not given, but she is described as “a great woman.” (II Kings 4:8KJV) In Hebrew, the word translated “great” in the KJV and “well-to-do” in the NIV has several nuances of meaning, wealthy being only one of them. This description was used of Abraham (Genesis 24:35 KJV) and is often used to describe an attribute of God. (Isaiah 12:6) Being great included character and influence. Even though her husband was generous, the wealth belonged to him and his male heirs. Her greatness in the eyes of God and the prophet Elisha was not dependent on her economic status. Her wealth gave her the means to support Elisha’s ministry as Susannah and other women supported the ministry of Jesus. (Luke 8:3) It was her kindness and generosity that made her great as well as her continual worship of God. (II Kings 4:23)

Jesus promised a prophet’s reward to those who helped a prophet of the Lord. (Matthew 10:40-42) The Shunammite woman wasn’t looking for a reward other than the satisfaction of refreshing a traveler. But she got more than that, both in her lifetime and for eternity. (Please join us in the next issue of Women in Christ for Part II of her story.)

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: A Prophet’s Reward