The Great Woman of Shunem
By Susan E. Todd
(2 Kings 4:8-37)

We can learn many things from the life of this woman.

  • The woman of Shunem was a generous woman.

Hospitality costs us nothing. Yes, there may be material expenses involved but they are small compared to the rewards that we will receive for an unselfish act of kindness to another. Yes, we may be inconvenienced for a time but what is that compared to the joy and happiness we could bring to someone who may be hurting. However bad you think your situation is remember there is always someone else who is in a worse situation than you are. Isn't a little bit of inconvenience on your part worth the blessing you can be to someone else?

(2 Kings 4:8) 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.

Hospitality is devoid of all selfishness, it has no ulterior motives, it expects nothing in return. Hospitality rewards itself.

(Hebrews 13:2) Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

  • The woman of Shunem had real spiritual discernment.

(2 Kings 4:9) And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.

She did not know who Elisha was but she perceived who he was. She must have been very close to the Lord in order to do this. God only gives spiritual enlightenment to those who seek Him.

  • The woman of Shunem was wise.

(2 Kings 4:10) 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.

She had great respect for this man. She knew he was close to God. I believe that she had many conversations with him when he stayed at her home and she learned a great deal about God from him.

  • The woman of Shunem was humble.

Elisha wanted to do something for her to thank her for her kindness so he told his servant to inquire of her what he could do for her. (2 Kings 4:11-13) And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. 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.

She told Elisha that she didn't need her acts of kindness broadcast to anyone. She wasn't seeking the praise of men. She just wanted to please God. She did not need or ask for anything in return for her hospitality. So did not do it for reward or gain. She was a simple woman who lived a simple life among simple people. She didn't feel that she was anyone special. She didn't want attention drawn to her. She truly possessed great humility.

But the man of God is never ungrateful. Elisha knew that she had no children and so he thought that she would like a son. (2 Kings 4:14-17) And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. 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. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.

  • The woman of Shunem had the trust of her husband.

(2 Kings 4:18-21) And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.

One day when the child was grown, and he was with his father in the fields, he became ill. Her husband told his servants to take the boy to his mother to care for him. Her husband trusted her to take care of his son. Her husband trusted her to make important decisions and the decisions she would make saved the boy's life.

  • The woman of Shunem sought her husband's permission first.

(2 Kings 4:22-23) 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. 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.

Let me insert here that this woman consulted her husband on two separate occasions. First, when she saw a need for a room for Elisha. She presented her idea to her husband. She did not just go ahead and do that on her own. Secondly, she knew she had to go to the prophet on her son's behalf but she again went to her husband with her petition. She was a submissive woman. She knew her proper place in the family. The husband was the head of her and the family and she allowed him to be.

She did not want to break her husband's heart with the news that their only son had died. So she did not tell her husband what had happened to the child. She had faith that Elisha would do something so she went to find him.

  • The woman of Shunem knew where to go when trouble came.

(2 Kings 4:24-26) Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee. 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: 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.

She regularly sought the counsel of the man of God. This would be a good lesson for everyone to learn. When you run into SPIRITUAL TROUBLE, RUN to the man of God. We've already talked about the man of God when we studied the life of the widow woman in the book of First Kings so I won't go into detail again. But let me just say this. The man of God is put in our lives for a reason. (Jeremiah 3:15) And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. Is that a good enough reason for you? It should be. God said it.

  • The woman of Shunem showed great persistence.

(2 Kings 4:27-30) 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. Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? 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. 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.

This is the same thing Elisha said to Elijah. Why? Because he knew some miracle usually happened when Elijah was around and he didn't want to miss it. This woman also knew that the power rested on Elisha and not Gehazi. I told you this woman had real spiritual discernment. So when Gehazi tried to offer his assistance it wasn't received too well. She understood how serious the situation was and she wasn't going to take any chances with a man who was only Elisha's servant. She meant no disrespect to Gehazi but she knew enough to put her trust in the man of God.

  • The woman of Shunem showed real thankfulness.

(2 Kings 4:31-37) 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. And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. 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 he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. 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. 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. Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.

Now you will see how truly remarkable this woman really was and why I believe the Lord called her the great woman of Shunem. When her son died she sought out the man of God. It took some time for her to obtain what she needed in order to help her boy. First she went to her husband to receive his permission to leave. The servants that would travel with her had to prepare the animals for the journey. She had to find Elisha and convince him to follow her home. By the time Elisha reached the boy he probably had been dead for many hours if not almost all day long.

When Gehazi brought her up to Elisha's room to witness the miracle of her son raising from the dead she grabbed her son and hugged and kissed him and told him how much she loved him. Then she ran to tell her husband all that had happened and they lived happily ever after. Right? Maybe that's what you would expect her to do. Maybe that's what you would do. But this is the great woman of Shunem. Let's see what she did.

When she entered the room and saw her son alive the FIRST thing, I said the FIRST thing she did, BEFORE she went to her son, she went to Elisha and THANKED him. God always had first place in this woman's life, in bad times as well as in good. What a remarkable testimony of this woman's character.

Look at 2 Kings 4:8 again. "And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, WHERE WAS A GREAT WOMAN;" To the best of my knowledge the woman of Shunem is the only woman who God attributes the term "great" to.

(Proverbs 31:29-30) "Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised."

The woman of Shunem was truly a great woman and one deserving of the praise she was given.