The Shunammite: Confusion & Drama for a prophet

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite. Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’” And she answered, “All is well.” And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, “Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me.” Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’” He said to Gehazi, “Tie up your garment and take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child.” Then the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. Therefore he returned to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

2 Kings 4:25-31 (ESV)

Even the prophet of God is not immune to pathos. Elisha walked with God. And along comes this curveball out of nowhere. He sees a cloud of dust off in the distance. He squints and finally makes out his benefactor. The one who has lavished hospitality upon him. So he sends his servant to meet her and make sure everything is okay. Why in the world would she rush so quickly? It’s like a phone call out of the blue… “Is everything ok? Don’t do anything rash. I’m here.” She responds, everything is fine… it’s fine. And then proceeds to break down in front of him. Elisha says so himself: “she is in bitter distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me” She pours out her heart to him. She’s asking him why… why has God given and just as suddenly taken away. Elisha had promised her a son. Deep in her heart, she feels that the prophet has lied to her. We can mince Elisha’s words or hash through the technicalities of his exact wording, but still the promise rings empty. A son and all that it entailed… the removal of her shame, the promise of a future; all gone in the span of an afternoon. Hopes and dreams dashed to pieces.

Once again, Elisha sends his servant. He tells Gehazi to rush to the child’s side and to lay the staff on the child’s face. Old-style CPR? Who knows. But it doesn’t work. Gehazi probably meets Elisha and the woman as they are making their way back to the Shunammite’s house. More crushing news. The shunammite’s heart could only have gotten heavier. The dark night of the soul has come and settled.

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