“One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him. And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?'” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway. And he said, “At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.” But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.” – 2 Kings 4:11-17 (ESV)
This is the second in a six part series. Previously, Elisha had come through town and this woman had welcomed him and provided for his needs generously.
Now Elisha has been blessed by the generous hospitality of this shunammite woman. So one day while passing through and stopping at his room in her abode, he decides that he should repay her kindness in some way. So he calls for her and asks her what she wants. Her answer speaks volumes. “I dwell among my own people.” It tells of her contentment in her circumstances. She has all that she needs. And even more than that, I believe it speaks of her motives in serving Elisha. If she had done all these things for Elisha expecting repayment, this would have been the time. She had the opportunity to ask Elisha for anything, but instead declines to receive anything in return for her generosity. She knew that Elisha was a man of God. Elisha could request anything she wanted from God himself. But instead a reply of contentment.
So Elisha & Gehazi probably discuss privately what to do. Gehazi notes that the woman has no son and an old husband. This was problematic because society was largely patriarchal. If she was left with no husband or son, she would have a troubled future. (think: no pension or retirement savings) So Elisha calls her in again and speaks prophetic words: “… about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” Her reaction is puzzling: “… O man of God; do not lie to your servant.” Clearly, she is troubled by Elisha’s words. This is my interpretation, reading between the lines so to speak. I think that she had hoped and longed for a son. Who knows how many years, how many prayers. But she knew her husband was old. They had tried and nothing had worked. Maybe she was barren. So she told herself she was content with what God had given her. She repeated it to herself until she began to believe it herself. She stopped praying for a son. The intense longings flickered down in a mere candle flame. She buried her hope. But the prophet disturbed that hope from it’s resting place. He spoke of the hope that she had laid to rest a long time ago. And hope awakened again in her heart. Did she dare hope again? No, she dared not. “… do not lie to your servant.”
But even though she had stopped hoping, it happened. Exactly as the prophet said. A year to the season, she held her son.