The Shunammite Woman (2 Kings 4:8-10)

Sometimes generosity is easier to teach through example than by a command. One such example is found in the Old Testament in the Shunammite woman’s thoughtful generosity and hospitality towards Elisha, the man of God, in 2 Kings 4:8-10.

“…Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food. 9 And she said to her husband, ‘Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. 10 Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there” (NKJV).

Consider the situation. Elisha was a traveling prophet all over the map in Israel. He was born in Abel-Meholah (1 Kings 19:16). He travels from Bethel to Gilgal with Elijah (2 Kings 2:1). He is appointed Elijah’s successor near Jericho in the south (2 Kings 2:15). He traveled to the northwest border at Mt. Carmel as well as to Samaria (2 Kings 2:25). In chapter four, Elisha is north in Shunem and also at Mt. Carmel (2 Kings 4:8, 25). Traveling can become costly and tiring for a prophet. He would need food, lodging, and rest.

This is where the “notable woman” of Shunem steps onto the scene (2 Kings 4:8). She sees the need of God’s prophet and uses her wealth and resources to supply Elisha’s needs. Her example reminds us not all giving goes in a collection plate. She uses her individual resources to help people on a far more personal level. Notice some details.

First, she does not ask Elisha to come eat food, “she persuaded him” to do so (2 Kings 4:8). She is the type of person who refused to be rejected. Second, she involves her husband in the process too. Maybe she did not feel capable or qualified to build an addition on her house by herself. So, she urges her husband to help build a guest room for Elisha so he would have a place to rest while traveling through the area (2 Kings 4:9-10). Some generosity takes teamwork and communication with others. Finally, she supplies resources that would make it easier for Elisha to rest and work. There is not only “a bed” but also “a table and a chair and a lampstand” (4:10). What thoughtful hospitality!

Part of the modern-day preacher’s command is to “go” and this requires travel (Matthew 28:18). What can you do to help the visiting preacher as he is visiting the area? Are you able to provide a meal, gas money, a room, a quiet respite? What can you do to help the overseas preacher in his work? Are you able to help fund a reliable car or repairs so he can do his work more easily? What about the local preacher? Is your house a place where he can stop by for lunch or dinner to save him time, money, and resources as he does his work? Yes, money in the collection plate may very well fund these needs. Yet, God bless those homes who imbibe the thoughtful action of the Shunammite woman!