Elisha’s Question About The Family

Title: Elisha's Question About The Family

Bible Book: 2 Kings 4 : 26

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Family; Burdens



We are dealing with some questions from the life and ministry of Elisha. We began by considering Elisha’s question in 2 Kings 2:14 when he said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” This was a question concerning the Father. Then last week, we looked at Elisha’s question to the widow woman who asked for help. In 2 Kings 4:2 he said, “What shall I do for thee?” This was a question pertaining to what favor he might offer this needy soul.

Have you ever asked someone, “How are you doing?” Of course you have; and someone else has surely asked you that same question. Often our response is dismissive and deceptive; that is, we will say that everything is fine when nothing could be further from the truth.

Tonight we are considering the question that the prophet asked the woman of Shunem as she approached mount Carmel in 2 Kings 4:26. The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary states that when Elisha saw the woman of Shunem “coming in the distance, and recognized her as the Shunammite, he sent Gehazi to meet her, to ask her about her own health and that of her husband and child. She answered, shalom, i.e., well, that she might not be detained by any further discussion.” His question was regarding her family. Here’s what Elisha was essentially saying:

I. Tell Me About Your Self – “Is It Well With Thee?”

A. A Compassionate Person

This woman was said to have been “a great woman” (vs. 8). This may suggest a quality of character or an advancement of age. I’m sure both aspects apply to this woman. Her age would doubtless correspond closely to that of her husband who is said to have been “old” (vs. 14). And as for her character, we learn that she was a compassionate person (vs. 8-10) who desired to provide complimentary “bed and breakfast” accommodations for the prophet.

B. A Careful Person

We learn that she was a “careful” person (vs. 13). This speaks of a reverential fear and perhaps also a piety. It is as if the prophet is saying, “You have honored us with all this honor.” The word “careful” also indicates that she had been very meticulous and conscientious in her concern for every need of her honored guests.

C. A Contented Person

We further learn that she was a contented person (vs. 13). The statement, “I dwell among mine own people,” indicated that she lived a quiet and peaceable life among her own people and therefore had no need for an audience before the king or the captain of the host. This was the attitude of Paul who said in Philippians 4:11 “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

II. Tell Me About Your Spouse – “Is It Well With Thy Husband?”

A. A Patient Husband

While we are told clearly in verse 14 “her husband is old,” little else is known about this man. However, we can infer some things about him from this chapter. First, I think it’s safe to assume that he was a patient husband. Otherwise, would he not have immediately refused his wife’s recommendation to build this prophet’s chamber in verses 9 and 10?

B. A Providing Husband

I also believe that he was a providing husband, not only because of their monetary ability to build and furnish this room but also because we see him on the job with the reapers in verse 18. The references to the “reapers” (plural in verse 18), and “the young men and one of the asses” in verse 22 suggest that they were financially comfortable.

C. A Preoccupied Husband

Because he did not carry his sick son home himself in verse 19 and because he didn’t notice his wife’s “vexed” state of soul (vs. 27) when she was preparing to leave for Carmel, I would further suggest that he may have been a preoccupied husband.

III. Tell Me About Your Son – “Is It Well With The Child?”

A. The Blessing of this Child

Elisha’s third question is with regard to the child. We first encounter the blessing of a child in this account as the prophet foretells the miraculous birth of this child to two aged parents (vs. 14-17). When we are told in verse 16 that she would “embrace a son,” it indicates that this boy would be a welcome addition to their household.

B. The Burden for this Child

This couple, who for all these years had missed out on the joys of parenthood, must have been so happy … until “the child was grown, (and) it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers (vs. 18). On that same day, we are confronted with the mother’s burden for her child as he laid upon her knees and then died (vs. 18-21).

C. The Bitterness over this Child

When finally she arrived at Carmel to speak to the prophet, he realized that her soul was “vexed” (vs. 27), which clearly reveals her brokenness and even her bitterness over the child. In grabbing Elisha’s feet, it must have been that she literally fell upon the ground in her desperation.

As she left from home, she did not elaborate on the gravity of the situation as she spoke to her husband, but simply told him as she told Gehazi, “Shalom.” “It is well.” She was hoping against hope; believing that everything would be alright.


In Dr. Jerry Vines’ excellent treatment of this verse he suggested three points of emphasis: (1) “How are you doing as a person?” (2) “How are you doing as a partner?” (3) “How are you doing as a parent?” And if you and I are not doing so well in one or more of these areas, what can we do about family problems? It is of interest to me that in verse 27, Elisha said, “her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me,” and apparently when she left her house she didn’t even tell her husband that their son had died. When you are going through personal, or marital, or parental problems and nobody else knows but you, what should you do? In 2 Kings 4:33 the Bible makes it very clear, she shared her burden with Elisha and “He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.”


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