Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: 2 Kings
Book: 2 Kings
Chapter: 4

Elisha multiplies the widow's Oil. (1-7) The Shunammite
obtains a son. (8-17) The Shunammite's son restored to Life.
(18-37) The Miracle of healing the Pottage, and of feeding the
sons of the prophets. (38-44)

1-7 Elisha's miracles were Acts of real Charity: Christ's were
So; not only great wonders, but great favours to those for whom
they were wrought. God magnifies his Goodness with his power.
Elisha readily received a Poor widow's complaint. Those that
leave their families under a load of Debt, know not what trouble
they cause. It is the duty of all who profess to follow the
Lord, while they trust to God for daily Bread, not to tempt him
By carelessness or extravagance, nor to contract debts; for
nothing tends more to bring reproach upon the Gospel, or
distresses their families more when they are gone. Elisha Put
the widow in a way to pay her Debt, and to maintain herself and
her family. This was done By Miracle, but So as to show what is
the best method to assist those who are in distress, which is,
to help them to improve By their own industry what little they
have. The Oil, sent By Miracle, continued flowing as long as she
had empty vessels to receive it. We are never straitened in God,
or in the riches of his Grace; all our straitness is in
ourselves. It is our Faith that fails, not his promise. He gives
more than we ask: were there more vessels, there is enough in
God to fill them; enough for all, enough for each; and the
Redeemer's all-sufficiency will only be stayed from the
supplying the wants of sinners and saving their souls, when No
more apply to him for Salvation. The widow must pay her Debt
with the Money she received for her Oil. Though her creditors
were too hard with her, yet they must be paid, even before she
made any provision for her children. It is one of the main laws
of the Christian religion, that we pay every just Debt, and give
every one his own, though we leave ever So little for ourselves;
and this, not of constraint, but for Conscience' sake. Those who
Bear an honest mind, cannot with pleasure eat their daily Bread,
unless it be their own Bread. She and her children must live
upon the Rest; that is, upon the Money received for the Oil,
with which they must Put themselves into a way to get an honest
livelihood. We cannot now expect miracles, yet we may expect
mercies, if we wait On God, and seek to him. Let Widows in
particular depend upon him. He that has all hearts in his Hand,
can, without a Miracle, send as effectual a supply.

8-17 Elisha was Well thought of By the King of Israel for his
late services; a good Man can take as much pleasure in serving
others, as in raising himself. But the Shunammite needed not any
good offices of this kind. It is a happiness to Dwell among our
own people, that Love and respect us, and to whom we are able to
do good. It would be Well with many, if they did but know when
they are really Well off. The Lord sees the secret wish which is
suppressed in obedience to his will, and he will hear the
prayers of his servants in behalf of their benefactors, By
sending unasked-for and unexpected mercies; nor must the
professions of men of God be supposed to be delusive like those
of men of the world.

18-37 Here is the sudden Death of the Child. All the mother's
tenderness cannot keep alive a Child of promise, a Child of
Prayer, one given in Love. But how admirably does the prudent,
pious mother, Guard her lips under this sudden affliction! Not
one peevish Word escapes from her. Such confidence had she of
God's Goodness, that she was ready to believe that he would
restore what he had now taken away. O Woman, great is thy Faith!
He that wrought it, would not disappoint it. The sorrowful
mother begged leave of her Husband to go to the Prophet at once.
She had not thought it enough to have Elisha's help sometimes in
her own family, but, though a Woman of rank, attended On public
Worship. It Well becomes the men of God, to inquire about the
welfare of their friends and their families. The answer was, It
is Well. All Well, and yet the Child dead in the House! Yes! All
is Well that God does; all is Well with them that are gone, if
they are gone to Heaven; and all Well with us that stay behind,
if, By the affliction, we are furthered in our way thither. When
any Creature-comfort is taken from us, it is Well if we can say,
through Grace, that we did not set our hearts too much upon it;
for if we did, we have reason to fear it was given in Anger, and
taken away in wrath. Elisha cried unto God in Faith; and the
beloved son was restored alive to his mother. Those who would
convey spiritual Life to dead souls, must feel deeply for their
case, and labour fervently in Prayer for them. Though the
Minister cannot give Divine Life to his fellow-sinners, he must
use every means, with as much earnestness as if he could do So.

38-44 There was a Famine of Bread, but not of hearing the Word
of God, for Elisha had the sons of the prophets Sitting before
him, to hear his Wisdom. Elisha made hurtful Food to become safe
and wholesome. If a Mess of Pottage be all our dinner, remember
that this great Prophet had No better for himself and his
guests. The table often becomes a Snare, and that which should
be for our welfare, proves a trap: this is a good reason why we
should not feed ourselves without fear. When we are receiving
the supports and comforts of Life, we must keep up an
expectation of Death, and a fear of Sin. We must acknowledge
God's Goodness in making our Food wholesome and nourishing; I am
the Lord that healeth thee. Elisha also made a little Food go a
great way. Having freely received, he freely gave. God has
promised his Church, that he will abundantly Bless her
provision, and satisfy her Poor with Bread, Ps 132:15; whom he
feeds, he fills; and what he blesses, comes to much. Christ's
feeding his hearers was a Miracle far Beyond this, but both
teach us that those who wait upon God in the way of duty, may
Hope to be supplied By Divine Providence.