Hurlbut's Story of the Bible  by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

The Little Boy at Shunem

II Kings iv: 8 to 37.

dropcap image HE prophet Elisha went through the land of Israel, meeting in many places the people who worshipped the Lord, and teaching them. On one of his journeys he visited the little city of Shunem, which was on a hill looking over the great plain of Esdraelon from the east. A rich woman who was living in that place asked him to come to her house, and to take his meals there whenever he journeyed by. So, as often as Elisha came to Shunem on his journeys, he stopped for a meal or a night at this woman's home. After a time the lady said to her husband, "I see that this is a holy man of God who comes to our house so often. Let us build a little room for him on the side of the house; and let us place in the room for him a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick; so that when he comes it will be a home for him, and he can sleep there."

So they built the room, and as often as Elisha passed by he stayed there with his servant, the man who waited on him, as Elisha himself in other days had waited upon Elijah. The servant's name was Gehazi. At one time Elisha said to the woman, "You have been very kind to me and to my helper, and have done much for us. Now, what can I do for you? Shall I ask the king to show you some favor? Or would you like anything that the chief of the army can do for you?" The woman said, "I live among my own people, and there is nothing else that I wish." Then Gehazi said to Elisha, "This woman has no son." And Elisha said to her, "A year from this time, God will give to you a little boy."

The promise made the woman very happy; but she could scarcely believe it to be true, until the little child came. He grew up, and became old enough to go with his father out into the field among the men who were reaping grain. Suddenly, in the field, the child cried out to his father, "O my head, my head!"

His father saw that he was very ill, and he told one of his men to take him to his mother. He lay in his mother's arms until noon, and then he died. The mother did not tell her husband that the boy was dead; but she rode as quickly as she could go to the prophet, who was on the other side of the plain, near Mount Carmel.

While she was yet far off, Elisha saw her coming, and he said to Gehazi, his servant, "Run to meet this lady of Shunem, and ask her, 'Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?' "

She answered, "It is well;" but she did not stop until she met the prophet, and then she fell down before him and took hold of his feet. Gehazi, the prophet's servant, did not think it was proper for her to seize him in this manner, and was about to take her away. But Elisha said to him, "Let her alone, for she is in deep trouble; and the Lord has hid it from me, and has not told me."

And the woman said, "Did I ask for a son? Did I not say, 'Do not deceive me?' " Then Elisha knew what had taken place. He said to Gehazi, "Take my staff, and go at once to this woman's house. If you meet any man, do not stop to speak to him; and if any one speaks to you, do not stop to answer him. But go, and lay my staff on the face of the child."

But the mother was not content to have the servant only go to her house. She wanted Elisha himself to go; and she said, "As surely as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you."

Then Elisha followed her back to Shunem, across the plain. On the way they met Gehazi coming back. He had laid the staff, as he had been told to lay it, on the face of the child; and he said, "The child is not awaked."

When Elisha came he found the child dead, and laid upon the bed in the prophet's room, the staff upon his face. He shut the door, and prayed beside the bed to the Lord. And after his prayer, he lay with his face upon the child's face, and his hands on the child's hands; and as he lay the child's body began to grow warm. Then he rose up, and walked up and down in the house; and again he lay upon the child, and put his arms around him. Suddenly the child began to sneeze, and then he opened his eyes, alive once more.


Elisha lays his face on the child's face

Elisha told his servant to call the mother, and when she came he said to her, "Take up your son."

The mother saw that her son was alive from the dead; she fell at Elisha's feet to show how great was her thankfulness to him, and then she took her son up in her arms, and went out.