So the widow in the Oil Story (2 Kings 4:1-7) is the wife of one of the prophets in the company of prophets Elisha is part of. Apparently her deceased husband had been a God-fearing man but a man in debt. The widow cries out to Elisha that her dead husband's creditors are coming to take away her two boys as slaves. Elisha responds saying "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"
She says "Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil." Apparently neither this woman, nor her husband were great business people. She's thinking small. Elisha is thinking big.
3 "Elisha said, 'Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. ["Don't ask for just a few" He knows that about her?] 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."[in the privacy of their house, not out in the open for everyone to see]
5 She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing. [Did Elisha know that the oil would keep flowing until there were no more containers? Is that why he said, "Don't ask for just a few." God was about to perform a very generous miracle. Did Elisha know that she needed to think "big" so God could provide "big"? Who was being "big-hearted"? Elisha? God? Both?]
7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. [She wasn't a business woman. She didn't know what to do with all the oil. Some women would have known exactly what to do. To some women he wouldn't have had to say, "Don't ask for just a few. They would have taken all they could get. He knew this woman or he knew people.] You and your sons can live on what is left." [I see God being very generous, here - not just helping her pay the debt so she can keep her sons but also giving her extra to live on.] Elisha was there for the wife and family of one of his company. He found a way to bless her despite herself and despite the mess her husband had left them in. He was caring for widow and fatherless.
-another story of Elisha and a female acquaintance
This is a well-to-do woman in Shumen. She urges Elisha to stay for a meal once and then extends the invitation to whenever he's in the neighborhood and he accepts. He comes often enough that the woman thinks they might as well just give him a room so "One day she says to her husband, 9"I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us." Apparently Elisha didn't flat out tell her he was a holy man, somehow she figured it out and with her husband's permission they make a place for him to stay with them whenever he passes through. They extend to him a blessing of hospitality.
11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, [he had a servant] "Call the Shunammite." So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, "Tell her, 'You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?' " [Elisha spoke to the servant, not to the woman. Not sure what Biblical culture says about this. Was Elisha being facetious to offer to put in a good word for her to the king or commander instead of to the God he served?]
She replied, "I have a home among my own people."[Her response seems to be. Thanks, but I don't need anything.]
14 "What can be done for her?" Elisha asked. [Elisha persists. He's still looking for a way to bless her even though she declines the offer.]
Gehazi said, "Well, she has no son and her husband is old." [Is this something they think every woman needs or is Gehazi being particularly perceptive about this particular woman? Elisha is serious about blessing this woman. He's not taking her generous giving for granted. And he's not listening when she says, "You don't have to."]
15 Then Elisha said, "Call her." So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 "About this time next year," Elisha said, "you will hold a son in your arms." [This act on Elisha's part would make an interesting round-table mixed gender and mixed generation discussion. Ha!]
"No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" [Something she wanted too much to ask for? Too much to risk disappointment?]
17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.
18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 "My head! My head!" he said to his father.
His father told a servant, "Carry him to his mother." 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. [I think I would have been really mad at Elisha about then. She didn't ask for the child to begin with and she definately wasn't asking for the grief.]
22 She called her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return."
23 "Why go to him today?" he asked. "It's not the New Moon or the Sabbath." [Not too perceptive? She didn't tell him? He didn't ask?]
"It's all right," she said. [ I suppose the personalities of these two very different women would be another search adventure. : )
24 She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, "Lead on; don't slow down for me unless I tell you." 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, "Look! There's the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, 'Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?' " [Apparently Elisha's caring for this family was something very real.]
"Everything is all right," she said. [But it wasn't.]
27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, "Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why."[Again, perceptive in a tuned-into- people way. ]
28 "Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"[Elisha, I didn't ask for you to bless me the way you did and now God has taken it away.]
29 Elisha said to Gehazi, "Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face."[So Elisha gives an order.]
30 But the child's mother said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So he got up and followed her. [But Elisha goes with her.]
31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy's face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, "The boy has not awakened."[Gehazi followed orders. Nothing happened.]
32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite." And he did. When she came, he said, "Take your son." 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.
See what other observations you can make about this man Elisha.
In 2 Kings 4:38-41 (NIV) someone picks the wrong wild plant for the stew and almost poisons the company of prophets but Elisha comes to the rescue, yet again. Food, again.
"But Elisha answered, "Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: 'They will eat and have some left over.' " 44 Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD." The Word of the Lord again. The people ate and had enough. A foreshadowing of what Jesus did, perhaps. I wonder if he was quoting scripture or whether it was a Word from the Lord for that moment.