Question: "What is the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman?"
Answer: Second Kings 4 records the account of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. The woman is described as a wealthy married woman in the village of Shunem. She had no child. This woman got permission from her husband to set up a guest room for Elisha, acknowledging Elisha as a true prophet and holy man of God. Elisha often passed that way in his travels, and he stayed in the guest room. Today, many churches have a “prophet’s chamber” for traveling evangelists and other servants of God to stay in free of charge.
Elisha asked his servant, Gehazi, how he could help the woman in return for her hospitality. Gehazi mentioned that she had no son and her husband was old. Elisha then called the woman and told her she would have a son by that time next year.
The prophecy was fulfilled, and the woman had a child, but the story was not over. Several years later, the child came down with some kind of sickness, and he died that same day in his mother’s lap. She immediately left to find Elisha and asked him to come heal her son. Elisha came back with the woman to Shunem.
Second Kings 4:32–35 describes what happened next: “When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.”
Later, in 2 Kings 8:1, we read, “Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, ‘Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the LORD has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.’” She left with her family for seven years and then returned. Upon her return, she discovered that she had lost her land due to her supposed desertion of the property. But God performed yet another miracle in her life:
“And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land. Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, ‘Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done.’ And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. And Gehazi said, ‘My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’ And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, ‘Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now’” (2 Kings 8:3–6).
The Shunammite woman’s heartfelt hospitality to Elisha and simple, sincere faith led to an amazing series of events. Elisha was certainly blessed. And God abundantly blessed the woman’s life during a difficult period in Israel. Still today, God often uses His people’s humble acts of service to bless both the giver and the receiver.