Tuesday, January 24, 2023
The Kings Of Israel And Judah. Day 109, A Son Brought Back To Life, Part One
In Monday's study we learned that a wealthy woman, with her husband's blessing, fixed up a guest room for Elisha so he and his servant Gehazi would have a nice place to stay on their travels to and from the schools of the prophets. Elisha wanted to do something for her in return for her kindness so he asked the Lord to give her the one thing she didn't have: a son. A few years later this young son dies and his mother goes to Elisha for help.
We were told yesterday that the woman gave birth to her son approximately one year after Elisha told her this was going to happen. We don't know how much time passed between the child's date of birth and the story that takes place in today's text. The child is old enough to accompany his father to the fields to observe the harvest but he is small enough to be carried easily. "The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. He said to his father, 'My head! My head!' His father told a servant, 'Carry him to his mother.'" (2 Kings 4:18-19)
The child complains of a headache and his father doesn't know that it's anything other than an ordinary headache. The harvesttime heat would have more of an effect on a young child than on a grown man and many scholars think the boy is experiencing a heat stroke. But his father does not know it. It could be that the boy is in the habit of making some sort of complaint when he's missing his mother and wants to go home. Or it could be that his father is very busy and distracted and thinks the boy will feel all better as soon as he's cuddled by his mother. I do not believe for a minute that the man would have remained with his workers if he'd had any idea this was an emergency situation. This is his one and only son, the son he longed to have for so many years, the son he had given up on ever having! There's no way he would order a servant to carry the child home while he keeps working if he had any inkling the boy's life was in danger. I think he expects to return home for the evening meal to find the child feeling fit as a fiddle.
I doubt the child's mother realizes the seriousness of the situation either. She simply places the boy on her lap and comforts him as mothers do. I don't think we can possibly blame her for believing nothing bad would happen to her son; after all, his very existence is a miracle. But now she needs another miracle and she knows just where to get it. "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. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. 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.'" (2 Kings 4:20-22) Elisha is not currently at residence in her guest room. She places the child on Elisha's bed and shuts the door to his room and then sets out to fetch the prophet home with her.
You'll recall from our study of the prophet Elijah that when he raised the son of the widow of Zarephath back to life, he laid the boy on his own bed in the guest room of the home. The woman who has been showing hospitality to the prophet Elisha expects him to perform the same type of miracle for her that his predecessor performed for the other woman. In preparation to receiving this miracle, she goes ahead and places her son on the prophet's bed. She closes the door and leaves him there, where no one will think to look for him. Her household servants likely assume the child has gone someplace with her.
She doesn't tell her servants or her husband that the child is dead. When her husband hears she wants to visit Elisha, he asks her why. "'Why go to him today?' he asked. 'It's not the New Moon or the Sabbath.' 'That's all right,' she said. She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, 'Lead on; don't slow down for me unless I tell you.' So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel." (2 Kings 4:23-25a) Why doesn't she tell her husband that their son is dead? I think it's because she fully believes he will be raised back to life and she does not want to cause her husband needless heartbreak. You may also recall that we were told yesterday that her husband is old. We don't know how elderly he is but he's been working under the hot sun for hours. Being hot and tired and thirsty takes a greater toll on an older man than on a younger man. If we combine these factors with the dreadful shock of hearing that his son is dead, we can surmise that his wife fears his heart may fail him. He might drop dead right where he's standing. Why risk telling him his son is dead if Elisha is going to raise the boy back to life?