Woman of Shunem

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Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Elisha and the Shunammite woman, 1649.

The woman of Shunem (or Shunammite woman) is a character in the Hebrew Bible. 2 Kings 4:8 describes her as a "great woman" (KJV) in the town of Shunem. Her name is not recorded in the biblical text.

Hospitality[edit]

According to 2 Kings 4, she showed hospitality to the prophet Elisha, constructing a room where he could stay whenever he was in the town. She is childless, but Elisha prophesies that she will have a son. A year later she gives birth to a son.

Raising of her son[edit]

2 Kings 4:18–37 relates how, when her son had grown up, he became sick and died. She goes to Elisha for help, and he brings her son back to life.

Land restored[edit]

The woman of Shunem appears again in 2 Kings 8. At Elisha's advice, she has spent seven years in Philistia to avoid a famine, and has come back to find she no longer has possession of her house and land. She appeals to the king (Jehoram), and her property is restored to her.

Evaluation[edit]

Abraham Kuyper views the woman of Shunem as a typical example of pious people in Israel having love and respect for the prophets. Kuyper suggests that the narrative indicates her "independence and readiness".[1] Carol Meyers notes that "unlike virtually all women in biblical narratives, she is not presented as the 'wife' of someone".[2] Claudia Camp says that the woman is "both independent and maternal, powerful and pious."[3] The proposal to build a room for Elisha originates with the woman and is supported by her husband (2 Kings 4:9–10).

References[edit]