(1) In this lesson the focus is on a woman who lived in the town of Shunem, who was called "a great woman." This designation seems to suggest that she was a woman of great influence in the community, possibly considered by the townsfolk as a wise woman, and a leader. In study of the Bible, this woman and her kindness and humility are often overlooked, while the focus is usually put on Elisha's miracles. But this lesson is directly related to this woman, her hospitality and her kindness.
(2) One day Elisha was passing through Shunem (2 Kings 4:8), when this woman constrained him to eat a meal in her home. As a result, Elisha began to stop by there as often as he passed through Shunem, and would eat a meal there in this woman's home. Shunem was a city in the tribe of Issachar, that lay along the road between Samaria and Carmel, a road that Elisha often travelled, as we find 2 Kings 2:25. This woman, no doubt, was a good example of a one who had love and great reverence for Yahweh, for it appears that her husband had great confidence and trust in her. -- Proverbs 31:11.
(3) The woman was evidently well-pleased in her having such a distinguished guest as this man of God. She decided that she would consult with her husband about preparing a place for Elisha to stay overnight on his trips through Shunem. Thus, the prophet Elisha found a place in Shunem that he could rest during his travels. This woman's hospitality is what we first notice about her. Her attitude certainly provides a fine example of such, and remembering that we as Christians are commanded to be hospitable (1 Peter 4:9; 1 Timothy 5:10; Luke 4:13), even to our enemies (Romans 12:20), we should certainly seek to emulate the Shunammite's hospitality.
(4) It appears Elisha was greatly impressed by the kind and hospitable services of this Shunammite woman. He showed humility in his response. Many with a selfish attitude would let such attention and services lend to self-exaltation, but Elisha, being a man of God was not such. Instead, Elisha did not choose to think of himself, but to give consideration to this woman who had been so kind to him. Elisha, therefore, did not take her kindness with a passiveness, but had his servant, Gehazi, speak to the woman concerning what could be done for her. He instructed to ask her if she wished to be spoken for to the king, or the captain of the army. When Gehazi spoke to her concerning these matters, the woman showed that she did not desire such high honors, for such honors that would take her away from her own town and the people she knew, loved and evidently felt needed by. (2 Kings 4:12,13) Nevertheless, some time later, matters had changed, and this Shunammite woman did go before the king in order to speak to him concerning her people. (2 Kings 8:3,4) Matthew Henry observed concerning this: "Those that dwell among their own people must not think their mountain stands so strong as that it cannot be moved; they may be driven, as this good woman was, to sojourn among strangers."
(5) Elisha therefore asks Gehazi for his opinion, asking: "What then is to be done for her?" Gehazi had noticed that the woman and her husband were without child, and thus responded: "Most assuredly she has no son, and her husband is old." When Elisha had his servant to call the Shunammite woman, she very humbly and respectfully stood in the door. (2 Kings 4:15) Her standing in the door is thought to speak of her modesty and undemanding demeanor. Elisha then spoke to her saying: "At this season, when the time comes round, you shall embraceaccording to her accustomed modesty, and then he assured her that within a year she should bring forth a son." -- 2 Kings 4:16.
(6) We are not to think that Shunammite woman gave herself to kindness to Elisha with the expectation of any such return. The scripture account does not give us reason to think. Rather, the reward was offered by Elisha as a recompence for the kind entertainment which this "great woman" had given to him. Not expecting any return, the woman's first response was: "No, my lord, you man of God, do not lie to your handmaid." She did not at first believe what she was hearing. And yet, she probably had heard of the miracles that Yahweh had performed in the past in providing a son to Abraham, and to Manoah. She certainly had reason to put faith in the promise from the man of God! 2 Kings 4:17 relates how she did conceive, and that at the appointed season, she did give birth to a son. Through this son, God built up her house, all as a result of her kindness toward a man of God! Surely this must have brought both her and her husband great joy!
(7) We should note that "kindness" is one of the fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22) It is one of those qualities that a Christian needs to cultivate, to put on, if he is to receive the Master's "well done". Additionally, we do not know to what end our kindness might lead, as we can see in the case of the Shunammite woman. We do not know beforehand whether some kindness shown to some stranger may lead that stranger to Christ, or to our being given a greater privilege of service, all to the glory of Yahweh! But, kindness and hospitality should be given freely, out of love from the heart, without expecting any special reward particular to such kindness.
(8) In Luke 6:32-36, Jesus commands us to a love that goes beyond just love for our those who love us. The Shunnamite woman certainly had love for her own people in the town of Shunem, which love was expressed in her desire to stay with her own people. (2 Kings 4:13) However, her love extended beyond just those who loved her, as was shown in her desire to share with one who was relatively a stranger to her. Her love was expressed by her kindness to this stranger, expecting nothing back. In the woman's case, her love expressed through her kindness to this stranger led to a reward in that she had a son. However, the Christian's love, should even be expressed to our enemies, to those who would revile us, etc. The expression of such love is one of the marks of being a son of God, which not only has its rewards now in this present evil age, but even of greater rewards in the age to come. -- Luke 18:29,30.