Elisha could see the anguished Shunammite woman moving rapidly across the valley. What was troubling her? Was something wrong with her husband, he wondered? Had something terrible happened to her only child? As she made her way across the valley and to the base of the hill, her singular focus drove her to scale the heights of the historic hill where the prophet of God had lodged. Dismissing the inquiries of Elisha’s servant, she maneuvered her way to the feet of this powerful and beloved man of God whom she and her husband had come to know and no doubt love. From her troubled soul came the terse and grief-stricken reply of a woman bearing the terrible news that her one and only precious child was dead. Laden with sorrow yet driven by hope, she looked in faith to the prophet of God who could raise her child from the dead (2 Kings 4:8-37). Those touching moments and the blessings that followed occurred deep in the heart of a legendary site laden with dramatic vistas and powerful memories of the handiwork of God.
Standing aloft the mountain of Carmel, where Elisha had come to rest, one can see the stunning landscape of the Jezreel valley, the epic hill of Megiddo, the historic ridge of Nazareth, the storied hills of Mount Moreh and Tabor, and the infamous Mount Gilboa where King Saul met his demise. From the heroic battle of Deborah versus Sisera to the slaying of the priests of Baal at the brook of Kishon, the beautiful valley of Jezreel stood as the backdrop for many important battles and events described in the Bible (Judges 4, 6; 1 Samuel 31; 1 Kings 18). Through the expanse of this enormous valley ran several well-traveled routes used by both local and international traders and travelers alike. The Shunammite woman who traveled it in grief was one of the most faithful and determined. The city where she began her journey was the little village of Shunem (2 Kings 4:8).
The ancient town of Shunem rests against the southern side of the base of Mount Moreh just across the valley from Ahab’s palace at Jezreel, and a short distance from where Gideon defeated the Midianites. At Shumen, this wealthy woman and her husband added a special room to their house for the single purpose of aiding Elisha in his ministry of proclaiming the word of the Lord. To express his gratitude for her benevolent deeds, Elisha prophesied that she would one day be blessed with a child of her own. This childless woman soon experienced the miraculous gift of a baby boy—a child that would later suffer and die. While he lay in her lap, she watched her precious, longed-for little boy pass from this life to the next. Believing in the power of Elisha, this faith-filled woman of the little town of Shunem laid her son’s lifeless body on Elijah’s bed, and made haste to find the prophet of the Most High God, who was on the high hill of Carmel, some 25 miles away.
If only we were like the heroine of this remarkable story. The Shunammite was benevolent and hospitable. She ministered to Elisha and supported his work of heralding the message of God. In her time of need she acted in faith. In her despair she made the journey to the feet of a man man who spoke for God, and in the end she saw her son rescued from the grave. Today, there is another, yet greater prophet in the land. His name is Jesus. It is to Him we should go in our time of despair. In Him we should trust when facing death. To Him we should run in seeking salvation. He is the son of God, the great Physician, the Great I Am, the prophet of the Most High God, our hope in death, the Prince of Peace. And in our time of need, we must always remember that He sees beyond the heights of Carmel and farther than the valleys that stretch below.
By John W. Moore Photo by Doug Garner - Courtesy of Bible Land Passages