Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. ( 2 Kings 4:1-6)
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal Life.
Israel was intended to be a nation of life. God granted a land flowing with milk and honey, that His people might be well fed, happy, productive, as a witness to the entire world of the existence and reality of the Living God. He gave them a beautiful Law, in order that people might be protected from exploitation, and guided into the blessed life.
But Israel chose idols. Especially her Kings, chose to be like the world and to worship as the heathen. Such choices bring deadly consequences.
Israel, The place of life and blessing had become a place of death and of the curse. She (Israel) is a widow, a debtor in danger once again of selling herself into slavery, as in the days of the Judges.
The miracles and stories in this chapter are handpicked and were meant to illustrate this, and to go further and show that in mercy God answers to the death imposed upon Israel, in the person of Elisha his servant and representative.
Here we have a widow. Her husband had been a man of God and had served God, but he died. When a nation descends into a civilization of death, everyone is affected, not just the gross sinners.
There was no one as vulnerable as a widow in the ancient world. Her sons would be her only “safety net” humanly speaking. She was in debt, and the creditors were coming to take from her, her two sons, to put them into debt slavery , leaving her without recourse.
In the God centered Torah system, a widow in such trouble had several merciful options through the Law; There was always the Jubilee, also the merciful status afforded an Israelite, to be treated as a bondservant as opposed to a debt slave, not to mention the numerous admonitions by God himself throughout all of scripture to show mercy to widows and orphans.
Another option would be a Gaol, ie a “Kinsman Redeemer” a near relative with means, who would be willing to buy her Sons back, out of debt, (To Redeem them). To her knowledge the widow had no such relative.
The Kings were another option, for God had called Israel’s kings to be protectors of the widow and the orphan in Israel. She could have stood in line, and come before the King and plead her case for mercy, as the Law of God is full of mercy.
Like God himself, the Kings were to be the father to the fatherless and husband to the widow.
But when the Kings forsook the law, to follow after idols, as in Israel, oppression and injustice,(death ) flowed into the courts of law, and that option ( of a merciful King and protector) was shut down. Kings who forsake God, do not reflect God’s mercy.
Those creditors were coming, and technically (by law) no one could stop them. They would have stripped her of any protection and support she still had. What about judges and courts in such an idolatrous situation?
Jesus warned us all in Luke 18 of Judges who do not regard God or man. Israel had become a place of oppression and exploitation because Idols are dead, and cannot regard “God or man”. We currently live in a very similar situation, as our own western world dies.
But in his mercy, God sent Elijah and Elisha to come into this moral and spiritual desert, in order to minister life in the valley of death. The Widow turned to the Man of God, when she couldn’t turn elsewhere.
The Prophet asks her “What do you have in your house?”
The woman was directed to look at what she did have, in her own house, as provided by God. What she did have was a small cruse of anointing oil.
Next she was to borrow as many “empty vessels ” as she could and fill the house with them.
After she had gathered the vessels she was to close the door of the house.
Then she was to pour the anointing oil, into the vessels, and fill all of them, ( a miraculous supply) having enough to sell and to pay off her debts, redeem her children and to live on the remainder!
The deeper meaning that this sign points to is pretty strait-forward; Vessels represent people. In this case these vessels were empty. The anointing oil, represents that which is Holy and of God.
Seemingly in apostate Israel, there was almost no obvious trace of God, save a tiny remnant, of empty and powerless people, whose only ‘power’ was in their openness and receptivity to God, in a time where those around him had forsaken Him.
The closing of the door of her house, was to signify the shutting in ourselves with God, “The Father who sees in secret”, and to know the direct provision of God, and that in all of our deepest need, he comes to those who believe and seek him, shutting out the world and all else.
The Widow was to act on the prophets word, but in prayer and complete dependance upon God.
God can take that “tiny cruse” of sacred oil, and pour it out without interruption, filling whosoever would open up to Him. His oil never runs out, and fills the empty and desperate who open themselves up to him.
The LORD, through Elisha, (the personal representative of the Living God), in a sense had become her “Kinsman Redeemer”, redeeming her sons out of the bondage.
Was this not a sign of the Will of God to all of Israel? Yeah even further to all of wider world? Wherever desperate and needy people are willing to empty themselves, knowing their slavery and the reason for it, shut themselves in with God in worship and humble acknowledgment, He is ever willing to fill the empty vessel with his oil, to redeem, forgive and even to replenish for the asking. This is the deep meaning of this miracle.