4 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
There are a couple of things I noticed here. First, the woman is a widow. In this time and cultural window, she should have been taken care of by family. Why wasn’t she? We aren’t told.
She’s suffered a great loss. Her mate has died. Sometimes family doesn’t step up, even though they should. Perhaps she didn’t have any remaining family left. This is also a possibility.
All we know for sure is that the woman was in dire straits. She had bills. The creditors were on her heels. They were about to COME TAKE HER SONS AS SLAVES.
Think about that for a minute. She’s lost her husband, and now her sons are in danger. This is a danger we in 21st century America are unfamiliar with. I can’t imagine her panic. She cries out to Elisha the Prophet for help.
He asks her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?
The only thing she has left is olive oil for cooking, and not much of that. But olive oil is valuable in quantity. It’s expensive, partially because of how it’s made. It sometimes takes up to ten pounds of olives to make one liter of oil (Alleman).
Olives are harvested and put under great pressure.The recipe is typically passed down from generation to generation in the Mediterranean and varies a bit from region to region (Alleman).
The Prophet tells her to go ask her neighbors for jars–all the jars she can handle. She must humble herself and ask for help from neighbors. They must comply and give her their jars without really expecting them back. They can refuse if they want. These jars belong to them.
Mama does it. She brings back as many as she can hold. Then the prophet tells her, okay, go fill up those jars. Close the doors first. All the jars were full, and she was able to sell the oil and save her sons. Doesn’t God work in magnificent ways?
He uses what we have. All she had was a bit of olive oil, sitting in her kitchen.
She had to ask for help, though. What if her neighbors ignored her? What if they didn’t want to share their jars? Maybe they could not stand to see her in her raw grief, in her desperate worry.
Lord Jesus, help me to see. Help me to share my jars, my oil, my life.