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2 Kings iv.

1 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.

2 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 anything save a pot of oil.

3 Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors,

4 And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

5 So she shut the door and poured out.

6 And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.

7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

THE first Book of Kings had an illustrious beginning in the glories of the kingdom of Israel when it was entirely under King David and in the beginning of the reign of Solomon; but the second book has a melancholy outlook in the desolation and division of the kingdom of Israel and of Judea. Then Elijah and Elisha, their prophets, instructed the princes and the people in all that would come to pass, the captivity of the ten tribes, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the good reigns of Josiah and of Hezekiah.

This book contains the mention of four women, but only in a perfunctory manner, more to exhibit the accomplishments of the prophet Elisha than his beneficiaries. He raises the dead, surpasses our Standard Oil Company in the production of that valuable article of commerce, cures one man of leprosy and cruelly fastens the disease on his servant for being guilty of a pardonable prevarication. Only one of the women mentioned has a name. One is the widow of a prophet, whom Elisha helps to pay off all her debts; for another he intercedes with the Lord to give her a son; another, is the little captive maid of the tribe of Israel; and the last a wicked queen, Athaliah, who sought to kill the heir apparent. She rivalled Jezebel in her evil propensities and suffered the same tragic death.

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As the historian proceeds from book to book less is said of the mothers of the various tribes, unless some deed of darkness is called for, that the men would fain avoid, then some Jezebel is resurrected for that purpose. They are seldom required to rise to a higher moral altitude than the men of the tribe, and are sometimes permitted to fall below it.

2 Kings iv.

8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread.

9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God.

10 Let us make a little chamber on the wall.

11 And it fell on a day that, he came thither; and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.

12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And she came and stood before him. And he said, Thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.

17 And the woman bare a son.

18 And when the child was grown, he went out to his father to the reapers.

19 And said, My head, my head! And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.

20 And when he had brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.

21 And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.

24 And she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive; slack not thy riding, except I bid thee.

25 So she went unto the man of God to Mount Carmel.

32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold the child was dead.

33 He went in and shut the door and prayed unto the Lord.

34 And lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his bands; and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.

35 Then he walked to and fro; and went up, and stretched upon him; and the child sneezed seven times, and opened his eyes,

36 And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.

37 Then she fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son.

Elisha seems to have had the same power of working miracles which Elijah possessed. In his travels about the country he often passed the city of Shunem, where he heard of a great woman who was very hospitable and had a rich husband. She had often noticed the prophet passing by; and knowing that he was a godly man, and that he could be better entertained at her house than elsewhere, she proposed to her husband to invite him there. So they arranged an apartment for him in a quiet part of the house that he might have opportunities for worship and contemplation.

After spending much time under her roof, he naturally desired to make some recompense. So he asked her if there was anything that he could do for her at court, any favor which she desired of the king. {p. 79} But she said "no," as she had all the blessings which she desired, except, as they had great wealth and no children to inherit it, she would like a son. She had probably heard of all that the Lord had done in that line for Sarah and Rebecca and the wives of Manoah and Elkanah; so she was not much surprised when the prophet suggested such a contingency; and she bare a son.

In due time, when the son was grown, he was taken suddenly ill and died. The mother supposed that, as by a miracle he was brought into life, the prophet might raise him from the dead. Accordingly, she harnessed her mule and hastened to the prophet, who promptly returned with her and restored him to life. She was a very discreet and judicious woman and her husband had always entrusted everything to her management. She was devout and conscientious and greatly enjoyed the godly conversation of the prophet. She was known in the city as a great and good woman. Though we find here and there among the women of the Bible some exceptionally evil minded, yet the wise and virtuous predominate, and, fortunately for the race, this is the case in the American Republic to-day.

2 Kings v.

1 Now Naaman, captain of the hosts of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

2 And the Syrians had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid, and she waited on Naaman's wife.

3 And she said unto her mistress, Would my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.

4 And one went in and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.

Naaman, a Syrian general and prime minister, was a great man in a great place. He was happy, too, in that he had been serviceable to his country and honored by his prince. But alas! he was a leper. It was generally supposed that this was an affliction for evil doing, but Naaman was an exceptionally perfect man.

A little maid from Israel had been carried captive into Syria and fortunately was taken into the family of the great general, as an attendant on his wife. While making the wife's toilet they no doubt chatted quite freely of what was going on in the outside world. So the little maid, sympathizing with her master in his affliction, told the

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wife there was a prophet in Israel who could cure him of his leprosy. Her earnestness roused him and his wife to make the experiment. But after loading his white mules with many valuable gifts, and taking a great retinue of soldiers to dazzle the prophet with Syrian magnificence, the prophet did not deign to meet him, but sent word to him to bathe in the river Jordan. Even a letter from the king did not ensure a personal interview. So the general, with all his pomp, went off in great wrath. "Are not," said he, "the rivers of Damascus, Abana and Pharpar, greater than the Jordan? Cannot all the skill in Syria accomplish as much as the prophet in Israel?" However, the little maid urged him to try the river Jordan, as he was near that point, so he did and was healed.

2 Kings viii.

Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, sojourn wheresoever thou canst for a famine shall come upon the land seven years.

2 And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God:

3 And it came to pass at the seven years' end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and land.

4 And the king talked with Gehazi saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha bath done.

5 And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman cried to the king for her house and land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.

6 And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now.

In due time her husband died; and there was a famine; and she went for a season to the land of the Philistines; and when she returned she could not recover her possessions. Then Elisha befriended her and appealed to the king; and she was reinstated in her own home.

Elisha was very democratic. He had his servant sleep in his own chamber and consulted him in regard to many important matters. Gehazi never forgot his place but once, when he ran after the great Syrian general to ask for the valuable presents which the prophet had declined. Both Elijah and Elisha preferred to do their missionary work among the common people, finding them more teachable and superstitious. Especially is this true of woman at all periods. In great revival seasons in our own day, one will always

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see a dozen women on the anxious seat to one man, and the same at the communion table.

2 Kings xi.

And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.

2 But Jehosheba, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons which were slain; and they hid him and his nurse.

3 And he was with her hid in the house of the Lord six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land.

12 And Jehoiada, the priest brought forth the king's son, and put the crown upon him; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king.

13 And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came into the temple of the Lord.

14 And hen she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar; and she rent her clothes and cried, Treason, treason.

20 And they slew Athaliah with the sword beside the king's house.

21 Seven years old was Jehoash when he began to reign.

Never was royal blood more profusely shed, and never a meaner ambition than to destroy a reigning family in order to be the last occupant on the throne. The daughter of a king, the wife of a king, and the mother of a king, should have had some mercy on her family descendants. Personal ambition can never compensate for the loss of the love and companionship of kindred. Such characters as Athaliah are abnormal, their lives not worth recording.

2 Kings xxii.

11 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law. that he rent his clothes.

12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest,

13 Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.

14 So Hilkiah the priest, and the wise men went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college); and they communed with her.

15 And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me.

16 Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read:

17 Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods.

18 But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him,

19 Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place,

20 Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.

The greatest character among the women thus far mentioned is Huldah the prophetess, residing in the college in Jerusalem. She

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was a statesman as well as a prophetess, understanding the true policy of government and the Jewish system of jurisprudence, able not only to advise the common people of their duties to Jehovah and their country, but to teach kings the sound basis for a kingdom. Her wisdom and insight were well known to Josiah the king; and when the wise men came to him with the "Book of the Law," to learn what was written therein, Josiah ordered them to take it to Huldah, as neither the wise men nor Josiah himself could interpret its contents. It is fair to suppose that there was not a man at court who could read the book; hence the honor devolved upon Huldah. Even Shallum her husband was not consulted, as he occupied the humble office of keeper of the robes.

While Huldah was pondering great questions of State and Ecclesiastical Law, her husband was probably arranging the royal buttons and buckles of the household. This is the first mention of a woman in a college. She was doubtless a professor of jurisprudence, or of the languages. She evidently had other gifts besides that of prophecy.

We should not have had such a struggle in our day to open the college doors had the clergy read of the dignity accorded to Huldah. People who talk the most of what the Bible teaches often know the least about its contents. Some years ago, when we were trying to establish a woman's college, we asked a rich widow, worth millions, to contribute. She said that she would ask her pastor what she ought to do about it. He referred her to the Bible, saying that this book makes no mention of colleges for women. To her great surprise, I referred her to 2 Kings xxii. Both she and her pastor felt rather ashamed that they did not know what their Bible did teach. The widow gave $30,000 soon after to a Theological Seminary, being more interested in the education of boys and in the promulgation of church dogmas, creeds and superstitions, than in the education of the Mothers of the Race in the natural sciences.

Now, women had performed great deeds in Bible times. Miriam had helped to lead Israel out of Egypt. Deborah judged them, and led the army against the enemy, and Huldah instructed them in their duties to the nation. Although Jeremiah and Zephaniah were

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prophets at this time, yet the king chose Huldah as the oracle. She was one of the ladies of the court, and resided in the second rank of buildings from the royal palace. Marriage, in her case, does not appear to have been any obstacle in the way of individual freedom and dignity. She had evidently outgrown the curse of subjection pronounced in the Garden of Eden, as had many other of the Jewish women.

There is a great discrepancy between the character and the conduct of many of the women, and the designs of God as set forth in the Scriptures and enforced by the discipline of the Church to-day. Imagine the moral hardihood of the reverend gentlemen who should dare to reject such women as Deborah, Huldah and Vashti as delegates to a Methodist conference, and claim the approval of God for such an indignity.

In the four following books, from Kings to Esther, there is no mention of women. During that long, eventful period the men must have sprung, Minerva-like, from the brains of their fathers, fully armed and equipped for the battle of life. Having no infancy, there was no need of mothers. As two remarkable women flourished at the close of one period and at the dawn of the other, we shall make no record of the masculine dynasty which intervened, satisfied that Huldah and Vashti added new glory to their day and generation--one by her learning and the other by her disobedience; for "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."

E. C. S.

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