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Why Not Her?

A Form and Literary-Critical Interpretation of the Named and Unnamed Women in the Elijah and Elisha Narratives


Hye Kyung Park

In this book, Hye Kyung Park examines the functions and roles of the women who appear in the Elijah and Elisha narratives. The named and unnamed female characters in the Elijah and Elisha cycles frequently drive the plot of these narratives, giving a voice to important theological, historical, and social concerns that are otherwise overlooked. Consequently, this book elaborates upon the critical meaning of women’s voices through a close interpretation of the roles and functions attributed to women in 1 Kings 17:8–24; 2 Kings 4:8–37, 5, and 8:1–6.
These female figures and presences include the Zarephath woman in 1 Kings 17:8–24, twenty-nine third-person feminine verbs to emphasize the Shunammite woman’s frequent appearances in 2 Kings 4:8–37, the Israelite girl as a prophetess in 2 Kings 5, and the Shunammite woman’s return in 2 Kings 8:1–6. Even though the various women in 1 Kings and 2 Kings have not been named throughout the biblical traditions, their presence and actions were crucial for advancing the prophetic narratives concerning Elijah and Elisha. Indeed, the women are crucial to the Elijah and Elisha narratives, both in terms of advancing the plot of the narratives and defining the roles of the prophets presented within.

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Chapter Five: The Unnamed Woman 2: The Shunammite Woman, the Narrative Leader, in 2 Kings 4:8–37


← 126 | 127 → CHAPTER FIVE

The Shunammite Woman, the Narrative Leader, in 2 Kings 4:8–37

Second Kings 4:8–37 is a narrative about the Shunammite woman. Its main character is not Elisha, but the Shunammite woman. It is she who leads the narrative with five male characters: her unnamed husband, Gehazi, her servant, the prophet Elisha, and her unnamed son. In verses 8–37, the numbers of third feminine verbs referring to the Shunammite woman occur twenty nine times. In particular, the Shunammite woman’s main role is highlighted by using, (she said). She speaks to her husband about Elisha’s identity as the man of God (v. 9), and orders him to bring her a donkey to take her to Elisha (v. 22). In v. 13, the Shunammite woman says to Elisha’s servant Gehazi that she does not need any favor (v. 13). She warns Elisha not to deceive her about having a son (v. 16). In v. 28, after her son has died, she reminds Elisha that her warning was justified since the son who was born as a result of Elisha’s prophecy has died. She reminds Elisha that he gave her a son even though she had not said she wanted one.

Without revealing her name, the Shunammite is titled, a “great woman,” in the beginning of the narrative (v. 8aβ). This unnamed woman in Shunem both introduces the narrative and ends it (v. 37). Elisha’s action depends on the words...

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