The Woman Who Surrendered All

By on June 1, 2015

By Carole Towriss−

Mareth tucked her sons closer to her side and considered the people surrounding the grave. Jerah had been respected, well-liked. A member of the guild of prophets, he had a stellar reputation. The men mourned loudly, appropriately. The wives swarmed around her, blessed her, hugged her.

It felt hollow.

Nothing could fill the vast hole in her heart. How did she say goodbye to the man who had been her husband since she was thirteen years old? Fifteen years was not enough time.

Fifty years would not be enough time.

But she had to be strong, if only for the boys. They weren’t far from manhood, but they weren’t old enough to support her. How was she supposed to live? Buy food? Wood to heat their home?

Would the prophets help her now, or abandon her?

The funeral over, the body buried, she trudged home, her sons behind her.

A lone figure hovered near her door. Who would be waiting at a time like this? Anyone who knew her, or Jerah, would have been at the funeral. Her heart raced. This couldn’t be good.

She barely reached her home when the man approached. “I am Benjamin. I know this is not a good time, but my master has sent me.”

“Your m- master?”

“Your husband owed him a good deal of money.”

She grasped the door handle to keep her balance when he mentioned the amount.

“I’ll be back in three days to collect.”

“And if I don’t have it?”

“Then my master will take your sons as laborers to work off the debt.”

Her stomach roiled. She’d heard of such arrangements. More often than not, the debt was never repaid, the servants never released.

How did Jerah end up in this situation? He must have borrowed money to feed them when he was sick, expecting to recover and pay it back. But why go to a moneylender? He’d have known they charge exorbitant interest, allowing the debt to quickly become unbearable.

Mareth awoke with a start after a mostly sleepless night. The third day—the man would return to take her sons. She had gone to every prophet for help. All refused her. “He already borrowed from me,” they told her. “He owed everyone.” No amount of pleading or crying helped.

She glanced at her sleeping sons before stepping outside with her jar to go to the well.

The village buzzed with excitement. Elisha, the teacher, was almost here!

She dropped the jar and raced to the edge of town. Elisha was her last hope. Discarding all propriety, she ran as fast as she could until she met him and fell at his feet, sobbing.

Elisha knelt. “Mareth, Mareth, what’s wrong? Why do you cry so?”

“Jerah has died!”

He stroked her hair. “I’m so sorry. I knew he was sick, but—”

She grabbed his tunic. “The moneylender returns today to take my boys! I don’t know what to do!” Releasing him, she laid her head on the ground, great sobs racking her body.

“Mareth, look at me.”

She raised her gaze to the prophet.

“What do you have at home?”

“All is have left is…a small jar of oil.”

“Then go ask your neighbors for empty jars. Not just a few—as many as you can possibly get. Go in your house and shut the door. Fill the jars, one after another, and keep filling until all the jars are full.”

Mareth swiped at her cheeks. “But why—

“Just do it. I’ll be by later.”

A few hours later, Mareth asked for another jar.

“That’s the last one, Mama.”

She scanned the room, counted. Thirty-four jars of olive oil. That would last for a long time, but they could not live on oil.

A rap sounded at the door. Her heart fell to her feet. The moneylender? She crept to the door and opened it a finger’s breadth.

Elisha smiled on the other side.

She released a long breath. “Come in.”

He glanced around the room. “Excellent. Now go and sell this oil. You should have enough to pay the debt, and then you can live on the rest.”

More tears fell, happy tears. “Thank you, Elisha. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Jerah was a righteous man. I am honored to see you taken care of.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2 Kings tells us the story of a widow. Like so many women in Scripture, she doesn’t have a name. I’ve given her one here for the purposes of our story. We also don’t know how her husband died or how old they were. We know they had two sons, young enough to be unmarried and eligible to be taken as debt-slaves. We also know God says the husband, a man studying to be a prophet under Elisha, “revered the Lord.”

We don’t know why they were in debt—Scripture warns us in several places to stay out of debt. We can’t depend on future earnings to get us out, and this story is a good example of what can happen when we do. Here the widow is left to pay the price, and this burden has left her with almost no hope. Almost.

She never gave up. And when she was given some admittedly bizarre instructions, she was willing to surrender everything she had to God. All she had was oil, and she gave it all to God. And that was what God used to rescue her.

God can do anything in our life, if we but surrender to Him. You may think you have nothing worthwhile to give Him, but can it be worth any less than olive oil?

Give it to God, and see what He will do with it.


Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

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The Woman Who Surrendered All