The Awakening: Elisha and the Shunammite

The Awakening: Elisha and the Shunammite
Type: Water Pastel
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches) 24/18
Year: 2006

This painting fuses the two miracles performed by the Prophet Elisha for the compassionate Shunammite woman who provided him with room and board. The first miracle was the birth of her son against impossible odds, a virtual creation-ex-nihilo akin to all the other miraculous births granted to righteous infertile women in the Bible. The second miracle was the resurrection of her son after he died; a re-creation/resurrection ex-nihilo. The implication is that conception and gestation are no less miraculous than resurrection. Conversely, for God, resurrection is no more difficult than conception.

The awakening of the Shunammite’s son after being treated by Elisha is quite fascinating from a medical perspective, and may be interpreted at face value as perhaps the first documented description of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The narrative vividly describes how the Shunammite’s son goes out to his father in the reaping fields and then suddenly shouts, “My head, my head”. He is then carried to his mother, and after several hours expires on her lap. His death is confirmed by Gehazi, Elisha’s helper, who upon examining the child concludes that he can neither hear nor speak. This is very much the clinical description of the symptoms arising from an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, after which the boy slips into a coma and is pronounced dead because he is still and unarouseable.

Elisha then stretches his body out on top of the child, placing his full weight on the lad, pressing his eyes, mouth and hands against the lads’. He appears to be performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The apparent heat of Elisha’s body, along with his mouth to mouth delivery of breath (oxygenation) to the child causes him to sneeze seven times (clear his airway), and alas, he awakens. The narrative reads very much like a contemporary case history of a successful medical resuscitation of a comatose child.

This painting however, takes the Biblical interpretation of this story at its own face value with the assumption that the events that transpired included a miraculous birth, an unfortunate death, and a miraculous resurrection. Portrayed in the painting is the Shunammite woman in the process of giving birth and resurrection simultaneously in four stages of fetal/cadaveric development/ resurrection.

We begin at the right side of the painting with the first stage, where the outstretched and breathless lad lay within his mother’s ethereal cosmic womb. His dark grey skin and his black dilated pupils represent the dark pre-sentient moments immediately prior to conception / resurrection. After praying to God, Elisha, the bald prophet, transfers his fiery orange divine breath into the boy’s mouth and lungs, and directs orange and red divine rays into his eyes and onto his hands. This leads to the initial flickers of life, the second stage. The boy’s skin has now changed color from grey to light pink. Furthermore, his heart which can be seen through his transparent skin is beginning to pulsate with bright red blood. In the third stage, as the blood begins to circulate throughout his entire body, he half-opens his eyes and sits up. Muscles are forming around his eyes and mouth. Finally after the processes of gestation, tissue regeneration, and resurrection are complete, a healthy muscular child bursts forth erect from the cosmic womb. Concentric rays of divine light instilled by God, and transferred via Elisha, his messenger, emanate and radiate from the finalized embryo/renewed boy, as they do from Elisha.

Elisha is portrayed in contact with all four permutations of the child, providing continuous physical and divine sustenance until his mission is complete. The Shunammite is seen grabbing the Prophet’s feet as described in scripture. Harbored inside the Shunammite’s womb of resurrection are the radiating divine sun generating rays of heat and energy facilitating fetal gestation, and cadaveric resuscitation. The child’s bodies (ies) along with clouds are floating in her inner space/amniotic fluid.

The Shunammite’s hand on the left is resting on Elisha’s arm which is resting on the child’s hand which in turn is resting on the enwombed divine sun, symbolizing that it is the Shunammite’s inner sunny goodness that is the real divine force driving the miracles of conception and regeneration.

The condensed narrative of this story is written in Hebrew in a clockwise- radial direction from left to right. On the bottom left on the Shunammite’s thigh is written Elisha’s prophecy, “by the same time next year, you will be caressing a son”. Above that is written in red, “my head, my head”, the cries of the boy immediately before he collapses. Above that is written in black “and he died”. Written on Elisha’s right arm is the statement “And he warmed the flesh of the child”. Written on Elisha in between the third and fourth visages of the boy is the statement “and the lad opened his eyes.” Written on the lower right of the painting in blue on the Shunammite’s thigh are the words uttered to her by Elisha to at the conclusion of the story, after her son’s resurrection, “Lift up your child”.

Written counterclockwise on the necks of each of the four visages of the lad, from right to left, are the four separate red letters of the tetragrammaton, which when connected spell “YHVH”, the author of intrauterine and heavenly genesis.