Shunem

SHUNEM (shū'-nĕm, Heb. shûnēm). A place belonging to the tribe of Issachar (Josh.19.18). Here the Philistines encamped before they fought at Gilboa (1Sam.28.4). David’s nurse, Abishag, lived here (1Kgs.1.3). Shunem was also the home of the woman who befriended Elisha and whose son Elisha restored (2Kgs.4.8-2Kgs.4.37). It lies in a very rich section of Palestine a short distance north of Jezreel at the foot of “Little Hermon.” A valuable spring of water doubtlessly attracted the Philistines to choose it as a campsite.


SHUNEM shōō’ nəm (שׁוּנֵֽם). A town in the territory allotted to the tribe of Issachar (Josh 19:18). It was located three m. N of Jezreel near Mt. Gilboa at the foot of Little Hermon.

The town appears in a list compiled by Thutmose III (1490-1436 b.c.), describing the extent of his dominion and conquests. A number of Palestinian towns are included, indicating the extensive nature of Egyp. control of Syria-Pal. at this time. In the Amarna letters Shunem appears as Shunama where its overthrow by Lab’aya early in the 14th cent. is cited. It was rebuilt shortly thereafter, however, for the presence of a working party at Shunem, under Biridiya, is cited in the Amarna material.

The Philistines encamped here in preparation for battle against the Israelites. This maneuver led Saul to occupy Mt. Gilboa which was opposite Shunem. The resultant conflict led to Saul’s death on the slopes of Mt. Gilboa (1 Sam 28:4).

Abishag, David’s nurse who cared for him shortly before his death, was a Shunammite (feminine form of Shunem). Adonijah sought unsuccessfully to marry her, evidently in an attempt to strengthen his weak claim to the throne (1 Kings 2:13-18, 22).

Elisha lodged frequently at Shunem in the home of a benefactress, the birth of whose son Elisha accurately predicted. He later restored the child to life. His use of Shunem as a stopping place on his way from Samaria indicates that Elisha ministered in an extensive circuit. The modern Solem prob. marks the site of ancient Shunem.

Bibliography

W. F. Albright, “The Topography of the Tribe of Issachar,” ZAW, 3 (1926), 226-234; F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, II (1938) 470, 471; ANET (1955) 485.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A town in the territory of Issachar named with Jezreel and Chesulloth (Jos 19:18). Before the battle of Gilboa the Philistines pitched their camp here. They and the army of Saul, stationed on Gilboa, were in full view of each other (1Sa 28:4). It was the scene of the touching story recorded in 2Ki 4:8-37, in which the prophet Elisha raises to life the son of his Shunammite benefactress. Eusebius (Onomasticon) describes it as a village called Sulem, 5 Roman miles South of Mt. Tabor. This points to the modern Solam, a village surrounded by cactus hedges and orchards on the lower southwestern slope of Jebel ed-Duchy ("Hill of Moreh"). It commands an uninterrupted view across the plain of Esdraelon to Mt. Carmel, which is about 15 miles distant. It also looks far across the valley of Jezreel to the slopes of Gilboa on the South. It therefore meets satisfactorily the conditions of Joshua and 1 Samuel. A question has, however, been raised as to its identity with the Shunem of 2Ki 4. Elisha’s home was in Samaria. Apparently Carmel was one of his favorite haunts. If he passed Shunem "continually" (2Ki 4:9), going to and coming from the mountain, it involved a very long detour if this were the village visited. It would seem more natural to identify the Shunem of Elisha with the Sanim of Eusebius, Onomasticon, which is said to be in the territory of Sebaste (Samaria), in the region of Akrabatta: or perhaps with Salim, fully a mile North of Taanach, as nearer the line of travel between Samaria and Carmel.

There is, however, nothing to show that Elisha’s visits to Shunem were paid on his journeys between Samaria and Carmel. It may have been his custom to visit certain cities on circuit, on business calling for his personal attention, e.g. in connection with the "schools of the prophets." Materials do not exist on which any certain conclusion can rest. Both Solam Salim are on the edge of the splendid grain fields of Esdraelon (2Ki 4:18).