A widow of one of the sons of the prophets calls out to Elisha, telling him “that the creditor has come to take [her] two children to be slaves” since she is unable to pay her debts. (2 Kings 4:1) Elisha seems to rhetorically ask, “What shall I do for you?” then comes up with an answer immediately. He asks the widow what she has in her house. She says, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” (2 Kings 4:2)
She has nothing. Yet, she has something.
Elisha tells her to go to her neighbors and “borrow vessels, empty vessels and not too few.” She complies. Elisha tells her to also go inside, shut her door “behind [herself] and [her] sons and pour into all these vessels” the oil from the one jar she still has in her house. She continues pouring oil from the jar, filling each vessel until her sons have no more vessels to bring to her. At this point, the oil from the jar stops flowing.
The only limit to the flow of oil is how many empty vessels she has borrowed. Hence, Elisha’s advice: Borrow “not too few.” She has nothing. Yet, she has something. Now she has more than enough. Yet, there is potential for even more.
The widow tells Elisha that she has no more vessels to fill, that the oil has stopped flowing. He tells her to sell the oil and pay her debts, “and you and your sons can live on the rest.” (2 Kings 4:7)
She has nothing. Yet, she has something. Then she has more than enough. Now, she has everything she needs, both for herself and her sons.
Suppose she gave any oil to her neighbors when she returned their once-empty vessels?