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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 18

 

 

Verse 10

As YHWH your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom, where my lord has not sent to seek you. And when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they had not found you.”

For he pointed out that King Ahab had been searching everywhere for Elijah with the intention of doing him harm, and that he had done it with special intensity. Thus he would not treat gently anyone who told him where to find Elijah, only for him to discover that Elijah was not there. Note the ‘your God.’ Even as a believer Obadiah recognised that Elijah has a unique relationship with God.


Verse 11

And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, Behold, Elijah.’ ”

And now Elijah was sending him to make his announcement to Ahab. But how did he know that if he did so Elijah would be found?

1 Kings 18:12 a “And it will come about, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of YHWH will carry you where I know not, and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me.”

For such was Elijah’s reputation that he feared that as soon as he had left Elijah the Spirit of YHWH would whisk him off somewhere, so that when Ahab came to seek him, Elijah would have gone, and the messenger who had brought the news would suffer accordingly. It may well be that Obadiah knew of cases where this had happened.

(This may suggest that all kinds of rumours had built up when Elijah had been unable to be found anywhere. Surely, the people were saying, it could only be because YHWH Himself kept removing him away out of sight by His Spirit. An aura was clearly growing up around Elijah, The author wants us to compare the facts as he has revealed them with these wild suppositions, although in a way, of course, it was true. YHWH had taken Elijah to places where he could not be found. But not quite so spectacularly. It is man who glories in the spectacular).

1 Kings 18:12 b “But I your servant fear YHWH from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of YHWH, how I hid a hundred men of YHWH’s prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, Behold, Elijah,’ and he will kill me.”

He asked Elijah to consider the fact that he himself was a true worshipper of YHWH and had been from his youth, and reminded him of how he had saved a hundred prophets of YHWH by hiding them in a number of caves (with which Israel was plentifully supplied). And now Elijah was asking him to take a message which could put him in jeopardy of his life.

1 Kings 18:15

And Elijah said, “As YHWH of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.”

But Elijah assured him that he need not fear, for as truly as YHWH was the living God, and he was His servant who stood before Him (as Obadiah did before Ahab) he would show himself to Ahab that very day.

The title ‘YHWH of hosts’ occurs regularly in Samuel (see especially 1 Samuel 17:45, but compare also Joshua 5:14 where the idea is clearly in mind). It probably came to prominence in the wars with the Philistines, as Israel sought to bolster up their faith in YHWH as their Deliverer. The Philistines were mighty, but with YHWH’s assistance YHWH’s hosts were mightier. By Elijah’s time those hosts included all the hosts of Heaven (2 Kings 2:10-11; 2 Kings 6:17), and probably creation itself (Genesis 2:1). But the main point is to emphasise that YHWH of hosts, the God of the confederation of Israel from of old, is on his side.

1 Kings 18:16

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.’

1 Kings 18:17

And it came about, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”

We are not told whether Elijah took any special safety precautions by standing on some inaccessible crag, or something similar. The details are not given. But when Ahab saw Elijah he cried out, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” All Ahab’s efforts to find Elijah, together with his words here, indicate that underneath, in his heart. Ahab knew that it really was Elijah and YHWH who were responsible for the famine. Otherwise why be so concerned about them? But it is an indication of the folly and hardness of men’s hearts that he did not repent, or consider changing his ways. Sinful man is always illogical in his dealings with God. This was in total contrast with David who always responded to such things by seeking God (2 Samuel 21:1)

1 Kings 18:18

And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you, and your father’s house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of YHWH, and you have followed the Baalim.” ’

For as Elijah then pointed out, it was not he who was troubling (bringing disaster on - compare Genesis 34:30; Joshua 6:18; Joshua 7:25) Israel but Ahab. It was because Ahab and his father’s house had forsaken the commandments of YHWH and were following ‘the baalim’ (a deliberately contemptuous reminder of the plurality and insignificance of Baal images) that this disaster had come on Israel. There was no one apart from Ahab and the people themselves to blame.


Verse 19

Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel to mount Carmel, and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

He then called on Ahab to bring to Elijah on Mount Carmel ‘all Israel’ (the assembly of Israel), together with the numerous prophets of Baal and Asherah who were being fed at Jezebel’s table. This may well have been for a recognised festival which was regularly held there, for it is apparent later that both sides saw Mount Carmel as possessing a sanctuary.

We are reminded here that all nations and religions had their ‘prophets’ who claimed to be inspired by their gods, often going into a state of ecstasy (1 Kings 18:28), although until the time of Ezekiel the outstanding true prophets of YHWH are presented as remarkably free from such ecstasy (contrast the ecstasy of the false prophet Zedekiah with the reasoned approach of Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:11-28). We should note, however, 1 Samuel 10:5, although their ecstasy was seen as the true work of the Spirit. However, as Deuteronomy 18:21-22 has pointed out, the test was as to whether what they proclaimed came true. Israel too had its share of false prophets (1 Kings 22:11; 1 Kings 22:24). But it also had bands of genuine prophets who held firmly to the truth of YHWH.

1 Kings 18:20

So Ahab sent to all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together to mount Carmel.’

It is an indication of the awe in which King Ahab held Elijah that he did as he had bid him. The summons went out to all Israel to gather at the sanctuary on Mount Carmel, and all the prophets of Baal were commanded to be there. It was a further indication that in his heart he knew that Elijah could do something about the drought.

In what follows we gather that there was at Mount Carmel, a long mountain ridge stretching out into the sea, divided by many ravines, a true sanctuary dedicated to YHWH which had been allowed to fall into disuse. There was also there a sanctuary and altar of Baal which were flourishing, no doubt encouraged by Jezebel. Mount Carmel with its periodic rains and storms, which regularly included lightning, together with its abundant fruitfulness, would be very suitable as a site for Baal worship. (The lightning dancing around the hills is a spectacular feature of life in Palestine). It may have been partly this contrast in the sanctuaries that made Elijah choose Mount Carmel, for it was his purpose to illustrate the revival of Yahwism, and this site on the borders of Israel and Phoenicia, revered by all, was a good place to do it. There is also a good possibility that it was because he knew that the true prophets of YHWH were hiding in the caves there.


Verses 21-40

The Contest On Mount Carmel: YHWH Versus Baal (1 Kings 18:21-40).

In this vivid description of the contest on Mount Carmel Ahab is deliberately not mentioned. This was because it was not a contest between Elijah and Ahab, but between YHWH, represented by Elijah, and Baal, represented by his four hundred and fifty prophets. All eyes were to be on the combatants. And it was carried out before all the people so that they could come to their own conclusions. It would end in a complete victory for YHWH by a knockout.

Mount Carmel was probably chosen because it was a high eminence (600 metres, 2000 feet) which was on the borders of Israel and Phoenicia, and thus a very suitable place for a contest between the God of Israel and the Tyrian Baal, while also being chosen because it was a site revered by both where there were recognised sanctuaries.

The contest was dramatic. Each side would prepare an offering for sacrifice, but no fire would be lit under it. Then each side would call on their respective deity to consume the offering by fire from Heaven. Elijah gave the false prophets every opportunity. They had the choice of which bullock they would sacrifice, and as they had the largest number of prophets, they were given as much time as they wanted. They could hardly complain that they had had a raw deal. Then the God Who answered by fire (that is, by lightning that consumed the sacrifice, which was the supposed forte of Baal as the god of storm and lightning) would be established as the true God. The idea of fire coming down from Heaven to consume the sacrifice was taken by Elijah from Leviticus 9:24, where again it was before an assembled crowd. It was thus seen by him as a sign typical of the God of Israel.

It should be noted that Elijah linked the sacrifice that he was about to offer with the period of drought by drenching the sacrifice with water so that the offering would also be a plea for rain, in order that the crowds may know where the coming rain came from. Such a pouring out of water, especially at the feast of Tabernacles (although not there on the offerings) represented a plea for rain. Compare how Samuel poured out water before YHWH, something which resulted in a great storm (1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 7:10). By this water offering the crowds would recognise that Elijah was including in his sacrifice an appeal for rain.

Analysis.

a And Elijah came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping between the two sides? If YHWH is God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of YHWH, but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men” (1 Kings 18:21-22).

b “Let them therefore give us two bullocks, and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under, and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under” (1 Kings 18:23).

c “And you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of YHWH, and the God who answers by fire, let him be God.” And all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken” (1 Kings 18:24).

d And Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You choose one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first, for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under.” And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us.” But there was no voice, nor any who answered. And they leaped about the altar which was made (1 Kings 18:25-26).

e And it came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27).

f And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them (1 Kings 18:28).

g And it was so, when midday was past, that they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening oblation, but there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any who regarded (1 Kings 18:29).

h And Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me,” and all the people came near to him (1 Kings 18:30 a).

i And he repaired the altar of YHWH that was thrown down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of YHWH came, saying, “Israel shall be your name” (1 Kings 18:30-31).

h And with the stones he built an altar in the name of YHWH, and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the burnt-offering, and on the wood” (1 Kings 18:32-33).

g And he said, “Do it the second time,” and they did it the second time. And he said, “Do it the third time,” and they did it the third time (1 Kings 18:34).

f And the water ran round about the altar, and he filled the trench also with water (1 Kings 18:35).

e And it came about at the time of the offering of the evening oblation, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, “O YHWH, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word” (1 Kings 18:36).

d “Hear me, O YHWH, hear me, that this people may know that you, YHWH, are God, and that you have turned their heart back again”. Then the fire of YHWH fell, and consumed the burnt-offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench (1 Kings 18:37-38).

c And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces, and they said, “YHWH, he is God, YHWH, he is God” (1 Kings 18:39).

b And Elijah said to them, “Take the prophets of Baal. Do not let one of them escape” (1 Kings 18:40 a).

a And they took them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there (1 Kings 18:40 b).

Note that in ‘a’ Elijah points to the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal about whom a decision has to be made, and in the parallel he arranges for their deaths at the Brook Kishon. In ‘b’ the test by which the prophets will be judged is described, and in the parallel, having failed it, not one of them is to be allowed to escape. In ‘c’ the contest will determine Who is truly God, and in the parallel the people declare that YHWH is truly God. In ‘d’ the vain efforts of the prophets of Baal are described, and in the parallel the successful prayer of Elijah. In ‘e’ Elijah mocks the prophets because they pray unavailingly all day and receive no answer from Baal, and in the parallel he prays once at the time of the evening sacrifice with a confident prayer that will produce the required result. In ‘f’ they cried aloud and gashed themselves so that their blood flowed like water, and in the parallel Elijah drenches the sacrifice with water. In ‘g’ repeated efforts to obtain an answer are made by the false prophets, and in the parallel Elijah deliberately makes it repeatedly more difficult for him to obtain an answer. In ‘h’ Elijah calls on the crowd to come near, and in the parallel he calls on them to drench his sacrifice with water. Centrally in ‘i’ Elijah repaired the altar of YHWH which was broken down which represented the word of YHWH to Israel.

1 Kings 18:21

And Elijah came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping between the two sides? If YHWH is God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.’

Elijah commenced the contest by a direct challenge to the people, vividly depicting them as limping along spiritually as they looked in indecision first to one side and then to the other. Now, he proclaimed, it was time for them to make a final choice between YHWH and Baal. “If YHWH is God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him.” The people hung their heads and had nothing to say.

1 Kings 18:22

Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of YHWH, but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.” ’

Elijah then summed up the two sets of contestants. On one side stood Elijah, alone. Jezebel had got rid of the other prophets of YHWH (or thought that she had) and he alone was left as a result of God’s mercy. On the other side were four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. It appeared to be no contest. But that is to forget that one with God is a majority.

1 Kings 18:23-24

Let them therefore give us two bullocks, and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under, and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under. And you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of YHWH, and the God who answers by fire, let him be God.” And all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”

He then laid down the terms of the contest. Each side would have a bullock, and the prophets of Baal could even choose which bullock they had. Then they were to cut it in pieces and lay the pieces on the wood which was on their altar. But no fire was to come near it. And he would do the same. After that they were to call on the name of ‘their god’ and he would call on the Name of YHWH. And the God Who answered by fire would be seen as the true God. In the eyes of the watchers it would appear that all the odds were on the side of the prophets of Baal, for Baal was the god of storm and lightning. If YHWH won therefore it would be conclusive. It would prove that the God of Sinai and of Moses was truly among them (Leviticus 9:24). The people heartily agreed with the idea and said that it was well spoken.

1 Kings 18:25

And Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You choose one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first, for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under.”

Elijah then turned to the prophets of Baal and called on them to go first because they were many. He wanted them to have as much time as they wanted. He knew perfectly well that what he was asking of them was impossible, for there was no one who would hear their cries. Then they were to prepare their sacrifice, but without putting fire under it, and pray as much as they liked. The more they prayed, the more futile their prayers would appear.

1 Kings 18:26

And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us.” But there was no voice, nor any who answered. And they leaped about the altar which was made.’

So the prophets of Baal took the bullock that had been given to them and dressed it, and called on Baal from morning until noon. Hour by hour they called, but in spite of the hot sun there was no response. And they performed ceremonial dances around the altar as they waited for Baal to answer.

1 Kings 18:27

And it came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” ’

When noon came with no response Elijah began to jeer. He wanted the crowds to recognise how helpless these prophets were. So he called on them, if they really thought that Baal was a god, to shout louder. Perhaps he was musing, or relieving himself, or on a journey, or sleeping. The crowds would be aware that these things were never true of YHWH. He neither slumbered nor slept.

1 Kings 18:28

And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them.’

So the prophets of Baal got even more worked up. They were getting desperate. They cried out aloud, and they gashed themselves so that the blood would run out and as a result of their obvious suffering on his behalf stir Baal into action (a practise witnessed to at Ugarit). But none of it worked. There was no response.

1 Kings 18:29

And it was so, when midday was past, that they prophesied frantically (or ‘ranted and raved’) until the time of the offering of the evening oblation, but there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any who regarded.’

Having reached midday they ‘prophesied’ on until the time of the evening sacrifice, hoping to stir Baal into action. That was the time when, as the people were aware, the second daily offering would be made in he Temple of YHWH at Jerusalem. But no voice came, no answer came, and no fire came. There was no one who took any notice.

1 Kings 18:30 a ‘And Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me,” and all the people came near to him.’

Then, feeling that he had waited long enough Elijah called on the people to gather round him, and they did so, eager to see what would happen.

1 Kings 18:30-31 ‘And he repaired the altar of YHWH that was thrown down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of YHWH came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”.

Elijah wanted it to be quite clear Whom they were dealing with, and the serious nature of what he was doing. He was involving the twelve tribes of Jacob/Israel as the people whom YHWH had chosen and named and he was about to offer a sacrifice on the altar of YHWH that had been allowed to fall into disrepair. Let the people learn the lesson well.

The first important lesson here was that there was a genuine and acceptable altar of YHWH which was available for sacrifice. Careless approaches to Scripture have overlooked the fact that sanctuaries at which YHWH ‘had recorded His Name’, were allowed to be used, as well as the Central Sanctuary, even though feasts at the latter were always to be a part of their worship. Deuteronomy 12 had described the Central Sanctuary, which had originally been set up at Shechem and then Shiloh, but it had not excluded all other sanctuaries. And it was well that that was so, for true worshippers of YHWH had experienced times when they were cut off from Jerusalem. At such times the prophets in Israel must clearly have made provision for the people to worship at true sanctuaries rather than at false ones.

The second lesson is that to Elijah Israel/Judah was still seen as one, for he chose twelve stones symbolising the twelve tribes of Jacob, for it was they who had originally been chosen by YHWH. And all were involved in this contest against Baal. So what was about to happen was happening in the name of Israel, for and by a people who had been named by YHWH as His treasured possession (Exodus 19:5-6).

The use of Jacob rather than Israel is explained by the comment that followed. It had in mind the time when Jacob became Israel. In the same way the new Jacob were becoming renewed Israel.

(There is also a lesson here for us. Whenever we recognise that we have fallen away from God the first step back is again to set up the altar of God which has fallen down, in other words recognise our sanctification through the blood of Jesus and seek forgiveness through Him - Hebrews 13:10-14).

1 Kings 18:32-33

And with the stones he built an altar in the name of YHWH, and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the burnt-offering, and on the wood.”

So with the twelve stones he built an altar ‘in the Name of YHWH’. This was clearly in Elijah’s eyes a place where His Name was recorded. And then he made a large trench about the altar because he intended to make an appeal to YHWH for rain by pouring water on the offering and on the altar (compare 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 7:10). Then he put the wood in order, cut up the bullock and put the pieces on the wood on the altar. Then he called for four jars filled with water to be poured on the offering and the altar. He was wanting a good deal of rain.

There were clearly springs on mount Carmel where water was available, even in time of drought. Jutting out into the sea it attracted the moisture that arose from the sea. in the hot sun.

The initial ‘and he repaired the altar’ may have been a summary, which was then filled in with the detail. This would be a typically Hebraic way of presenting information, first in summary, then in detail (compare Judges 6:24-26). But it may be that we are to differentiate the building up of the altar with earth, from the placing within it of stones to take the heat of the fire.

1 Kings 18:34

And he said, “Do it the second time,” and they did it the second time. And he said, “Do it the third time,” and they did it the third time.’

Then he called for them to do it twice more, making twelve jars in all. He wanted the whole of Israel/Judah to benefit from the rain. There was nothing parochial about Elijah, he had wide vision, even at this crucial time. He did not forget the wider need.

1 Kings 18:35

And the water ran round about the altar, and he filled the trench also with water.’

Inevitably there was so much water that it ran round the altar and filled the trench with water. Elijah really appeared to be making it difficult for himself. But he had no doubt about what God could do.

1 Kings 18:36

And it came about at the time of the offering of the evening oblation, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, “O YHWH, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.” ’

Then Elijah approached God ‘at the time of the evening offering’. It would appear that in Israel the regular offering at the Temple was duplicated. The people would know that this was the accepted time for prayer to YHWH.

His prayer emphasised Israel’s roots. It was to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Jacob), and he called on Him to make it known that day that it was He alone Who was God in Israel, and that Elijah was his servant, and had done all these things at YHWH’s word.

The use of ‘of Israel’ in the threefold phrase is unusual, emphasising again the transformation that was to take place as the people experienced a renewal. he was not just the God of Jacob, but of Israel. Compare Exodus 32:13 which is the nearest that we have to it. Compare also 1 Chronicles 29:18 where the same formula is used.


Verse 37

Hear me, O YHWH, hear me, that this people may know that you, YHWH, are God, and that you have turned their heart back again.”

Then he prayed that through what was about to happen as a result of his prayer, the people might know indeed that YHWH alone was God, and would know that by this means He it was His intention to turn their hearts back to Him again.

1 Kings 18:38

Then the fire of YHWH fell, and consumed the burnt-offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.’

Then at his prayer, ‘the fire of YHWH fell’, and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and ‘licked up the water that was in the trench’. One good lightning strike of supernatural force would be quite sufficient to bring this about, but what was mostly miraculous about it was the timing and the direction. And the significance of it was that YHWH had accepted the offering, including the water offering, and had rededicated His people to Himself (by consuming the stones which represented them, and the burnt offering which also represented them). Lightning as the precursor of rain was common around Palestine, although not such lightning as this.

1 Kings 18:39

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces, and they said, “YHWH, he is God, YHWH, he is God.” ’

As we might have expected, when the people who had been waiting disappointedly all day for Baal to act, saw this amazing event, they were astounded and ‘fell on their faces’ (compare Leviticus 9:24). They knew now that they were on holy ground. And now they could be in no doubt of the truth and cried out, ‘YHWH, He is God, YHWH, He is God. They would never see things in quite the same way again. YHWH had been vindicated before their very eyes.

1 Kings 18:40

And Elijah said to them, “Take the prophets of Baal. Do not let one of them escape.” And they took them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.’

Then Elijah commanded the ecstatic people to seize the prophets of Baal who had proved themselves to be false prophets, and let not one escape. And the crowd seized them and marched them down to the brook Kishon at the foot of Carmel where Elijah had them put to death. They had proved themselves to be false prophets, and the Law required that such be put to death. We are not told what happened to the prophets of Asherah. They would not have been directly involved, and may have prudently slipped away when they saw the failure of their counterparts.


Verses 41-46

The Sound Of Abundance Of Rain (1 Kings 18:41-46)

His offering, with its water offering, having been accepted Elijah now knew that the rain must follow. And he called on Ahab, who up to this point had been an unimportant bystander in the contest between YHWH and Baal, to make his way to his tent and eat and drink, because the crisis was now past. It was Elijah’s way of letting him know that the rain which would end the long drought was coming, now that YHWH had been vindicated and the prophets of Baal executed. The command to ‘eat and drink’ was a sign that things were getting back to normal.

Elijah, meanwhile, made his way to Carmel’s highest peak, and bowing himself to the ground, put his face between his knees. He was making obeisance towards YHWH. Then he called on his servant to look out to sea and tell him what he observed. But the reply was, ‘nothing’. This happened another five times, and the reply was always the same. But on the seventh time the man cried out, “Behold, there arises a cloud out of the sea, as small as a man’s hand.” Elijah immediately knew that his prayer was answered, and sent his servant to tell Ahab to make for home as quickly as possible before the rains came. Chariots do not do well in muddy conditions. But even while Ahab was setting out the rains came and the result was that Elijah who had set out at a run for Jezreel, overtook Ahab’s mud-bound chariot, and arrived first at the entrance to Jezreel. Apart from the special stimulation by the Spirit mentioned, this need not have been too great a miracle, for the distance mentioned is only twenty nine kilometres (eighteen miles). Elijah was clearly a very fit man, as his coming journey to Horeb would reveal.

Analysis.

a And Elijah said to Ahab, “Get you up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of abundance of rain” (1 Kings 18:41).

b So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, and he bowed himself down on the earth, and put his face between his knees (1 Kings 18:42).

c And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look towards the sea.” And he went up, and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again seven times.” And it came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, there arises a cloud out of the sea, as small as a man’s hand” (1 Kings 18:43-44 a).

b And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, Make ready, and get you down, so that the rain does not stop you” (1 Kings 18:44 b).

a And it came about in a little while, that the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel, and the hand of YHWH was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel (1 Kings 18:45-46).

1 Kings 18:41

And Elijah said to Ahab, “Get you up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” ’

Elijah now knew that the rains would shortly come, and he accordingly directed Ahab, who had clearly been an interested observer at the scene, to go up to this tent and eat and drink, because Elijah had heard the sound of abundance of rain. It was an indication that the problem of the drought was over and fasting could cease (compare Joel 1:14).

1 Kings 18:42

So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, and he bowed himself down on the earth, and put his face between his knees.’

Fully confident in what Elijah had said, Ahab proceeded to his tent for a meal. Meanwhile Elijah made his way up to the top of Carmel, and there he bowed himself to the earth and put his face between his knees. It was an attitude of total humility and subjection before YHWH. Elijah did not allow his privileged position to cause him to forget Who YHWH was.

1 Kings 18:43

And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look towards the sea.” And he went up, and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again seven times.”

When he had prayed he told his servant to go and look towards the sea and tell him what he saw. But the servant returned and said, ‘there is nothing.’ Elijah then prayed for a further five times, but the servant’s reply was always the same.

1 Kings 18:44

And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, there arises a cloud out of the sea, as small as a man’s hand.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, Make ready, and get you down, so that the rain does not stop you.” ’

But once Elijah had prayed a seventh time the servant returned and declared that he had seen a cloud arising from the sea as small as a man’s hand. That was all an indication that Elijah needed, and he immediately sent his servant to tell Ahab to make ready and get down from the mountain to his chariot lest the rain detain him.

1 Kings 18:45

And it came about in a little while, that the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.’

Ahab did what Elijah had said, but it was not soon enough for the heavens grew black with cloud and wind, and there was drenching rain. And once that rain began to fall it would turn the road into a sea of mud, in which Ahab’s chariot would find the going hard, as he made his way towards his chariot city of Jezreel.

1 Kings 18:46

And the hand of YHWH was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.’

Meanwhile ‘the hand of YHWH’ was on Elijah and tucking in his robe he ran to Jezreel, arriving there before Ahab. It was a journey of about twenty seven kilometres (eighteen miles) and therefore considerably less than a marathon, and Elijah was going cross country. We are given no information about what Elijah wanted in Jezreel. Possibly his aim was simply to demonstrate to Ahab the power of YHWH. Or perhaps he wanted to be on hand in case Ahab needed his help in dealing with Jezebel. It was certainly a reminder to Ahab that what his chariots could do, YHWH could do better.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 18:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-kings-18.html. 2013.

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