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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Kings 19

 

 

Verse 1

1 Kings 19:1. Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done — Not to convince her that Jehovah was the true God, and Baal a mere imaginary being, or a senseless idol, but to exasperate her against both Jehovah and his prophet. His conscience, it seems, would not let him persecute Elijah himself, having in him some remains of the spirit of an Israelite, which tied his hands; but he wished to excite her to do it. Hence it is not said he told her what God had done, but what Elijah had done, as if he, by some spell or charm, had brought fire from heaven, and the hand of the Lord had not been in it. How he had slain all the prophets — This he especially represented to her, as that which he knew would make her quite outrageous against him. The prophets of Baal he calls the prophets, as if they only were worthy of the name: and he aggravates the slaying of them as Elijah’s crime, without taking any notice that their lives were justly forfeited to the law of God. Those who, when they cannot for shame or fear do mischief themselves, yet stir up others to do it, will have it laid to their charge as if they had themselves done it.


Verse 2

1 Kings 19:2. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah — She gives him notice of her designs beforehand; partly from her high and haughty spirit, as scorning to kill him secretly; partly out of impatience till she had given vent to her rage; and partly from God’s gracious and overruling providence, that hereby Elijah might have an opportunity of escaping. This shows the great folly of outrageous anger; which transported her unthinkingly, but effectually, to counteract and obstruct her own designs. So let the gods do to me, and more also, &c. — This imperious and haughty woman, it appears, managed the king and kingdom according to her own will, and did whatever she pleased; and so far was she from being changed by the evident miracle which had been wrought, that she persists in her former idolatry, and adds to it a monstrous confidence, that in spite of God she would destroy his prophet.


Verse 3

1 Kings 19:3. And when he saw that, he arose and went for his life — That is, to save his life: whereby may be intimated, that he did not flee from Jezreel by the hand or direction of the Lord, by which he had come thither; but because of his own fear and apprehension of danger. One would have expected, after such a public and sensible manifestation of the glory of God, and such a clear decision of the controversy depending between him and Baal, to the honour of Elijah, the confusion of Baal’s prophets, and the universal satisfaction of the people; after they had seen both fire and water come from heaven at the prayer of Elijah, and both in mercy to them; the one, as it signified the acceptance of their offering; the other as it refreshed their inheritance which was weary; that now they should all, as one man, have returned to the worship of the God of Israel, and taken Elijah for their guide and oracle; that he should from thenceforward have been prime minister of state, and his directions laws both to the king and kingdom: but it is quite otherwise; he is neglected whom God honoured; no respect is paid to him; no care taken of him; but on the contrary, the land of Israel, to which he had been and might have been so great a blessing, is soon made too hot for him. As we do not read of any command from God to Elijah to flee on this occasion, some have been of opinion that it was a great fault in him to do so; and that he ought, by all means, to have ventured all consequences, trusting in the divine protection, and to have pushed the advantage he had gained by his miracle, by endeavouring to lead the people entirely to destroy the worship of Baal, and to restore that of Jehovah. “Shall we praise him for this?” (namely, fleeing for his life,) says Henry; “We praise him not. Where was the courage wherewith he had confronted Ahab and all the prophets of Baal? nay, which kept him by his sacrifice, when the fire of God fell upon it? He that stood undaunted in the midst of the terrors both of heaven and earth, trembles at the impotent menaces of a proud, passionate woman. Lord, what is man? He could not but know that he might be very serviceable to Israel at this juncture; and had all the reason in the world to depend upon God’s protection while he was doing God’s work; yet he flees. In his former danger God had bid him hide himself, (1 Kings 17:3,) therefore he supposed he might do it now.” The truth is, as St. James observes, He was a man subject to like passions as we are; and probably it was with a view to this part of his behaviour, that the apostle made that reflection. Elijah knew Jezebel, that she was fierce, cruel, vindictive, and implacable; that in slaying the priests of Baal he had incurred her displeasure; and that to revenge herself she had all the power of the kingdom under her command. These notions made such an impression upon his spirits, as deprived him of that manly resolution, otherwise so remarkable: nor was there wanting a wise design of Providence, in suffering this timidity to fall upon his servant; it was to show him his natural imbecility, and the necessity he had at all times of the divine assistance, which alone could fortify him with a spirit of intrepidity. It was to suppress all the little sentiments of pride and arrogance which might possibly arise in his breast upon the contemplation of the gifts and graces bestowed on him, and the many great miracles which were wrought by his hands; that if he did glory he might glory in the Lord, and not dare to take any part of his honour to himself. See 2 Corinthians 12:7.” — Calmet and Dodd. And came to Beer-sheeba and left his servant there — Because he would not expose him to those perils and hardships which he expected; and because he desired solitude, that he might more freely converse with God.


Verse 4

1 Kings 19:4. He went a day’s journey into the wilderness — The vast wilderness of Arabia, wherein the Israelites wandered forty years. He durst not stay in Judah, though good Jehoshaphat reigned there, because he was allied to Ahab, and was a man of an easy temper, whom Ahab might circumvent, and either by force or art seize upon Elijah. He requested for himself — Hebrew, for his life, or his soul, that it might be taken away from his body. Or, with his soul, as it is Isaiah 26:9, that is, he desired it heartily or fervently; which he did, not only for his own sake, that he might be freed from his great fears and troubles; but especially from his zeal for God’s glory, which he saw was and would be dreadfully eclipsed by the relapse of the Israelites into idolatry, and by his death, if it should be procured by the hands of Jezebel, or of the worshippers of Baal; and therefore he wished to die in peace, and by the hand of God. And said, It is enough, now, O Lord — I have lived long enough for thy cause, and am not likely to do thee any more service; neither my words nor works are likely to do any good upon these unstable and incorrigible people. I am not better than my fathers — That I should continue, when other prophets who have gone before me have lost their lives.


Verse 5-6

1 Kings 19:5-6. He lay and slept under a juniper tree — But he is wakened out of his sleep, and finds himself not only well provided for with bread and water, but, which is more, attended by an angel, who guarded him when he slept, and called him to his victuals once and again when they were ready for him. “He needed not complain of the unkindnesses of men, when it was thus made up by the ministration of angels: thus provided for he had reason to think he fared better than the prophets of the groves that ate at Jezebel’s table. Wherever God’s children are, as they are still upon their Father’s ground, so they are still under their Father’s eye and care. They may lose themselves in a wilderness, but God has not left them; there they may look at him, that lives and sees them, as Hagar, Genesis 16:13.” — Henry.


Verse 7

1 Kings 19:7. Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for thee — Above thy strength; now especially, when thou art faint, weary, and fasting. God knows what he designs us for, though we do not; what services, what trials; and will take care for us, when we, for want of foresight, cannot for ourselves, that we be furnished for them with grace sufficient. He that appoints what the voyage shall be, will victual the ship accordingly.


Verse 8

1 Kings 19:8. He went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights Observe here, how many different ways God took to keep Elijah alive: he was fed by ravens, by a miraculous increase of meal and oil, by an angel, and now, to show that man lives not by bread alone, he is kept alive forty days without meat, while in the mean time he was not resting and sleeping, which might have made him the less to crave sustenance, but continually traversing the mazes of the desert, a day for each year of Israel’s wanderings; yet he neither needs food, nor desires it. The place, no doubt, reminds him of the manna, and encourages him to hope that God would sustain him here, and in due time bring him hence, as he did Israel. Unto Horeb, the mount of God — Which, in the direct road, was not above four or five days’ journey from Beer-sheba: but he wandered, it seems, hither and thither in the wilderness, till the Spirit of the Lord led him, probably beyond his intention, to this noted mountain, that he might have communion with God in the same place where Moses had; the law, that was given by Moses, being revived by him.


Verse 9

1 Kings 19:9. He came thither — Unto the mount where God had formerly manifested his glory in so extraordinary a manner; unto a cave, and lodged there — Perhaps the same cave, or cleft of a rock, in which Moses was hid, when the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed his name. Hither, in his wanderings, the Lord led him, probably to assist his faith and devotion with the sight of that famous place where the law was given, and so many great things were done, and that he might meet God there, where Moses had so often met with him. Behold, the word of the Lord came to him — We cannot go any where so as to be out of the reach of God’s eye, his arm, and his word: Whither can I flee from thy Spirit? God will take care of his outcasts; and those that for his sake are driven out from among men, he will find and own, and gather with everlasting loving-kindness. What doest thou here, Elijah? — A tacit reproof: as much as to say, I have no business for thee here. This is not thy proper place, nor a place wherein to do me service. It is not the station in which I set thee, which was in Israel, that thou mightest turn unto me that backsliding people, to which end I endowed thee with extraordinary powers, and vouchsafed thee my almighty aid and protection, and would not have failed to continue them unto thee, if thou hadst remained there.


Verse 10

1 Kings 19:10. And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord of hosts — I have not been wholly wanting to my vocation; but have executed my office with zeal for thy honour and service, and with the hazard of my life; and am fled hither, not being able to endure to see the dishonour done to thy name by their obstinate idolatry and wickedness. They have thrown down thine altars — Not only deserted them, and suffered them to go to decay, but, in their zeal for the worship of Baal, have wilfully demolished them. The private altars, which the prophets of the Lord had, and which good people attended who could not go up to Jerusalem, and would not worship the calves nor Baal; these separate altars, though breaking in upon the unity of the church, yet being erected and intended by those that sincerely aimed at the glory of God, and served him faithfully, God was pleased to own for his altars, as well as that at Jerusalem, and the pulling of them down is charged upon Israel as a crying sin. I only am left — Of all thy prophets, who boldly and publicly plead thy cause: for the rest of thy prophets, who are not slain, hide themselves, and dare not appear to do thee service. And they seek my life — I despair of doing them any good; for, instead of receiving my testimony, they hunt for my life.


Verse 11

1 Kings 19:11. Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord — Elijah came hither to meet with God, and God graciously condescended to give him the meeting. And the manner of his manifesting himself seems evidently to refer to the discoveries God formerly made of himself at this place to Moses. Then there was a tempest, an earthquake, and fire, (Hebrews 12:18,) but when God would show Moses his glory, he proclaimed his name before him, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, &c. So here: Elijah heard a strong wind, and saw the terrible effects of it; for it rent the mountains, and tore the rocks: he felt the shock of an earthquake, and saw an eruption of fire. These effects, no doubt, were all produced by the ministration of angels, the harbingers of the divine Majesty, and were to usher in the intended manifestation of Jehovah’s glory. By these Elijah was prepared to receive this discovery of God with the greatest humility, reverence, and godly fear: and by these God signified his almighty and irresistible power, to break the hardest hearts of the Israelites, and to bear down all opposition that was or should be made against his prophet in the discharge of his office. The Lord was not in the wind, &c. — The Lord did not vouchsafe his special and gracious presence to Elijah in that wind, earthquake, or fire, which possibly was to teach him not to wonder, if God did not accompany his terrible administration at mount Carmel with the presence of his grace, to turn the hearts of the Israelites to himself, as he desired; but which, for wise reasons, God saw fit to deny. Hereby also it was intimated, that “miraculous judgments, and terrifying displays of the Lord’s power and indignation, though proper for the destruction or intimidation of his enemies, or to excite attention, were only preparatives for that real good intended for Israel;” which must be effected by the convincing and persuasive instructions of his word, accompanied by the influences of his Spirit.


Verse 12

1 Kings 19:12. After the fire a still small voice — To intimate, that God would do his work in and for Israel in his own time, not by might or power, but by his own Spirit, (Zechariah 4:6,) which moves with a powerful, but yet with a sweet and gentle gate. “Elijah had perhaps expected to carry all before him, with a high hand, and with continued miracles and judgments: or he had supposed that the desired reformation was to be effected by the sanction of civil authority, or the support of the people at large; whereas, having gained their attention by the famine and its gracious removal, in answer to his prayers, by calling for and obtaining fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, and by the execution of Baal’s priests, he ought to have proceeded to instruct them with meekness and gentleness, publicly and from house to house, and to have excited others to assist him; and then the Lord would have blessed that small still voice for the most important purposes, notwithstanding the persecuting rage of Ahab and Jezebel, and the general apostacy of the people. Thus miracles in the first ages of Christianity called men’s attention to the preaching of the gospel; which, as a small still voice, was the power of God to salvation to thousands and millions.” — Scott. For faith comes by hearing the word of God, and miracles do but make way for it.


Verse 13

1 Kings 19:13. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle — Through dread of God’s presence, being sensible that he was neither worthy of nor able to endure the sight of God with open face. And went out and stood, &c. — Which God had commanded him to do; and as he was going toward the mouth of the cave, he was affrighted and stopped in his course by the dreadful wind, and earthquake, and fire; when these were past, he proceeds, and goes on to the month of the cave. Moses was put into the cave when God’s glory passed before him, but Elijah was called out of it: but neither Moses nor Elijah saw any manner of similitude. And, behold, a voice — What dost thou here, Elijah? — What God before spake by an angel, he now speaks to him himself immediately.


Verse 14

1 Kings 19:14. And he said, I have been very jealous, &c. — “Though Elijah showed tokens of humble adoration on this occasion, the repetition of his answer to the Lord’s renewed inquiry, (‘What doest thou here?’) shows, that he did not fully understand the emblematic display; and that he was not properly convinced of his unbelief, in fleeing out of the land; nor reconciled to going back to his station and employment. He afterward better understood the Lord’s meaning, as it appears from his subsequent conduct.” — Scott.


Verse 15-16

1 Kings 19:15-16. Go, return on thy way — The way by which thou camest; for the way from Horeb to Damascus was, in part, the same with that by which he had come. Anoint Hazael to be king over Syria — It seems, the word anoint must here be taken figuratively for appoint, or declare, which was done by Elisha, 2 Kings 8:12; for the word is often used of them who were never anointed with oil: Elijah, however, might anoint him, though it be not related; or, as some think, when he understood what scourges he and Jehu would be to Israel, and what destruction they would bring upon them, he perhaps earnestly entreated God, and obtained his request, that the execution of the command should be deferred to another time. And Jehu the son of Nimshi — That is, his grandson; for he was the son of Jehoshaphat, 2 Kings 9:2. And Elisha shalt thou anoint — Whom he constituted prophet by casting his mantle over him. This was intended as a prediction, that by these persons God would punish the degenerate Israelites, plead his own cause among them, and avenge the quarrel of his covenant.


Verse 17

1 Kings 19:17. Him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay — This is not to be understood, as if the sword of Hazael should do execution before the sword of Jehu, and the sword of Jehu before that of Elisha: it only signifies, that God had appointed these three persons to punish the apostate Israelites for their idolatries, and that one or other of them should infallibly execute his judgments upon them: Hazael, however, began to slay them before Jehu was king, 2 Kings 8:28-29; though his cruelty was much increased afterward. Jehu destroyed those, whom Hazael did not, as King Joram himself, and Ahaziah, and all the near relations of Ahab. Elisha is said to slay them, either because he brought down, by his prayers, destruction upon the forty-two children of Beth-el, that idolatrous city, 2 Kings 2:24; or because by God’s appointment he inflicted the famine, 2 Kings 8:1; or rather, as the prophets are said to pull down and destroy, what they foretel and declare shall be pulled down, because he threatened and predicted destructive judgments to come upon them. He slew them with the sword that came out of his month, the word of God: like the Branch from the stem of Jesse, he smote them with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he slew the wicked, Isaiah 11:4.


Verse 18

1 Kings 19:18. Yet have I left me, &c. — Or, I have reserved to myself; I have by my grace kept from the common contagion: therefore thou art mistaken in thinking that thou art left alone. Seven thousand — Either definitely, so many; or rather, indefinitely, for many thousands; the number seven being often used for a great number. It is, indeed, altogether improbable that all the Israelites, except seven thousand, worshipped Baal, unless Baal stand here for all their idols, and for the calves among the rest. And every mouth that hath not kissed him — That is, those who have not worshipped Baal, nor professed reverence or subjection to him, which idolaters did to their idols, by bowing the knee, and by kissing them, or by kissing their hand before them and in respect to them, of which mention is made in Scripture, Job 31:26-27; Hosea 13:2. Compare Psalms 2:12, and in Pliny, Apuleius, and some other profane authors.


Verse 19

1 Kings 19:19. And found Elisha — In his journey toward Damascus. Who was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen — Who had twelve ploughs going, whereof eleven were managed by his servants, and the last by himself; according to the simplicity of those ancient times, in which men of good estate submitted to the meanest employments. Cast his mantle upon him — By that ceremony conferring upon him the office of a prophet, which God was pleased to accompany with the gifts and graces of his Spirit, wherewith he endowed and qualified him for it.


Verse 20

1 Kings 19:20. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah — Being powerfully moved to follow him, and wholly give himself up to his function. And said Or, but he said, or, yet he said, Let me kiss my father, &c. — That is, bid them farewell by the usual ceremony. And he said Go back again — Take thy leave of them, as thou desirest, and then return to me again. For what have I done unto thee? — Either, first, to hinder thee from performing that office: that employment to which I have called thee doth not require an alienation of thy heart from thy parents, nor the total neglect of them. Or, secondly, to make such a change in thee, that thou shouldest be willing to forsake thy parents, and lands, and all, that thou mayest follow me. Whence comes this marvellous change? It is not from me, who did only throw my mantle over thee, but from a higher power, even from God’s Spirit, which hath changed thy heart, and consecrated thee to thy prophetical office; which, therefore, it concerns thee vigorously to execute, and wholly to devote thyself to it.


Verse 21

1 Kings 19:21. From him — From Elijah to his parents; whom when he had seen and kissed, he returned to Elijah. The instruments — That is, with the wood belonging to the plough, &c., to which more was added, as occasion required: but that he burned, to show his total relinquishing of his former employment. And gave unto the people — That is, he made thereof a feast for his servants who had been ploughing with him, and for him, and his other friends and neighbours who came to take their leave of him. Hereby he showed how willingly and joyfully he forsook all his friends, that he might serve God in that high and honourable employment. It is of great advantage to young ministers to spend some time under the direction of those that are aged and experienced; and not to think much, if occasion be, to minister unto them. Those who would be fit to teach, must have time to learn: those should first serve, who may hereafter rule.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 19:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-kings-19.html. 1857.

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