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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Kings 19

 

 

Verse 2

1 Kings 19:2. Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah This certainly was the effect of Jezebel's blind rage, and not of any prudence in her; for prudence would have advised her to conceal her resentment till she had been ready to put her designs in execution: whereas this sending him word was giving him notice of his danger, and admonishing him to avoid it: but since he had had the confidence to come where she was, she might think, perhaps, that he was as courageous as she was furious; that upon this notice he would scorn to fly; and she too, in her pride, might scorn to kill him secretly, resolving to make him a complete sacrifice.


Verse 3-4

1 Kings 19:3-4. And when he saw that, he arose, &c.— It is very doubtful, whether juniper-tree be the proper rendering of the original word רתם rothem. Parkhurst says, that it signifies the broom or birch-tree, so called from its tenacity or toughness, which was so great that its twigs served for cords. See Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. 24: cap. 9. The Arabians, and from them the Spaniards, still retain the name retama, for the birch-tree. See Job 30:4 and Scheuchzer. It must be acknowledged, that there is something not consistent with the other parts of his character in this conduct of Elijah: the truth is, he was a man subject to the 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 had all the faults incident to her sex in a superlative degree; 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 shew him his natural imbecility, and the necessity that 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 and Calmet.


Verse 8

1 Kings 19:8. Went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights From Beer-sheba to mount Horeb is at the most not above a hundred and fifty miles, and the prophet, it seems, had advanced one day's journey into the wilderness; so that he had not now more to finish than any active man might have done in four or five days. How came the prophet then to make forty of it? To this some reply, that he, like the Israelites of old, was kept wandering up and down this pathless wilderness forty days, as they were forty years, till at length he came to the sacred mountain: others suppose, that he went about by private ways; and perhaps rested, and lay hid, in order to prevent discovery. The Jews have made a comparison between Moses and Elijah in many particulars, and given Moses the preference, especially in the matter of his forty days fast, though certainly without any reason; as it is very plain from the text, that Elijah, as well as Moses, took no other food during the forty days than that here mentioned. To make the miracle more remarkable, we are informed, that the food here mentioned was simple bread and water; and who can doubt that God could make its strength and nourishment sufficient for the time specified? His slightest volition can make the same meal which usually serves us for four-and-twenty hours support us for forty days, and much longer if he pleases. That meat of any kind should sustain us for four-and-twenty hours, if rightly considered, is a miracle, and that the like proportion should do it for the space of forty days, is still but a miracle; and with the same facility that God does the one, he can do the other. See Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 8:3.

REFLECTIONS.—Elijah entered Jezreel yesterday as in triumph, to-day he is driven thence in disgrace, and flies for his life: so changeable is this vain world!

1. Hardened Ahab relates to Jezebel the late transactions, and fails not to inform her of the death of her prophets: that though he dared not himself, for fear of the people, seize Elijah, he might incense her, whose furious passions would not fail to fire at the tidings. Note; With the wickedness to which we instigate others, we are as chargeable as if ourselves had committed it.

2. Jezebel, enraged, denounces vengeance on Elijah, and swears by her gods that he shall have met his death by to-morrow at that time. Note; (1.) Profaneness in a woman is doubly shocking. (2.) The presence of a good man is a burdensome restraint on the wicked, and they are always impatient to get him out of the way.

3. Elijah, who had not been intimidated by kings, priests, or people united, now trembles at the threats of a woman; and, without waiting God's orders, seeks to save himself by flight; and, as if he heard Jezebel's voice behind him, even at Beer-sheba, though out of the territories of Ahab, he cannot think himself safe, but hides himself a day's journey in the wilderness; thus deserting his post, when he was most wanted to carry on that reformation which was begun. Note; (1.) The strongest in faith, when left for a moment to themselves, turn cowards. (2.) We ought never to desert the path of duty, though it lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.

4. Fatigued with his journey, and impatient under his burdens, he grew weary of life, which he had shed so far to save: and, though unwilling to die by the hand of Jezebel, prays to die there by the hand of the Lord. He concludes his usefulness to be at an end; and, as not better than his fathers, desires his dismission, thinking that he has lived long enough. Note; (1.) However dark providences appear, we must not despair; we know not what further work God may have to do by us. (2.) Though to desire to be with Christ is laudable, to be weary of our warfare is sinful.

5. Grieved and weary, sleep stole upon his eyelids; and under a juniper-tree he lay down, careless whether he ever awoke again. But God, kinder to him than he deserved, awakes him by an angel; and there he sees a table spread for his refreshment, and a bright spirit his attendant. Having satisfied his hunger, and again composed himself to sleep, he is again called upon to rise and eat, because the journey was great to which God called him, even to Horeb. Thither in the strength of this repast he travels; and, during forty days and nights, needed no other refreshment. Note; (1.) How much better is God to his children than their frowardness desires! He supports them and feeds them, even in this wilderness; and when they are ready to despair, he is at hand to succour and save them. (2.) They who are travelling to Horeb, the mount of God in glory, will find strength ministered to them for their journey, and meat to eat which the world knoweth not of. (3.) The meanest child of God is more nobly attended than the kings of the earth; angelic spirits minister continually to these heirs of salvation.


Verses 9-14

1 Kings 19:9-14. He came thither unto a cave, &c.— Elijah being now come to the same place where God had delivered the law to his servant Moses, God was inclined to communicate the like favour to his prophet; namely, to unveil his glory to him, and to give him some signal of his actual presence. Various are the speculations which this appearance of the Deity has suggested to interpreters. The greater part have considered it as a figure of the Gospel dispensation, which came not in such a terrible manner as the law did, with thunders and lightnings and earthquakes, but with great lenity and sweetness; wherein he speaks to us by his Son, who makes use of no other than gentle arts and soft persuasions.


Verse 17

1 Kings 19:17. Him that escapeth the sword of Hazael, &c.— It is evident, that the text mentions not the things according to the order of time wherein they happened; for Elisha was prophet before Hazael was king, and Hazael was king before Jehu; but they are spoken of according to the decree of God; and the words plainly mean no more than this: that God, in his providence, had appointed three persons to punish the Israelites according to their deserts; and that one or other of these should infallibly execute his judgments upon them. The only difficulty is, How the prophet Elisha can be said to slay, when by profession he was a pacific man, and never engaged in war? But when we consider the two-and-forty children which he destroyed, the sore famine which, by God's appointment, he sent upon the Israelites, 2 Kings 6:25 and the many dreadful prophesies and comminations (called in Scripture the sword of the mouth, Isaiah 49:2. Revelation 1:16.) which he denounced against them, and which were fulfilled, we shall find reason enough to justify the expression.


Verse 18

1 Kings 19:18. And every mouth which hath not kissed him This verse seems to be inserted to correct Elijah's mistaken opinion, that he alone remained a worshipper of Jehovah. Kissing the image of a false god, or kissing the hand and stretching it out towards the image, was esteemed an act of adoration. See Job 31:27.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here Elijah lodged in a cave, at the foot of mount Sinai, or Horeb: either taking refuge there as a place of safety, or hoping there to meet God, where he had once so eminently manifested his glory.

1. God there appears to him, to reprove and to encourage him: What dost thou here? is the Divine inquiry; (where he was buried from usefulness, and through coward fear acted so unlike the zealous Elijah.) Note; (1.) Whom God loves, he rebukes. (2.) When we step out of the way of duty, we should hear this voice of God addressing us, What dost thou here? (3.) Wherever God's people are driven, no place can exclude his gracious manifestations.

2. He answers the inquiry by intimating the cause of his flight. His zeal for God against the prophets of Baal had exasperated Jezebel to take away his life; and the hardened impenitence of the people, who had renounced God's covenant, had deserted his worship with insult against his altars, and slain the few faithful which remained, made him despair of success, while he had reason to fear that they would readily join their queen, in conspiring his death, who was now left alone, without so much as one to support or countenance him. Note; (1.) We are apt to be discouraged under want of success, as if the sufficiency of the power was of ourselves, and not of God. (2.) Woe to that people against whom their rejected ministers turn accusers of their obstinacy. (3.) They who would be faithful to God in evil days, must put their lives in their hand; and, as they dare speak for God, be ready to die for him.

3. God bids him come forth from the cave, and he will meet him in the mount, and make his glory pass before him. The prophet obeys, and God appears. Before him went the furious whirlwind, rending the rocks, and casting down the mountains; the trembling earth shook with reverence at his approach, and the fierce devouring flames bespoke his glorious presence. A still small voice succeeded, and now the prophet perceives the present Deity. Wrapped in his mantle, his face is hid, ashamed, afraid to look upon God, yet standing in the mouth of the cave, attentive to the words of the eternal Jehovah. Note; (1.) Though God is terrible to his enemies as a consuming fire, his voice is melody and love to his children; and to them he says, fury is not in me. (2.) When we appear before a holy God, shame may well cover our face. (3.) The law, like this tempest, breaks the stony heart of man; but it is the office of the blessed Gospel, in gentle accents, to soothe the broken heart, and softly, with kind words of peace and pardon, to bind up the wounded spirit.


Verse 19

1 Kings 19:19. Elisha—was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, &c.— This was so far from being an argument of Elisha's poverty, that it was in reality a token of his wealth. For he who could keep twelve yoke of oxen at plough was, in this respect, no inconsiderable man; and yet, according to the manner of these early times, he looked after his own business himself; for nothing, as we have had occasion frequently to observe, was of greater esteem, not only among the Hebrews, but also among the ancient Greeks and Romans, than agriculture. The mantle was the proper habit of a prophet, and therefore Elijah's casting his upon Elisha was the ceremony here used for his inauguration; though, as it was customary for servants to carry their master's garments after them, others understand it only as a token that Elisha was to be his servant, to attend upon him, and to succeed in his office. However this be, it is probable, that when he cast his mantle upon him, he said something to him whereby he acquainted him with his design, though in so brief a history the particular words are not expressed. See Le Clerc.


Verse 20

1 Kings 19:20. For what have I done to thee? It seems very difficult to give any satisfactory explanation of these words as they stand in our version. They might be rendered for I have done something to thee: Elijah giving Elisha to understand, that, by casting his mantle upon him, he was thus appointed to follow him, and afterwards to have his spirit. Houbigant renders the whole clause, Go and return, bearing in mind what I have done unto thee.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 19:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-kings-19.html. 1801-1803.

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