1 Kings 17:12
And she said, As the LORD your God lives, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
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(12) I have not a cake.—The famine may have already extended to Phœnicia; for there, according to Menander, it lasted for a year; or, since the country depended upon Israel for supplies, the distress may have been only the reflex effect of the famine in Israel.

As the Lord thy God liveth.—The phrase indicates a recognition of Elijah as a prophet of Jehovah the God of Israel, but probably (as, indeed, seems to be implied by the use of the words “thy God”) no acknowledgment of Him as yet by the woman herself, such as the neighbouring heathen (as, for example, Hiram in the days of Solomon) often yielded.

17:8-16 Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, and some, it is likely, would have bidden him welcome to their houses; yet he is sent to honour and bless with his presence a city of Sidon, a Gentile city, and so becomes the first prophet of the Gentiles. Jezebel was Elijah's greatest enemy; yet, to show her how powerless was her malice, God will find a hiding-place for him even in her own country. The person appointed to entertain Elijah is not one of the rich or great men of Sidon; but a poor widow woman, in want, and desolate, is made both able and willing to sustain him. It is God's way, and it is his glory, to make use of, and put honour upon, the weak and foolish things of the world. O woman, great was thy faith; one has not found the like, no not in Israel. She took the prophet's word, that she should not lose by it. Those who can venture upon the promise of God, will make no difficulty to expose and empty themselves in his service, by giving him his part first. Surely the increase of this widow's faith, so as to enable her thus readily to deny herself, and to depend upon the Divine promise, was as great a miracle in the kingdom of grace, as the increase of her meal and oil in the kingdom of providence. Happy are all who can thus, against hope, believe and obey in hope. One poor meal's meat this poor widow gave the prophet; in recompence of it, she and her son did eat above two years, in a time of famine. To have food from God's special favour, and in such good company as Elijah, made it more than doubly sweet. It is promised to those who trust in God, that they shall not be ashamed in evil time; in days of famine they shall be satisfied.As the Lord thy God liveth - The words do not prove that the woman was an Israelite, or a worshipper of the true God; any Phoenician, recognizing in Elijah's appearance the garb and manner of a Jehovistic prophet, might have thus addressed him: Baal-worshippers would have admitted Yahweh to be "a" living God. The woman does not say "as the Lord my God liveth."

That we may eat it and die - Phoenicia always depended for its cereal supplies on the harvests of Palestine (1 Kings 5:9 note); and it is evident that the famine was afflicting the Phoenicians at this time no less than the Israelites.

1Ki 17:8-16. He Is Sent to a Widow of Zarephath.

8-16. the word of the Lord came to him—Zarephath, Sarepta, now Surafend, whither he was directed to go, was far away on the western coast of Palestine, about nine miles south of Sidon, and within the dominions of Jezebel's impious father, where the famine also prevailed. Meeting, at his entrance into the town, the very woman who was appointed by divine providence to support him, his faith was severely tested by learning from her that her supplies were exhausted and that she was preparing her last meal for herself and son. The Spirit of God having prompted him to ask, and her to grant, some necessary succor, she received a prophet's reward (Mt 10:41, 42), and for the one meal afforded to him, God, by a miraculous increase of the little stock, afforded many to her.

As the Lord thy God liveth; by which she discovers, that though she was a Gentile, yet she owned the God of Israel as the true God.

Two sticks, i.e. a few sticks, that number being oft used indefinitely for any small number, both in Scripture, as Hosea 6:2, and by other authors. That we may eat it, and die; for having no more provision, we must needs perish with hunger. For though the famine was only in the land of Israel, yet the effects of it were in Tyre and Zidon, which were fed by the corn of that land. See Acts 12:20. Or the same famine might be in those parts also; the chief cause of the famine, to wit, the worship of Baal, being common to both places. And she said, as the Lord thy God liveth,.... Which shows her to be a good woman, swearing by the living God, and him only, and that she took Elijah to be a good man, and a prophet of the Lord:

I have not a cake; greater or less, not a morsel of bread in the house:

but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; these separate and unmixed, and not made into a cake, and dressed as she intended to do with them:

and, behold, I am gathering two sticks; or a few, which would be sufficient to bake such a quantity as her meal and oil would make; she speaks by the figure "meiosis", which expresses less than what is meant, as Ben Melech observes:

that I may go in and dress it for me, and my son, that we may eat it, and die; having nothing more left, and no expectation of any elsewhere, and the famine strong in the land; so that she could look for nothing but death after this was eaten.

And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and {f} die.

(f) For there is no hope of any more sustenance.

12. meal in a [R.V. the] barrel … oil in a [R.V. the] cruse] The definite article is expressed in the original, and represented by the LXX. The barrel and the cruse were the special domestic articles in every house, and would be spoken of definitely.

two sticks] i.e. some small quantity. Thus we often say ‘a couple’ when we do not mean ‘two’ only.

my son] The LXX. renders by the plural ‘sons,’ perhaps because it is said, in 1 Kings 17:15, that ‘she and he and her house did eat many days.’ Josephus gives the singular ‘my son’ as the Hebrew.

eat it, and die] The drought had already brought so poor a person to the point of starvation.Verse 12. - And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth [Bahr, Keil, al. conclude from this formula that the woman was a worshipper of the God of Israel. Bahr is extremely positive on this point, affirming that, had she been a heathen, the words would have been positively hypocritical, and more, that Elijah would never have been sent (Luke 4:26) to an idolater. He further suggests that possibly she was an Israelite by birth, who had been married to a Phoenician. But all this is extremely doubtful. In the first place, it is noteworthy that the words are, "Jehovah thy God," words which show that she recognized Elijah, perhaps by his Jewish face, probably by his prophetic dress (2 Kings 1:8) as a worshipper of Jehovah. But had she also been the same, it is probable that she would have said "my God," for that form would not only have given greater force to her obtestation, but would have established a bond of sympathy - such as Jews in a foreign land were only too glad to recognize - between them. And the remark that it is hypocrisy to swear by a god in whom one does not believe is disposed of by the consideration that she may well have believed in the Lord as well as in Baal. See note on 1 Kings 5:7. The Tyrians knew nothing of monotheism], I have not a cake [מָעונֹ, the synonym of עֻגָּה (ver. 13), the smallest kind of bread. It was baked in the ashes; hence the LXX. ἐγρυφίας. We gather from this pitiful disclosure that the famine had already extended to Phoenicia, as it naturally would do, considering how dependent that country was on Israel for its breadstuffs; see note on 1 Kings 5:9,11. Josephus (Ant. 8:13, 2) cites Menander as attesting to a year's drought in the reign of Ethbaal], but an handful of meal in a [Heb. the] barrel [כַּד, probably connected with cadus, cadeau, etc.; bucket, pail], and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks [i.e., a few sticks (Gesenius). We may compare the German idiom ein Paar and our "two or three." But "two" in this sense occurs nowhere else in the Bible - "two or three" is found in 2 Kings 9:32; Isaiah 17:6; Amos 4:8. According to Roberts, the word is constantly used for "few" by the natives of India. This widow was evidently reduced to the greatest extremities], that I may go in and dress it for me and my son [The LXX. has τέκνοις here and in ver. 13, and τὰ τέκνα in ver. 15. Bahr contends that Elijah first learnt from these words - the mention of a son and the absence of any mention of her husband - that he was addressing a "widow woman." But we read Genesis 38:14, 19, of "garments of widowhood" (cf. Deuteronomy 24:17), and ver. 10, "a widow woman," etc., almost implies that Elijah from the first recognized her as such], that we may eat it, and die. After the announcement of this judgment, Elijah had to hide himself, by the command of God, until the period of punishment came to an end, not so much that he might be safe from the wrath and pursuit of Ahab and Jezebel, as to preclude all earnest entreaties to remove the punishment. "For inasmuch as the prophet had said that the rain would come at his word, how would they have urged him to order it to come!" (Seb. Schm.) He was to turn קדמה, eastward, i.e., from Samaria, where he had no doubt proclaimed the divine judgment to Ahab, to the Jordan, and to hide himself at the brook Cherith, which is in front of the Jordan. The brook Cherith was in any case a brook emptying itself into the Jordan; but whether upon the eastern or the western side of that river, the ambiguity of על־פּני, which means both "to the east of" (Genesis 25:18) and also "in the face of," i.e., before or towards (Genesis 16:12; Genesis 18:16), it is impossible to determine with certainty. That it must signify "to the east of the Jordan" here, does not follow from קדמה with anything like the certainty that Thenius supposes. An ancient tradition places the Cherith on this side of the Jordan, and identifies it with the spring Phasaelis, which takes its rise in the slope of the mountains into the Jordan valley above the city of Phasaelis, and empties itself into the Jordan (cf. Ges. thes. p. 719, and V. de Velde, Reise, ii. pp. 273-4); whereas Eusebius, in the Onom. s.v. Chorat (Chorra'), places it on the other side of the Jordan, and Thenius thinks of the apparently deep Wady Rajib or Ajlun. All that can be affirmed with certainty is, that neither the brook Kanah (Joshua 16:8; Joshua 17:9), which flows into the Mediterranean, nor the Wady Kelt near Jericho, which Robinson (Pal. ii. p. 288) suggests, can possibly come into consideration: the latter for the simple reason, that the locality in the neighbourhood of Jericho was unsuitable for a hiding-place. Elijah was to drink of this brook, and the ravens by divine command were to provide him with bread and meat, which they brought him, according to 1 Kings 17:6, both morning and evening. It is now generally admitted that הערבים does not mean either Arabs or Orebites (the inhabitants of an imaginary city named Oreb), but ravens. Through this miracle, which unbelievers reject, because they do not acknowledge a living God, by whom, as the Creator and Lord of all creatures, even the voracious ravens are made subservient to His plans of salvation, Elijah was not only cut off from intercourse with men, who might have betrayed his place of abode to the king, but was mightily strengthened himself, through the confidence inspired in the almighty assistance of his God, for his approaching contests with the worshippers of idols, and for the privations and sufferings which awaited him in the fulfilment of his vocation.
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