James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.1 Kings 17:1-19:21
ELIJAH AND AHAB
ELIJAH IN HIDING (1 Kings 17:1-24)
Nothing is known of Elijah’s previous history, not even why he is called the Tishbite (1 Kings 17:1) except, as suggested in the Septuagint translation, that the town of Tishbeh is meant, which was in the Gilead region east of the Jordan. A comparison of Deuteronomy 11:16-17 shows that the judgment he announces (1 Kings 17:1) was threatened by Jehovah for such iniquity as that now prevailing; but of course the divine impulse must have come upon him to apply it in this instance.
His hiding “by the brook Cherith” (1 Kings 17:3) was necessary to preserve him from the wrath of Ahab when his words were fulfilled. His being fed by “the ravens” (1 Kings 17:4) will raise no question in the minds of any who accept the supernatural in the Bible, and for those who do not this commentary can have little value. The theory of some that the Hebrew word translated “ravens” might be rendered “Arabians,” and that he was normally provided for by passing merchants of that region, is not generally accepted by evangelical scholars and would be only less a miracle than the accepted text.
Zarephath, or Sarepta, was in the country whence Jezebel had come, and which was visited by the famine also. The cause for Elijah’s removal there is stated in 1 Kings 17:7-9, but there was a deeper reason in the new testings that were to come to him for the strengthening of his faith in view of the climax later on. Nevertheless, we are not to forget the lesson God had to teach the widow also, and to us through her. See Christ’s testimony in Luke 4:25-26.
MEETING WITH AHAB (1 Kings 18:1-46)
“The third year” is spoken of here, while Jam 5:17 says “three years and six months,” a discrepancy which may be explained by saying that the drought had been experienced six months (the time between the early and latter rains in March and October respectively) before Ahab realized the situation and became incensed against the prophet.
Fire was the element over which Baal was supposed to preside, which explains 1 Kings 18:24. Observe the simplicity and faith of Elijah’s prayer (1 Kings 18:36-37). His command (1 Kings 18:40) was justified as a magistrate of God (Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 18:20).
Description of MOUNT Carmel
The natural features of Mount Carmel exactly correspond with the details of this narrative. The conspicuous summit, 1,635 feet above the sea, presents an esplanade spacious enough for the king and the priests of Baal to stand on the one side, and Elijah on the other.
It is a rocky soil, on which there is abundance of loose stones to furnish the twelve of which the altar was built a bed of thick earth in which a trench could be dug; and yet the earth not so loose that the water poured into it would be absorbed.
Two hundred and fifty feet beneath the plateau there is a perennial fountain which might not have been accessible to the people, and whence, therefore, even in that season of drought, Elijah could procure those supplies of water which he poured over the altar.
The distance between this spring and the site of the altar is so short as to make it perfectly possible to go thrice thither and back again: whereas, it must have been impossible once in an afternoon, to fetch water from the sea.
The summit is one thousand feet above the Kishon, which nowhere runs from the sea so close to the base of the mount as just beneath EI- Mohhraka; so that the priests of Baal could, in a few minutes, be taken down “to the brook and slain there.” Jamieson, Faussett and Brown.
THE RESULTS FOLLOWING (1 Kings 19:1-21)
There seems to be no explanation of Elijah’s flight (1 Kings 19:1-4) except the natural one of great depression following great spiritual exaltation. God could have preserved him from this had He so willed, but it is good for all of us to know that we are but flesh (Jam 5:17) and “that we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
We are impressed with the condescension of God in the supernatural provision for Elijah’s physical needs of which he himself had thought nothing (1 Kings 19:5-8); and the no less condescension in instructing and continuing to use him as indicated in the subsequent verses.
The exhibition of divine power (1 Kings 19:11-13) had the effect of restoring the prophet to a spiritual equilibrium where he could listen to further commands (1 Kings 19:15-17) and receive the rebuke his conduct merited (1 Kings 19:18). It is notable that the three persons he is to anoint are all to be employed, though in different ways, as God’s instruments of judgment upon idolatrous Israel. The seven thousand mentioned is not to be taken literally, but as meaning a certain complete number of faithful ones of whom God was cognizant though the prophet was not.
Elisha was one of these (1 Kings 19:19) who had doubtless been educated in the schools of the prophets of which we shall hear more, and who recognized the falling of his master’s mantle upon him as his divine call.
When Elijah says, “What have I done to thee” (1 Kings 19:20), he seems to mean: “Do not disregard it. Bid thy loved ones farewell, but remain faithful to thy call.”
1. Have you read Deuteronomy 11:16-17?
2. Have you located Zarephath?
3. Can you give the context of Luke 4:25-26?
4. Can you quote Elijah’s prayer on Matthew Carmel?
5. Name seven particulars in which the natural features of Matthew Carmel correspond with this narrative.
6. How shall we explain God’s actings towards Elijah at Horeb?
7. How do you explain the remnant of seven thousand?
8. How does 1 Kings 19:15 show God’s power over heathen nations as well as Israel?