Matthew Poole's 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.Elijah foretelleth, Ahab that there shall be a great drought; is sent to Cherith, where the ravens feed him, 1 Kings 17:1-7. He is sent to Zarephath to a widow, who feedeth him with meal and oil, which wasted not, 1 Kings 17:8-16. Her son dieth, and he raiseth him, 1 Kings 17:17-23. She acknowledgeth him to be a prophet, 1 Kings 17:24.
Elijah was the most eminent of the prophets, Matthew 17:3, who is here brought in, like Melchisedek, Genesis 14:18 Hebrews 7:3, without any mention of his father, or mother, or beginning of his days; like a man dropped out of the clouds, and raised by God’s special providence as a witness for himself in this most degenerate time and state of things; that by his zeal, and courage, and power of miracles, he might give some check to their various and abominable idolatries, and some reviving to that small number of the Lord’s prophets and people who yet remained in Israel, as we shall see.
The Tishbite; so called, either from the place of his birth or habitation, or for some other reason not now known.
Of the inhabitants of Gilead; which was the land beyond Jordan. See Genesis 31:21.
Said unto Ahab; having doubtless admonished him of his sin and danger before this; and now, upon his obstinacy in his wicked courses, he proceeds to declare and execute the judgment of God upon him.
As the Lord God of Israel liveth: I swear by the God of Israel, who, is the only true and living God; when the gods whom thou hast joined with him, or preferred before him, are dead and senseless idols.
Before whom I stand; either,
1. Whose minister I am, (as this phrase is oft used, as Numbers 3:6 Deu 10:8 17:12 18:5) not only in general, but especially in this threatening, which I now deliver in his name and authority, and not from my own imagination or passion. Or,
2. Who is now present with me, and a witness of what I say; and let him punish me severely, if I speak not the truth. There shall not be dew nor rain: this was a prediction, but was seconded with his prayer, that God would verify it, as it is recorded, Jam 5:17. And this prayer of his was not voluntary and malicious, but necessary, and (all things considered) truly charitable; that by this sharp and long affliction God’s honour, and the truth of his word and threatenings, (which was now so horribly and universally contemned,) might be vindicated, and the Israelites (whom their present impunity and prosperity had hardened in their idolatry) might hereby be awakened to see their own wickedness, and the vanity of their calves and other idols, and their dependence upon God, and the necessity of returning to the true religion. These years, i.e. these following years, which were three and a half, Luke 4:25 Jam 5:17. But according to my word, i.e. until I shall declare that this judgment shall cease, and shall pray to God for the removal of it.
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.Thus God rescues him from the fury of Ahab and Jezebel, who he knew would seek to destroy him.
Quest. Why did not Ahab seize upon him immediately upon these words?
Answ. 1. This must be ascribed to God’s overruling providence, who hath the hearts of all men in his hands, and hath oft protected his prophets and servants in such cases.
2. He might say this not by word of mouth, but by letter and message sent to him; as that word is sometimes used, as Exodus 18:6.
And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.i.e. I have decreed or appointed. Or, I shall command, i.e. effectually move them, by instincts and inclinations which I shall put into them, which shall be as forcible with them as a law or command is to men. God is said to command both brute creatures, as Amos 9:3 Jonah 2:10, and senseless things, as Job 38:11,12 Psa 78:23 Isaiah 5:6 45:12, when he causeth them to do the things which he intends to effect by them.
I have commanded the ravens; which he names, and chooseth for this work; partly to succour the prophet’s faith against human infirmity, by the credibility of the thing; there being many ravens in those parts, and those delighting to reside near brooks of water; and that sort of creatures being apt and accustomed to seek provisions, and to carry them away to the places of their abode; and partly to show his care and power in providing for the prophet by those creatures, which are noted for their greediness in monopolizing provision to themselves, and for their malignity and unnaturalness towards their own young; that by this strange and noble experiment he might be taught to trust God in those many and great difficulties to which he was likely to be exposed.
Object. The ravens were unclean, Leviticus 11:15.
Answ. They were unclean for meat, but not for the touch. But howsoever, that ceremonial law was overruled by necessity, and by the Lawgiver’s dispensation.
So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.Bread and flesh; not raw, but boiled by the ministry of some angel or man, and left in some place or places till the ravens came for it, in all which there is nothing incredible, considering the power and providence of God.
In the morning and in the evening, i.e. for dinner and supper, according to the custom. See Genesis 43:25 Ruth 2:14 Luke 14:12 Acts 10:9,10.
And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.After a while, Heb. at the end of days, i.e. of a year; for so the word days is oft used, as in Exodus 13:10 Leviticus 25:29 Numbers 9:22 Judges 17:10 1 Samuel 1:3 27:7. And this seems to be a convenient time for the drying up of the brook, which was gradually dried up; and so this agrees well with 1 Kings 18:1,
in the third year; of which See Poole "1 Kings 18:1".
The brook dried up; God so ordering it, partly, for the punishment of those Israelites who lived near it, and had hitherto been refreshed by it; partly, for the trial and exercise of Elijah’s faith, and to teach him to depend upon God alone, not on any creature, for his support; and partly, to show his own all-sufficiency in providing for his people.
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.Zarephath; a city between Tyrus and Sidon, called Sarepta by Luke 4:26, by Pliny, and others.
To Zidon; to the jurisdiction of that city, which therefore was inhabited by Gentiles. See Luke 4:25. And God’s providing for his prophet, first by an unclean bird, and then by a Gentile, whom the Jews esteemed unclean, was a notable presage of the calling of the Gentiles, and of the rejection of the Jews.
I have commanded, i.e. appointed or provided, as before, 1 Kings 17:4; for that she had as yet no revelation or command of God about it, appears from 1 Kings 17:12.
So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.He called to her; knowing by Divine suggestion that this was the woman designed.
And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.Which he said only to try her, and to make way for what follows.
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 die.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 Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.Make me thereof a little cake first; which he requires as a trial and exercise of her faith, and charity, and obedience, which he knew God would graciously and plentifully reward; and so this would be a great example to encourage others to the practice of the same graces upon like occasions.
For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, in whom I perceive thou trustest.
The barrel of meal, i.e. the meal of the barrel; an hypallage or metonymy. So
the cruse of oil, for the oil of the cruse.
And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.She did according to the saying of Elijah; giving glory to the God of Israel, by believing his prophet.
Many days, i.e. a long time, even above two years: see 1 Kings 18:1. Heb. days, i.e. a full year; as 1 Kings 17:7; namely, before the following event about her son happened, and the rest of the time of the famine after it.
And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.God still creating new, as fast as the old was spent.
And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.Or, no soul, or life, as this Hebrew word oft signifies, i.e. he died, as is manifest from the following verses. See also Hebrews 11:35.
And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?What have I to do with thee? wherein have I injured or provoked thee? or, why didst thou come to sojourn in my house, (as the following words seem to explain these,) if this be the fruit of it? They are words of a troubled mind, savouring of some rashness and impatience.
Art thou come unto me? didst thou come for this end, that thou mightest severely observe my sins, and by thy prayers bring down God’s just judgment upon me for them, as thou hast for the like cause brought down this famine upon the nation?
To remembrance; either,
1. To my remembrance; that I should by this dreadful judgment be brought to the knowledge and remembrance of my sins, which have procured it. Or rather,
2. To God’s remembrance; for God is oft said in Scripture to remember sins, when he punisheth them; and to forget them, when he spares the sinner. See 2 Samuel 16:10. Have I, instead of the blessing which I expected from thy presence, met with a curse?
And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.Give me thy son into mine arms.
Into a loft; a private place, where he might more freely and fully pour out his soul to God, and use such gestures or methods as he thought most proper, without any offence or observation.
And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?A prayer full of powerful arguments. Thou art the Lord, that canst revive the child; and my God, and therefore wilt not, do not, deny me. She is a widow; add not affliction to the afflicted; deprive her not of the great support and staff of her age. She hath given me kind entertainment; let her not fare the worse for her kindness to a prophet, whereby wicked men will take occasion to reproach both her and religion.
And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.He stretched himself upon the child; not as if he thought this could contribute any warmth or life to the child; but partly to express, and withal to increase, his grief for the child’s death, and his desire of its reviving; that thereby his prayers might be more fervent, and consequently more prevalent with God; and partly that it might appear that this miracle, though wrought by God alone, yet was done for the sake of Elijah, and in answer to his prayers. Compare 2 Kings 4:34 John 9:6 Acts 20:10.
And cried unto the Lord: first he stretched himself, then he prayed, and that for three times successively.
Let this child’s soul come into him again; by which it is evident that the soul was gone out of his body, and therefore doth subsist without it after death. Compare Genesis 35:18. This was a great request; but Elijah was encouraged to make it; partly, by his zeal for God’s honour, which he thought was concerned in it, and would be eclipsed by it; partly, by the experience which he had of his prevailing power with God in prayer; and partly, by a Divine impulse moving him to desire it.
And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.Now by this I know; now I am assured of that concerning which I began upon this sad occasion to doubt.
That the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth; that the God whom thou professest is the true God, and the doctrine and religion which thou teachest is the only true religion; and therefore henceforth I wholly renounce the worship of idols.