And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.
Verse 1. - And it came to pass after [This word is wanting in the Heb. except in a few MSS.] many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year [From what date is this "third year" to be counted? The prima facie view is that the words refer to "these years" mentioned in 1 Kings 17:1, i.e., to the date of the announcement of the drought, and this is the interpretation of the Rabbins and some of the moderns. But it is almost fatal to this view that the duration of the drought is distinctly stated in the New Testament to have been "three years and six months" (Luke 4:25; James 5:17). It is every way better, therefore, to connect the words with 1 Kings 17:7, i.e., with the date of the sojourn at Zarephath. It follows hence that the prophet spent about one year in the Wady Cherith, and two and a half in the house of the widow], saying, Go, show thyself [Heb. be seen] unto Ahab; and I will send [Heb. give] rain upon the earth. [Heb. on the face of the ground. Cf. 1 Kings 17:14.]
And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
Verse 2. - And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab. And [or Now. It would, perhaps, have been better to begin a new verse here, as this is the beginning of a parenthesis, explanatory of the circumstances under which king and prophet met. It was the famine led to Obadiah's encountering Elijah on the road] there was a sore famine in Samaria. [The effect of a three years' drought would be to reduce the entire people to the verge of starvation. The severity of the famine was no doubt mitigated, as on a former occasion (Genesis 41:57), by the importation of corn from Egypt.]
And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:
Verse 3. - And Ahab called [Rather, had called. "The verbs וַיְּהִי וַיּקְרָא etc. (vers. 3, 4, 5, 6), carry on the circumstantial clauses" (Keil).] Obadiah [This name is almost as remarkable as Elijah's, or would be, if it were not more common. It means "servant of Jehovah." Compare the modern Arabic Abdallah. Although borne by one who "feared the Lord greatly" (ver. 3), and "from his youth" (ver. 12), it occurs too frequently (1 Chronicles 3:21; 1 Chronicles 7:3; 1 Chronicles 8:38; 1 Chronicles 9:16; 2 Chronicles 17:7; 2 Chronicles 34:12; Ezra 8:9; Obadiah 1:1, etc.) to justify the belief that it was assumed or bestowed as an indication of his character (Rawlinson)], which was the governor of his [Heb. over the] house. [See note on 1 Kings 4:6, and cf. 1 Kings 16:9. Rawlinson says it "tells in favour of the monarch's tolerance that he should have maintained an adherent of the old religion in so important an office." But it is just as probable that it was because of his religion that he occupied this post of trust. Ahab could depend on his fidelity and conscientiousness]. (Now Obadiah [here begins a second parenthesis within the first] feared [Heb. was fearing] the Lord greatly.
For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)
Verse 4. - For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord [Our author now instances a proof of Obadiah's devotion. The incident to which he refers is otherwise unknown to us, nor can we refer it with certainty to its proper place in the history. But it is extremely probable that this work of extermination was begun as an act of reprisals for the drought denounced by Elijah. Ver. 13 almost implies that it had taken place during his absence. We see here, consequently, an additional reason for his flight (cf. 1 Kings 19:2). These "prophets" are the same as those elsewhere called the "sons of the prophets, i.e., members of the prophetic schools; cf. 2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7, etc.] that Obadiah took an hundred prophets [This would lead us to suppose that the great majority escaped. But see ver. 19 and 1 Kings 22:6. That we find so large a number still in the land, notwithstanding the exodus (2 Chronicles 11:16), and the steady growth of impiety, shows that God had not left Himself without witnesses], and hid them by fifty [Keil would insert a second הֲחמִשִׁים as do some MSS. (Gardiner), and as in ver. 13. Such a word might easily be omitted in transcription, it is true. But "proclivi lectioni," etc.] in a cave [Heb. the cave; but LXX. ἐν σπηλαὶῳ. Similarly in ver. 13. What is the force of the article here it is somewhat difficult to say. It has been suggested that these caves were in the sides of Mount Carmel; there are large caves under the western cliffs (Stanley); more than two thousand, according to others; "often of great length and extremely tortuous" (Dic. Bib. 1. p. 278); but this is mere guesswork, as Palestine, being of limestone formation, abounds in caverns. See Stanley, S. and P. pp. 151, 52. From the earliest times we find men - outlaws and the like - taking up their abode therein. Of. Joshua 10:17; Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 22:1; Ezekiel 33:27; Hebrews 11:38. Probably the division into two companies was partly for the sake of security (see Genesis 22:8), and partly for the sake of convenience. The greater the number to be fed, the greater the chance of detection. Compare also Jacob's precautions Genesis 32:8], and fed them with bread [or, food] and water.) [It is to be observed, as bearing on 1 Kings 17:3-6, that these hundred prophets, though preserved by the special providence of God, were nevertheless maintained through human agency and by natural means.
And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.
Verse 5. - And Ahab said [had said] unto Obadiah, Go into [Heb. in] the land, unto all fountains [Heb. places of fountains. Cf. with מַעְיָן from מָאור עַיִן from אור etc.] of water, and unto all brooks [wadies; see on 1 Kings 17:3]: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive [It has been inferred from Ahab's concern for his stud that he viewed the sufferings of his subjects with comparative indifference, or at least regarded them as of altogether secondary importance. But this is a too hasty conclusion. His subjects were, for the most part, as well able to find water for themselves as he was for them, and he might safely trust to their instinct of self preservation to do their best to meet the emergency. But the dumb cattle, con. fined to the stall, could not act for themselves. Hence this expedition in search of fodder], that we lose not all the beasts. [Marg. that we cut not ourselves off from, etc. But this rendering, and still more that of the text, misinterprets the force of the Hiphil נַקְרִית. The literal translation is, "That we may not have to cut off from (i.e., a portion of, מִן partitive, as in ver. 13 below, מגְּבִיאֵי). What Ahab means is that, unless they soon find fodder, they will have to slaughter a portion of their animals. So Bahr, Und nicht von dem Vieh (einen Theil) umbringen mussen. Similarly Keil.]
So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
Verse 6. - So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it ["This personal inspection by the king and one of his chief officers marks the extreme straits to which the Israelites were now reduced" (Rawlinson). The difference, however, between an Eastern and an European monarch must not be overlooked. "None (of the emirs of Arabia or the chiefs of central Asia) think it beneath them to lead an expedition in search of grass or water" (Kitto)]: Ahab went one way by himself [Heb. alone. Rawlinson says, "This does not mean that either Ahab or Obadiah was unaccompanied by a retinue," but it may very well mean that (לבַד, solus; LXX. μόνος; Bahr allein. Cf. ver. 22), if, indeed, it must not necessarily mean it; and ver. 14 certainly implies that Obadiah at least was unattended], and Obadiah went another way by himself.
And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?
Verse 7. - And as Obadiah Was in the way, behold, Elijah met him [Heb. to meet him]: and he knew [i.e., recognized. Same word, Genesis 27:23; Genesis 43:7, etc.] him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that [Heb. this, probably used adverbially (like hic) for here = בָּזֶה] my lord Elijah? [The humble obeisance and the terms in which he addresses him alike show the profound reverence with which Obadiah regarded him, as well he might do, considering the terrible power he wielded. The whole land was, so to speak, at his mercy.]
And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
Verse 8. - And he answered him; I am [Heb. I]: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. [The last two words are not in the Hebrew, and the sentence is much more graphic without them.]
And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?
Verse 9. - And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldst deliver [Heb. that thou art giving] thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?
As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.
Verse 10. - As the Lord thy God liveth [Obadiah uses precisely the same adjuration as the widow of Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:12. But then, though Jehovah was undoubtedly his God, He was in a more special and intimate manner Elijah's God. The oath corresponds well with the prophet's name], there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee [Keil says the hyperbole is to be explained by the "inward excitement and fear" of the speaker. But the Orientals use similar exaggerations in their calmest moments. All that is meant is that all neighbouring and accessible courts had been communicated with. This search for Elijah shows that Ahab regarded him as the author of the drought, and did not recognize it as sent by God. The belief in occult and magical powers has always held possession of the Eastern mind]: and when they said, He is not there [Heb. Not, and he, etc.]; he took an oath [LXX. ἐνέπρησε, which has been thought by some to point to acts of vengeance. But more probably it is a clerical error, perhaps for ὥρκισε, or ἐνώρκισε. On the frequency of oaths in that age see on 1 Kings 1:51] of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.
And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
Verse 11. - And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. [Heb. Behold, Elijah. Obadiah echoes the words of ver. 8.]
And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.
Verse 12. - And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that [Heb. I shall go from thee, and] the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not [These words, which literally translated are "shall lift thee up upon where," etc., are to be explained by 2 Kings 2:16, "lest the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up" (same word) "and cast him upon some mountain," etc. Seb. Schmidt, Wordsworth, al. think that such a transportation must have already occurred in the history of Elijah, but the sudden, mysterious disappearance and the long concealment of the prophet is quite sufficient to account for Obadiah's fear. Compare Acts 8:39. The words do suggest, however, that it had been believed by some that the Lord had hid Elijah, and it is not improbable that during his long absence rumours had often gained credence that he had been seen and had suddenly disappeared, just as later Jews have held that he "has appeared again and again as an Arabian merchant to wise and good Rabbis at their prayers or in their journeys" (Stanley)]; and so when I come and tell [Heb. and I come to tell] Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me [This is just what a prince like Ahab, or any prince who was under the guidance of a Jezebel, would do, out of sheer vexation at losing his prey when so nearly in his grasp]: but [Heb. and] I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. [Obadiah's meaning clearly is not that he, "as a God-fearing man and a protector of the prophets, cannot have any special favour to expect from Ahab" (Keil; similarly Ewald), but that it was hard that one who was a steadfast worshipper of Elijah's God should be slain for his sake. It is extremely unlikely that Ahab knew of Obadiah's having protected the prophets. He could hardly have maintained him in his post had he known that the steward of the palace had thwarted the designs of his queen.]
Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD'S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?
Verse 13. - Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord how I hid an hundred men of [Heb. from] the Lord's prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? [Stanley happily calls Obadiah "the Sebastian of this Jewish Diocletian."]
And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me.
Verse 14. - And now thou sayest [ = "This is to be the reward of my devotion, is it?"], GO, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah Is here: and he shall slay me.
And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.
Verse 15. - And Elijah said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand [This formula should be compared with that of 1 Kings 17:1. The repetition is suggestive as exhibiting the habit of the man. He was the ready and patient slave of Jehovah. The צְבָאותis apparently introduced not so much to "elevate the solemnity of the oath" (Keil, Bahr) - for surely Elijah would wish to make the affirmation of 1 Kings 17:1 as strong and solemn as possible - nor yet to convey the meaning that "it is not Baal or Ashtaroth who are the rulers of the heavenly bodies" (Wordsworth), for Obadiah knew that perfectly well, but because it was thus better adapted for a believer. In addressing Ahab it suited Elijah's purpose better to give prominence to the idea that Jehovah was "the God of Israel"], I win surely show myself unto him today.
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
Verse 16. - So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went [Very readily, it would seem. Anything was better than suspense and famine. And Elijah's very return contained in it a promise of rain] to meet Elijah.
And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
Verse 17. - And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him Art thou he [Rather, here: same words as in ver. 7. "Do I at last see thee again? Hast thou ventured into my presence?"] that troubleth Israel? [Heb. thou troubler of Israel. For the word (עָכַר) see Genesis 24:30; Joshua 6:18; Joshua 7:25; Proverbs 11:17; 1 Samuel 14:29. When Rawlinson says that this charge of troubling Israel has "never been before brought against any one but Achan," he apparently forgets the passage last cited. "My father hath troubled the land." Wordsworth paraphrases, "Art thou the Achan of Israel?" but it is very doubtful whether this thought was in Ahab's mind.]
And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.
Verse 18. - And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy fathers house [It has been supposed that Ahab "hoped to abash the Tishbite, perhaps to have him at his feet suing for pardon" (Rawlinson). If so, he must have completely misjudged his man. And why the prophet should sue for pardon, when he was so clearly master of the situation, it is difficult to imagine. It is quite as likely that Ahab expected denunciation and defiance such as he now provokes], in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou [The change from plural to singular is instructive. Preceding kings and the people at large had broken God's commandments by the calf-worship, but Ahab alone had introduced the Baal-cultus into the land] hast followed [Heb. goest after] Baalim. [The plural may either refer to the various names and forms under which Baal was worshipped - Baal-Berith, Baal-Zebub, etc. (Bahr, al.) - or more probably to the various images or statues of this god set up in the land (Gesenius). "This boldness, this high tone, this absence of the slightest indication of alarm, seems to have completely discomfited Ahab, who ventured on no reply," etc. (Rawlinson). It is probable that, though he put on a bold front, he was from the first thoroughly cowed.
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.
Verse 19. - Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel [i.e., by representation, the heads of the people, elders, etc. Cf. 1 Kings 8:2, 65; 1 Kings 12:16, 18; 1 Kings 16:16, 17] unto Mount Carmel [Heb., as almost always, the Carmel, i.e., the park. Cf. 1 Samuel 25:1-5. It is "the park of Palestine." It is indebted for this name to the luxuriant vegetation - "the excellency of Carmel" (Isaiah 35:2) - which clothes its southern slopes (Porter, p. 371; Stanley, S. and P. pp. 352-54, and App. p. 14; Van de Velde, 1. pp. 317, 318). It is now generally called Mar (i.e., Lord or Saint) Elyas, after the great prophet. No one who has seen the locality can have any doubts as to which part of the mountain was the scene of the sacrifice, or can fail to be struck with the singular fitness of the place to be the theatre of this thrilling history. Carmel is rather a ridge than a mountain, some twelve miles in length. Its western (or strictly N.N.W.) extremity is a bold headland, some 600 feet in height, which dips almost directly into the waters of the Mediterranean. Its highest point, 1728 feet above the sea level, is about four miles from its eastern extremity, which, at an elevation of 1600 feet, rises like a wall from the great plain of Esdraelon. It is at this point, there can be no question, we are to place the scene of the burnt sacrifice. The identification has only been effected in comparatively recent days (1852), but it is beyond dispute. Not only does the Arab name which it bears - El Murahkah, "the Burning," or "Sacrifice" - afford striking witness to the identity, but the situation and surroundings adapt themselves with such wonderful precision to the requirements of the narrative as to leave no reasonable doubt in the mind. For
(1) it is a sort of natural platform, or pulpit, raised 1000 feet above the adjoining plain, and therefore well calculated to afford a view of the proceedings, or at least of the descent of the Holy Fire, to spectators of all Israel. The flame would probably be seen by Jezebel in her palace at Jezreel. This eminence is visible from Nazareth, some twenty miles away. "There is not a more conspicuous spot on all Carmel than the abrupt, rocky height of El Murahkah, shooting up so suddenly on the east" (Van de Velde, 1. pp. 322, 323). "The summit... commands the last view of the sea behind and the first view of the great plain in front" (Stanley). In fact, it was in its way just as well adapted for the solemn vindication of the law which took place there as Jebel Sufsafeh was for the giving of the law.
(2) A sort of plateau near the summit - the table land where the altars were built, etc. - would accommodate a vast number of spectators (ver. 21).
(3) There is a spring of water close at hand - less than 100 yards distant - and a spring which is said to flow even in the driest seasons, which would supply the water of which we read in vers. 4, 33-35. Josephus (Ant. 8:13, 5) says it came from the fountain.
(4) The sea, though not visible from the plateau itself, is seen from a point some 300 feet higher, a detail which accords admirably with the account of vers. 42-44. It may be added that the place is still held sacred by the Druses, and reverenced by "Jews, Christians, Moslems, and Bedouin as the site of these miracles of Elijah" (Thomson). The traveller, consequently, cannot doubt for a moment, as he stands on the table-land of El Murahkah and looks across the great plain to Jezreel and the heights of Galilee and Samaria, that he is on the very spot sanctified by the descent of the heavenly fire. It should be added, as explaining the selection of Carmel by Elijah, that its situation is central end convenient; that it is near the sea, from whence the rain clouds would come; that it is easy of access from Jezreel; and that it was not only a holy place from earlier times (cf. 2 Kings 4:23), but also had its altar of Jehovah, an altar, no doubt, in constant use when the people "sacrificed and burnt incense on the high places," but which had in later days fallen into neglect, and was now broken down. It was every way, therefore, a most appropriate locality for the public vindication of the despised and outraged law of God. "No place could be conceived more fitted by nature to be that wondrous battlefield of truth" (Tristram in Wordsworth)], and the prophets of Baal [so called not because they were Weissager und Verkunder (Bahr) of the god, nor yet because they were teachers and emissaries of his religion, but because of the prophetic frenzy (ver. 28) into which they worked themselves (Keil)] four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves [Heb. of the Asherah, i.e., of Astarte, not "grove," as 'Rawlinson. See note on 1 Kings 14:15] four hundred [Rawlinson remarks that "the number 400 seems to have been one especially affected by Ahab." He reminds us that we find 400 prophets at the close of his reign (1 Kings 22:6), and also remarks on "the prevalence of the number 40 in the religious systems of the Jews (Exodus 36:24, 26; Deuteronomy 25:3, etc.) " But when it is remembered that Baal's prophets were 450, and the prophets of 1 Kings 22:6 were about 400 men, the solitary instance of the 400 prophets of Astarte - who, by the way, were Jezebel's rather than Ahab's ministers - affords but a slender basis for his conclusion], which eat at Jezebel's table. [Heb. eaters of. There is nothing in the Hebrew to imply that they sat with her at the same board; and it is certain that this would be altogether repugnant to Eastern ideas of propriety. All that is meant is that they were fed by her bounty. See note on 1 Kings 2:7.]
So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
Verse 20. - So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel, ["The persecuting king became a passive instrument in the hand of the persecuted prophet" (Stanley). His ready compliance with Elijah's request, notwithstanding the bitter hatred of the man which he had just betrayed, is easily explained. It was not so much that "he bowed before the spiritual supremacy of the prophet, which impressed him" (Bahr), as that he hoped, from his reappearance, that he was now about to speak the word (1 Kings 17:1) and give rain upon the earth, and Ahab was willing to take any measures which would conduce with that result. It would take some days to collect the representatives of the tribes.]
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Verse 21. - And Elijah came unto all the people [He is concerned not so much with the king as the people of the Lord. His object was not "to prove that Ahab and not he had troubled Israel," but to prove that Jehovah and not Baal was God. There is abundant room on the plateau, or "wide upland sweep" (Stanley), above referred to, to accommodate a large concourse of people], and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? [This is a faithful and felicitous rendering. But it must be remembered that "halt" is used in the sense of "limp." Vulg. Usquequo claudicatis in duas partes. The same word is used in ver. 26 of the swaying, tottering dance of the Baal prophets.] If the Lord be God [Heb. if Jehovah the God], follow him [Heb. go (i.e., walk straight) after him]: but if Baal, then follow him And the people answered him not a word. [Not only were they awed by the presence of the king and the priests of Baal on the one side, and of Elijah on the other, but they were "convicted by their own consciences," and so were speechless (Matthew 22:12).]
Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
Verse 22. - Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain [Heb. I, I am left alone. Cf. Genesis 32:24; μονώτατος] a prophet of the Lord [Thenius hence concludes that the "hundred prophets" of whom we read in vers. 4, 13 had been discovered in their hiding place and had been put to death. But this by no means follows from Elijah's statement here or in ch. 19:10 (where see note); and we know that the schools of the prophets had not ceased to exist (2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7; cf. 1 Kings 22:8). All that Elijah says is that he stood that day alone as a prophet of Jehovah. "I only remain in the exercise of the office of a prophet" (Rawlinson). The rest might well hesitate, after me fierce persecution which they had undergone, to face the king and their bitter enemies, the Baal prophets. It must be remembered that Elijah had had no opportunity of communicating with them, and he may have been quite ignorant as to what number had remained steadfast and true. One thing he knew, that he alone was left to prophesy, and to confront the whole hierarchy of the false God]; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. [It is clear, not only from the silence of this verse and of ver. 25, respecting them, but still more from the fact that they escaped in the general slaughter (ver. 40), that the prophets of Astarte were not present, and the natural inference is that either Jezebel had forbidden their presence or that they shrank from the ordeal. The LXX. inserts "and the prophets of the grove, four hundred," but the words are evidently added from ver. 19. The Baal prophets would doubtless have been only too glad to do the same, but they were under the immediate command of the king. It is not certain that they had any forebodings of evil, or dreaded reprisals on Elijah's part, but they had had proof conclusive of his power and of their impo-fence. We must remember that all through the triennium prayers and sacrifices had, no doubt, been constantly offered with a view to procure rain. We learn from Menander (Jos., 8:13. 2) that even in Phoenicia supplication had been made for rain by Ethabaal.
Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
Verse 23. - Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces [same word Exodus 29:17; Leviticus 1:6, 12; Judges 20:6], and lay it on wood [Heb. the woods], and put no fire under [Heb. and fire they shall not set to]: and I win dress [Heb. make, עָשָׂה, like ποιε1FC0;ιν in the LXX., is constantly used in a sacrificial sense = offer. Cf. Exodus 29:36, 38, 41; Leviticus 9:7; Leviticus 15:15; Judges 6:19, etc. This is to be remembered in interpreting our Lord's τοῦτο ποιε1FC0;ιτε κ.τ.λ. (Luke 22:19)] the other bullock, and lay it on wood [the wood], and put no fire under [and fire I will not set to]:
And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
Verse 24. And call ye on the name of your gods [As Elijah is still addressing the people, not the prophets of Baal (see ver. 25), this change of person is significant. He sorrowfully assumes that they have taken Baal and Astarte for their gods], and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. [Heb. he shall be the God, i.e., the true God and their God. Cf. ver. 39. Not only was a "sign from heaven" (Mark 8:11) ever esteemed a more powerful and direct proof of Divine energy - perhaps as being less liable to be counterfeited, and as excluding the idea of the operation of infernal powers (Matthew 12:24) - but it must be remembered that Baal claimed to be the Sun god and Lord of the elements and forces of nature; while Jehovah bad already, according to the law, identified Himself with this token (Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1). Indeed, this sign had a double fit. ness as a test of the true religion. It would not only put the powers of the rival deities to the proof; it would also at the same time decide which of the rival systems of worship was acceptable to the Supreme Being. It is observable that there is no mention of rain. We might have expected, after the long drought, that this would be the test. But that could not be promised until the Lord had first been recognized as God.] And all the people answered and said, Is well spoken. [Heb. Good the word. They accepted Elijah's proposition, but whether eagerly or reluctantly it is difficult to say. The Hebrew merely conveys that they admitted its fairness and reasonableness. Having gained the assent of the people, for whose verdict he and the Baal prophets were now contending, and who were, consequently, entitled to be consulted as to the sign which would satisfy them, he turns to the band of 400 prophets, who, probably in all the bravery of their sacrificial vestments (2 Kings 10:22), occupied a separate position on the hill top, between the king and the people, and repeats his proposal to them.
And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
Verse 25. - And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress [or offer, as in ver. 23] it first; for ye are many [Heb. the many. Every pre-eminence and advantage which he gives to them will make his triumph, when it comes, all the greater. It is quite possible that he meant again to hint at their immense superiority in point of numbers. But no doubt he was only too glad to find a reason for their taking the lead. "He is anxious that their inability shall be fully manifested before he shows his own power" (Rawlinson). Whether the idea was also present in his mind that they "could prepare their victim in a much shorter time than he could prepare his" (ib.) is by no means so certain]; and call on the name of your gods [or god, i.e., Baal], but put no fire under. [The repetition (cf. ver. 24) shows that the ordeal was proposed separately to the people and the prophets.]
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
Verse 26. - And they took the bullock which was given them [Heb. which he (or one) gave; i.e., they declined to choose], and they dressed it, and called on the name of from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us [Heb. answer us. Same word as below. They thought they would be heard for their much speaking]. But there was no voice [Heb. and not a voice], nor any that answered. And they leaped [or limped. Same word as that translated "halt" in ver. 21. Gesenius thinks the word is "used scornfully of the awkward dancing of the priests of Baal." But it seems more natural to understand it as descriptive of what actually occurred, i.e., of the reeling, swaying, bacchantie dance of the priests, which was probably not unlike that of the dancing dervishes or the Indian devil worshippers of our own time] upon [or near, i.e., around] the altar which was made, [Heb. he, that is, one made, עָשָׂה impersonal. But some MSS. and most versions read עָשׁוּ].
And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
Verse 27. - And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked [or deceived] them, and said, Cry aloud [Heb. with a great voice]: for he is a god [i.e., in your estimation. "Here is one of the few examples of irony in Scripture" (Wordsworth)]; either he is talking [the marg. he meditateth is preferable. Cf. 1 Samuel 1:16; Psalm 142:3. But the word has both meanings (see 2 Kings 9:11), fairly preserved in the LXX., ἀδολεσχία αὐτῷ ἐστι], or he is pursuing [Heb. for he hath a withdrawal, i.e., for the purpose of relieving himself. A euphemism. Cf. Judges 3:24; 1 Samuel 24:3. Stanley attempts to preserve the paronomasia, שִׂיג שִׂיח, by the translation, "he has his head full" and "he has his stomach full"], or he is in a Journey [the thrice repeated כִּי must be noticed. It heightens the effect of the mockery], or peradventure he sleepeth [Though it was noon, it is not clear that there is a reference to the usual midday siesta of the East], and must be awaked.
And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
Verse 28. - And they cried aloud [Heb. in a great voice, as above. It was not that they took Elijah's words au serieux, but his scorn led them to redouble their efforts, if only to testify their faith in their god. The frantic cries of the Greek Easter (see Porter, 1:168; Conder, 176-178) in Jerusalem, the prayers of the pilgrims for the descent of the holy fire, may help us to realize the scene here described], and cut themselves [cf. Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 47:5] after their manner [Keil quotes from Movers, Phoniz. 1. pp. 682-83, a description of the religious dances offered to the Dea Syria. "A discordant howling opens the scene. Then they rush wildly about in perfect confusion, with their heads bowed down to the ground, but always revolving in circles, so that the loosened hair drags through the mire; then they begin to bite their arms, and end with cutting themselves with the two-edged swords which they are in the habit of carrying. A new scene then opens. One of them, who surpasses all the rest in frenzy, begins to prophesy with sighs and groans," etc. In the "Contemporary Review," vol. 27, pp. 371 sqq., Bishop Caldwell has graphically described the devil dances of Southern India - a description which may be read with profit in this connexion. One sentence may be transcribed here: "He cuts and hacks and hews himself, and not unfrequently kills himself there and then." Kitto mentions "the furious gashes which the Persians inflict upon themselves in their frantic annual lamentation for Hossein." Rawlinson says this was also common among the Carians and Phrygians] with knives [Heb. swords] and lancets [Heb. lances, spears. The A.V. is misleading. The instruments they used were weapons of heavy-armed troops. For רְמָחִים, see Numbers 25:7; Judges 5:8; Jeremiah 46:4], till the blood gushed out upon them. [Heb. until the shedding of blood upon them. It is perfectly clear that their faith in Baal was sincere and profound. Making due allowance for the fact that they were under the eyes of their king and patron, and of representatives of the entire people, it is still impossible to doubt their sincerity. Some of them, it is probable, were Phoenicians. "Of one thing I am assured - the devil dancer never shams excitement" (Caldwell).]
And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
Verse 29. - And it came to pass, when midday was past [Elijah allowed them all the time he could, consistently with the great work he had himself to do, which would absorb all the rest of the day], and they prophesied [Notice the striking coincidence with the description of the worship of Ashtoreth given above. We are not to think of vaticinations, but of frenzied cries, etc. It is not clear, however, that any fresh element in their worship is intended, as Keil imagines. Their service as a whole, seeing they were prophets, would be called a "prophesying," and the word, consequently, may merely mean "they pursued their calling," "they cried and prayed," etc.] until the time of the offering [Keil and Rawlinson would translate, "until towards the time," etc. There is certainly some indefiniteness in the words עַד לַעֲלות, until [the hour] for placing, etc., but we may well believe that their dances and cries continued up to the moment of Elijah's prayer (ver. 36)] of the evening sacrifice [Heb. the Minchah, i.e., the meat offering or unbloody sacrifice. In Genesis 4:3-6 the word would appear to be used of any offering; but at a later day it was restricted to bloodless offerings, and was opposed to זֶבַח Cf. Psalm 40:7; Jeremiah 17:26. Directions as to the offering of the Minchah are given, Exodus 29:38-41; Numbers 28:3-8. The evening sacrifice was probably offered then, as it certainly was at a later day, at the ninth hour. Cf. Acts 3:1; Acts 10:3, 30, and see Jos., Ant. 14:04.3. Wordsworth think, this synchronism very significant, as suggesting that the true worship of God was that of the temple in Jerusalem], that there was neither voice, nor any to answer [as in ver. 26], nor any that regarded. [Heb. and not attention. The LXX has a curious variation and addition here: "And Elijah the Tishbite said to the prophets of the idols, Stand back; I will now make ready my offering."]
And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
Verse 30. - And Elijah said unto all the people [He has now done with the priests. They have had their opportunity; his turn is come], Come near unto me. [Hitherto they had gathered round the altar of Baal, and some, it may he, had joined their prayers to those of the priests (ver. 24). In ver. 21, he "drew near" - same word - to them. Now they must stand round the altar he is about to build. He will have "eyewitnesses and ear-witnesses" (Keil). There must be no suspicion of imposture.] And all the people came near unto him And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. [It has been already suggested that this altar may have dated from the time when there was no house built unto the name of the Lord. But it is just as likely that it had been restored, if not raised, by some of the "seven thousand who had not bowed their knees unto Baal," or by some of the faithful remaining in Israel after the calf-worship and the hostility between the two kingdoms had made worship at Jerusalem an impossibility. Anyhow we can hardly be mistaken in holding that this was one of the "altars" (1 Kings 19:10), thrown down" by command of Ahab or Jezebel. Elijah's repairing it was an act of profound significance. It showed him as the restorer of the law and the true religion.]
And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
Verse 31. - And Elijah took twelve stones [This number, too, was full of significance. Not only would it carry back their thoughts to the giving of the law (Exodus 24:4; Exodus 28:21), and to their fathers' entrance into the promised land (Joshua 4:3, 9), but it would remind them of the essential unity of the people, notwithstanding the division of the kingdom. The act was thus a protest against the schism. We cannot hold with Keil, Wordsworth, al. that it was "a practical declaration on the part of the prophet that the division of the nation into two kingdoms was at variance with the will of God," because we are distinctly told that that division was "from the Lord" (1 Kings 12:15). But it was certainly a witness against a divided Church, and a reminder of the unity of the race], according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came [Genesis 32:28], saying, Israel shall be thy name. [He thus protests against the exclusive assumption of the name of Israel, and the exception of the southern kingdom from the glorious heritage and calling of Israel, by the ten tribes. But we cannot follow Bahr in the belief that Jacob received "from Jehovah the name of Israel," i.e., the "soldier of God," because he commanded his house to "put away the strange gods" (Genesis 35:2, 10 sqq.), or that Elijah would teach that "only those who did as Jacob did had a claim to his name." The great idea is that the people are one, and are the Lord's.]
And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
Verse 32. - And with the stones [the twelve he had chosen out of the ruins. Cf. Exodus 20:25] he built an altar in the name of the Lord [not "by the command of Jehovah" (Bahr), but rather as the minister and for the service of Jehovah, or, as Keil. "by the authority and for the glory of Jehovah." Nor is it certain that "he called, as he Built it, on the name of Jehovah, and so dedicated it to His service" (Rawl.) See Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4; Genesis 33:20; Genesis 35:7]: and he made a trench [or channel, 2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 36:2; Ezekiel 31:4. The word implies that it was for holding the water, not for keeping off the people] about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed [Heb. as the inside (lit., house) of two seahs of seed. These words have been variously interpreted. Keil, with Thenius and Wordsworth, understands that "the trench was so large that you could sow two seahs of seed upon the ground which it covered." But apart from the fact that בַּיִת must refer to capacity rather than superficial extent, one does not measure a trench, as Bahr observes, by the ground which it covers, but by its depth. He would follow Gesenius in understanding that the trench was so deep as to hold two seahs of seed; i.e., as deep as the grain measure containing two seahs. The סְאָה was the third of an ephah. Cf. Jos., Ant. 9:04. 5, and the σάτα τρία of Matthew 13:33.]
And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
Verse 33. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood [Rawlinson says "He obeyed, that is, all the injunctions of the law with respect to the offering of a burnt sacrifice (see Leviticus 1:3-9), and adds, "He thus publicly taught that all the ordinances of the law were binding on the kingdom of Israel." But it is very probable that the priests of Baal had done the same things. All sacrifice involved such manual acts. Cf. Genesis 22:9, where the same word עָרַך is used. No doubt the prophet did everything in an orderly and regular way; but the people could hardly learn a lesson of obedience from such elementary acts as these, and the less so as the law provided, that the sacrifice should be offered only "by the priests, the sons of Aaron" (Leviticus 1:8), and Elijah's ministrations, consequently, might seem to warrant or condone the ministrations of Jeroboam's intrusive priesthood. That they did not lend any real sanction to those irregularities is clear, however, to us. For, in the first place, priests were not to be had, all having long since left the kingdom. In the second place, the higher commission of the prophet embraced within itself the authority for all necessary priestly acts. Cf. 1 Samuel 16:2. Elijah acted, as Grotius well observes, jure prophetico, minoribus legibus exsolutus, ut majores servaret], and said, Fill four barrels [Heb. כַּדּים. Cf. 1 Kings 17:12. It designates the ordinary water-pitcher, generally carried then, as now, by women: Genesis 24:14-20; Judges 7:16; Ecclesiastes 12:6] with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. [The water, as already remarked, was doubtless brought from the adjoining spring (though it is clear from ver. 40 that the Kishon was not dry, and Thomson thinks that its sources, and particularly the fountain of Saadieh, furnished the supply). "In such springs the water remains always cool, under the shade of a vaulted roof, and with no hot atmosphere to evaporate it. While all other fountains were dried up, I can well understand that there might have been found here that superabundance of water which Elijah poured so profusely over the altar" (Van de Velde, 1. p. 325).]
And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
Verse 34. - And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. [Heb. Repeat, and they repeated.] And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. [See note on 1 Kings 17:21.]
And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
Verse 35. And the water ran round [Heb. the waters went round] about the altar, and he filled the trench also [i.e., the trench, which was only partially filled with the water of the twelve כַּדִּים, he now filled to the brim] with water. [The object of these repeated drenchings of the victim and altar was to exclude all suspicion of fraud. It would almost seem as if tricks not unlike that practised year by year at the Greek Easter at Jerusalem were familiar to that age. Some of the fathers expressly state that the idolatrous priests of an earlier time were accustomed to set fire to the sacrifice from hollow places concealed beneath the altar, and it was an old tradition (found in Ephrem Syrus, and Chrysostom) that the Baal prophets had concealed a man for that purpose beneath their altar, but that he had died from suffocation (Stanley). Bahr, however, sees in these 3 x 4 vessels of water a symbolical act. The significance of this combination, he says, is unmistakable (cf. "Symbolik" 1. pp. 150, 169, 193, 205), though we cannot be certain as to the precise meaning of the prophetic act. His only suggestion is that it points to abundance of rain as the reward of keeping the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:12, 23). But all this is extremely precarious, and the more so as the pitchers may have been filled any number of times before the trench was full.]
And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
Verse 36. - And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice [see note on ver. 29], that Elijah the prophet [this designation of Elijah is unusual. Cf. Malachi 4:5. Elsewhere he is "the Tishbite," or the "man of God"] came near, and said, Lord [Heb. Jehovah. Not only does the sacred name stand at the head of his prayer, it is also mentioned thrice (LXX. four times)] God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel [Two things are to be noticed here: first, that this formula had only once before been used, and that by God Himself, before the giving of law, at the burning bush. It was when God revealed Himself in flaming fire that He had proclaimed Himself the God of Abraham, etc. Secondly, that the variation "Israel" is made designedly (cf. ver. 31), not only to proclaim the Lord as the "God of Israel" (cf. 1 Kings 17:1), but also to suggest that the name and privileges of Israel belonged to all the sons of Jacob. The LXX. adds, "Hear me, O Lord, hear me this day by fire" - most of which is clearly borrowed from the next verse], let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel [according to ver. 24, "the God that answereth by fire, etc.], and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things according to thy word. [LXX. διὰ σε. Not only the earlier proceedings of the day, but the three years' drought, etc. Keil would include the miracle about to be performed, but the people could hardly doubt that that, when done, was done according to the Divine word. It is interesting to compare with these words 1 Kings 17:2, 3, 8, 16, 24, and 1 Kings 18:1, all of which mention the "word of the Lord."]
Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
Verse 37. - Hear me, O Lord [Jehovah], hear me [or answer me; same word as in vers. 24, 26, and 29], that this people may know that thou art the Lord God [Rather, "that thou, Jehovah, art the God." Same expression as in ver. 24, "let him be the God"], and that thou hast turned their heart back again. [Cf. Malachi 4:5, 6: "He "Elijah the prophet") shall turn the heart of the fathers," etc. He speaks as if the miracle were already wrought (cf. John 11:41), and the people already repentant. His prayer is that they may understand that the prodigy about to be performed was wrought for their conversion.]
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
Verse 38. - Then the fire of the Lord [Jehovah. Not lightning, but supernatural light and heat emanating from God Himself. Cf. Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1; Hebrews 12:29] fell, and consumed [Heb. ate up, devoured] the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones [in calcem redigit, Cler.], and the dust [Bahr translates die Erde, and understands this to be the earth with which the altar of twelve stones had been packed. Similarly Rawlinson. But it is very doubtful whether עָפָר pulvis, could be used in this sense. It may mean dry earth, but this altar had been deluged with water], and licked up [לָחַך is clearly onomatopoetic, like our lick; Germ. lecken; Gr. λείχω, etc. It expresses well the action of tongues of flame] the water that was in the trench.
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
Verse 39. - And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces [As in Leviticus 9:24; 2 Chronicles 7:3; cf. Numbers 22:31; Joshua 5:14; Revelation 11:16. They recognized in the fire, that is to say, the token of the Divine Presence]: and they said, The Lord [Jehovah. The connexion of this verse with the three verses preceding is obscured by our translation], he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. [The echo of ver. 24. The Hebrew words are the same. Stanley remarks that it is as if (by a slight inversion) they turned "the name of the prophet himself into a war-cry, 'Eli-Jah-hu.'"]
And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
Verse 40. - And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. [Elijah's promptitude is extremely striking. The people had hardly recovered from their terror and awe before he proceeds to judgment. The narrative has the air of truth, and was doubtless reduced to writing by an eye-witness.] And they took them: and Elijah brought them down [Heb. caused them to go down, i.e., had them brought down. He could but lead the way, as they numbered 450] to the brook [Wady. "Like most of the so called ' rivers of Palestine,' the perennial stream forms but a small part of the Kishon" (Grove)] Kishon ["Tortuous," now called Nahr el Mukatta, the "river of slaughter." See Thomson, L. and B. 2. pp. 140, 141; Porter, pp. 383-4; Dict. Bib. 2. p. 45. It flows directly under Carmel], and slew them there. [Obviously, he merely superintended the slaughter. That he slew them all with his own hand is altogether out of the question. Nor is it clear that" sword in hand he stood over them" (Stanley). Josephus rightly explains: "they slew the prophets at Elijah's instigation." It is almost certain, from their resorting to the Kishon for this purpose, that it was not quite dry at the time. Their blood would mingle with its waters, and the flood which the "great rain" would presently produce (cf. Judges 5:21) would carry their corpses down to the sea. It has often been supposed that the mound near the Kishon, known as Tell el Cassis, "the mound of the priests," derives its name from this slaughter of the prophets of Baal. But Conder (p. 90) remarks that "Kassis is the word applied to a Christian priest, and the word Kohen or Kamir would more naturally be expected if there was any real connexion with the idolatrous priests of Baal."] This action of the prophet Elijah in instituting this wholesale slaughter in the hour of his triumph has been repeatedly arraigned and denounced, but most unjustly. According to some, it was an act of gross fanaticism and cruelty; others have seen it in a wild and terrible vendetta for the murder of the Lord's prophets. By some, indeed, it has been justified on the principles of the lex talionis (Exodus 21:24, etc.); on the ground, that is to say, that the men who had instigated Jezebel in her attempted extermination of the prophetic schools had merited extermination in their turn. But it is a fatal objection to their view, first, that we not only have no proof, but no reason for thinking, that it was at their instigation that the queen "cut off the prophets of the Lord;" and, secondly, that it is not clear that she succeeded in her sanguinary purpose, or that many lives were sacrificed to her fury. And Elljah's action needs no such lame apologies. As the Lord's prophet, as the vindicator and restorer of the law, there was no other course open to him. If the Mosaic law was then written, and this very incident is one of the proofs that it was then written; if, however it had fallen into contempt or desuetude, it was still binding upon Israel; and if Elijah was justified in executing its provisions, and was required to execute them, however repugnant they might be to his inclinations (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10), then he could not have done otherwise than he did. For it was an essential part of that law, it was an obligation that was laid, not once or twice, but on three separate occasions (Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 13; Deuteronomy 17:2-7), on the Jewish people, it was a duty they were to perform, however distressing and harrowing it might be (Deuteronomy 13:6-9), to provide that the worshipper of false gods, and especially the teacher of such worship, should be put to death. It was primarily, of course, the duty of the authorities, of the theocratic king and his subordinates, to execute these injunctions. But the king of that age was corrupt and powerless - nay, was himself idolatrous. So great was the depravity of the time that the false prophet enjoyed the favour and protection of the court, and the true prophet was everywhere being hunted to death. The execution of this law, consequently, could not be expected from the king. It must be executed, if at all, in spite of him, and in disregard of his protests. It was only Elijah, therefore, could put it into force, and Elijah only in the hour of his triumph. And the jus zelotyparum, the right claimed by every faithful Jew to execute vengeance, after the example of Phinehas (Numbers 25:11), upon any gross breach of the Divine law committed in his presence, was not his only warranty; he held a commission, higher than the king's, as the prophet of the Most High. He had just proved that the Lord He was God. It was now for him to prove that God's law was no dead letter. It was for him to cut off the men - some of them renegades from the faith of Israel, some of them foreign emissaries introduced into the land who had corrupted his countrymen, and threatened the very existence of the true religion. It is necessary, therefore, for those who challenge his conduct in this respect, who call him sanguinary, vindictive, etc., to settle their account with the law which he obeyed, and, indeed, with Him who has approved this deed, and has forewarned us that He too will act in like manner (Luke 19:27). For this terrible retribution is by no means an exceptional or isolated act, in contrast to the general spirit of that dispensation; on the contrary, it is in thorough accord with the system out of which it sprung. We gain nothing, therefore, by repudiating this one transaction. For clearly, in the first place, it was allowed and approved of God, who otherwise would hardly have answered the prayer which Elijah presently offered, and (2) other similar acts have distinctly received Divine commendation (Exodus 32:25-28; Numbers 25:7-13; 2 Kings 1:9 sqq.) It is true that the spirit of Elias was not the spirit of Christianity (Luke 9:56), but it is forgotten how different was the dispensation of Elijah from that of the New Covenant. In that age idolaters must receive their just recompense of reward, because the judgment to come had not then been revealed; because justice must be measured out to men in this life. We do not avenge idolatry or irreligion now with fire and sword, not because the thing is any the less sinful, but because the duty has been taken out of our hands; because our religion instructs us to leave it to Him who has said, "Vengeance is Mine," etc. It is perhaps worth remarking here that there is nothing in this history half so dreadful as might be seen on a thousand battlefields - and those not battlefields for truth and right - on which, nevertheless, Elijah's critics have learned to look with complacency. It may, however, be objected to this view that the punishment denounced by the law was stoning (Deuteronomy 13:10; Deuteronomy 17:5). But surely it is easy to see why, in this particular, the law was not kept. It was simply that the exigency of the occasion did not permit of its being kept. It was because the 450 traitors to God and their country could not be stoned within the few hours that remained before the night closed in and the multitude dispersed, that a more speedy punishment, that of the sword, was adopted. And it would have been a sacrifice of the spirit of the law to the letter had some few false prophets been stoned and the rest thereby been afforded the opportunity to escape, and, under Jezebel's protection, to renew their efforts against truth and morality and religion.
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
Verse 41. - And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up [It is clear from the word עֲלֵה that the king had gone down with the crowd to the Kishon. Curiosity had perhaps impelled him to witness the slaughter which he was powerless to prevent. And no doubt he had been profoundly awed by the portent he had just witnessed], eat and drink [It is hardly likely that there was aught of derision in these words. It is extremely probable that the excitement of the ordeal was so intense that the king had barely tasted food all day long. Elijah now bids him eat if he can, after what he has witnessed. There is now, he suggests, no further cause for anxiety or alarm. The people being repentant (vers. 39, 40), and the men who have brought a curse on the land being cut off, the drought can now be abated (cf. 2 Samuel 21:1, 6, 14). The next words assign the reason why he should eat and drink. It is a mistake, however (Ewald, Rawlinson), to suppose that he was bidden to "eat of the feast which always followed a sacrifice," for this was a whole burnt offering and had been entirely consumed (ver. 38). It is probable that the attendants of the king had spread a tent for him upon the plateau, and had brought food for the day along with them]; for there is a sound of abundance of rain [Heb. for a voice of a noise - הָמון; cf. hum, an onomatopoetic word - of rain. Gesenius and Keil think that the prophet could already hear the sound of the drops of rain, but if so, it was only in spirit (cf. ver. 45). The words may refer to the rise of the wind which so often precedes a storm, but it is more probable that Elijah speaks of signs and intimations understood only by himself. This was the "word" of 1 Kings 17:1.]
So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,
Verse 42. - So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top [Heb. head] of Carmel [It is clear from Ver. 43 that this was not the actual summit, nor can it have been, as Bahr supposes, the outermost promontory towards the sea, unless he means the foot or slope of that ridge or promontory, for from this רֹאשׁ the sea was not visible. It also appears from the עֲלֵה of ver. 44 that this point must have been at a lower elevation than the plateau where the altar had stood and where Ahab's tent was]; and he cast himself down upon the earth [Same word 2 Kings 4:34, 35, of Elisha's prostration upon the dead child. But if Elijah "stretched himself full length" upon the earth, as the Easterns constantly do in prayer (see Thomson, 1:26, 27) it was but for a moment, as we presently find him kneeling], and put his face between his knees. ["The Oriental attitude of entire abstraction" (Stanley). The posture witnessed to the intensity of his supplication.]
And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
Verse 43. - And said to his servant [of whom we now hear for the first time. It is an old tradition that this was none other than the son of the Sareptan, who was afterwards known as the prophet Jonah (Jerome, Praef. in Jonam). See note on 1 Kings 17:24], Go up now, look toward [Heb. the way of] the sea. [It is a striking confirmation of the theory which identifies El Murahkah with the scene of Elijah's sacrifice that the sea, though not visible from the plateau itself, is from the crest of the hill, a few feet higher. Van de Velde writes, "On its west and northwest sides the view of the sea is quite intercepted by an adjacent height. That height may be ascended, however, in a few minutes and a full view of the sea obtained from the top." Similarly the latest authority, Mr. Condor: "The peak is a semi-isolated knoll with a cliff some forty feet high, looking southeast .... The sea is invisible, except from the summit, and thus it was only by climbing to the top of Carmel, from the plateau where the altar may have stood, that the prophet's servant could have seen the little cloud," etc.] And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. [Cf. Joshua 6:15-20; 2 Kings 5:14; Matthew 18:21; Psalm 119:164. The idea here is that of sufficiency, of completion, rather than, as elsewhere, of covenant. And yet it must be remembered that Elijah was only praying for what God had already promised to grant (ver. 1). This earnest prayer for rain under these circumstances suggests that the former prayer "that it might not rain" (James 5:17) had also been inspired of God. But it is worth considering whether Elijah's attitude was not one of reverent and assured expectation, as much as of prayer. When Rawlinson says that "the faithfulness and patience shown [by the servant] in executing this order without a murmur, imply devotedness of no common kind," he surely forgets that the drought had lasted for three years and a half, and that the servant had that day seen the fires of God descend at Elijah's prayer. It is inconceivable, under such circumstances, that any man could murmur.]
And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
Verse 44. - And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. [כַּפ lit., palm, hollow of hand. Cf. Luke 12:54, "When ye see the cloud (Gr. τὴν νεφέλην) arise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is." "Still in autumn the little cloud comes up like a man's hand and swells till huge thunder pillars are piled black and high above the mountains" (Condor). But it is not in Palestine alone that a little cloud on the horizon is frequently the harbinger of rain]. And he said, Go up [see note on ver. 42], say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot [Heb. bind], and get thee down [Keil, Stanley, and others assume that Ahab's chariot was waiting at the foot of the mountain. But it is to be noticed that the command to harness the horses precedes that to "go down." The writer rode down from El Murahkah to the plain, and it is quite conceivable that the royal chariot may have conveyed Ahab to the plateau of sacrifice and have waited for him there], that the rain stop thee not, [After heavy rain (גֶּשֶׁם) the Kishon, which "collects the whole drainage of this large basin" (Conder), the Great Plain, soon becomes an impassable swamp.(Judges 5:21), "I can tell you from experience that in wet seasons it (the Wady) is extremely muddy, and then the Kishon causes great tribulation to the muleteers. Rarely indeed do they get over it without some of their animals sticking fast in its oozy bottom" (Thomson, L. and B. 2. p. 218).]
And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
Verse 45. - And it came to pass in the meanwhile [Heb. unto thus and unto thus, i.e., till now and then (cf. Exodus 7:16; Joshua 17:14). Gesen., Bahr, al. support the rendering of the A.V. Ewald, Keil, al. understand "while the hand is being moved hither and thither," i.e., very speedily. The practical difference is not great], that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. ["The cry of the boy from his mountain watch had hardly been uttered when the storm broke upon the plain" (Stanley). "The storm" [over "the dark slate-coloured ridge of Carmel," witnessed by Conder in 1872] "burst suddenly, the rain descending with violence, hissing on the ground, as if not able to come down fast enough, and accompanied with gusts of wind, thunder, and lightning."] And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
Verse 46. - And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah [Same expression 2 Kings 3:15; Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 33:22; cf. also Exodus 9:3; Judges 2:15; Ruth 1:13; Acts 11:21; Acts 13:11. Some of the commentators understand the words of Divine guidance, some of a supernatural strengthening. There is no need to exclude either interpretation. An impulse from on high impelled him to "gird up his loins" and go with the king; a strength not his own sustained him whilst "he ran," etc. The distance across the plain to Jezreel is about fourteen miles; the royal chariot would drive furiously, and whatever fleetness and endurance the prophet had acquired in the wilds of Gilead, it seems hardly likely that, after the fatigues and excitement of that day, he would have been able, without the hand of the Lord upon him, to keep ahead of the chariot horses], and he girded up his loins [i.e., gathered round his waist the abba, or "mantle" - the אַדֶּרֶת (cf. 1 Kings 19:13, 19; 2 Kings 2:13, 14) was so-called from its ample size - which would otherwise have impeded his movements. Probably this, apart from the girdle, was his sole garment. (See Dict. Bib. vol. 2. p. 232)], and ran before Ahab [Thomson (vol. 2. p. 227) mentions an interesting illustration of this incident which he witnessed. The forerunners of Mohammed All Pasha "kept just ahead of the horses, no matter how furiously they were ridden, and in order to run with the greatest ease they not only girded their loins very tightly, but also tucked up their loose garments under the girdle." But such a spectacle is of common occurrence in the East. Kitto remarks that the Shatirs of Persia keep pace with ease with their masters' horses. They also are tightly girded. His object was apparently twofold. First, to honour the sovereign whom he had that day humbled in the presence of his subjects. The great prophet, by assuming the lowly office of a footman, or forernnner (see note on 1 Kings 1:5), would give due reverence to the Lord's anointed, like Samuel on a somewhat similar occasion (1 Samuel 15:30, 31). Secondly, he may have hoped by his presence near the king and court to strengthen any good resolves which the former might have made, and to further the work of reformation which he could not but hope the proceedings of that day would inaugurate. That this tribute of respect would be grateful to Ahab, who hitherto had only regarded Elijah as an adversary, it is impossible to doubt. And that Elijah believed he had struck a death blow to the foreign superstitions fostered by the court, and especially by the queen, is equally certain. It is not clear, as Bahr assumes, that his servant accompanied him on the road. He may have rejoined him later on in the day or night] to the entrance [Heb. until thou comest to. The Arab aversion, which Elijah is supposed to have shared, to entering cities, has often been remarked. But there were other and deeper reasons why he should not adventure himself within the city. Probably the same guiding hand which led him to Jezreel impelled him to lodge outside the walls. It was impossible to say what Jezebel, in her transports of rage, might do. After such a day, too, any prophet would shrink from familiar contact with men and from the strife of tongues] of Jezreel. [Ahab had a palace here (1 Kings 21:1). But Samaria was still the capital, and so remained till the captivity (1 Kings 22:37; 2 Kings 15:13, 14; 2 Kings 17:5, 6). The selection of Jezreel as a royal residence is easily accounted for. It stands on "a knoll 500 feet high" (Conder), overlooking both the plain of Esdraelon and the valley of Jezreel. In fact, it is the finest situation in the "Great Plain." Hence perhaps its name "the sowing place of God." See Stanley, S. and P. pp. 336 sqq.; Porter, p. 353; Dict. Bib. vol. 1.p. 1080; Van de Velde, vol. 2. p. 370.]