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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
1 Kings 18

 

 

Verses 1-46


Jehovah or Baal?

1. In the third year] in Luke 4:2-5; James 5:17 the duration of the famine is given as 3 years and 6 months.

3. The governor of his house] The same office as that alluded to in 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 16:9. Feared the Lord greatly] His name ('Servant of Jehovah') was a true index of his character.

4. Cut off the prophets] Nothing is related of this beyond what is implied in 1 Kings 19:10.

12. The Spirit.. thee] cp. 2 Kings 2:16 : the prophet's movements being directed toward different and higher purposes than those of ordinary men, his friends would have no clue to guide them in tracing him.

17. Art thou he.. Israel?] RV 'Is it thou, thou troubler of Israel?': alluding to Elijah's prediction in 1 Kings 17:1.

18. Baalim] RV 'the Baalim': i.e. the Baals: see on 1 Kings 16:31.

19. Carmel] The only promontory on the coast of Palestine, rising at the summit to nearly 1,800 ft. above the sea. The prophets of the groves] better, 'the prophets of Asherah' (the. term here apparently denoting a deity). These prophets are not mentioned in the sequel.

21. Halt] not in the sense of suspending judgment, but of pursuing a vacillating and irregular course, serving at one time Baal and at another time the Lord (Jehovah). The word literally means 'limping.' And the people, etc.] They were reluctant to break with either form of worship.

22. I, even I only] The other prophets of the Lord, if not destroyed (see 1 Kings 18:4), were at any rate silenced.

24. Your gods] RV 'your god': and so in 1 Kings 18:25. The Lord] better, 'Jehovah,' and so in v.

39. The God that.. fire] For the consumption of sacrifices by fire from heaven, cp. Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1.

In the minds of the multitude the question to be decided doubtless was not whether Jehovah or Baal was the sole god, but which of them was the more powerful god, and, therefore, had the greater claim upon the nation's devotion. It was not until a later date that it was explicitly asserted by the prophets that Jehovah was the only Deity and that beside Him there was no other (Isaiah 44:6, Isaiah 44:8; Isaiah 45:5-6). Elijah, as his mocking language in 1 Kings 18:27 suggests, must have come near to holding the same belief, though the fact that he denounced Ahaziah for consulting a foreign, not an imaginary, god (2 Kings 1:6) seems to imply that he had not quite attained to it.

25. Dress it first] The contrast between Jehovah's power and Baal's impotence would thus be more impressive.

26. Leaped upon] RV 'leaped about': lit. 'limped about': i.e. they performed an irregular and uncouth dance round the altar.

27. Talking] RV 'musing': i.e. lost in meditation. Pursuing] RV 'gone aside.'

28. Cut themselves] Gashing the body was frequently practised by the votaries of heathen deities, probably for the purpose of making a 'blood covenant' between themselves and the god they worshipped.

Lancets] should be 'lances.'

29. Prophesied] i.e. gave utterance to fervid and ecstatic cries: cp. 1 Samuel 10:5. The evening sacrifice] the same as 'the evening meat (i.e. meal) offering' of 2 Kings 16:15

30. The altar.. down] Carmel had been a 'high place' dedicated to the worship of Jehovah, but the spread of Baal worship had led to its neglect, and the altar on it had been overthrown (1 Kings 19:10).

31. Twelve stones] In spite of the partition of the Hebrew tribes into two kingdoms, a sense of their original unity was continually present with the prophets, and certain of them looked forward to their reunion: see Hosea 1:11; Jeremiah 3:18; Ezekiel 37:15-22.

Israel.. thy name] see Genesis 32:28; Genesis 35:10.

32. Measures] Heb. seahs, a seah being 3/10 of an ephah, about 2 1/2 gallons.

33. Fill.. with water] A well still exists a little below the summit of Carmel.

37. Thou art the Lord God] better, 'Thou Jehovah art God'

39. The Lord.. God] better, 'Jehovah, He (not Baal) is the God'

40. The brook Kishon] a stream flowing into the Mediterranean at the foot of Carmel.

Slew them there] in accord with the spirit of Deuteronomy 13:6-11; Deuteronomy 17:2-7. The prophet probably was not himself their executioner, but made the people give practical evidence of the sincerity of their conversion.

42. Cast himself down] in fervent prayer: cp. James 5:17.

43. Seven times] used vaguely of a considerable number: cp. Psalms 12:6; Psalms 119:164.

44. Like a man's hand] i.e. in size.

45. There was a great rain] Solomon's prayer (in 1 Kings 8:35-36;) that if the people turned from their sin, the Lord would send rain upon the land was now granted.

46. The hand of the Lord.. Elijah] i.e. the prophet acted under a divine impulse: cp. 2 Kings 3:15. To the entrance of Jezreel] between 15 and 20 m. from Carmel. Ahab had a palace there (1 Kings 21:1).

The contest on Mt. Carmel was of the greatest importance for the future of religion in Israel, for it determined whether Jehovah, whose character was moral and spiritual, was to command the exclusive allegiance of the people, or was to share their devotion with the god of Zidon, who, like other Baals, was a nature-god, and whose worship was associated with unspiritual ideas and immoral rites. But whilst it primarily relatesto a particular crisis in the history of a single people, it is also typical of every conflict in which opposite principles of conduct meet, and in which the need of prompt decision must always be as urgent as in the days of Elijah.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 18:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/1-kings-18.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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