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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 17

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

The name Elijah means “Yahweh is my God.” It is expressive of the truth which his whole life preached.

The two words rendered “Tishbite” and “inhabitant” are in the original (setting aside the vowel points) “exactly alike.” The meaning consequently must either be “Elijah the stranger, of the strangers of Gilead,” or (more probably) “Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbi of Gilead.” Of Tishbi in Gilead there is no further trace in Scripture; it is to be distinguished from another Tishbi in Galilee. In forming to ourselves a conception of the great Israelite prophet, we must always bear in mind that the wild and mountainous Gilead, which bordered on Arabia, and was half Arab in customs, was the country wherein he grew up.

His abrupt appearance may be compared with the similar appearances of Ahijah 1 Kings 11:29, Jehu 1 Kings 16:1, Shemaiah 2 Chronicles 11:2, Azariah 2 Chronicles 15:1, and others. It is clear that a succession of prophets was raised up by God, both in faithful Judah and in idolatrous Israel, to witness of Him before the people of both countries, and leave them without excuse if they forsook His worship. At this time, when a grosser and more deadly idolatry than had been practiced before was introduced into Israel by the authority of Ahab, and the total apostasy of the ten tribes was consequently imminent, two prophets of unusual vigour and force of character, endowed with miraculous powers of an extraordinary kind, were successively raised up, that the wickedness of the kings might be boldly met and combated, and, if possible, a remnant of faithful men preserved in the land. The unusual efflux of miraculous energy at this time, is suitable to the unusual emergency, and in very evident proportion to the spiritual necessities of the people.

As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand - This solemn formula, here first used, was well adapted to impress the king with the sacred character of the messenger, and the certain truth of his message. Elisha adopted the phrase with very slight modifications 2 Kings 3:14; 2 Kings 5:16.

Drought was one of the punishments threatened by the Law, if Israel forsook Yahweh and turned after other gods (Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:23; Leviticus 26:19, etc.).

Verse 3

Brook Cherith - Rather, “the torrent course,” one of the many which carry the winter rains from the highlands into that stream.

Verse 4

The ravens - This is the translation of most of the ancient versions; others, omitting the points, which are generally allowed to have no authority, read “Arabians;” others, retaining the present pointing, translate either “merchants” (compare the original of Ezekiel 27:9, Ezekiel 27:27), or “Orbites.” Jerome took it in this last sense, and so does the Arabic Version.

Verse 9

The dependence of Zarephath (Sarepta) on Sidon is indicated in the inscriptions of Sennacherib, where it is mentioned as belonging to Luliya (Elulaeus), king of Sidon, and as submitting to the Assyrian monarch on Luliya’s flight from his capital. Elijah may have been sent to this place, so near the city of Jezebel’s father, as one which it was most unlikely that he would visit.

Verse 12

As the Lord thy God liveth - The words do not prove that the woman was an Israelite, or a worshipper of the true God; any Phoenician, recognizing in Elijah’s appearance the garb and manner of a Jehovistic prophet, might have thus addressed him: Baal-worshippers would have admitted Yahweh to be “a” living God. The woman does not say “as the Lord my God liveth.”

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

Verse 16

This is the first recorded miracle of its kind - a supernatural and inexplicable multiplication of food (compare 2 Kings 4:42-44; Matthew 14:15-21; Matthew 15:32-38). The sacred record does not explain these miracles; but if the explanations sometimes suggested - that there was a transformation of previously existing matter into meal, oil, fish, and bread - be the true one, the marvel of the thing would not be much greater than that astonishing natural chemistry by which, in the growth of plants, particles of water, air, and earth are transmuted into fruits and grains of corn, and so fitted to be human food. There would be a difference in the agency employed and in the time occupied in the transmutation, but the thing done would be almost the same.

Verse 17

No breath - Or, “no spirit,” “no soul.” (Compare Genesis 2:7). The word used is translated “spirit” in Proverbs 20:27; Ecclesiastes 3:21; Job 26:4; and elsewhere.

Verse 18

What have I to do with thee? - i. e., “What have we in common?” - implying a further question, “Why hast thou not left me in peace?” The woman imagines that Elijah’s visit had drawn God’s attention to her, and so to her sins, which (she feels) deserve a judgment - her son’s death.

Thou man of God - In the mouth of the Phoenician woman this expression is remarkable. Among the Jews and Israelites 1 Kings 12:22; Judges 13:6, Judges 13:8 it seems to have become the ordinary designation of a prophet. We now see that it was understood in the same sense beyond the borders of the holy land.

Verse 19

Into a loft - Rather, “into the upper chamber;” often the best apartment in an Eastern house.

Verse 21

He stretched himself upon the child three times - This action of Elijah is different from that of Elisha (marginal reference), and does not imply the use of any natural means for the restoration of suspended animation. It is nearly parallel to the “touch,” through which our Lord performed similar miracles Matthew 9:25; Luke 7:14.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-17.html. 1870.
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