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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 19

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-8

Elijah’s disillusionment 19:1-8

Elijah was surprised that the revival he had just witnessed was not more effective in eliminating Baal worship. Apparently Jezebel’s threat drove the lessons of God’s power and provision that he had been learning at Cherith, Zarephath, and Carmel out of his memory.

"Probably Elijah had played into Jezebel’s hand. Had she really wanted Elijah dead, she surely would have seized him without warning and slain him. What she desired was that Elijah and his God be discredited before the new converts who had aided Elijah by executing the prophets of Baal. Without a leader revolutionary movements usually stumble and fall away. Just when God needed him the most, the divinely trained prophet was to prove a notable failure." [Note: Patterson and Austel, p. 148.]

Beersheba was the southernmost sizable town in the Southern Kingdom. Perhaps the fact that Elijah dismissed his servant there and then went farther alone indicates that he was giving up his ministry. [Note: DeVries, p. 235.] Elijah proceeded farther south into the wilderness where the Israelites had wandered for 40 years because of their unbelief. He did not get much refreshment from the natural provisions of the wilderness such as the juniper (broom) tree (1 Kings 19:4). He said he was no better than his predecessors in purging Israel from idolatry (1 Kings 19:4), implying that he had expected to see a complete revival. God provided supernaturally for His servant in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, as He had provided for the Israelites for 40 years. The trip from Beersheba to the traditional site of Horeb (Mount Sinai) took only 14 days by foot. It seems that Elijah was experiencing the same discipline for his weak faith and the same education that God had given the Israelites years earlier. God sustained Elijah faithfully as He had preserved the nation. The Hebrew text has "the" cave rather than "a" cave (1 Kings 19:9) suggesting that this may have been the very spot where God had placed Moses before He caused His glory to pass before him (Exodus 33:21-23).

"Elijah’s ’pilgrimage’ to Sinai was a search for the roots of Yahwism. There Yahweh had appeared to Moses when he was herding sheep, and there He appeared to him when he gave the law. Elijah needed reaffirmation. What he thought he saw happening on Mt. Carmel did not happen, namely, the repentance of Israel. So he went to Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb) to chide Yahweh for forsaking him." [Note: Heater, p. 134.]

Verses 9-21

God’s revelation of His methods 19:9-21

Elijah’s zeal for God’s covenant, altars, and prophets was admirable, but he became too discouraged because he underestimated the extent of commitment to Yahweh that existed in Israel. [Note: Ronald B. Allen, "Elijah the Broken Prophet," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22:3 (1979):202.] He was not alone in his stand for Yahweh (1 Kings 19:10; cf. 1 Kings 18:13). God asked him what he was doing there (1 Kings 19:9; 1 Kings 19:13) because He had not sent him to Horeb, as He had sent him to Cherith, Zarephath, and Samaria (cf. 1 Kings 17:3; 1 Kings 17:9; 1 Kings 18:1). Elijah had fled to Horeb out of fear. God proceeded to reproduce demonstrations of His power that He had given Israel at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-18) and to Elijah at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:38; 1 Kings 18:45). Nevertheless God was not in these in the sense that they were not His methods now. Rather, God was in the gentle blowing (1 Kings 19:12). One writer suggested that we should understand the Hebrew words translated "a gentle blowing" (NASB) or "a gentle whisper" (NIV) as "a roaring and thundrous voice." [Note: J. Lust, "A Gentle Breeze or a Roaring Thunderous Sound?" Vetus Testamentum 25:1 (January 1975):115.] This view has not found popular acceptance.

Moses had spent 40 days and nights on the mountain fasting while he waited for a new phase of his ministry to begin (Exodus 34:28). Jesus spent 40 days and nights in a wilderness at the beginning of His public ministry too (cf. Matthew 4:1-2). Elijah covered his face because he realized that He could not look at God and live (1 Kings 19:13), as Moses also realized (Exodus 33:20-22; cf. Genesis 32:30). Elijah was to learn that whereas God had revealed Himself in dramatic ways in the past, He would now work in quieter ways. Instead of Elijah continuing to stand alone for God, God would now put him into the background while the Lord used other people. [Note: For helpful insights into 1 Kings 19:9-14, see William Dumbrell, "What Are You Doing Here? Elijah at Horeb," Crux 22:1 (March 1986):12-19.] Elijah evidently got the message, but he still felt depressed (1 Kings 19:14). God was dealing with him gently too.

"His [Elijah’s] God-given successes had fostered an inordinate pride (cf. 1 Kings 19:4; 1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14) that had made him take his own importance too seriously. Moreover, Elijah had come to bask in the glow of the spectacular. He may have fully expected that because of what had been accomplished at Mount Carmel, Jezebel would capitulate and pagan worship would come to an end in Israel-all through his influence!" [Note: Patterson and Austel, p. 148.]

"I have never been impressed by the view that the command to anoint Hazael, Jehu and Elisha was the expression of God’s disapproval of Elijah’s flight from Jezebel, and that thereby his prophetic work was as good as terminated. He had a considerable period of activity still before him, and there is absolutely nothing in the story of his departure to justify such a conclusion. For Elijah to anoint those who were to carry on his work, whether he did it personally or by proxy, is rather to stress with what authority they would act, when they brought judgment and destruction on Israel." [Note: Ellison, p. 33.]

Yahweh next directed Elijah to return to Israel to do three things (1 Kings 19:15-16). Elijah anointed only Elisha personally (1 Kings 19:19-21). He anointed Hazael and Jehu indirectly through his successor, Elisha (2 Kings 8:7-14; 2 Kings 9:1-3). Through these three men God would complete the purge of Baal worship that Elijah had begun (1 Kings 19:17). God also had 7,000 other faithful followers in Israel through whom He could work (1 Kings 19:18). The writer mentioned some of these loyal people in the chapters that follow. This word from the Lord marks a great crisis in Israel. God now turned from the northern tribes as a whole to deal with a faithful remnant within that nation. [Note: Ibid., p. 44.] Evidence of this is the fact that the stories of Elisha that follow deal mainly with the remnant rather than with the whole nation, in contrast to the record of Elijah’s ministry.

Elisha was a prosperous farmer who lived near Abel-meholah (1 Kings 19:16) in the Jordan Valley, 23 miles south of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee). Throwing a prophet’s cloak around a person symbolized the passing of the power and authority of the office to that individual. [Note: House, p. 225.] "What have I done to you" (1 Kings 19:20) is an idiom that means, "Do as you please." Elisha terminated his former occupation and from then on served as a prophet (cf. Amos 7:14-15; Luke 9:62). His sacrifice of his oxen as a burnt offering to Yahweh symbolized his total personal commitment to God (1 Kings 19:21). Perhaps his 12 pairs of oxen (1 Kings 19:19) represented the 12 tribes of Israel whom Elisha would now lead spiritually.

"Elijah recruits his attendant and successor at the workplace, as Jesus was to do with many of his followers." [Note: Auld, p. 128. ]

This closes the so-called Elijah cycle or narrative (chs. 17-19), one of the richest portions of the Old Testament for preaching and teaching. In many ways Elijah, Israel’s savior, prefigured Jesus Christ and His ministry.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 19". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-kings-19.html. 2012.
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