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Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 19

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-8

First Kings - Chapter 19

Elijah Runs Away, Verses 1-8

Why did the faith of Elijah suddenly falter? It seems almost inexplicable in light of his great faith through the long, hard years of the famine, and after the spectacular manifestation of the power of God on Mount Carmel. The clue may be in the words of verse one. Ahab went in, when he arrived at Jezreel, and informed Jezebel what had occurred concerning Elijah and her prophets. What was Ahab’s feeling concerning what he had witnessed? It is apparent that he was much impressed, and it would seem may have been ready to call a halt to the Baal worship. He had made no move to stop the execution of the prophets, nor to apprehend Elijah. But he was totally under the control of his "witch-wife," and she made all the calls. If Elijah wanted a fight she was ready to give it to him.

No doubt Elijah had been encouraged. The assembled people on Carmel had fallen on their faces and acclaimed the Lord as the true God. Here, certainly, was the seed germ of revival. The king is on the verge of conversion, but one cunning ploy of the Devil through his high priestess, Jezebel, and the king’s good intentions (assuming he had such) were brought to naught. Jezebel speedily sent a message to Elijah, with her solemn oath by her gods, that she would have the life of Elijah by the same hour of the next day. This squelched the rival, and in despondency and disappointed, Elijah decided to call it quits and run away.

The prophet, in cringing fear for his life, fled into the kingdom of Judah and did not pause until he had reached the southernmost city of that country, Beer-sheba. Even here he did not linger, but left his servant and pressed on into the desert a whole day’s journey. Only then did he feel far enough from Jezebel to risk a rest stop. He sat down under a juniper tree. Bible students have determined that this is not the cedar-type tree known today as the juniper, but a small desert shrub which affords very little shelter from the sun.

Here Elijah prayed that the Lord would let him die, He felt he was in a lost cause and was no longer ready to face the trials continuance in it required. He needed the admonition the Lord left His children in this age, "Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9). Elijah’s fathers in the ministry, the older prophets, had been murdered by Jezebel, and he felt himself no better to live than they. But he fell asleep, and was awakened by the touch of an angel. He saw a cake of bread on coals and a cruse of water at his head, and was told to eat and drink.

Elijah complied with the angel’s command and promptly fell asleep again. He was awakened the second time, and told to eat and drink more, for there was a long journey ahead of him and he lacked the strength for d. After his second meal, Elijah arose and continued on his way to Mount Horeb, and did not have food again for forty days and nights (cf. Jesus’ temptation, Matthew 4:1-11). Horeb is called the mount of God, because it was here that the Lord came down to Israel during the exodus and gave the law ( Exodus, chapters 19ff). the place is known as either Horeb or Sinai, and scholars today are uncertain which is the designation of the mountain range and which the peak.

Verses 9-18

God Speaks, Verse 9-18

When Elijah had arrived at Horeb he found a cave and lived in it. It seems that he wished to be alone with his thoughts, perhaps to commune with the Lord. He felt justified in running away from his troubles, from his ministry in the land of Israel. How like many ministers of the gospel who find it hard to cope, when multiple trials come upon them. There come times when it seems impossible to persevere and men seek to justify their resignation from responsibility (Job 17:9).

The Lord soon called Elijah to an accounting, however, and he was compelled to evaluate his feeling further. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" he asked. And Elijah appears to have prepared answer, giving it in three steps: first, he had been most jealous for the Lord God of hosts in the land of Israel, and had contended for Him in jeopardy of his life; second, Israel had forsaken the covenant of the Lord, demonstrating it by destruction of the Lord’s altars and slaughter of His prophets; third, only Elijah stood as the lone representative of the Lord in all the northern kingdom of Israel, and Jezebel was seeking for him to put him to death.

The Lord sent Elijah outside the cave, where he could observe the mountain and learn a lesson from the Lord. There the Lord passed by Elijah, followed by a mighty storm on the mountain, which rent the mountain and broke the rocks and scattered them. Yet the Lord was not in the storm and wind. After this there came an earthquake which shook the ground where Elijah stood, but it was obvious that the Lord was not in the earthquake. Finally, there was a fire which ravaged the mountain, but the Lord was not in the fire. The Lord had passed by and had permitted these things, but they were not of Him. The prince of the world, the prince of the power of the air, had stirred up the elements and caused a great tumult and turmoil on the mountain. It was not the Lord who had done these things.

But, then there was a still small voice. Elijah recognized it as differ­ent, so he covered his face with his mantle and stood in the cave’s mouth to see what the voice would say to him. The same question was repeated, for Elijah had not properly considered it, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Was he not there out of a self-pity, despondency of the flesh, resisting the call of the Lord? But he gave his prepared answer again. He had worked hard for the Lord, but Israel had rejected the Lord altogether, and sought to exterminate him that there might be no testi­mony whatever for God in Israel. Elijah had weathered mighty storms in his ministry, in earth-shaking events he had remained steadfast, and he had withstood the fires of spiritual ravishment. But the Lord had not brought these on Israel. He was not in them. They had occurred because the Lord had been rejected, and Israel had brought their calamities upon themselves. All the while, however, God was in reach, and those who listened could hear His still small voice to comfort and guide them in every upheaval of Satan (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Elijah’s ministry was not over. There is much work yet for him be­fore he departs the scene. The Lord sent him back into the storm, earth­quake, and fire to prepare for the ultimate trial of Israel. Three men were to be anointed for the purpose. He was to depart by way of the wilder­ness of Damascus and there anoint Hazael, the king’s trusted counsel­or, to be king instead of his lord, Ben-hadad. From here he should pro­ceed to Israel and anoint Jehu, the famous captain of Ahab’s chariots, to be the new king of Israel. Finally he should go to Abel-meholah and anoint the wealthy young farmer, Elisha, to be prophet in his own stead.

These three men God would use for the ultimate judgment of the house of Ahab All who escaped Hazael would be slain by Jehu, and those missed by Jehu would be answerable to Elisha. For the better feeling of the distraught Elijah the Lord also informed him that he was not alone in the worship of the Lord in the kingdom of Israel, for there were seven thousand souls who had never bowed to Baal, nor kissed his image. This last statement (verse 18) was quoted by Paul in Romans 11:4, where he uses the condition of Israel in Elijah’s day to illustrate Jewish unbelief in his own time. Yet as there was a small remnant who remained faithful then, so there would be a believing remnant in the last days, the Gentile age.

Verses 19-21

Eliaha, Verse 19-21

For some reason not revealed in the Scriptures Elijah did not follow the schedule of anointing the three persons as the Lord gave it to him. He seems to have begun at the end by seeking out his own successor, Elisha, first. In fact, so far as the Scriptures reveal Elijah never went to anoint Hazael nor Jehu. Jehu was anointed later at Elisha s command, by one of the young men in the school of the prophets (2 Kings 9:1 ff). There is no account of Hazael’s anointing. There could have been an anointing by Elijah of both of these men, of course.

Elisha lived at Abel-meholah, a small town in Gilead, east of the Jordan, in the tribe of Manasseh, not far from the area where Elijah lived when he first addressed AHab Elisha appears to have been a wealthy young farmer, for he had fields broad enough to require the work of twelve yoke of oxen to cultivate them. This would require a number of servants also, especially inasmuch as all twelve yoke were laboring in the fields when Elijah arrived. As he passed by Elisha, Elijah cast the prophet’s mantle on the young plowman.

It is apparent that Elisha was pondering the call to the ministry, for he immediately left his plow and ran after Elijah, who had gone on without saying a word to him. He was ready to go with Elijah, but desired first to return to his house and kiss his parents good-bye. This he said, though Elijah had said nothing about Elisha’s following him. His answer to Elisha’s request is interesting, "Go back again: what have I done to you?" It was not Elijah who was calling Elisha, and Elisha should not go along with him simply because the old prophet had cast his mantle upon him. It was what the Lord was doing to Elisha that was important, not what another preacher (or anyone else) was doing to him which should cause him to enter the prophetic office. Compare Paul’s experience as related to the Galatians (Galatians 1:15-17; see also the parallel example of the hesitant follower of Jesus, Lu 9:61, 62).

Elisha then did as the Spirit of the Lord must have been prompting him. He took the yoke of oxen which he had been plowing, slew them, cooked the meat with the plowing instruments, yoke, etc., and prepared a dedicatory feast for the workmen. Thus Elisha signified that he had surrendered his former life to enter the service of the Lord, and left the scene with Elijah.

Some important lessons: 1) one cannot run away from duty toward the Lord (Book of Jonah); 2) all the Christian’s reverses are of the work of the Devil who wants him to give up and quit working for Christ; 3) the catastrophes and disappointments of the world are never enough to tune out the still small voice of God, who can speak to His children anywhere at any time; 4) as long as the Lord allows one to live in the world there is still a testimony for that one to bear; 5) true servants of God respond to His call not to the suggestion of another person.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 19". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-kings-19.html. 1985.
 
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