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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 18

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-46

1 Kings 18:1 . After many days. About the end of the third year, leaving six months more for the crops to be sown and ripened, which harmonizes the new testament with the old. Luke 4:25. James 5:17.

1 Kings 18:5 . Go to all fountains and brooks. It had rained in some corners of the land, for “one whole city had gone to another city to drink water.” No doubt there were some very deep springs that would run for more than a year.

1 Kings 18:13 . Jezebel slew the prophets of the lord. Ah, idolatry, bloody idolatry, cruel as Moloch, such are thy characters to the present day.

1 Kings 18:19 . Send and gather to me all Israel. As kings were princes in the state, so the father of the prophets was always regarded as a prince in the church; and when he spake by the word of the Lord, obedience was required. The prophets of Baal would not like this summons; but their honour was at stake. Jezebel worshipped Venus, and therefore supported four hundred prophets of the groves, which had some distinction from Ahab’s four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18:28 . Cut themselves with knives, for Satan delights in human blood. Laërtius, Martial, Lucian, Plutarch and others, mention cases of like nature in which the priests have cut themselves with hatchets, as well as knives. This horrid practice is forbidden in the law. Deuteronomy 14:1. Jeremiah was forbidden to do this for the Jews: 1 Kings 16:6. St. Paul forbids the Thessalonians to sorrow as the heathens, by all such extravagant cuttings. When the king of Taheita died, about the time when the missionaries first arrived, 1795, almost every person in the island gave himself a wound, and one man ran a spear through his arm.

1 Kings 18:33 . Water pour it on the burnt-sacrifice. See note on Isaiah 12:3.

1 Kings 18:40 . Take the prophets of Baal Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. They had blasphemed against the Lord, and murdered his holy prophets: now their day was come. It was an ancient custom, both in Asia and Africa, to slay men over running waters, lest the land should be defiled. It was a general law to wash and purify, after the effusion of blood. So Æneas, as cited, Genesis 31:19.


While Elijah enjoyed his grotto in Cherith, and while he richly feasted on bread and oil in the widow’s house, his country was exposed to the utmost calamities of desolation and anguish. The verdure was vanished, the flocks were slaughtered; and every landscape, once so charming, exhibited marks of God’s high displeasure, and warned the yet surviving inhabitants to fly from the accursed place. But God is ultimately compassionate to man, wherever the dawns of repentance appear. Towards the close of the third year, either to effectuate a national reform, or still persevere in vengeance, till the land was consumed, he sent Elijah the second time to Ahab. How dreadful then is apostasy in religion! Let us fear to set up pleasures, or riches, or any creature as an idol in our heart. It forfeits the divine favour, and will ultimately expose us to his indignation.

In those evil times we cannot but admire the extraordinary piety of Obadiah, Ahab’s steward. Being a true worshipper of God from his youth, he changed not his religion with the court; and though he could not go to Jerusalem, he would nevertheless look towards the sanctuary when he prayed. This man’s piety was proof against the fear of man, the revenues and honour of his situation, yea against the menaces of his life. This man risked the royal favour and his own life, to feed a hundred servants of the Lord whom he hid in two caves, that if the one party should happen to be discovered the other might escape. Yet when Elijah appeared, his faith was not exempt from some shades of weakness and fear. Knowing that Ahab was fully resolved to put Elijah to death, he feared to introduce him into his presence.

The interview between Elijah and Ahab is extremely interesting. About three years had now elapsed since this man of God had announced the drought by oath, and for the greater part of that time the king had sought his life; now the exiled prophet boldly presents himself, and with an overture of grace in case of repentance.

The wicked, oppressed for their sins, are ever prone to lay the blame on others. Art thou he, said Ahab, that troubleth Israel? It is their enemies who have slandered them, it is rogues who have deprived them of their property, it is avaricious people who have taken advantage of their ignorance, or coalesced for their ruin. They are so full of the faults of others that they forget to see their own.

This charge Elijah retorted with an overpowering conviction. ‘I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house have departed from the national covenant, so often ratified by heaven, and so often sealed with marks of the divine favour; and yet ye have gone and served other gods. Therefore those long predicted calamities have come upon you; and I have merely warned, and sentenced you, as the minister of heaven. And now I come with a message of mercy, provided the nation shall reform. Send now and gather all Israel to mount Carmel, for God will honour his altar with the ancient tokens of his presence; and I surrender myself to thy care as a pledge that I will abide the test.’ The apostle Peter in a similar manner exhorts christians to be ready to give an answer to every one who shall ask a reason of their hope. So St. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, but was ready to preach it at Rome in the face of an enlightened world.

How affecting was the interview on Carmel, between the venerable Elijah and the elders of Israel. They look embarrassed and ashamed. It being now but sixty six years since Jeroboam began their calamities by his calves, many of them had attended the altar of JEHOVAH, and the worship of his temple. But now their glory was departed, and their country become a desolation. The prophets and priests of Baal, either infatuated to accept, or unable to evade the test, stood trembling at a distance, as two battalions who must this day either storm heaven by frantic prayers, or atone with their lives for the multitude of martyrs they had made of God’s most faithful servants. Thus while all parties looked to Elijah, he broke the silence. How long, said he to the people, halt ye between two opinions? They answered him not a word: they had erred and were ashamed, what could they say? Let them, continued he, give us two bullocks; and on naming the fire, the ancient test of the true religion, they all said it is well spoken. So the priests having the preference, were obliged to prepare the altar.

From the confusion of those prophets and priests, and from the severe satire and raillery of Elijah, we learn that profane and infidel men shall be mocked and derided in the day of trouble. God will retaliate all their maxims and illusive hopes. Proverbs 1:24-25. He will bid his languishing foes go to their pleasures for peace, to their principles for support, and to their physicians for health. If stern justice once ascend the throne, mercy retires from the bar.

God we see will support his faithful servants in the hour of danger and temptation. The Lord who had sent Elijah in this extraordinary way to address his servants, sent also the promised fire from heaven, gladdened the misguided people, and confounded all his foes. So he had honoured the sacrifice of Abraham, of Aaron, and of Manoah. So he honoured the christian church on the day of Pentecost, and made his praying servants triumphant over all their foes. And where is the fearful and timorous mind; where is the soul injured by the breath of infidels, the sincere and devout soul which has partial doubts of the truth of christianity? Come to God, my weak and trembling brother, come and pray for pardon in the name of Jesus, as Elijah prayed in the name of his fathers’ God, and he will glorify the Saviour’s name by shedding abroad his love in your heart. While musing, or while hearing, or while praying, the fire from heaven shall kindle on the altar of your heart, consume your corruptions, and be an abiding witness of the true religion; and as God would not hear those idolaters, but heard his faithful servant, so he will not hear idolaters still. If Jesus was not the true God, and the eternal Life, he would no more set a soul at liberty in a gross act of idolatry, than he would hear the prophets of Baal.

If we put away our sins, as Elijah and the elders executed the sentence of Moses on the leaders of idolatry; if we renew our covenant with God as Israel now did on Carmel, and if we pray for blessings as this prophet prayed for rain; then the Lord will fulfil to us and to our children every temporal and spiritual blessing of the new covenant of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 18". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-kings-18.html. 1835.
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