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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 18

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

And it came to pass [after] many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.

After many days,i.e., After three years and six months’ time of famine: which to the distressed Israelites seemed a long while.

In the third year. — Of his abode at Zarephath.

And I will send rain. — Heb., I will give. Rain is a gracious gift of God. See on Zechariah 10:1 .

Verse 2

And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And [there was] a sore famine in Samaria.

And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab. — Though a bloody persecutor of the prophets, and to Elijah a professed enemy. Faith quelleth and killeth distrustful fear.

Verse 3

And Ahab called Obadiah, which [was] the governor of [his] house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:

And Ahab called Obadiah. — Who was neither the prophet Odadiah, as some have thought, nor that good captain over fifty, who begged his life of Elijah, 2 Kings 1:13 but another, a good officer, under wicked Ahab; such as was also Jacob to Laban, Joseph to Pharaoh, Naaman to Benhadad, Mordecai to Ahashuerus, Nehemiah to Artaxerxes, some good people in Nero’s house, Trajan to Valens, Cromwell to Henry VIII, …

Now Obadiah feared God greatly. — And God bore with him, though he hazarded not his life and liberty for the legal ceremonies.

Verse 4

For it was [so], when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)

When Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord. — Who declaimed against her idolatry, and proclaimed hell fire, … Who can stand still to have his eyes picked out

Obadiah took a hundred prophets. — This was a sure sign of the true fear of God in him, see Job 6:14 quitting his heart of carnal fears, and quickening it to help God’s persecuted prophets not without the hazard of his head, if once it had been noticed. But he was as secret as good; else he could not have done so much service to the Church. Policy and religion do as well together, as they do ill asunder; their match maketh themselves secure, and many happy.

With bread and water. — Which though but mean fare, yet - to them that had the continual feast of a good conscience within - it was as brown bread and water was to the martyrs in those Marian times, better than the fine bread and wine would have been at Jezebel’s table.

Verse 5

And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.

And Ahab said unto Obadiah. — Goodness carrieth away trust, where it cannot have imitation.

Peradventure we may find grass. — Which groweth best in locis irriguis, in low and moist places that lie by water sides.

To save the horses and mules alive. — These were his delight and confidence; and for this more care is taken than for those "precious sons of Zion," the prophets, whom he suffered to be cut off by his wicked wife Jezebel.

That we lose not all the beasts. — The loss of their souls, meanwhile, is never thought on; though our Saviour - who only went to the price of souls - showeth that the loss of a soul is, (1.) incomparable, (2.) irreparable. Matthew 16:26

Verse 6

So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

And Obadiah went another way by himself. — Ahab had found him faithful; and therefore trusteth him in this weighty business, rather than any other. Of a man that truly feareth God it may better be said, than of Cato, that he never did well that he might appear to do so, but because he could not do otherwise.

Verse 7

And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, [Art] thou that my lord Elijah?

And he knew him. — They were of old acquaintance, doubtless, so good a man, and so great a prophet. Mr Fox, when a great lord, and wicked, met him in the streets, and asked him, How do you, Mr Fox? he said little. When the great lord said, Do you not know me? No, not I, said Mr Fox. I am such a one, said he. Sir, I desire, said Mr Fox, to know none but Christ and him crucified. At another time being asked whether he knew such a godly poor man, he answered, I remember him well: I tell you, I forget lords and ladies to remember such.

Verse 8

And he answered him, I [am]: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah [is here].

Behold, Elijah is here. — Not ashamed to show my face; but of his mind who said, Malo miserandum quam erubescendum. Memorable was that speech of John Frith to the archbishop’s men that would have let him go and shift for himself; If you should both leave me here, and go to Croyden, declaring to the bishops that you had lost Frith, I would surely follow as fast after as I might, and bring them news that I had found and brought Frith again. Do you think that I am afraid to declare mine opinion to the bishops of England in a manifest truth? Act. and Mon., 1927.

Verse 9

And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?

Into the hand of Ahab, to slay me,sc., For not laying hands on thee, to bring thee unto him, for whom he had so long, so anxiously sought.

Verse 10

[As] the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, [He is] not [there]; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.

There is no nation or kingdom. — And yet the prophet, by the widow’s industry, lay hid no farther off him than was Zarephath, a city of his father-in-law Ethbaal’s. This was God’s own doing; and the like was done for good Athanasius, who, for the space of forty-six years - so long his troubles lasted - is said to have found no friend but God and death: the one a defender of his innocency, the other the finisher of all his miseries. Some report of him, that he lived six years in a well, without the light of the sun, forsaken of friends, and everywhere hunted by enemies.

Verse 11

And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah [is here].

Behold, Elijah is here. — Whereupon he shall slay me, as 1 Kings 18:14 ; 1 Kings 18:9 .

Verse 12

And it shall come to pass, [as soon as] I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and [so] when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.

But I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. — This he saith not of vain glory; but upon necessity for his own safety, and that the prophet might not be mistaken in him, thus making excuse.

Verse 13

Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD’S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?

How I hid a hundred men of the Lord’s prophets. — So did Hulderic Hutten, Silvester de Schavenburg, and Franciscus a Sickingen, noble gentlemen of Germany, hide and feed Oecolampadins, Bucer, Luther, and other godly divines in those worst of times, when the Pope was in his greatest power. Melch. Adam., in Vit. Schwebel. Of Dr Chatterton His Life by Mr Clark. it is recorded, that if he heard of any godly minister that was in want, he would send them forty or fifty shillings at a time.

Verse 14

And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah [is here]: and he shall slay me.

And he shall slay me. — Everything would live. Man is ζωον φιλοζωον . See on 1 Kings 18:9 .

Verse 15

And Elijah said, [As] the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.

I will surely show myself unto him today. — Though he be never so much incensed against me. The fear of God putteth out the fear of any mortal wight, as the sunbeams do the fire on the hearth. When Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, said to Dr Taylor, martyr, Art thou come, thou villain? how darest thou look me in the face for shame? knowest thou not who I am? Yes, quoth Taylor, I know who you are: you are Dr Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and Lord Chancellor, yet but a mortal man, I think. But if I should be afraid of your lordly looks, why fear you not God the Lord of us all? How dare you, for shame, look any Christian man in the face, seeing ye have forsaken the truth, denied our Saviour Christ and his word, and done contrary to your own word and writing? … Thus that valiant martyr, like another Elias. Act. and Mon.

Verse 16

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

So Obadiah went. — Cured of his fear by the prophet’s oath; and confident that Deo armatus, he would encounter the king.

Verse 17

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, [Art] thou he that troubleth Israel?

Art thou he that troubleth Israel? — Alas, what had the righteous prophet done? he taxed their sin, he foretold the judgment: he deserved it not, he inflicted it not; yet he smarteth, and they are guilty. As if some fond people should accuse the herald or the trumpet, as the cause of their war. Or, as if some ignorant peasant, when he seeth his fowls bathing in his pond, should cry out of them as the causes of foul weather. Bishop Hall.

Verse 18

And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.

I have not troubled Israel; but thou, … — This was prophet-like plain dealing; such as was afterwards also used by Micaiah, Elisha, Jeremiah, John Baptist, Athenagoras, Athanasius Chrysostom, qui peccata tanta severitate arguebat ac si ipse etiam per iniuriam laesus esset: et omnium ordinum delicta magna dicendi libertate taxabat, who spared none for their greatness, but with all boldness reproved them for their faults; taking the same liberty to cry down sins, that men of all ranks took to commit them. Osiand. Hist. Eccles., cent. 5, lib. i. cap. 6.

Verse 19

Now therefore send, [and] gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.

And the prophets of the groves, which eat at Jezebel’s table. — These came not, as forbidden, haply, by Jezebel, who yet was at great charge with them. The Duke of Bavaria’s house is at this day so pestered with friars and Jesuits, that notwithstanding the greatness of his revenue, he is very poor, as spending all his estate on these Popish flesh flies.

Verse 20

So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.

Unto mount Carmel. — Where the Papists say that Elias used to live a monastic retired life; and thereupon they call an order of their friars Carmelites. A mere fancy.

Verse 21

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him: but if Baal, [then] follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

How long halt ye between two opinions? — Being as soon of this, and as soon of that; uncertain of either, unconstant to either; flying, like birds, off one bough on to another, as the Hebrew word äñòôéí . here used properly signifieth, waving as top branches, and wavering "like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." James 1:6 Such "a double-minded man," saith that apostle, James 1:8 "is unstable in all his ways"; - Ecebolius, for instance, the late archbishop of Spalato; Baldwin, of whom Beza saith that he had religionem ephemeram, for each day a new religion; Hos Cyprianus appellat palpatores temporum, in levitate tantum constantes. Henry IV of France, whom Ravilliac stabbed, as himself confessed, because he was of two religions; and sundry of our sectaries with their Dies diem doces, which was once one of the sceptical marks of the Arminians, but now of our new-lighted men: surely, saith one, such a generation of moon-calves One born with undeveloped brain; a congenital idiot; a born fool. hardly ever appeared in the world, utpote quos molendini instar quovis doctrinae vento, circumagitat diabolus, the devil wherrying and whirling them about, as a mill "with every wind of doctrine."

If the Lord be God, follow him. — Less hateful to God are they that serve him not at all, than they that serve him with a rival. If God be God, follow him, said Mr Bradford, martyr, in one of his letters: if the mass be God, let him that will see it, hear, and be present at it, and go to the devil with it. Act. and Mon.

And the people answered him not a word. — Baal’s worshippers, self-condemned, could not plead for him: those that followed the Lord durst not speak for fear of Ahab and Jezebel. Many such cold friends religion hath now-a-days.

Verse 22

Then said Elijah unto the people, I, [even] I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets [are] four hundred and fifty men.

I, even I, only remain. — So Paphnutius in the Nicene Council carried it for the truth. So before him, did Nicodemus, John 7:51 ; John 7:53 as after, Athanasius and Luther, qui totius orbis impetum soli sustinuerunt. God is the more seen in such cases.

Verse 23

Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay [it] on wood, and put no fire [under]: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay [it] on wood, and put no fire [under]:

And cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood. — After the manner of sacrifices. And thus should Abraham have done by Isaac, if he had not been hindered from heaven: a very great trial.

Verse 24

And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.

And the God that answereth by fire. — He would have the controversy thus decided rather by a miracle than by the Scriptures because he had to do with those that were no better than infidels and miscreants.

Verse 25

And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress [it] first; for ye [are] many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire [under].

Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first. — All privileges and advantages are granted them, lest it should be pretended that their god was sullen, and therefore silent.

Verse 26

And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed [it], and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But [there was] no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.

And they leaped upon the altar. — Or, Leaped up and down at the altar, as if they had been in some prophetical ecstasy, or would have fetched fire from heaven. The heathen Corybantes, Luperci and Salii, those Roman priests, used many antic and strange gestures in their idol services.

Verse 27

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he [is] a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, [or] peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

That Elijah mocked them. — All mocking therefore is not unlawful: not that which tendeth to the discountenancing of sin; but that which is to the unjust disgrace and just grief of another.

Or he is pursuing. — Heb., He hath a pursuit, viz., hostium vel ferarum: either he is chasing his enemies, or hunting some wild creatures for his recreation.

Or he is in a journey, … — Homer brings in the gods journeying, fighting, feasting, sleeping, … Lucian feigneth that there are certain chasms or chinks in heaven, through which only Jupiter, at certain times, heareth men’s prayers. Of Diana they say, that being busy at great Alexander’s birth, she could not be present at Ephesus to preserve her temple, which was, the same time, set on fire and burnt to ashes.

Verse 28

And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

And they cried aloud, and cut themselves. — To their vocis intentio, they added cutis incisio - and this they had learned of their heathen neighbours Deuteronomy 14:1 - but all would not do.

Till the blood gushed out upon them. — This they did by the instigation of that old manslayer, who delighteth in sucking man’s blood, the blood of souls especially. He it is that set awork the priests of Cybele to do the like, and still the Flagellatores among the Papists, who, the week before Easter, whip themselves till the blood followeth, as also the Turkish priests, whose custom is to wound and lance themselves, qua satisfactione existimant se praestare Deo culturm ex opere operato, saith mine author, wherein they think they do God singular good service.

Verse 29

And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the [time] of the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, that [there was] neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

And they prophesied. — Did all their mad pranks, and haply sang the praises of their idol god.

Nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. — Jupiter Cretensis was pictured without ears, as well he might, for he had no use of them. But our God scorneth that any should seek to him in vain. Isaiah 45:19

Verse 30

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD [that was] broken down.

And he repaired the altar of the Lord. — Defaced, likely, by idolaters, and haply by these Baalists now in their frantic fits, and to make work for Elijah, who had so taunted them, and would yet take them a link lower.

Verse 31

And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:

According to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob. — To immind them that there ought to have been a common consent of the twelve tribes in the true service of God, and what a shame it was that it should be otherwise.

Verse 32

And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.

In the name of the Lord,i.e., By his special warrant, and for his honour and service.

Verse 33

And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid [him] on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour [it] on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.

Fill four barrels with water. — Which was got out of the sea, likely, which was nigh to mount Carmel, Jeremiah 4:18 in this wonderful drought, whereby the brooks were dried up. This was done that the miracle might be the more manifest, and beyond all exception.

Verse 34

And he said, Do [it] the second time. And they did [it] the second time. And he said, Do [it] the third time. And they did [it] the third time.

Do it the third time. — The twelve barrels might also point to the same thing as the twelve stones. 1 Kings 18:31

Verse 35

And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.

And he filled the trench also with the water. — To the end that all being licked up, the miracle might be the more manifest.

Verse 36

And it came to pass at [the time of] the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou [art] God in Israel, and [that] I [am] thy servant, and [that] I have done all these things at thy word.

That thou art God in Israel. — The Baalites’ prayers were not more tedious than Elijah’s was short, and yet more pithy than short; charging God with the care of his covenant, of his truth, of his glory. It was Elijah that spake loud. Oh, the strong cries of faith!

Verse 37

Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou [art] the LORD God, and [that] thou hast turned their heart back again.

Hear me, O Lord, hear me. — God is distinguished from all false gods by his hearing of prayers. This the prophet well knew, and therefore crieth, "Hear me, Lord, hear me": the people also acknowledge it, 1 Kings 18:39 where seeing God’s answer by fire to the prophet’s prayer, they cry out, as fully convinced, "The Lord," and not Baal, "he is God; the Lord, he is God."

And that thou hast turned. — Or, Turn thou their hearts, …

Verse 38

Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that [was] in the trench.

Then the fire of the Lord fell. — In answer to the prophet’s prayer, and for the conversion of the people. Plutarch giving a reason why the Cretans pictured Jupiter without ears, saith, Non convenit ab eo audiri quenquam qui omnium sit dominus atque princeps: It is not fit that he should hear any one, who is himself lord of all. But our God taketh no such state upon him; he prepareth his people’s hearts, and then causeth his ears to hear; Psalms 10:17 he is near to his suppliants, and rich in mercy to those that call upon him.

Verse 39

And when all the people saw [it], they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he [is] the God; the LORD, he [is] the God.

The Lord, he is the God. — This was to give God a testimonial; this was to "set to their seals that God was true." John 3:33

Verse 40

And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

And they took them. — The recent miracle had made them submissive.

To the brook Kishon. — Haply, to testify that because of their idolatry God’s hand was upon the brooks and rivers.

Verse 41

And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for [there is] a sound of abundance of rain.

Get thee up, eat and drink. — One of the Hebrews saith that Ahab had long fasted, that he might obtain rain of God. The chief cause of God’s wrath was now removed; he might therefore rejoice and take his repast.

For there is a sound of abundance of rain. — We read of Wilfride, bishop of Chichester, that about the year of grace 700 he converted to the faith many pagans in those parts: and a day being appointed for their baptism, they had no sooner received the same, but immediately it rained plentifully, the want whereof had caused a dearth three years before; and that so great, as not only many died daily for hunger, but great numbers joining hand in hand, forty or fifty in a company, threw themselves headlong into the sea. Godw., Catal, p. 465.

Verse 42

So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,

And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. — There, as in his ordinary oratory, to pray out the promise of rain, to put it in suit, and this he did lustily, James 5:17 straining, as it were, every vein in his heart: for,

He cast himself down upon the earth,sc, Upon his knees.

And he put his face between his knees. — To show his great humility and fervency. His knees he bowed to God, his face he bowed down to his knees: by this humble posture both acknowledging his humble respects to that Majesty which he implored; and in addition so hiding his eyes from all distracting objects, that he might the more wholly attend the work which he went about. Some do here observe that the babe in the womb lieth in this sort, with his head between his knees; thereby tacitly setting forth his own misery, and imploring God’s mercy, to bring him into the light. Quo in statu sese composuit ter maximus Elias abiectissimae suae conditionis memor, ut caelum votis ira conceptis aperiret: quae certe conditio in utero mirabili, superbos ab arrogantia revocare deberet, saith Bodine. Theatr. Naturae p. 428. The great prophet Elias prayed in this posture, as expressing and increasing thereby his devotion. Let proud men remember their mean beginnings, and pull their crests.

Verse 43

And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, [There is] nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.

And said to his servant. — The widow of Sarepta’s son, saith Vatablus. Heb., To his young man.

Look toward the sea. — Whence great vapours arise, which breed clouds and rain.

There is nothing. — God seeth good to suspend his answer sometimes, and to hold his people in request, for the trial and exercise of their faith and patience, and that they may call in the help of others at a dead lift.

Go again seven times. — We must persevere in prayer, waiting patiently upon him who "waiteth to be gracious," Isaiah 30:18 and will not fail at his own time.

Verse 44

And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare [thy chariot], and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.

Behold, there ariseth a little cloud. — This little cloud shall ere long overmask the whole heaven. Every former mercy is a pledge and forerunner of a future and greater, if it be well improved; only we must pray on, and not faint. Luke 18:1 Gregorius Turonensis relateth Lib. ii. cap. 7. the like to have fallen out once at Orleans, upon the prayer of Anianus, bishop there; at what time that city was almost taken by Attilus, king of Hunns, but seasonably rescued, and the siege raised by Aetius and Theodoricus, helped by abundance of rain at that time falling, after the sight of a little cloud, arising out of the earth.

Verse 45

And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.

And there was a great rain,sc., Upon the prayer of Elias. And the like was done for the thundering legion, as they called them, the Christians in M. Aurelius’ army.

Verse 46

And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah. — He was filled with, and acted by a supernatural ability and agility, ut pedes regem equitantem anteiret, that he run before the king’s chariot, whereinto the king should have done well to have taken him.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 18". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/1-kings-18.html. 1865-1868.
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