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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

1 Kings 19

Verses 1-3

Elijah Runs for His Life

Ahab tells his wife Jezebel everything Elijah has done. He gives testimony of the work of Elijah, but that is the work of God with a mighty result. It has no effect on Ahab itself. Nor does he speak of the rain, but of the prophets who killed Elijah with the sword.

Jezebel represents the papal power, a power that we see especially in the Middle Ages. We see this in the church history given to us in Revelation 2-3 and specifically in the church in Thyatira, where Jezebel is mentioned by name (Revelation 2:20). Just as the popes ruled over kings, so does Jezebel rules over Ahab. In Revelation 17 we see the woman sitting on a scarlet beast (Revelation 17:3). This symbolizes that she has the kings in her power.

When Jezebel hears her husband’s report, she sends a messenger to Elijah to announce the death sentence to him. She is only possessed of one thing: Elijah must die. She lets him know. Elijah is not far away. The messenger does not have to look far. The message is clear and very threatening. We may wonder why Jezebel, if she really wanted to kill Elijah, did not immediately do so. Did she fear reactions from the people? Or was she afraid of Elijah herself? In any case, she wants to threaten him, perhaps with the hope that he would flee. She doesn’t tolerate him in her surroundings. If she has indeed had the intention to frighten Elijah and thereby chase him away, she succeeds in her intention.

Elijah has had its peak. What a great service he did on Mount Carmel. But now that he is confronted with death, that threat is too much for him. When he hears the message of Jezebel, he flees, afraid of his life. Where is the fearlessness of the man who dared to stand up for God against 850 false prophets and an ungodly king and the mass of a doubting people? This only happens when you start thinking about yourself and no longer about God. It happens when you get disappointed with the results of your service. Now he has brought the people back to God and the only answer is that they want to kill you! Elijah is the disappointed servant. Is this not recognizable to all who may serve the Lord?

It says that Elijah “saw” (as the Hebrew text may read) what Jezebel is planning. He ‘sees’ the great danger hanging over his head and he sees it alone. He sees not to the LORD. And because he sees not the LORD, but only the danger for his life, he flees. The man with an enormous spiritual victory falls prey to the fear of a woman. What happened to Elijah here also happened to Peter when he walked over the water. “Seeing the wind” (Matthew 14:30) he did not see the Lord anymore, and so things went wrong. He then no longer lived in faith but by sight (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). This is also happening with Elijah.

The Spirit of God writes to us what kind of man Elijah is: “A man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). He who has been afraid of nothing becomes afraid of his life. So it is with every servant. They have their peaks, followed sometimes by a low point, a breakdown. What is the reason for this with Elijah? Is it because of disappointment in the reaction of the people or of Ahab? It seems that he forgets that the LORD brought him to that great deed. He also forgets that he has to leave the consequences to the LORD. The result is that he is only occupied with himself.

The Lord Jesus also knew disappointment (Isaiah 49:4; Matthew 11:20-Jeremiah :), but how different is His reaction (Isaiah 49:4; Matthew 11:25). There is no self-pity with Him, but He gives everything and Himself over “to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). He experiences everything with His God and takes everything out of His hand.

Elijah comes to Beersheba, which means ‘well of the oath’. However, it does not remind him of it. He leaves his servant there. But God does not leave His servant, and follows Him.

Verses 4-8

Under a Juniper Tree

Elijah goes into the wilderness, sits under a broom and wishes to die. In his wish to die already sounds that he thinks he is better than his fathers. God does not answer his prayer, for God has other, higher plans for his end on earth. This is how God often deals with our prayers. In the meantime, however, Elijah still has to learn and do a few things, learn about himself and God, and do something about his succession. A servant has never ceased to be taught and service must be transferred. God will continue His work, even if we are no longer confident in it.

Elijah is at the end of its strength. Many servants know that feeling. It makes you despondent when there is no result or when expected results fail. It can also be the same with the prophetic service in the meeting. It is about the servant introducing God to the church and not himself. It is exhausting to maintain oneself and to be important oneself. Elijah considers himself better than his fathers. Whoever is allowed to perform a certain service must be aware that he is no better than others.

When Elijah had to hide from Ahab, God used ravens and a widow to take care of him. Here God uses an angel, possibly it is the Lord Jesus Himself. This is how God is towards His servant who is completely down. There God comes to him. God is personally busy taking care of Elijah. He gives him food and grants him his sleep, just as He has given food and rest to a whole people for forty years.

The angel touches him and Elijah wakes up. It is a gentle touch. There are no words of reproach, but words of encouragement to get up and eat. Elijah gets a bread cake, not meat. The bread cake speaks of the Lord Jesus in His life on earth, of His humanity. It is a bread cake baked on coal. It represents the Lord Jesus, tried by God in the circumstances of life. The grain offering speaks of the Lord Jesus as Man on earth, which we see in Psalm 16, which we can call ‘the psalm of the grain offering’, presented in a special way.

There is also a jar of water for his refreshment and also for cleansing. The water is a picture of the Word of God. By reading God’s Word we are refreshed and our thoughts are also cleansed of self-pity. Water in a jar represents the Word of God in our lives.

God makes sure that Elijah gets the strength to go further. He encourages him to eat twice what he has prepared for him. God always gives us the power to do what He asks of us. Spiritual food gives strength for the way we cannot go without it.

Food gives Elijah the power to go “to Horeb, the mountain of God”. Elijah is on his way to God through the wilderness, a journey of forty days and forty nights. The Lord Jesus was also in a desert, forty days and forty nights, but He is there with the devil.

Verses 9-14

At Horeb

Elijah enters a cave at Horeb. Moses has also been in a cave (Exodus 33:22). Moses also had a problem and that of the judgmental God against a godless people on the one hand and the gracious God Who wanted to spare His people on the other hand.

After Elijah had spent the night in the cave, God asked him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” That should force him to reflect. Elijah, however, is full of himself and what one wants to do to him, and that while he has so dedicated himself to the LORD, and this alone. The whole forty-day journey did not change his mind. He is still the same disappointed prophet.

He is charging Israel before God. The people are very unfaithful to God and to His prophets, and even the one who is left, they want to kill. What a people! He has forgotten that there are several faithful. To God this is a serious matter, which is evidenced by the fact that God cites this pleading against Israel with Him in the New Testament (Romans 11:2-Numbers :). God does so with no fault of any Old Testament believer except with what Elijah does here. Here Elijah is a prosecutor of the people. In the New Testament many believers are quoted from the Old Testament, but only their acts of faith come to the fore there. Elijah is a negative exception.

Then he must stand before the LORD (1 Kings 19:11). That is where the Lord wants each one of us to be: before Him. There the LORD passes by. But before this happens, some impressive events take place. The LORD first sends a great wind, then an earthquake, and then a fire. They are manifestations of His power. Every time it says that the LORD was not in it. Maybe Elijah thought: “How impressive such manifestations of God’s power would be if you could go to the people with them!” But, and this is decisive, God would not be in it.

So where can the LORD be found then? He shows Himself in “a sound of a gentle blowing”. Elijah remained unmoved when he saw the power of God, perhaps with a sense of excitement. But as he hears the sound of that gentle blowing, he wraps his face. Here he sees himself before God, Who shows Himself to him as the merciful God. There is nothing that makes a man so small as to be confronted with a gracious God.

It is not the time of judgment that is represented in the different elements – wind, earthquake and fire. This seems to appeal to Elijah, but the LORD is not in it, not yet. Now He is still in grace dealing with His people and with His servant. This is shown by the sound of a gentle blowing. It is not about impressive, deafening manifestations, but about peace and quiet.

Again the question is asked: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And, incomprehensibly if we don’t know ourselves a little, Elijah answers with the same words. Rocks can be broken, but breaking hearts is more difficult. Elijah says with his remarks that with his death the testimony before God has disappeared from the earth. He has no eye for the 7,000 whom God sees.

Verses 15-18

Three Commissions for Elijah

When Elijah, so to speak, has submitted his resignation as a prophet to God, God accepts it. He gives him some commissions to finish his service. He must anoint three people.

Again God says “go” (1 Kings 19:15; 1 Kings 18:1), but now to return on his way. The first thing he has to do is to anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Elijah does not carry out this task personally, but through Elisha. Hazael is anointed by Elisha. This king will become a means of disciplining God’s people, for the people are unfaithful and deviated from God.

Besides Hazael, Jehu must also be anointed. Also this anointing was not done by Elijah personally, but by Elisha. Jehu will kill him who has escaped the sword of Hazael. That is how it happened. Jehoram, who had escaped Hazael, was killed by Jehu.

The third task of Elijah is to anoint Elisha. Elisha belongs to the 7,000 that God has left. Elijah does, however, fulfil the task of anointing him. That is to say that he appoints Elisha as his successor by means of a symbolic act. It is unique in the service of the prophet that he has a successor. Elisha replaces Elijah.

With Elisha we see the principle of grace. We don’t read that Elisha killed anyone. Elisha does not kill by the wind, the earthquake and the fire, as Hazael and Jehu will do, but lets the sound of gentle blowing be heard.

Verses 19-21

The Calling of Elisha

Of the three commissions God has given, Elijah has personally only appointed Elisha as his successor. There he goes first, and not to Hazael and Jehu who are mentioned earlier by the LORD. The story continues immediately with the calling of Elisha, the third and last part of the Divine command.

This does not mean the end of Elijah’s own service work. We read about him again in 1 Kings 21, where he denounces Ahab the judgment in the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21:17-Song of Solomon :), and also in 2 Kings 1, where he denounces Ahaziah’s death (2 Kings 1:3-Numbers :). For Elisha, these years, in which he lives in the proximity of the prophet and serves him, have undoubtedly been a good time to prepare for his own task.

The anointing of Elisha is done in a symbolic way. The symbolic act of Elijah in the calling of his successor is that he throws his mantle on him (1 Kings 19:19). The gesture is telling enough. With this he tells Elisha to succeed him. He doesn’t persuade Elisha to follow him; he leaves that to the LORD. Elisha must draw the conclusion himself.

Elisha receives the mantle of the prophets from Elijah’s hand and will in the future be allowed to wear it (2 Kings 2:12-1 Chronicles :). This mantle also plays an interesting role later on, when Elijah is taken up into heaven. The water of the Jordan divides to both sides as soon as Elijah and later Elisha hit the water with the mantle (2 Kings 2:8; 2 Kings 2:14). The Jordan, which ends in the Dead Sea, can be called the Death River. The power of death must give way to the power of God that reaches farther than the limits of death.

While Elijah, which means ‘my God is Yahweh’, is described as the prophet of judgment, Elisha, which means ‘my God is salvation’, is pre-eminently the prophet of grace. Every time we see him healing and saving. Where he appears on the stage, there is life and hope.

Elisha participates in the spirit of Elijah when he sees him go to heaven. Thus we have been given part in the Spirit of Christ after His glorification in heaven. In the power of that Spirit we can fulfil our calling and task. When Elisha is called to follow Elijah, he is busy on the land. Even now, God is still calling people in the midst of their busy work to give it up and to give their time and strength to Him (cf. Matthew 4:18-Song of Solomon :).

Elisha must have been a rich farmer. He has to give up a lot. We see this also with Moses and Paul who also gave up all natural benefits for the Lord. God calls Moses when he is in the most privileged position. Moses gives up that position for “the reproach of Christ” (Hebrews 11:24-Ezekiel :). In the same way, Paul gives up an enormous privileged position in the religious world.

If people give up their jobs and want to go into the work of the Lord because they do not like their jobs, it is not from the Lord. For example, a businessman whose business is going badly must not give up doing business in order to do the Lord’s work. He must consult with the Lord on how to improve his business.

Elisha is plowing with twelve oxen in front of him. He is at the twelfth pairs of oxen. God calls him where he is, at the twelfth pair of oxen. The number twelve is emphasized. It recalls the altar that Elijah built and for which he used twelve stones (1 Kings 18:31). The number twelve makes us think of all the people of God. Twelve pairs of oxen point out that God wants His whole people to serve Him.

Elijah throws his mantle on Elisha’s. From now on, Elisha shall no longer go through life as a farmer, but as a prophet. God calls whomever He wills, and He calls where He wills. He calls honorable and He calls low people. He calls farmers to plough in the fields of this world and then sow the seed of the Word of God. He calls fishermen to make them fishers of people. God is sovereign and His calling is living and powerful.

Elijah does not convince Elisha with words to follow him. Through a gesture Elisha is brought into exercise. To persuade a person to serve the Lord without his heart and conscience being exercised only brings misery.

Elisha first wants to greet his father and mother and say goodbye to them. He asks Elijah for permission to do so. Elijah does not answer this question. He does not ask Elisha to be held accountable. He leaves it a matter between Elisha and God.

God’s calling often intervenes deeply in existing situations and relationships. Calling is not without obligation and can lead to a break with family members or close friends. We also see this in the life of Elisha. He has to say goodbye to his family, his father and his mother (1 Kings 19:20). He willingly follows and leaves his oxen, just as later the disciples abandon everything they possess in order to follow the Lord Jesus. Even though he is rushing after Elijah, he had the problem of his family relationships: “Let me kiss my father and my mother, then I want to follow you.”

The prophet’s answer is permissive, but it clearly reminds him also of God’s calling, which can no longer be undone: “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” The wording of this answer is a bit vague. Elijah leaves it to Elisha. Elisha didn’t have to follow Elijah so much, but succeed him.

In the Gospels we read about someone who wants to follow the Lord Jesus, but makes it a condition: ““I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home” (Luke 9:61). Presumably he wants to use this as an excuse to postpone the following of the Lord. But the Lord, Who knows and understands the hearts, then answers him as follows: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

God’s calling doesn’t allow any delay. This calling requires a determination of the heart to serve the Lord and the setting of certain priorities. The kingdom of God must come first in our lives. Happily with Elisha there is no hesitation to follow. He is prepared to put his hand to the plough, no longer in the field of his father but in the ‘field’ of God, the working field of the twelve tribes of Israel. Although from a human point of view he is facing an uncertain future, God gives him a much greater field of work than the one he leaves behind.

Elijah’s response is responded to by Elisha by taking a radial decision. We do not read that he has been to his parents. It can be. What we read is that he completely breaks with the past. He does not hesitate. He burns all his bridges, as it were. That’s how he starts his new task. He certainly did not begin to perform signs and miracles under Israel. He must first listen to the words of the prophet Elijah and, among other things, take care of his personal needs (2 Kings 3:11). He starts with simple work, but to live near the prophet gradually prepares him for other tasks.

This principle also applies to us. Living in the presence of our Lord and Master and listening to His Word form the necessary basis to fully equip us “for all good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Kings 19". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-kings-19.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.