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C.—Elijah in the Wilderness and upon Horeb; his Successor
1 Kings 19:1-21
1And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal1 how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods2 do to me,3 and more also, if4 I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to-morrow about this time. 3And when he saw5 that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. 4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper-tree [broom plant]: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord 5[Jehovah], take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper-tree [broom plant], behold, then an angel6 touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. 6And he looked, and behold,7 there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. 7And the angel of the Lord [Jehovah] came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too8 great for thee. 8And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. 9And he came thither unto a [the9] cave, and lodged10 there; and behold, the word of the Lord [Jehovah] came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 10And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord [Jehovah] God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. 11And he said, Go forth,11 and stand upon the mount before the Lord [Jehovah]. And behold, the Lord [Jehovah] passed by, and a great and strong wind12 rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord [Jehovah]; but the Lord [Jehovah] was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord [Jehovah] was not in the earthquake: 12and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord [Jehovah] was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 14And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord [Jehovah] God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. 15And the Lord [Jehovah] said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus13: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah 17shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shalt come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. 18Yet I have14 left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
19So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijahpassed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. 20And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what haveI done to thee?15 21And he returned back from him, and took a yoke16 of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.
Exegetical and Critical
Vers.1–2. Then Jezebel sent, &c. She could hardly have done this without the knowledge of her husband, who was too weak-minded to prevent it, and so drew upon himself new guilt. Older commentators held that Jezebel was so lost to all discretion that, instead of keeping her purpose secret, or carrying it out at once, she made it known to the prophet, without considering that he might in the mean time escape. But the sense of the message is evidently this: “If thou art still here to-morrow at this time and hast not betaken thyself out of the kingdom, the same thing shall be done to thee as thou hast done to my priests.” To have him killed without further ceremony did not seem to her advisable, for the impression which he had made on the people was still too fresh in their minds; but she was determined to have him out of the way as soon as possible, in order at least to prevent all further influence on the people and the king, and so, under cover of a threat of death, she gave him time for flight. For the expression, So let the gods do to me, cf. on 1 Kings 2:23.
1 Kings 19:3. And when he saw that, he arose,&c. The Sept. translates וַיַּרְא by καὶ ἐφοβήθη; the Vulgate, timuit ergo; they read therefore וַיִּירָא, which Thenius explains as undoubtedly correct, because ראה is used of mental vision only when a simple conclusion from outward circumstances is referred to. But this is exactly the case here, as the Targum also renders it by חזא. From the (outward) circumstance of the message, Elijah saw clearly how matters stood; he perceived that he could no longer remain here, as he had wished and hoped, and that he could not carry his work of reformation through to the end. Since he did not as on a former occasion (chap, 1 Kings 18:1) receive a divine command to hazard his life, i. e., to remain in spite of the threat, he arose and left the kingdom, as he had done once before. רָאָה is therefore used here just as in 2 Kings 5:7; if וָיִּרָא were the true expression, the person of whom he was afraid would have to stand in connection with it, as in 1Sa 18:12; 1 Samuel 21:13. Moreover, how should the man who had just been standing all alone over against the whole people, the king, and 450 priests of Baal (chap, 1 Kings 18:22), who especially appears as an unequalled prophetic hero in the history of Israel, have become all at once afraid of a bad woman?—אֶל־נַפְשׁוֹ is used here just as in 2 Kings 7:7, and can only mean: in consideration of his soul, i. e., for the preservation of his (threatened) life; this meaning, moreover, is demanded by the connection with 1 Kings 5:2, and we can hardly find expressed here the thought: “in order to care for his soul in the way indicated in 1 Kings 5:4, i. e., to commend his soul or his life in the loneliness of the desert to God the Lord, as he should determine concerning him” (Keil). Decidedly incorrect is the translation of the Vulgate (quocumque eum ferebat voluntas), which Luther follows: “Whithersoever he would,” which has led to the erroneous conception that Elijah tied in his own will and strength, without awaiting an intimation from the Lord. Equally incorrect is the explanation of Gerlach: without end or aim, and certainly that of Krummacher: He was only travelling off haphazard.—Beer-sheba lay on the border of the wilderness. Since it belonged to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:2), the clause: which לִיהוּדָה, must mean that he betook himself out of the kingdom of Israel into the kingdom of Judah, to which at that time the tribe of Simeon also belonged.—His servant he left behind in Beer-sheba, not perchance through fear of being betrayed by him, nor because “he expected to have no further need of him” (Thenius), nor because the wilderness afforded no sustenance, but: “he wished now to be entirely alone, as men often do in times of sorrow or discouragement; therefore he sought the wilderness.” (Calw. B.)
1 Kings 19:4. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, namely, the Arabian, through which the people had once been compelled to wander. רֹתֶם is not juniper-tree (Luther), but “a kind of broom plant, that is the most longed-for and most welcome bush of the desert, abundant in beds of streams, and valleys where spots for camping are selected, and men sit down and sleep, in order to be protected against wind and sun” (Robinson, Palestine I. p. 203). The words: It is enough, &c, do not mean: “I must, as a human being, fall a victim to death some time, and I wish to die now” (Thenius), nor: “I have already endured tribulations enough here below” (Keil), but: I have now lived long enough. This is imperatively demanded by the sentence: for I am not better than my fathers, which forms the ground of his request: Jehovah, take away my soul (life). Long life, old age, is looked on, under the old covenant, as a special gift of God (Psalms 61:7; Psalms 102:25; Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 4:10; Proverbs 9:11; Proverbs 10:27); Elijah, therefore, means to say: for I do not deserve nor desire to be distinguished and favored above my fathers by a specially long life. It is an entirely mistaken view which supposes that Elijah made this request “from a weak-minded weariness of life” (Thenius), or “with a murmuring heart” (Krummacher). In that case he would have deserved a reproof or a correction; but instead of this the Lord sends a heavenly messenger, who strengthens and refreshes him, and speaks to him only animating, encouraging words. Elijah’s whole life and labor had no other aim than to bring Israel back to their God; to this end were directed all the toils and privations to which he subjected himself. When he believed himself to have finally reached this end on Carmel, suddenly there came an incomprehensible turn of events; he saw himself deceived in his holiest and most blessed hopes, king and people abandoned him, the labor and struggle of a lifetime appeared to him fruitless and vain; the deepest, most bitter sorrow pervaded his soul. In this frame of mind he began the journey into the wilderness, and as he now sits down there wearied and exhausted by the journey, bowed down by sorrow and grief, what was more natural and human than for this man, who besides was already well-stricken in years, to pray his Lord and God to take from him the heavy burden and let him come to the longed-for rest; “it was a holy sorrow and sadness, such as no common man is capable of, which filled him at that time and brought to his lips the prayer: It is enough,” &c. (Menken.)
1 Kings 19:5-9. An angel touched him. Although מַלְאָךְ in verse 2 is used of the messenger of Jezebel, yet here it denotes no human messenger, but a messenger of Jehovah (1 Kings 5:7). The Sept. has in all three places ἄγγελος.—עֻגָּה is a thin cake baked on a stone plate by means of hot ashes laid over it (chap, 1 Kings 18:13. Winer, R.-W.-B. 1, p. 95).—After the first awakening Elijah had eaten only a very little, on account of his great weariness, and had fallen asleep again.—The closing words of verse 7 Keil explains, after Vatablus: iter est majus, quam pro viribus tuis; but since מִמְּךָ (cf. 1 Samuel 20:21) is not = לךָ, we may better follow the Sept.: ὂτιπολλὴ , or the Vulgate: grandis enim tibi restat via. This moreover presupposes that Elijah had already determined to go to Horeb: for that he is not to be considered “as in a manner summoned thither” (Thenius) is shown by the question of verse 1 Kings 9:0 : What doest thou here?—Horeb (=Sinai) is here designated as “the mount of God,” because God declared, and revealed himself upon it in a special manner as the God of Israel; it was here that he appeared to Moses in the fiery bush and called him to bring forth Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-15); it was here also that he made the covenant with the chosen people, “talked” with them, and gave them through Moses the law, the testimony of the covenant, the foundation on which all further divine revelations rest. Horeb is the place of the loftiest and weightiest revelation for Israel (Deuteronomy 1:6; Deuteronomy 4:10-15; Deuteronomy 5:2; 1 Kings 8:9; Malachi 4:4). Elijah wished to go thither in the hope that in that spot Jehovah would grant a disclosure to him also, as he had once to his servant Moses, and make known to him what further he had to do.—The cave into which Elijah went was, according to most commentators, that in which Moses once tarried while the Lord passed by (Exodus 33:22); this view is favored also by the definite article. According to Ewald it must have been the cave “in which at that time wanderers to Sinai commonly rested.”
1 Kings 19:8. Forty days and forty nights. Since Horeb is not more than 40 geographical miles from Beer-sheba (according to Deuteronomy 1:2. there are only eleven days journey from Kadesh Barnea, situated somewhat to the south, to Horeb), older commentators have assumed that Elijah, because old and weak, spent 19 or 20 days on this journey, remained 1 day on Horeb, and accomplished the journey back again in 19 or 20 days. But the text says very plainly that he went 40 days and 40 nights “unto Horeb.” According to Thenius, “the legend” leaves the actual relations of space out of sight here, for by this reckoning Elijah would have accomplished in each 24 hours’ time only 2 hours’ distance. But even the legend could not arbitrarily make a distance which every one knew and had before his eyes, three or four times too great; in any case the actual distance was not unknown to the author of our books. The text is not intended to make prominent the idea that Elijah kept on 40 days and 40 nights uninterruptedly, in order to reach Horeb, but that he was wonderfully preserved during this time which he spent in the wilderness before his arrival at Horeb. We must not overlook in this connection the reference to the 40 days and nights during which Moses was on Sinai without eating bread or drinking water (Exodus 34:28; cf. Exodus 24:18; Deuteronomy 9:9; Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 9:25; Deuteronomy 10:10), and the indirect reference to the 40 years which Israel spent in the wilderness, where the Lord fed the people, when they had no bread, with manna, to make it known that man does not live by bread alone.
1 Kings 19:9. And behold, the word of the Lord, &c. These words do not, as is commonly supposed, begin a new paragraph, but are rather to be connected with the immediately preceding portion of the same verse, “while he was spending the night in that spot, behold, the word of Jehovah came unto him.” It cannot be maintained from 1 Kings 19:13 that לוּנ here means not: to spend the night, but: to remain, as the Vulgate has it: cumque illuc venisset, mansit in spelunca. The question מַה־לְךָ פֹה is, after the example of Josephus (τί παρεὶη, καταλελοιπὼς τήν πόλιν, ἐκεῖσε): often taken as implying a censure, quasi Deus diceret, nihil esse Eliœ negotii in solitudine, sed potius in locis habitatis, ut illic homines ad veri Dei cultum adduceret (Le Clerc); also Thenius considers it intended “to remind Elijah how he, a prophet whom God would everywhere protect, and who in the service of God must endure everything, had not waited for a divine intimation, but from fear of man had fled to save his life, and then, in weak-minded weariness of life, had been able to wish himself dead.” This conception is radically false, and leads to an erroneous understanding of the entire passage. For, if a censure were to be inflicted on Elijah, it would not have been delayed until now, but would have been given when he had fled a day’s journey into the wilderness (1 Kings 19:4), and longed to die; but instead of this he was even tenderly encouraged by an angel and wonderfully strengthened, in order to be able to continue the journey still farther. Why does not the angel say to him there, what does not follow till 1 Kings 19:15? Elijah had indeed no divine command to flee into the wilderness, but still less had he any command to remain in Jezreel and bid defiance to Jezebel, as formerly (chap. 18) he had the command to show himself to the irritated king. When now during his journey, weary in body and soul, bowed down with grief and sorrow, he prayed that his end might come, but this prayer was not listened to, he longed so much the more “for a revelation and disclosure of what might be God’s will now, whither he should turn, what begin, whether and how God would employ him yet further in the service of Israel” (Menken). This drove him to the “mount of God,” i. e., to the place where, once before, his prototype Moses, the founder of the covenant, beheld the Lord and received comfort and strength; to the place where the Lord had spoken to his people and made with them the now broken covenant. If now he is asked: What doest thou here? What desire has driven thee hither? this was “a question of tender kindness, to relieve the full, burdened heart of the prophet, that he, to whom the great privilege of being able to complain of his sorrow had so long been denied, might be moved to reveal his desire, to pour out his whole heart before the Lord. So the Lord, after his resurrection, asked Mary, as she stood at the grave and wept: Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou, that thou mayst change thy sorrow into joy” (Menken). So also this is connected with the question Revelation 7:13.
1 Kings 19:10. I have been very jealous, &c. As the question is not to be considered a censure or rebuke as against Elijah, so also his answer is not to be considered a justification or a reproach as against Jehovah; entirely mistaken is the assertion that there is expressed in tins answer “only the greatest despondency concerning his fate” (Thenius), and “a carnal zeal that would at once call down the vengeance of the Almighty on all idolaters” (Keil), or that it bears witness to an “internal strife and murmuring” (Krummacher); it is rather, as the Apostle expressly declares, an indictment of Israel (Romans 11:2 : ἐντυγχάνει τῷ θεῷκατὰ τοῦ ’Ισραήλ). “The prophet lays the facts, whose weight had fallen upon him with such fearful power, before the Lord, that He might see how they appear, and he leaves the riddle which is therein presented to Him, for Him to explain” (Gerlach). He brings forward for weighty accusations; (1) they have fallen away from the covenant relation; (2) they have thrown down the altars still remaining here and there, dedicated to thee; (3) instead of listening to thy servants who admonished and warned them, they have slain them; (4) as for myself, the last one who has openly appeared and been zealous for thee, they are seeking my life. The words: I have been very jealous, form the introduction to this fourfold accusation: I have used every means, but all in vain; what then is now to be done, what will and should be brought about? The complaint of the prophet was at the same time again a question to the Lord, to which he then receives a twofold answer (with signs, 1 Kings 19:11-12, and with words, 1 Kings 19:14-18). He speaks of his zeal, moreover, not in order to boast or bother himself about his fate: “God’s honor and Israel’s welfare were of far greater value to him than his own honor or welfare; he mentions his own person and his own need only in so far as they stood in necessary and most intimate connection with the cause of God and the truth, and so his complaint was a holy one, as all his sorrow and sadness were holy” (Menken). He mentions his zeal in order thereby to confirm and strengthen his accusation against Israel.
1 Kings 19:11. And he said, Go forth, &c. It is common to translate with Luther: “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind … before the Lord.” According to this Elijah must have gone out of the cave before the wind, &c. But according to 1 Kings 19:13 he did not go forth till he heard the gentle breeze; it is therefore absolutely necessary to consider the words וְהִנֵּה יְהוָֹה עֹבֵר as connected with the address to Elijah, and to begin the narrative portion withוְרוַּח. That is, the participle עֹבֵר is not preterit, but, as usual when it stands for the verbum finitum, present: Jehovah passes by, i. e., he is on the point of doing it; cf. Isaiah 5:5; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 10:23 (Gesenius, Gram. (Conant) p. 240). The Sept. translates: ’Εξελεύσῃ αὔριον καὶ στήσῃ ἐνώπιον κυρίου ἐν τῷ ὄρει· ίδοὺ παρελεύσεται κύριος. Καὶ ἰδοὺ πνεῡμα μέγα κ. τ. λ. This division of the sentences is entirely correct, only αὔριον, which is not found in a single manuscript, is an unauthorized addition borrowed from Exodus 34:2. The narrative in that place, moreover, serves in several ways to explain the one before us: especially the expression יְהוָֹה עֹבֵר gives clear and definite evidence. Moses desires to see the glory (כָּבוֹד, see above p. 76) of Jehovah, whereupon he receives the answer: “I will make all my goodness (טוּבִי) pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of Jehovah” (i. e., what he is), and farther: “while my glory passeth by … I will cover thee with my hand, until I have passed by;” then follows “And Jehovah passed by before him and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah is a God merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but that will by no means clear,” &c. (Exodus 33:18-19; Exodus 33:22; Exodus 34:6). The expression עבר is nowhere else used of Jehovah, and doubtless marks this highest revelation as one that is possible only for a moment, in distinction from a permanent, abiding revelation, for which (&שְׁכִינָה שָׁכַןis used. When now Elijah complains here of Israel that they have broken the covenant, as they did once in the wilderness through the golden calf, and desires a disclosure concerning the dealings of Jehovah, which are dark and incomprehensible to him, the answer thereupon imparted to him: Behold! יְהוֹהָ עֹבֵר, is designed to express the idea: Jehovah will reveal himself to thee as he did once to Moses, and show thee what he is in his essence, and with this thou shalt receive the desired disclosure.
1 Kings 19:11. And a great and strong wind, &c. Tempest, earthquake, and fire, as awe-inspiring natural phenomena, are in the Old Testament especially signs and attestations not only of the absolute power of God, but particularly of His anger, i. e., of His penal justice against His enemies, the ungodly. Thus they appear in connection with one another Isaiah 29:5 sq. and Psalms 18:8-18, and they have the same significance here also. But since they occur here separately, one after the other in regular succession, they plainly indicate a succession of punishments differing in degree and kind. The tempest points to the rending, scattering, and turning to dust (Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 40:24; Isaiah 57:13), the earthquake to the shaking of the foundations and the falling down (Isaiah 24:18 sq.;Psalms 18:8; Psalms 18:16; Jeremiah 10:10), the fire to the complete consuming (Isaiah 66:15 sq.;Psalms 18:9; Psalms 97:3). In none of these three now was Jehovah, only out of the gentle whispering does He speak, i. e., the punishments come indeed from Him, pass before Him and bear witness of Him; but He Himself, that which he is, his essence (name) is not to be discerned in them; to this corresponds, rather in contrast with those destructive phenomena of nature, the gentle, soothing, refreshing, revivifying breeze after the storm. The word דְּמָמָה from דָּמַם to be silent, in Poel to silence (Psalms 131:2), means properly stilling, and is used in both the other places where it appears, of the rest and refreshing which have followed pain, distress, and terror (Psalms 107:29; Job 4:16). When now Jehovah “passes by” here in this, the same thing is expressed symbolically which Moses there heard in words, as Jehovah passed by; Jehovah is a God merciful and gracious, &c. The significance of the whole phenomenon is accordingly this: Jehovah, the God of Israel, will indeed display His punishing, destroying might to His despisers and enemies, but His own true and innermost essence is grace, rescuing, preserving, and quickening love, and though the people have broken the covenant of grace, yet He maintains this covenant, and remains faithful and gracious as He promised. For the bowed down and accusing prophet this was the well-attested divine answer, which contained comfort and consolation as well as incitement to carry on His begun work, and not to despair of Israel, nor allow Himself to be wearied out or led into error by the apparent fruitlessness of His efforts thus far. According to Ewald (loc. cit. p. 542) the words before us can “in the first place be rightly conceived of only as describing how Jahve will here appear to Elijah, and how He will talk to him. His passing by announces itself first in the most distant way by the fiercest storm; but that is not He Himself; then more subtle and near by thunder and earthquake; but this also is not He Himself; then in the most, subtle way by fire (as in the tempest, according to Psalms 18:18 (16), Habakkuk 3:4); but this is not He Himself; only in the soft whispering that then follows, in the most subtile spiritual voice does He reveal Himself, and to this attention is to be given (as Job 4:16; Job 26:4 in like manner)!” Also Thenius says: “It is the most incorporeal object possible for the illustration of the presence of the divine being, such as Job has selected, 1 Kings 4:16.” This conception is in itself very unnatural: for why should thunder and earthquakes be regarded as “more subtile” (i. e., more immaterial) than a stormy wind, and the all-consuming tire “more subtile” than an earthquake? The gradation is rather just the reverse, from the weaker destroying element to the most powerful, and not from the grossly material to the most immaterial possible. But in general, the entire context is adverse to this conception; for by no means is the revelation to be made here to Elijah, that God’s essence is spiritual and that He is incorporeal (Elijah needed no revelation for that), but that Jehovah in His own innermost being is not a destroying, annihilating God, who only punishes, but rather a quickening, saving and preserving, a gracious and faithful God.
1 Kings 19:13. When Elijah heard it, &c. During the storm of wind, the earthquake, and the fire, then Elijah was still in the cave, and he came out of it only at the soft whispering, in obedience to the command, 1 Kings 19:11.—He wrapped his face in his mantle, although Jehovah did not pass by in visible shape, “from awe before the unapproachable one” (Then.), as Moses did once when the Lord appeared to him in the fiery bush, “for he was afraid to look upon God” (Exodus 3:6; cf. Exodus 33:20; cf. Exodus 33:22). Even the Seraphim stand with covered faces before the throne of the Holy One (Isaiah 6:2). The question already addressed to Elijah before the significant phenomenon and now repeated after it; מה־לְּךָ פח, has this sense: Hast thou now any further reason for lingering here? Elijah’s repetition of his complaint expressed in 1 Kings 19:10 can have only this reason, that he does not yet feel satisfied with what has happened to him (1 Kings 19:11-13), because it is not clear to him what this is intended to signify. He therefore receives now a reply in definite words (1 Kings 19:15-18); and it appears from other cases also that revelations are made to the prophets first in sensible signs (symbols) and then in definite words (cf. Jeremiah 19:1-13; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Ezekiel 5:1-12; Ezekiel 12:1-12; Ezekiel 15:1-8; Ezekiel 37:1-14). But in this case the verbal revelation is constantly not merely an explanation or interpretation of the symbolical revelation, but it carries the latter out still further by showing how that which the phenomenon attested rather in a general way concerning the being of Jehovah, is to be historically verified in the special case under consideration.
1 Kings 19:15-18. And Jehovah said unto him, &c. This address has always been a source of great trouble to commentators, because in respect to that which is here laid upon Elijah and predicted of him the succeeding history makes known nothing or something entirely different. Elijah anointed neither Hazael nor Jehu; the former was not anointed at all. not even by Elisha (2 Kings 8:11 sq.), the latter was anointed long after the departure of Elijah by a disciple of the prophets, and therefore certainly not by Elisha, and Elisha himself was indeed summoned to be the successor of Elijah, yet not by being anointed, but by being covered with the prophet’s mantle (1 Kings 19:19). Still less does the history know anything of the fact that Elisha, whose life and work are nevertheless related so minutely, ever slew any one, to say nothing of an equal number with Hazael and Jehu. The older, ordinary solution of the difficulties is best presented by Gerlach, who says: “Still it is to be supposed that Elijah executed literally what the Lord commanded him, since he was expressly told to go to Damascus for the purpose of anointing Hazael. For reasons which are not known to us, this anointing may have been kept secret, as was the first anointing of David by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:0), and, just as in the case of this king, the anointing of Jehu may have been repeated at a later date by Elisha, when the moment for Joram’s downfall had come. That prophets were anointed appears, apart from this passage, only figuratively in the prophecy Isaiah 61:1; the more this office now became the mightiest in the falling kingdom of Israel, the more natural was it to bring it, by means of the symbolical consecration, into conformity with the royal and priestly officers.” This forced artificial explanation is seen at once to be a makeshift and to rest on untenable assumptions. The more recent criticism has made easy work of it: this affirms: Out of the whole of Elijah’s history, as contained in the original manuscript, the author of the books before us has everywhere taken only so much as served his purpose; here now, after 1 Kings 19:18, he has left out the account of the execution of the commission which had been received in regard to Hazael and Jehu, because the other original manuscripts, from which he composed the history of Hazael and Jehu, cannot be reconciled with it (Thenius, followed by Menzel). But how can we attribute to our author the carelessness or unskilfulness of having wholly failed to observe the inconsistency between 1 Kings 19:15-18, and his own reports concerning Hazael and Jehu (2 Kings 8:9)? If he had considered them irreconcilable, he would not have stopped with the pretended omission of the account concerning the execution of the commission, but would naturally also have omitted either the verses before us, 15–18, or the reports concerning Hazael and Jehu which cannot be harmonized with these. In order to remove the difficulty we must take a wholly different course. In the beginning it is well to observe that the address of Jehovah, 1 Kings 19:15-18, is a reply to Elijah’s repeated severe accusation of Israel, and therefore already bears the character of a divine judicial sentence, which at once contains a prophecy, and is in the fullest sense a divine oracle. As now is generally the case with such oracular sayings, so also here the tone is evidently lofty and solemn, and the form is sententious, axiomatic; what Ewald (The Prophets of the O. T. I. p. 49) observes in reference to the strophic rhythm of the prophetic oracles, that the triple rhythm comes in with great force, especially when the language possesses a certain stately elevation, fits the present case completely. The tripartite character of the whole passage is sharply defined; 1 Kings 19:15-16 are the first strophe, 1 Kings 19:17 the second, 1 Kings 19:18 the third; and each of these three strophes has in turn three members. But in such an oracle a strictly literal understanding of the individual expressions is the less necessary, when, as is here the case, it stands opposed to plain statements that follow. This is eminently true of the expression “anoint,” which is not to be taken literally, because then the immediately succeeding 1 Kings 19:19, according to which Elisha is not really anointed, would contradict it. To “anoint” a person or thing means simply to bring them into the service of God. Thus not only kings and priests, but also implements of worship (Exodus 29:36; Exodus 30:26 sq.), yes, even stones (Genesis 28:18) were anointed, because they were to serve for the fulfilment of the divine will. Here too the word is used in this sense; it signifies not the actual outward anointing, but what the anointing means, just as in Judges 9:8. All three, Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha, are to serve for the execution of God’s will and counsel, and each, indeed, in a different way. By Hazael, the foreign Syrian king, Israel was continually hard pressed from without (2Ki 8:12; 2 Kings 8:29; 2 Kings 10:32; 2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:7); he was the rod of correction in the hand of Jehovah, the instrument of his anger, i. e., of his punishment (cf. Isaiah 10:5). By Jehu the kingdom of Israel was shaken within; he put an end to the house of Ahab, from which the idolatry proceeded and was kept up (2 Kings 9:24; 2 Kings 9:33; 2 Kings 10:1-28), and was the divine rod of correction for the idolatrous within Israel. By Elisha, as successor of Elijah, who strove with fiery zeal against all idolatry, the reformatory work of the latter was to be continued, and he also served as God’s instrument in correcting and punishing Israel, if not by means of the sword, yet through his whole prophetic activity. Since now Elijah, immediately after receiving his commission to anoint, still did not anoint Elisha, easily as he might have done this, but summoned him to be his successor, by covering him with the prophet’s mantle, we have here the clearest evidence that he did not understand the anointing literally in the case of Hazael and Jehu, any more than in that of Elisha. He took the whole oracle in general as a divine revelation of what was soon to happen in Israel. In connection with the words: Go and anoint, it is to be remembered that in other cases also of oracular sayings the prophets are commanded to do something (symbolically), which (in reality) is to be brought to pass by the Lord (cf. Jeremiah 19:1 sq.; Jeremiah 27:2; Jeremiah 28:10 sq.;Ezekiel 5:1-12; Ezekiel 12:3 sq.). The disciple of the prophets, who anointed Jehu under the direction of Elisha, was obliged to begin this action with the words: “Thus saith Jehovah: I have anointed thee king over Israel” (2 Kings 9:3); the real anointing was performed, therefore, by Jehovah himself.
1 Kings 19:15-17. Go, return on thy way, &c. The words מִדְבַּרָהדַמֶּשֶׂק are not to be translated, per desertum in Damascum (Vulgate, Luther), nor hardly “into the wilderness of Damascus” (Keil after Le Clerc), but “to the wilderness (through which he had come after 1 Kings 19:4) to Damascus” (Thenius). This command cannot be taken literally with any more safety than the following: Anoint; it merely indicates whence the divine punishment is to break in upon Israel. For details concerning Hazael and Jehu, vide on 2 Kings 8:9-10. Of the expression “slay,” used of Elisha 1 Kings 19:17. the same thing is true as of “anoint;” for that Elisha did not actually slay, our author knew as well as we do now, and indeed our knowledge comes only from his own reports concerning him. He cannot possibly, therefore, have understood the word literally, but only in the prophetic sense in which it is used of the Messiah in the oracle Isaiah 11:4; “he shall smite the earth (the land) with the rod (i. e., the rod of correction) of his mouth and with the breath (יָמִית) of his lips shall he slay (רוּחַ as in the passage before us) the godless.” Cf. Isaiah 49:2; where the month of the prophet is called “a sharp sword,” into which the Lord has made it; just so Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:16; Revelation 19:15. The fundamental and main thought of the oracle is in general this, that the judgment of Jehovah will come, but the judging and dividing will be brought about by the sword, now with the actual sword, now with the sword of the רוּחַ of God (Job 4:9); so far could Elisha very well be joined with Hazael and Jehu in the otherwise very much contracted oracle.
1 Kings 19:18. Yet I have left, &c. In the three strophes of this passage also the symbolical mode of expression is continued. For the number seven thousand is no more to be taken arithmetically than the number an hundred and forty and four thousand (twelve times 12,000) in the Apocalypse (Revelation 7:4; Revelation 14:1-5). Seven is the symbolical numeral sign of holiness, the covenant and ceremonial number (cf. Symbol des Mos. Kult. I. s. 193); and it marks those who are left as a holy company, faithful to the covenant, as the “holy seed” of the covenant people (Isaiah 6:13; cf. Isaiah 4:2; Romans 11:7). In like manner the expressions, all the knees, etc., and every mouth, etc., are a figurative rhetorical description of those faithful to Jehovah. The kissing is not to be understood of kisses thrown with the hand (Gesenius), but of kissing the feet of the image which stands on a pedestal (Hosea 13:2; Cicero in Verr. 4, 1Kings 43: Quod in precious et gratulationibus non solum id sc. simulacrum venerari, verum etiam osculari solent). Menken has a striking observation on 1 Kings 19:18 : “Now the prophet understood why the still, small voice was preceded by the desolating storm, the devouring earthquake, and the consuming fire; and beyond all, the anxiety, terror, bloodshed, destruction which were contained therein for Israel. His heart received abundant consolation from the further revelation of the Lord; for this gave him now, in addition to the still, small voice of the Spirit of Life, a disclosure touching the mercy of the Lord to Israel, that infinitely surpassed all his hopes and expectations: and if the revelation of the wants and plagues which were to come upon Israel produced in him the same feeling as the destruction and ruin of threatening storms, still by this disclosure he felt himself encouraged and quickened, as in the refreshing blessed coolness after the storm.” In the Return (1 Kings 5:15) there is contained therefore anything rather than a rebuke for the prophet; but it is the expression of comfort and encouragement.
1 Kings 19:19. So he departed thence, &c. The city Abel Meholah, where, according to 1 Kings 19:16, Elisha lived, lay in the valley of the Jordan, about three German miles from Beth Shean, in the tribe of Manasseh (Judges 7:22; 1 Kings 4:12). Though he may indeed have been already known to Elijah, yet he hardly belongs with the “sons of the prophets,” among whom Ewald wrongly places him; adding, at the same time, “He had just ploughed round his twelve yoke of land, being at work on the twelfth and last.” But צֶמֶּד, as appears from 1 Kings 19:21, and as לְכָּנָיו also demands, is not a yoke of land, but a yoke (pair) of oxen. One ploughman belonged with each yoke. Elisha was with the last, the others all “before him.” The conjecture that the “twelve yoke of cattle represented the twelve tribes” (Hengstenberg, von Gerlach), like the twelve stones of the altar on Carmel (1 Kings 18:31), has very little in its favor. The number appears to be mentioned only to show that Elisha was a man in good circumstances, who, nevertheless, left his property in order to follow the call of Elijah. אַדֶּרֶת is here the prophetic official garment (Bech. 1 Kings 13:4; 2 Kings 1:8; 2 Kings 2:13). The throwing it over Elisha was a symbolical act, which denoted the summons to become a prophet (the investiture); and was intelligible to Elisha, even without any words. Elijah seems to have withdrawn at once; he wished, indeed, to leave the doubtless astonished Elisha some time for making up his mind; yet the latter did not meditate long, but hastened (יָרָץ, he ran; not he followed) after him, and declared his purpose to accept the summons, only he wished first to take leave of his father and mother (cf. Genesis 31:28). Elijah’s answer, לֵךְ שׁוּב, is not to be translated with Luther: Go (to thy parents) and come (then) again; but just as in 1 Kings 19:15, where both words together express only one conception—Return, namely, to thy parents, as thou wishest. The following sentence, For what have I done to thee? should, according to Keil, have the meaning, “I have not wished to coerce thee, but I leave the decision concerning the prophetic call to thy free will.” In a similar manner Ewald: “As if indignant at this reawakening of desire for the world, Elijah gave him permission to return altogether if he wished.” This does not agree with the fact that, according to the Divine will (cf. 1 Kings 19:16), Elisha was destined to be the successor of Elijah, and Elijah, therefore, certainly did not leave the acceptance of the summons wholly to his free will. Had he given over to him the decision of the matter he would not have first thrown the prophetic mantle over him, but would have waited till Elisha decided. When Elisha prays that he may be permitted to take leave of his parents, his idea is that he is ready to follow Elijah, and he only wishes first to satisfy a natural filial obligation, not that he prefers to remain with his parents. That Elijah was unwilling for him to fulfil this filial duty is therefore not to be imagined. Thenius translates: “Go, return! yet! what have I done to thee?” and observes: “He gives the permission, but recalls the lofty meaning of the symbolical action which had just been performed on him, by which he had been devoted to the service of the Lord.” This gives indeed a good meaning, only it is very questionable whether כִּי can have here, where no contrast is expressed, the signification, yet! The fundamental idea: for, is never entirely lost: Go, take leave of thy parents, for what have I done to thee? I have summoned thee to the prophetic service; thine abode is henceforth no more with thy parents: thou art to follow me.
1 Kings 19:21. And he returned back from him, &c. Elisha had run after him (יָרָץ, 1 Kings 19:20), and now returned to take a formal leave of his people. He took (not “a” yoke, as Luther has it, but) the yoke of cattle, viz., that with which he himself had been ploughing (1 Kings 19:19), which was his in an especial sense. These he slew for a farewell feast (זבָחַ, as in Chron. 1Ki 18:2; 1 Samuel 28:24; Ezekiel 39:17), not, he offered it (as a thank-offering), for the whole context shows that the reference is not to a religious, priestly act, for which also an altar would have been necessary. To offer is here the equivalent of to dispense, to give up (Keil), and is not to be understood in its strict sense. The instruments of the oxen, i. e., the yoke and the frame of the plough, he applied not forsooth as would necessarily be expected, if a sacrifice were the matter in hand, to the burning of them up, but to the boiling of the flesh; certainly not because there was no other wood at hand (1 Samuel 6:14; 2 Samuel 24:22), but rather in order to indicate that he gave up for ever his previous calling. The people that took part in the feast can hardly be “the inhabitants of his place” (Thenius), but those who up to this point were laboring in common with him in the field, and of them he now took leave as of his parents. The conjecture that this farewell feast occurred immediately in the field where Elijah met him, and that he withdrew from it to take leave of his parents (Calw. B.), is as groundless as it is unnecessary. So far as the words are concerned, the Lord, in Luke 9:61, may very likely have been thinking of this passage, but the sense and meaning are very different. “Elisha did not wish first to bury his father and mother, i. e., wait until they were dead, but only to take leave of them; moreover, when he wished this, he had not already put his hand to the plough, like the man in Luke 9:61-62, for he had not presented himself to succeed Elijah (Calw. B.). There the Lord is expressing censure, whereas what is here related should not prove a reproach to Elisha, but rather an honor and praise. There can, accordingly, be no talk of a “close affinity” between the two places (Thenius). Krummacher represents the matter thus: Elisha gave the feast to his parents at once, became thereby their “host,” and appeared “here already as a prophet, supplying and blessing,” &c. This is pure fancy, and has an incorrect explanation of the text for its basis.
Historical and Ethical
1. With Elijah’s arrival in Jezreel the life of the great prophet enters upon a new stage. From the height of the victory which he had won, with God’s wonderful help, on Carmel, he is led down now into the dark depths of temptation, in order to come forth from them with only the greater glory. “The smelter of Israel must be content to go down now himself into the crucible” (Krummacher). As the “servant of God,” which he was in a special sense (1 Kings 18:36; 2 Kings 9:36; 2 Kings 10:10), he is led the way which, in accordance with the Divine economy, is the way of all true servants of God. For in the great historical idea of the “servant of God,” which is actually realized under the old dispensation only in disjectis membris, but under the new dispensation, in its complete fulness in Christ, there is contained the thought that every servant of God is made perfect through trial and temptation, through suffering and tribulation, and in that which he suffers he learns obedience (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:8; Luke 24:26; Isaiah 53:0; Acts 2:23-24; Acts 3:13; Acts 4:27). All the great men who, as servants of God, occupy an integrant position in the history of salvation, have had to go through this experience; and the life even of an Elijah or a Moses would lack an essential element of that which belongs to a “servant of God,” if he had remained untempted and untried, free from suffering and tribulation. From this standpoint, must be contemplated and estimated what the section before us announces concerning him. He stands now, not as before, acting and giving, commanding and judging, but enduring, suffering, and receiving. It is the Lord who is purifying him through suffering; the temptation becomes for him the way to the most glorious revelation of God.
2. The removal from Jezreel into the wilderness should not, as is so often done, be looked on as properly a “flight,” a lack of faith, courage, and firmness (Krummacher: “Faith, to remain was wanting in him this time”). The text has no more knowledge of a flight (בָּרַח), like that, e. g., in the case of Jonah (Jonah 1:2-3), than of his being afraid. He recognized in the threat of Jezebel a providential admonition, which, however dark and hard it might appear to him, he did not believe himself at liberty to resist, since no higher direction to remain had come to him. For him, the strong man, firm as a rock, heroic in temper, it was an infinitely more difficult and humiliating duty to give up to the anger of a godless, wicked woman, than to bid her defiance, and make trial of the Lord. He bowed beneath the inscrutable decree, as becomes a true servant of God; and so his going away was an act of faith no less than his appearing before the persecuting Ahab (1 Kings 18:15 sq.). “To force martyrdom upon himself, of his own choice, without necessity, he did not consider a part of his calling, nor did he regard it a great and holy act, nor has this ever been the ease with the prophets and apostles. In behalf of the truth and the glory of God’s name the prophet would have given up his life with joy; but at the present crisis this end would not have been attained through his death; it would have been a triumph for Jezebel” (Menken). There is no greater mistake than to suppose that Elijah withdrew from Jezreel “through fear of man,” and that then, because he had arbitrarily relinquished the prosecution of his prophetic calling, he was “summoned, so to speak,” to an account and justification of himself on Horeb (Thenius). It was just there that he was favored with the most glorious revelation.
3. The state of mind into which Elijah fell in the wilderness has nothing to do with the common “weak-minded weariness of life” (Thenius). His righteous and holy sorrow over the fruitlessness of all that God had done, through him, to save His people from ruin and destruction, overpowered him, being as he was, according to the apostle’s expression, ὁμοιοπαθὴς ἡμῖν (James 5:17; cf. Acts 14:15); so that he was subject to the frailty and weakness of human nature, from which no mortal is free, so long as he lives in the body. Even he, this mighty hero, was obliged to go through this experience for himself, and pay his tribute to it. Similar States of mind appear even in lives of the firmest and strongest men of God. Thus, in the case of that other Elijah, John the Baptist in the prison, who believed, in like manner, that he must give up all hope, and sent, in the hard hour of temptation, to inquire of the Lord, “Art thou He that should come,” &c.; yet at that time the Lord testifies of him that he is no reed which the wind blows to and fro. And the Author and Finisher of faith himself, in the days of his flesh (John 1:14), offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7), and called out: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). As here Elijah, so there the Lord in Gethsemane was strengthened by angel—a clear token that his condition was one indeed of severe temptation, but not of guilt or sin, such as would merit censure or reproof, or even a summons before the tribunal of God.
4. Elijah’s spending forty days and forty nights in the wilderness before reaching Horeb, while he might have attained his end in a much shorter time, was anything rather than accidental or meaningless; concerning Moses the fact is made prominent, not once merely, but repeatedly, with a certain emphasis, that he, before receiving on Horeb the highest revelation from Jehovah, spent forty days and forty nights without eating or drinking (Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; 18:25; Deuteronomy 10:10). Since, now, the same thing took place in the case of Elijah also, and in that of no other servant of God, this very fact marks him out as the other, the second Moses; but it follows at once from this that the season of forty days and forty nights had the same significance for Elijah, the restorer of the covenant (vide above on chap. 17.), as for Moses its founder. It was a season of preparation for the highest possible revelation of God that can be given to a mortal, but, as such, a season of abstinence from all earthly enjoyment, of absorption in God and a higher world, of contemplation and prayer. This significance is impressed upon it by the number forty, which is in the Scriptures generally the measure of every season of abstinence, of purification and trial, of conflict and correction, and so also of expectation (Genesis 7:4-17; Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Deuteronomy 29:4-6; Jonah 3:4; Ezekiel 4:6; Ezekiel 29:11-13; Matthew 4:2). Elijah now spent this time, not like Moses upon the mountain itself, but in the wilderness lying before it, which was just the most appropriate locality for him. “Here the whole wonderful history of the old fathers passed in review before him.… With every step which he took forward into the silent desert, new pictures and scenes came before his gaze out of that wonderful past” (Krummacher), he was most vividly reminded “how even in this wilderness God the Lord had manifested Himself to His servants and to His people in the most varied and most glorious manner.… and so he was gradually prepared for the revelations and consolations which awaited him in this wilderness” (Menken).
5. The revelation which Elijah received on Horeb furnishes, indeed, an unmistakable parallel to that which once fell to the lot of Moses, but the account of it is in no wise copied by our narrator from that earlier one, as more recent commentators suppose. (Thenius thinks that he surpasses his model almost.) The common characteristic of the two revelations consists in this, that Jehovah here, as there, “passes by,” which designates, as observed above, the highest state of revelation under the old dispensation. When now Elijah is favored with the same revelation, such as fell to the lot of Moses only and of no other servant of God beside Moses under the old dispensation, he is thereby placed over against Moses; in fact, to a certain degree, on the same line with him; and this is owing to the position which he holds in sacred history as the restorer of the broken covenant, the other, the second Moses. The nature and method of the “passing by” were, on the contrary, very different; the accompanying natural phenomena are wholly wanting in the earlier instance, and are in the Ingest degree peculiar, for they have reference to the special relations and circumstances in which Elijah found himself, as is moreover expressly attested by the explanatory language of God (1 Kings 19:15 sq.). The whole of this revelation bears in general a predominantly prophetic character, referring, that is, to the future, while this element is almost entirely absent from the revelation to Moses. However, it is a matter of greater importance that here, as there, Jehovah reveals saving grace as His most real and inmost essence, and that this revelation fell to the lot of just these two, Moses and Elijah, i. e., the founder and the restorer of the covenant, the representatives of the law and of the prophets, and so of the Old Testament economy in general (Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30). This fact is the best refutation of the common assertion that the God of the Old Testament is entirely different from the God of the New Testament—an angry, despotic, national God, not the God who, under the new dispensation, has revealed Himself as “Love.” That which became evident to all, Jews and Gentiles, when the time was fulfilled, was already disclosed by the Lord to the two representatives of the old dispensation, although with “veiled countenance,” for it was just they who, in their higher historical position, needed to take a deeper look into the essence of God, and so into the counsel of His mercy and love.
6. The whole transaction on Horeb may indeed be designated a “vision” (Niemeyer, Herder, Von Gerlach. Keil), only by this must not be meant that it was merely a transaction within the prophet, a pure vision which he had during sleep, perhaps “in a dream” (Thenius). The expression in 1 Kings 19:9 : “And behold the word of Jehovah came to him,” which is constantly used of an inner revelation, points doubtless to the fact that Elijah found himself in a visionary condition, into which he seems to have been brought already, more or less, during the forty days and nights (1 Kings 19:8); but the account certainly does not mean to designate the natural phenomenon, the medium of the theophany, as an object of purely internal perception, but as an object of external experience, as appears from the fact that Elijah went out from the cave and veiled his face with his mantle. Yet this does not remove the visionary condition, for the theophanies are, as Lange (on Genesis 3:8) observes, “universally effected by means of visionary frames of mind.” We have before us here a theophany which is not, as in 1 Kings 22:17 or Ezekiel 1, a mere vision, still less as in Psalms 18:7 sq., only poetry, but which, like that in Exodus 3:2 sq., has an occurrence in nature for its substratum. This kind of theophany has, as even Knobel (Prophet. der Hebr. I. s. 160) says, “an objective truth in so far as every occurrence in nature is a revelation of the moving God.” As in general the whole of created nature makes known the Creator and reveals His glory (Psalms 19:1 sq.), so also single special objects in nature, and phenomena or occurrences in nature, serve for His special revelation, for they correspond to the relations of the special time and person, as is here the case.
7. Of the various explanations which the appearance on Horeb has received, that one, first of all, is to be rejected as wholly mistaken which finds represented here for Elijah the fact that the peaceful rest of eternity is to follow the unrest, the conflicts and tribulations of this life (Seb. Schmidt), for this has no connection with the explanatory oracle in 1 Kings 19:15, or rather is directly contradictory to it, even were it not Jehovah, but Elijah’s life, that “passed by.” Much more probable and widespread is another explanation, according to which the appearance expresses a censure of Elijah’s “zeal as not wholly free from human passion,” and aims “to quiet his zeal, which demeans itself too passionately, although it is commendable so far as concerns the sentiment lying at its foundation,” and to “show to him that his zealous activity for the honor of the Lord is not in harmony with the love, grace, and long-suffering of God,” and at the same time also to remind and admonish him not to go too far in the matter (Keil after Ephraim the Syrian, Theodoret, certain Rabbis, Le Clerc, et alii). But where, then, had the prophet, thus far, demeaned himself too passionately, and where did he go too far in his zeal? It could only have happened upon Carmel. But since, then, “by slaying the priests of Baal he only fulfilled what the law demanded” (Keil on 1 Kings 18:40), he certainly deserved no censure or reproof; and since later he caused fire from heaven to fall upon the company sent against him (2 Kings 1:10 sq.), he would certainly have paid no heed to the pretended admonition not to be too zealous. The gentle whispering in which Jehovah was, and out of which he spoke, can by no means have set forth what Elijah was to be, and how he was to control himself; it was no censure, but comfort and encouragement, consolation and support for him.—A third explanation sees on the appearance a picture of the two economies: the law, which terrifies and crushes sinners, and the gospel, which makes them alive and quickens them (so Irenæus, long ago, Grotius, and many more modern ones), or, at the same time, of the judgments and chastisements which came upon the people under the old dispensation, and of the New Testament season of refreshing and peace, in which the Lord Himself will appear and dwell among His believing ones (Jo. Lange, Calw. Bib., et alii). This, however, is opposed by the fact that the appearance would, in that case, stand in no direct connection with Elijah’s complaint (1 Kings 19:10), to which, nevertheless, it was the first reply; and moreover the following oracle (1 Kings 19:15 sq.), which makes it refer to the relations existing at that time, contains no allusion to the Messianic age. When Paul (Romans 11:5) cites Elijah’s complaint and the divine response (1 Kings 19:18), and then continues: “Even so, then, at this present time also there is a remnant according, to the election of grace,” he does not mean to say: What is there predicted is now fulfilled, but: As in Elijah’s time God according to His grace had left alive a number of such as did not give themselves up to the service of Baal, so now also, in the time of salvation, there is an “election of grace,” which does not, with the hardened multitude, reject the offers of salvation, but embraces it and is saved. In Isaiah a recurring theme of prophecy is this: that after all the chastisements and judgments which would come upon Israel, there should still always be in existence a “remnant” of the peculiar and faithful people of God, therefore also at the end of the Old Testament age, resp. at the beginning of the Messianic age (Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:16 sq.; 1 Kings 11:11). But the reference in the oracle before us is not to this remnant, but to that which in Elijah’s time does not bow the knee before Baal, although it can always be looked upon as a type of the later one and the last. The truth presented in the natural phenomenon on Horeb is of such a kind that it finds application to various times and relations, because it is universal and eternal, and in so far it may be valid also for the Messianic age, but it was revealed to Elijah only with reference to his own time, that of the Old Testament.
8. The calling of Elisha to become a prophet naturally connects itself directly with the revelation on Horeb. What filled Elijah with the greatest solicitude, and drove him into the wilderness and to Horeb, was, that he alone remained of all the prophets, that with him his work of restoring the covenant would go down and the prophetic office die out. On Horeb now he learned that Jehovah had appointed as prophet one who would step into his place and carry on his work, so that there should never be in Israel a lack of such as do not bow the knee before Baal. This it was that brought him out of his depressed state of mind, since the cause of God was the only matter of importance to him, and tilled him with new courage, and because this was the chief matter for him, he felt himself impelled to summon at once as his successor that Elisha whom Jehovah had appointed and elected to become a prophet, and so he betook himself “thence” to him directly, and without delay. There can, therefore, be no thought of a “gap” in the account before us between 1 Kings 19:18-19 (Thenius, vide above on 1 Kings 19:15-18). The calling of Elisha was the most urgent thing in his eyes, the time for the “anointing” of Hazael and Jehu he left with the Lord.—Krummacher (Elias, s. 294) repeatedly expresses such a conception of the calling of Elisha as that, with it, “an entirely new period was to begin in the history of the education of Israel, a period of divine condescension after the days of punishments and thunderings of the law, a term of the gentle breeze after that of the storm, the dame of fire, and the earthquake;” but this is in direct contradiction of the oracle (1 Kings 19:16-17), where Elisha is put in the same rank with. Hazael and Jehu, the instruments of divine punishment, and it is said: “Him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay,” which can scarcely mean: Elisha, in contrast with them, will be a bringer of salvation and peace. It was just the time of Elisha that was farthest from being the period of the gentle breeze, for from without Israel was continually hard pressed by the Syrians, and from within the kingdom was thoroughly shaken by the turbulent Jehu, who put a bloody end to the house of Ahab.—We shall return to the relation in which Elisha stands to Elijah in sacred history when he really steps into Elijah’s place (2 Kings ii).
9. Elisha’s being called away from the plough to become a prophet and indeed the successor of an Elijah, an historical position of such elevation and influence, is one of the not infrequent examples of the manner in which God has selected and equipped with light and power from above, for the carrying out of his counsels of salvation and for the founding and extending of His kingdom, just such men as were living unseen before the world and neglected by it, in quiet and retirement, faithful and submissive to their inglorious earthly calling, and were not thinking or wishing to become anything great, to the end that all the world might know that the work which they have been called to carry out is not of men but of Him (Acts 5:38 sq.; 2 Corinthians 4:7). His apostles, who went into all the world and accomplished the greatest and most difficult task which has ever been achieved, were called by the Lord from the fishing-smack and from the customhouse. It is a rule of the divine government: “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27 sq.).
Homiletical and Practical
1 Kings 19:1-18. The course which God takes with His servants, (a) He leads them down into the depths (wilderness, conflict, 1 Kings 19:1-8); (b) but then He sets them on high (Horeb, vision of God, 1 Kings 19:9-18; vide ethical remarks).
1 Kings 19:1-8. Bender: Elijah in his flight from Queen Jezebel, (a) The situation into which he came; (b) the state of mind into which he fell; (c) the comfort which was imparted to him.—Wirth: Elijah under the juniper-tree (a) The deep despondency into which the prophet of God was fallen; (b) the wonderful strengthening which he received.
1 Kings 19:1-4. Krummacher: The flight into the wilderness, (a) The persecution; (b) the flight; (c) the dejection.
1 Kings 19:1-2. Ahab after the day on Carmel. (a) Ahab tells his wife everything that he has experienced and witnessed there (every man should tell his wife the great deeds of God, in order to bring her to the way of life and keep her there; thus marriage becomes what it should be, Ephesians 5:23-27). (b) He lets his wife’s anger and spite have free course (instead of her being subject to him, he is subject to her; instead of holding before her the command: Thou shalt not kill, and turning her from her wicked way, he suffers himself to be contented, keeps quiet, and bows beneath her will; such weakness is not conjugal love, but sin and shame).—Würt. Summ.: Hardened sinners allow themselves to be won over and converted neither by the punishments nor by the favors of God, but become more wicked, the longer they live.
1 Kings 19:2. There is no anger so bitter as the anger of women. When hatred and revenge have once entered a woman’s heart, she does not shrink even from the greatest crimes (Mark 6:19; Mark 6:24).—To bind one’s self to wickedness by an oath is the highest step of religious and moral infatuation (Acts 23:12). Calw. Bib.: A profligate man often determines to bind himself thus in order that his wicked plans may not be repented of. Would that men would seek to bind themselves to the right.
1 Kings 19:3. Calw. Bib.: So long as we can escape martyrdom we may and should do so (Matthew 10:23). How much more must it be folly to seek it. It is enough for us to stand firm when escape from persecution is impossible. The Scripture says: He that believeth shall not make haste (flee), Isaiah 28:16; and, Fear not them, &c. (Matthew 10:28); but every flight is not unbelief; fleeing is reprehensible and disgraceful only when it leads away from the fulfilment of a duty, or when it results from dread of toil or suffering, from love of rest and ease. It is often the part of faith and self-renunciation to yield before the wicked and godless rather than to stay and bid them defiance. If God shows us ways and means for saving our life and our honor, we are not at liberty to hope for, and presume upon, miracles and extraordinary assistance.
1 Kings 19:4. The deep sadness of the prophet, (a) Its origin (it was not the sadness of the world, that arises from the loss of temporal goods, honor, respect, joys and pleasures, but a sadness in view of the fact that every great act which God had performed with reference to his people, every labor and every contest for the salvation of their souls had remained without result. This is the noblest and rarest sadness. But where are the parents, where the preachers, who are troubled over nothing so deeply and seriously as over the blindness and deafness of the souls intrusted to them)? (b) Its manifestation (Elijah wishes death for himself because it is intolerable for him to see God abandoned and his people running to destruction).—Menken: This outbreak of the full, oppressed heart of the prophet does in no wise justify the thoughtless, light-minded, irrational utterances of many men who wish death for themselves, and has nothing in common with the unholy gloom of unholy men, who … are weary of life because they cannot conquer their will, because they set no limits to the passions and demands of their heart, and neither seek nor know the truth which could free them from all their discontent and unhappiness, if they would be obedient to it.—Wirth: There is no Christian’s life, even though it were the most pious and perfect, which does not also have its hours of despondency; there is no child of God who might not also, for once perhaps, like Elijah, sit under the juniper-tree and wish to shake off his burdens and sigh: It is enough, &c. Those are dangerous moments; the word of the Lord is applicable to them, Luke 22:31 sq.—Elijah’s prayer in the moment of temptation, (a) It is enough! the measure is full (we may indeed sigh under the burden, which is pressing us to the ground, and entreat: Put an end, O Lord, put an end to all our necessity! But whether it is enough, when we think it is enough, is known only to Him; to determine the measure of life and of suffering is not our business but His (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42). Many a man before now has called out: It is enough! and yet afterwards thanked God that the Lord did not at once listen to his request, but suffered it to be not yet enough), (b) Now, O Lord, take away my life (because Elijah’s soul belonged to the Lord and his whole life was devoted to Him, he ventured to say: Take my soul, which thou gavest me, back to thyself, and give it rest in the everlasting tabernacles of peace.—Menken: In order to be able to say with Paul: I desire to depart and to be with Christ, we must know and love the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul knew and loved Him, and also be able to say like him in truth: For me to live is Christ! In order to be able to pray with Elijah: It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life! we must, at least on a small scale, have worked and suffered and maintained ourselves well amid temptations, and labored over ourselves with the grace and gift of God as Elijah did). (c) I am not better than my fathers (the particular gift of a long life Elijah does not believe himself to have deserved, although he always walked in the ways of God. Not because he considers himself too good for this world does he wish himself out of it, but because he feels himself to be not better than his fathers; he does not rest his prayer on his merit and good works, but in the consciousness of his sinfulness and in the hope of God’s grace and mercy he awaits death. He who dies so, dies well)!
1 Kings 19:5-8. Krummacher: The visit under the juniper-tree. The guardianship of divine grace becomes evident (a) in the hearing vouchsafed to the prophet’s prayer; (b) in the appearance of an angel which the Lord sends to him; (c) in a wonderful nourishment which he experiences; (d) in a delightful prospect which God opens before him; (e) in a supernatural strengthening for his wandering through the wilderness.
1 Kings 19:5. Menken: There have been in all ages faithful servants of God and Christ who have been weakened and discouraged by the thought that it was all in vain, all their anxiety and labor were fruitless, nothing more could possibly be gained for the Lord, and no more work of any importance could be done by them for His cause and kingdom, and they have been on the point of finding joyous, spirited, zealous work in the service of the Lord, nay, even life itself, distasteful. But they have always found consolation from the Lord in his Word, and have been aroused and strengthened by His spirit to new courage and to unremitted perseverance in their work for the truth. They have learned to think of Him who endured similar contradiction of sinners against himself.… The Lord Jesus Christ had taught them not to estimate the value of their labor according to the effect which they produce by it, nor according to the visible results perceptible to themselves, but with joy and confidence to persevere unweariedly, even though it should appear as though all they said was addressed to an uninhabited desert.
1 Kings 19:6 Cramer: When the children of God are forsaken by every human being, and lie in the midst of a wilderness, God with his holy angels, like a heavenly host, ministers to them. (Hebrews 1:14; Genesis 32:1.—Menken: God is present in the desert also, and can prepare a table for your soul even there, and just at a time when man is and can be nothing to you, when the world can give you no help; then, better than at any other time, can he be to you all and in all.—Wirth: For us too, and for our hours of lack of faith and despair, God has prepared bread and water which will nourish and quicken the soul. This bread, this water is His word, the everlasting word of God, which is the life of God and strength of God (Matthew 4:4). Eat of this bread, drink of this water, when you are in danger of going astray in your life-work, not only once or twice, nay, again and again eat and drink.
1 Kings 19:7. We all have a long journey before us, and do not know how long a time we will be obliged to spend on the way, through what deserts He is still to lead us, during how many dark nights we are to grope about, and what burdens and hardships, without and within, we have still to bear. Let us then hearken to the voice of Him who is much more to us than an angel from heaven, when he cries to us: Awake, thou that sleepest (Ephesians 5:14)! Arise and eat! For the long journey he provides the bread of life, and water that springs up unto everlasting life: he that cometh unto Him will never hunger or thirst (John 6:35); through his strength, which is mighty in weakness, we shall reach the goal and arrive there, where we shall see Him as He is.
1 Kings 19:8. Menken: The way of the prophet into the wilderness seemed to him as he entered upon it a road to death and hell, but it proved to him the way of life and heaven, a means of most valuable experiences. The world often thinks that it has given to a man of God a cup to drink which will prove most bitter to him; it plans to give him as much distress as possible. The Lord permits it, and plans how to make it a source of good to him, and..… permits him to enjoy such pleasures and refreshings, to have such experiences, to attain such knowledge and strength, as had never been his portion, and such as he never would have attained to in any other way.… We too would gladly enjoy something of the experience, the knowledge and comfort of the saints; but without the sufferings of the saints, without their want and their sacrifices, and just because we will that in the very midst of the world it could be our share, with all the peace and joy of the world beside, it never will be our lot. Our weak and delicate spirit shrinks from venturing even a day’s journey into the wilderness; and yet in all times every one who has been led far into its depths have been thankful for all their life long.
1 Kings 19:8-18. Bender: Elijah on Mount Horeb. (a) The wonderful consolation which he enjoyed on his journey thither; (b) the exalted revelation which he there received; (c) the new duties and encouragements which were his lot even there.
1 Kings 19:9-13. Wirth: Elijah at Mount Horeb. (a) The night-quarters in the cave; (b) the appearance of the Lord.
1 Kings 19:9-11. Krummacher: The arrival at Horeb. (a) The night spent in the cave; (b) the speaking Word; (c) the divine reproof; (d) the prophet’s complaint; (e) the summons (?) before the Lord.
1 Kings 19:9. The divine inquiry: What doest thou here? (a) To Elijah (purpose and intent of the question; vide explanations under 1 Kings 19:9. God desires to have us disclose our hearts to Him; He summons us to do so in conformity with His love and friendship for us, Lament. 1 Kings 2:19; Psalms 62:9; for he would heal those who are of a broken heart, Psalms 147:3.—Menken: A question may be like a cutting and wounding knife in the pain it gives a human heart; but it may also be as beneficent as healing balm. He who is indifferent to the questions he asks, and does not weigh their import, is still inconsiderate, and is greatly lacking in wisdom and love. Many thousand wicked and unnecessary questions are asked, which are causeless and without aim; questions of scorn, of derision, of anger, of uncharitableness, and of heart and time-destroying curiosity. On the other hand, there are few questions of wisdom and love. He who asks in order to be able to assist, to instruct, is inspired with the spirit of love, and in addition to love, he has great wisdom if he understands how to ask, so as to attain his end by means of his questions). (b) Made to us all by Jehovah. (What doest thou here in this world and at this time? Art thou here only for the purpose of eating and drinking, to pass thy life in enjoyment and folly, and wear away the time? How many live without considering that it is appointed for men once to die, and then cometh the judgment. Hebrews 9:27. Let not a day pass without answering the question which God puts to thee: What doest thou here? The question may also imply: What doest thou here, in this place in which thou happenest to be, in the situation and circumstances into which thou hast transferred thyself? What is it that has led thee hither? Canst thou here talk and act in the sight of Him of whom it is said: there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether; whether I walk or lie, thou art about me and art acquainted with all my ways? Psalms 139:3-4. Wherever thou mayest go, or wherever thou tarriest, let this question of God come into thy mind: What doest thou here? it is a question of divine love, but yet a question of divine solemnity.)
1 Kings 19:10. Elijah’s zeal for the Lord, (a) A pure and sincere zeal (it was solely for the Lord, not for himself, for his opinion, honor, glory or advantage, just as with the Apostle who counted all things but loss that he might win Christ. Philippians 3:8. How often folly, dogmatism, passion, and injustice is mingled with zeal for the Lord and for His kingdom. Would that all who would be, or who pretend to be zealous for the cause of God, could stand before the Searcher of hearts and say in sincerity: I have been zealous for the Lord). (b) A persevering and regardless zeal. (Like Paul, he shrunk from no distress or labor, from no strife or affliction, nor hunger nor nakedness, neither scoffing nor disgrace, Philippians 4:12-13; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. He had no respect of persons, did not ask whether he was a king, serving Baal, or a beggar, whether he was lord or servant, whether his opponents were few or many: it could be said of him: The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, Psalms 69:10. How few of those have any knowledge of such a zeal, who follow their calling mechanically, and never become warm in its behalf, whose zeal is like a smothered fire, and grows less and inefficient, and cools, both when temptation arises and when they are in prosperity.)—The complaint of the prophet against Israel is a threefold one. (a) They have forsaken thy covenant, although it is their only source of safety (this was the first stage of their apostasy. They lightly estimated the word of the Lord and did not trouble themselves about it. The same thing appears in Christianity still. The covenant which was sealed by the blood of the Son of God, and the covenant meal are forsaken and considered of no value; how many there are who forsake the church and the communion table, and, losing the knowledge of a covenant with God through Christ, live henceforth like the heathen without God in the world). (b) They have thrown down thine altars. (This was the second stage of their apostasy; desertion from grew into enmity to; the places of prayer were destroyed; they were unwilling to have among them longer anything that reminded them of their Lord and God. So too, now-a-days, want of esteem and indifference rises gradually to enmity. They who to-day are singing:
Reisst die Kreuze aus der Erden,
Alls sollen Schwerter werden!
would, if they had the power, tear down the altars and overthrow churches. For a time they are satisfied with working away at the foundations of the church of God by means of false wisdom and knowledge, or by means of scorn and insult.) (c) They have slain thy prophets with the sword. (This was the lowest stage of their apostasy; hostility grew into blind fury; not contented with throwing down the altars, they persecuted and put to death those who warned them to return. So too in Christianity, there has never been lacking a persecution of those who have preached repentance and faith with zeal and earnestness. Matthew 10:22; John 15:18. When a man will not listen to the truth, he seeks first of all to remove its witnesses, either by power or by cunning. But so long as a single witness of the truth survives, it will never remain unattested.)
1 Kings 19:11. Krummacher: Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord! This call is issued to all those who, like Elijah, lodge in caves and dens. The caves, however, are of various kinds. Our heart is a cave, a dark tomb … The soul attacked and tormented by doubts is in a cave.… Bodily distress and external affliction may be called a cave.… O go forth and go upon the mount and look aloft to Him who hangs upon the tree.… go forth! Spread the wings of hope, soar, and place thyself upon the heights of the everlasting promises of God, which are Yea and Amen, and from thence cast a look of confidence into the heart of Him whose counsel is truly wonderful, but who nevertheless doeth all things gloriously.—Wirth: There comes sometimes an hour when the call of the Lord echoes in every corner and cavern of life: Go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord! Pray, do not think that you will be allowed to do what you please undisturbed in your dens of sin. You must one day come forth and stand before the Lord, before His judgment-seat, where each man shall receive according to what he hath done in the life of the body, whether it be good or evil.… One day the blessed hour will come when he himself will lead you forth forever out from your chambers of sorrow, and up to his everlasting hills before his face.
1 Kings 19:11-18. The revelation of God upon Horeb. (a) By means of a manifestation of nature, which displayed his chastising justice toward the recreant and the godless, but also his saving, revivifying grace as his true character. All nature and creation are a revelation of God (Psalms 19:1-7; Job 12:7-9); by the word of the Lord it was created, and through it he speaks to us. It is the great language of God which we should learn to interpret, a book in which we should read; its only end is not to support us and furnish enjoyment for the mind, but that from it and in it we may learn to recognize and worship the majesty of God (Romans 1:19-20). He who sees in nature nothing more than a lifeless mass is as one who having eyes sees not. (b) By the voice which announced the decision of God. What was still dark to the prophet in the manifestation of nature, the divine word plainly and decisively interprets for him. The book of nature is made perfectly intelligible only by the word of God in the book of Scripture. For this reason the Scriptures place the revelations side by side (Psalms 19:1-12; Psalms 147:7-20). The heathen were able to perceive the character of God in the works of creation, but they nevertheless fell into idolatry and error (Romans 1:21 sq.), because they lacked the word of God. Israel possessed this word, therefore it ranked above all nations. We have still more than Israel, therefore let this word, which has been committed to us, be always a light to our feet and a lamp to our path. Where it is wanting there is, in spite of all professed wisdom (Romans 1:22), foolishness and darkness, moral and spiritual decay.
1 Kings 19:11. Behold, the Lord passes by! To Moses and Elijah, the representatives of the old covenant, the Lord passed by only in visible perceptible veil or covering, but among us He dwelt, who is love, and we saw his glory (John 1:14; John 1:16-17). For in this was manifested the love of God, &c. (1 John 4:9; Colossians 2:9). What sentence of condemnation will be declared against those who despise such a revelation and turn away from it (John 3:36; Hebrews 10:28-29). Just as God made known His true, real character, not in the storm, the earth-quake, or the fire, but in the still small voice, so ought our life, if it is from God, to manifest itself, after the pattern of Christ (Matthew 12:19-20), by an inner, quiet, gentle disposition of love (1 John 4:16).—Menken: The Lord is not dreadful and terrible except to the perverse and malignant. Where he cannot penetrate with the word of his grace, with the glance of his love, with the gentle admonition of his spirit of peace, there he speaks to hearts and ears, that are like rocks, in the destroying whirlwind, and annihilates that which rises up against him, like a devouring earthquake, and makes room and space for himself and for that which he desires to create, like a consuming fire. But those who surrender themselves to his grace and love experience nothing dreadful and terrible from him, for he is to them a delight, like a rain after the drought and like a breeze after scorching heat. Having renounced all his glory and majesty, he came with gentle and friendly aspect, a Saviour and Helper; but when now he shall appear, his coming will be to his foes like whirlwind, earthquake, and fire, sweeping them away, consuming and removing them. But to his own, who have remained protected and unharmed amid all this, it will be like the still, small whispering of the breeze after the storm has gone by.
1 Kings 19:13. Only with veiled face, i.e., with renunciation of his own wisdom and righteousness, is man able to glance into the decrees of the grace and saving love of God. He who has once experienced the working of this grace in himself, in his inner man, covers his face in humility and holy awe, and stands adoring before the mystery of eternal love, listening for the words which proceed from its mouth.—Terstegen: I adore the power of love, &c).
1 Kings 19:15-18. The answer of the Lord to Elijah’s repeated complaint; it includes (a) a direction: Go, return, &c., which is the answer to: Thus far have I been zealous in vain. Carry forward the work already begun, doubting not the result, let thy hands fall not, fear not, I am with thee. So the Lord always calls to all workers in his vineyard. The work is never intended nor permitted to cease, although it was sometimes in vain and remained without fruit. (b) A commission: Anoint Hazael, &c., that is the answer to: They have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars. Through Hazael will I chastise rebellious Israel, through Jehu destroy the house of Ahab, through Elisha preserve the order of the prophets.—Menken: Let us here observe how the royal government of the Lord influences so deeply and so powerfully, and yet so quietly and noiselessly, all human undertakings, contrivances, and conditions, all worldly events, and how so much happens under his direction which seems to happen without him, as if by accident (cf. Daniel 2:31). (c) A promise: Yet have I left. &c, This is the answer to: I only am left, and they seek my life. The Lord will never forsake his people and wholly reject them (Romans 11:3-5). The race of believers will never perish; no storm, no earthquake, no fire will destroy them. However great and extended the revolt may be, there will always be a remnant who do not bow their knees before Baal, who may indeed be oppressed and persecuted, but can never be exterminated, for they rest in the hand of the Almighty; they are the salt of the earth, which preserves the world from corruption and ruin.
1 Kings 19:18. The election of grace i.e., the chosen, the remnant (Romans 11:5; Romans 11:7). (a) Who are they? They are those who have not bowed, &c., who refuse to float with the current of the times, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:13), those who allow not themselves to be seduced from the narrow way to life by no cross or suffering, and endure in the faith unto the end. Dost thou belong to these? (b) Who knoweth them? The Lord knoweth them that are his (2 Timothy 2:19). Even Elijah at that time knew them not, and yet there were seven thousand of them. Their cry is not heard in all the streets, their life is a hidden one. They are scattered in all lands, in all conditions, among high and low, rich and poor; they do not themselves know one another, but the Lord knoweth them. How often we consider a person as a lost child of the world, who in the eyes of the Searcher of hearts is a child of God. How often we think that a nation, a city, a community is utterly corrupt, and yet even there too the Lord has a hidden seed, and elections of grace. (c) Of what are they assured? They are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (1 Peter 1:5). The Lamb will lead them, &c. (Revelation 7:17). That faith which holds fast to God and Jesus overcomes and is crowned, &c. (Revelation 2:10; Colossians 3:3-4; Luke 12:32). Therefore let us look up, &c. (Hebrews 12:2).—Menken: We must not look upon ourselves as the only ones, but remember that there are thousands besides with us, going one way to the same goal, with one faith, one hope, with one love inwardly united to us through one spirit, and that even these sufferings which meet us also befall these our brethren in the world; we must make ourselves one in spirit with them all, and the remembrance of them be encouraged by and rejoice in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will unite us with them all.—Krummacher: The invisible church. (a) The hidden seed; (b) the disclosure of it; (c) the promise that is given it.
1 Kings 19:19-21. Krummacher: Elisha’s call, (a) Elijah calls Elisha; (b) Elisha follows. Compare the Historical and Ethical, 8, 9.
1 Kings 19:19. Menken: Thus we find it throughout sacred history. The greatest, most distinguished men, who have become God’s most important instruments for the execution of his counsel and immortal benefactors of the human race, were always humble, modest men, who.… were not moved by their own souls to bring themselves forward in their impure pride as lights of the world, as reformers of the human race, but remained in their place and calling, looking quietly up to God .… But the impure, arrogant, egotistical pride, when one without looking up to God, without loving the truth, without having a duty and a call, allows himself to be impelled by his own soul to wish to enlighten the world, while he himself is in darkness, to reform Church and State without having regulated his own house, much less his heart,—this makes tools of the devil, incendiaries who call themselves enlighteners.… Every withdrawal, through our own choice and passion, from a calling and station where by God’s will we are and should be, whether from a lower to a higher station or vice versâ, is dangerous, and sinful, and without blessing, and has for its consequence misery and tribulation, even if matters go on well now, if God does not completely turn away his mercy.—Krummacher: Another in his place would long before have come to the conclusion, that he was too good for the plough, he was born for a higher sphere than that of a simple peasant; he was not at liberty to withhold his talents from mankind, he must study, and then enter upon the theatre of public action to help enlighten and govern the world.… Consider: the lights have the fairest and clearest lustre which know not that they shine, and those flowers of God scatter the sweetest perfume around them, which, well contented with the little spot the Lord has appointed them, bloom hidden in silent dales. It does not follow from the calling of Elisha away from the plough, to become a prophet, that every one without gifts and without much knowledge can leave the plough or any other ordinary occupation and take up the prophet’s calling. Men often think the Lord calls them to another, higher position while it is only their vanity and the over-estimation of their gifts and powers which impels them. If God has called thee to anything, he will also open the way for thee and furnish the means that are requisite thereto.
1 Kings 19:20. Elisha’s request and Elijah’s granting of it. (a) The request was no loitering or evasion, it came from a heart on which the command of God had been imprinted: Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy, &c. (Exodus 20:12), and which knew: the glory of a man is from the honor of his father; and a mother in dishonor is a reproach to the children (Sir 3:11); because above all he feared God, he also honored his father and mother; with God’s blessing on his new calling, he wished also for the blessing of his parents (Colossians 3:20). (b) The granting was not unconditional: Go and return again. Elijah honors and respects his filial love and gratitude. There is no calling or position, however great and high and weighty it may be, which invalidates the command: Honor, &c. (Matthew 7:10, sq.). But just as little are we permitted to hold back from following the call of the Lord. He that loveth father or mother, &c. (Matthew 10:37; Deuteronomy 33:9.)—Elisha’s parting from his family, (a) a joyful one (although he was now going to meet so many deprivations, so many toils, so great a conflict, yet the day on which he entered upon his holy calling was a day of joy and honor, on which all should rejoice with him, therefore he prepared a feast); (b) one of love (he invited all who were previously living and working with him to the feast; he would not eat and rejoice alone; no one was too insignificant for him, no one too low.—Calw. Bib: We see from this how exemplary a relation subsisted between him and his servants).—Elisha in comparison with the three followers of Christ, Luke 9:57-62. (a) Although the son of rich parents and heir to a great possession, yet he forsakes and renounces all, for he considers it a greater gain to follow and serve the (poor) prophet. (b) He takes leave indeed of his parents, but he does not put off the succession to a later time, until after their death; he does not disavow filial affection, but it does not keep him from entering upon his succession immediately. (c) He looks not backward after his call, but forward, and has no longing after that which he gives up; he follows on and serves with undivided heart in complete and joyful consecration. How deeply this Elisha shames many amongst us, to whom however not an Elijah, not a prophet, but the Lord of glory, calls: Follow me!—Menken: Many a one hears the words of good tidings with joy.… and beholds the treasure therein presented; there are moments and hours when he vividly feels that it profits a man nothing if he gains the whole world and loses himself, but that in Jesus Christ is life and full sufficiency.… Then, instead of making a good, prompt, firm resolve to surrender himself on the spot without consideration, and without condition, to the gracious offer of the Lord, he goes on again amid cares and affections of this world, turns his gaze again away from the invisible and eternal; the willing heart becomes again unwilling and seeks only a pretext how it can justify this or that obstacle, or retain and accept with honor this or that thing which cannot go through the narrow gate of the heavenly kingdom; and so he never attains to complete fidelity and self-sacrifice (cf. John 12:26).
1 Kings 19:1; 1 Kings 19:1.—[וְאֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׂר הָרַג. The כָּל, which creates the difficulty of this clause, and which is represented in the withal of the A. V., is omitted in several MSS., and passed over unnoticed by the Sept., Vulg., and some other VV. Its use is to be explained by the combination of great fulness with ellipsis: “He told all that Elijah had done, and (he told) all how he had slain,” &c.
1 Kings 19:2; 1 Kings 19:2.—[Since the verb is in the plural, all the VV. here understand אֱלֹהִים, as the A. V., of Jezebel’s false gods. The Sept. makes the oath of Jezebel still more emphatic by prefixing to this clause the words Εἰ σὺ εἶ ’Ηλιοὺ καὶ ἐγὼ ’Ιεζάβελ.
1 Kings 19:2; 1 Kings 19:2.—[Many MSS. supply לִי, necessarily understood and expressed in the VV., as in the English.
1 Kings 19:2; 1 Kings 19:2.—[On the use of כִּי in connection with oaths see Nordheimer Heb. Gr. § 1091, 3, and cf. Gen 42:16; 1 Samuel 14:44, &c.
1 Kings 19:3; 1 Kings 19:3.—[The form וירא admits either of the pointing given by the Masorets: וַיַּרְא, fut. from the root רָאָה he saw: or וַדִּרָא, fut. from יָרֵא he feared. The latter is followed by the Sept., Vulg., and Syr., and is expressed in six MSS. by the fuller form ויירא. As to which sense should be preferred here, see Exeg. Com.
1 Kings 19:5; 1 Kings 19:5.—[The Sept. omits the word angel here, supplying its place by the indefinite τις, as the Vat. Sept. has omitted the messenger in 1 Kings 19:2 (the Alex., however, there has ἄγγελον); but in 1 Kings 19:9 it is given.
1 Kings 19:6; 1 Kings 19:6.—[The A. V. has overlooked the word מְרַֽאֲשֹׁתָיו at his head, which is given in all the VV.
1 Kings 19:7; 1 Kings 19:7.—[Our author, in his translation, avoids the comparative sense, and sustains this view in the Exeg. Com. Others prefer to retain the usual comparative force of מ in מִמְּךָ in connection with the adjective רַב. In 1 Samuel 20:21, to which the author refers, there is no adjective.
1 Kings 19:9; 1 Kings 19:9.—[The article points doubtless to some especially known cave.
1 Kings 19:9; 1 Kings 19:9.—[Notwithstanding the remarks in the Exeg. Com. our author in his translation renders וַיָּלֶן (as in the A. V.) by übernachtete; of the VV. the Chald. avoids the word altogether, the Syr. and Arab. give the sense of the A. V., the Sept. κατέλυσεν admits of either sense, and the Vulg. accords with the Exeg. Com. The primary meaning of the Heb. לדּן is unquestionably to pass the night, but it hence comes in its secondary sense to mean simply remain.
1 Kings 19:11; 1 Kings 19:11.—[The Sept. inserts here the word αὔριον, on the morrow, thus showing that the translator meant the κατέλυσεν of 1 Kings 19:9 of passing the night. It also changes the punctuation, putting the clause, “And, behold, the Lord passed by” into the future as a part of the previous sentence, with a period following, and then a new sentence beginning, “and, behold, a great and stormy wind.” &c., see Exeg. Com.
1 Kings 19:11; 1 Kings 19:11.—[The Chald. rendering of this verse is remarkable and instructive, as bringing out the ancient Jewish view:—”and before him was an host of angels of the wind rending the mountains and breaking the rocks before the Lord, but the glory of the Lord (Shekinah) was not in the host of the angels of the wind; and after the host of the angels of the wind was the host of the angels of the earthquake, but the glory of the Lord (Shekinah) was not in the host of the angels of the earthquake; and after the host of the angels of the earthquake, a fire, but the glory of the Lord (Shekinah) was not in the host of the angels of fire; and after the host of the angels of fire, a voice of [angels] singing in silence.” The Sept. describes the voice as φωνὴ αὔρας λεπτῆς, and the Alex. Sept. adds “and the Lord was there.”
1 Kings 19:15; 1 Kings 19:15.—[Our author translates “the wilderness towards (gen) Damascus.” It may be questioned, however, whether the Heb. is not better represented by the A. V.
1 Kings 19:18; 1 Kings 19:18.—[The Heb. verb is in the future וְהִשְׁאַרְתִּי, and this tense is preserved in all the VV. except the Arab. (The Sept. puts it into the second person καταλείψεις). The A. V. may have been unnecessarily influenced by a regard to the κατέλιπον of Romans 11:4, where the tense is a matter of no consequence to the argument.
1 Kings 19:20; 1 Kings 19:20.—[On the question whether this clause should be rendered interrogatively, see the Exeg. Com. The VV. are divided.
1 Kings 19:21; 1 Kings 19:21. —[The Vat. Sept. puts this in the plural τὰ ζεύγη, as if Elisha had slain the whole twelve yoke; the Alex. Sept. preserves the singular.—F. G.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 19". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25