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Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 19

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

Verse 1


The event in the destruction of Baal's prophets calling forth the anger of Jezebel, Elijah fleeth to the wilderness of Beersheba. The Lord comforts him there. He returns by God's command, and anoints Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha.

1 Kings 19:1

(1) ¶ And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.

What an awful character is Ahab! one might reasonably have expected that after such a miracle, and such mercy in God's answering by fire, and sending rain to refresh his inheritance, that the heart of Ahab, with all Israel, would have been turned to the Lord. But Reader! learn from what is here said, that neither punishment nor mercy, can of themselves reclaim. Nay; I do verily believe that if the souls in everlasting misery could be liberated from their sufferings, and were permitted to return to the earth again, their hearts would remain unchanged. Oh! for grace, free, sovereign grace, to turn our souls from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto the living God.

Verse 2

(2) Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.

And what a most detestable character is this Jezebel! was ever so daring a threat; and backed, as she sent it, by such an impious authority! Reader! what views hath the Holy Ghost given us in many parts of his blessed word, of the dreadful lengths to which the human mind is capable of being led by its own corruptions, and the temptations of Satan!

Verses 3-4

(3) And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. (4) But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

Is this Elijah, who but the day before confronted all the host of Baal's worshippers? What, to flee because of the threats of a poor woman? And moreover, at a time like this, when after such a miracle he had reason from his own prayer to hope, that the Lord world turn the heart of the people back again! But Reader! let you and I learn from it, that great faith and unbelief are near neighbours in the same heart. Some of the Lord's highest servants have given striking testimonies of both. Abraham could, and did, at the Lord's command, offer up his son. But Abraham could not trust to God for the safety of his wife. Genesis 22:0 with Genesis 20:1-2 . Peter could, and did, at the command of Jesus, venture to walk to him upon the water. But the same great apostle, at the instance of a poor servant-maid, denied Christ. Matthew 26:72; Matthew 26:72 , etc. And what are the precious lessons the Holy Ghost teacheth us from such views of the faithful, but these; that faith is God's gift, not man's own creating: that as Paul saith, we can do nothing of ourselves; but can do all things through Christ strengthening us. And therefore we can never trust ourselves too little, nor Jesus too much.

Verses 5-8

(5) And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. (6) And he looked, and, behold, 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. (7) And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. (8) And 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.

Oh! Reader! do pray observe the tender mercy of a gracious God. Had the Lord taken Elijah at his word, what a sad event! instead of which we find the angel of the Lord feeding him. I cannot suffer the Reader to go on without pausing to remark with me, in what a variety of gracious ways the Lord fed his servant. By ravens at one time; by a widow woman at another. Now by an angel; and now for forty days without food he is preserved. And was he not here a type of his adored Lord and master? Can I look at Elijah from the wilderness of Judah, strengthened for a forty days abstinence in Horeb, without calling to mind thine unequalled abstinence, dearest Jesus, when added to the hunger of the body, and the conflicts of the soul, Satan was permitted to spend all the fiery darts of his temptations upon thee?

Verse 9

(9) ¶ And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Some have thought that this was the very spot in which Moses was placed when the Lord showed him his glory. If so, how sweet a token of the presence of Jesus. For Jesus is all the goodness of Jehovah passing by, considered in redemption. So thought the church when she said: Oh! my dove, that art in the clefts of the rocks, in the secret places of the stairs; let me see thy countenance: let me hear thy voice. Song of Solomon 2:14 . But the word of the Lord came to him also similar to the voice which spake to Adam in the garden; Adam! where art thou? What doest thou here, Elijah? However solemn and alarming to both, and though speaking in a way of demand, yet to both the words were alike full of grace and mercy. Reader! do remark from the enquiry that all communion and converse between God and sinners through Jesus, begins in a sense of our wrong conduct, and the Lord's rich and free mercy.

Verse 10

(10) And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD 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.

Observe how even faithful men seek at times to justify themselves. Alas! what is man in his highest attainments!

Verses 11-13

(11) And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: (12) And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (13) And 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?

What an awful display of the divine power and the divine presence! Moses stood within the cave when the Lord passed by. But Elijah is commanded to go forth, and stand before the Lord upon the mount. Do observe, Reader, the Lord's passing by, and the strong wind rending the mountains, and breaking the rocks in pieces, the earthquake, and the fire; but the Lord was not discovered by the prophet in either of them: neither did he cover his face in his mantle until he heard the still small voice. So is it with the sinner; Not the most dreadful things of God's wrath, the terrors of the law, the alarms of threatening justice, nor even the apprehensions of hell, and everlasting misery, though passing before his view, will compel him to cover his face in shame and confusion, and make him tremblingly cry out, Lord! save or I perish; until the Lord himself speaks to him in the still small voice. Reader! have you heard that voice? Hath your soul passed under the condemning sentence of God's law, and are you fled from it to the Lamb of God for salvation! if so, you will know by your own feelings, better than by any words that I can make use of, to convey a sense of these grand things. A soul that hath so been led, and both from the sentence of death in himself, and a manifestation of life, and pardon, and peace in Jesus and his righteousness, hath been enabled to venture and rest his eternal welfare on this sure foundation, will read this passage of the prophet with such enlightened eyes as none but such exercised souls can ever discover. Blessed Reader! I may say if this be your happy case, oh! what a precious thing it is to have a Christ to plead, and a Christ to justify, when both law and justice give in a verdict against the soul.

Verses 14-18

(14) And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD 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. (15) And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: (16) And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. (17) And it shall 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. (18) Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

In this answer of the Lord to the complaint of the prophet, which he had before in the same words lodged with the Lord; we discover new tokens of the Lord's graciousness. Elijah, poor man, with his dim-sighted observation, concluded that he was the only faithful servant remaining. While to the Lord's view seven thousand were in Israel, and how many more in Judah whose hearts were with the Lord! Reader! never forget, as Paul makes the comment upon it, in the worst of times the Lord hath a remnant that serve him. And remember also that this remnant is of the Lord's reserving. Jesus must have a church, a seed; a people! precious thought! oh! let us cherish it in the warm foldings of the heart. But let us remark also that, in answer to the complaint of the prophet, the Lord graciously preserved Hazael still to be king over Syria; and he shall punish Israel for their idolatry. Jehu shall be king over Israel, and he shall punish the house of Ahab for all his daring impiety. And since Elijah desired to have his services closed, the Lord hath provided him a successor in Elisha.

Verses 19-20

(19) ¶ So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. (20) And 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 have I done to thee?

The call of Elisha is very striking. It was wholly unexpected, unlooked for on his part; but on the Lord's part long ordained, long intended. What a proof we have of this in the call of Jeremiah. Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, (saith the Lord) and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Jeremiah 1:5 . And depend upon it, so it is in the appointment of all God's sent servants. See a beautiful instance in the case of Saul and Barnabas. Acts 9:15-16; Acts 9:15-16 . Of all subjects none can be more important than that everyone who ministers in holy things should see to it that his call is clear. Most awful it is to rush into the ministry unsent; and most awful in the end will be that solemn question, Who hath required this at your hands? And assuredly that awful sentence which will follow: Isaiah 1:12 ; Matthew 7:22-23 . In the instance of Elijah we see all the marks following the Lord's declaration to Elijah. The mantle of Elijah was accompanied with the Spirit of Elijah's God. He was made willing in the day of his power. Thus the Lord prevents, or goes before-hand with the sweet influences of his grace. Disposes the heart, constrains the mind, and leads the soul to follow the soft calls of his grace. Reader! as it is by his ministers, so is it by the private believer. The Lord passeth by when we are in our blood, and bids us live. Ezekiel 16:6 . The Lord gives grace to follow his call, notwithstanding both the unexpectedness of the call, and our unpreparedness to receive it; and yet more, all our undeservings; and though the whole life of grace as much exceeds all we can ask or think, as his thoughts exceed our thoughts, or his ways our ways. Ephesians 3:20 .

Verse 21

(21) And he returned back from him, and took a yoke 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.


PAUSE, Reader! over this chapter, and take another view, not less profitable to our souls, though less to the prophet's honour, than what we regarded before in the conduct of Elijah. In the former chapter we beheld him, indeed, strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. But here we see him, and human nature in him, shrinking at the bare apprehension of fear, and running away from the post of duty, as if Elijah's God could no more save. But Reader! let me charge it upon my own heart, while I earnestly and affectionately recommend it to yours, let neither of us lose sight of the sweet and blessed lesson the Holy Ghost most graciously holds forth to our view, in the contemplation of the short-comings of his faithful servants. When we see a prophet thus shrinking with fear at the threat of Jezebel; or an apostle, like Peter, at the charge of a servant maid; for what doth the example serve in either case, in such eminent followers of the Lord, but to teach us how far short the highest characters are from perfection; and that they, as well as we, stand in need of the same justifying righteousness of the Lord Jesus, whose holy life is the only righteousness which comes up to the standard of the divine law. Yes! dearest, blessed Jesus! most fully we are hereby taught, and our souls rejoice in the contemplation, that none but thou canst justify thy people. In thy name, O Lord, would my soul rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness make my boast.

Let us, Reader, also gather another sweet lesson from this chapter; and in the precious assurance the Lord gives his prophet, that while he thought himself the only one left of the Lord's servants, there were seven thousand; let us take comfort that even now, in the present dark and degenerate day, there is still a remnant according to the election of grace. Yes! Reader! though it be but a remnant, and a small remnant, yet Jesus hath said; Fear not little flock, it is your heavenly Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Jesus will preserve it. For it is the Father's gift; it is Jesus's own purchase; and the conquest of his Spirit's grace on the heart; and therefore it must be preserved, And however small, or inconsiderable in the eyes of men, yet when the whole come to be brought together in glory, it will form a multitude which no man can number. In my Father's house, (saith Jesus) there are many mansions. Lord! grant, if it be thy blessed will, both to Writer and Reader, to be found among that multitude.

Lastly. Reader! let both of us from this chapter be very diligent while reading the call of Elisha, to see that we make our calling and election sure. Oh! for grace to discover the preventing, unexpected, unmerited and sovereign call of God! Dearest Jesus! do thou pass by, and cast thy mantle upon us: thou Lord God of the prophets! do thou give Us the yielding, willing heart, to follow thee at thy call. And do thou grant that we may leave the oxen, the cares of the world, father and mother, and all creature enjoyments, and like Elisha, run after thee whither soever thou goest; and like Ruth, to Naomi, may resolve to live with thee, and to die with thee, convinced that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Oh! for faith, precious faith to have Jesus for our portion; for in him we have all things.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 19". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/1-kings-19.html. 1828.
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