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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
1 Kings 19

 

 

Verses 1-21

ELIJAH FLEEING FROM JEZEBEL

(vs.1-10)

When Ahab informed his wife Jezebel of Elijah's having brought down the fire of God to consume his sacrifice, of the slaughter of the prophets of Baal and the announcement by Elijah of the great rain, Jezebel, instead of being subdued by the evidence of God working in grace to Israel, was inflamed with bitter anger against Elijah and swore by her gods that she would kill Elijah within one day (vs.1-2). In fact, she invited her gods to kill her if she did not kill Elijah by the next day. But the issues of life are in the hand of God, and He saw that she was killed at the proper time. She could not kill Elijah without God's permission.

But Elijah's faith faltered. He could stand before Ahab with no tremor of fear, but now he was frightened by a woman! He fled from Jezreel to Beersheba (v.3). He ought to have been arrested by the very name "Beersheba," for it means "the well of the oath." Why did he not stop to think of depending on the refreshment of God's oath? God could not fail him. He did not even consult God about going away and when to go. God had led him before. Why did he not depend on Him to lead him now? But how sad it is that when one has been greatly used by God, he is in danger of failing to continue to walk with God.

Elijah left his servant at Beersheba, but he himself continued for a full day, going into the wilderness. There he sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die (v.4). Why did he ask this? Because he said he was no better than his fathers? He was utterly discouraged. Did he before think that he was better than his fathers? It seems that he thought that his faithfulness in representing God before Ahab and the people failed to accomplish the results he expected. But he had to learn that God did not depend on Elijah. How much better for Elijah to depend on God! He had done what God sent him to do. This is all that is expected of any servant. God will take care of the results in His own way and in His own time.

If Elijah wanted to die, why did he not stay in Jezreel? He could have died there as a martyr at the hand of Jezebel. But if our faith falters we shall always become inconsistent. His prayer was not the prayer of dependence on God. He had decided what he wanted and asked God for this, instead of asking God to guide him in his desires as well as in his actions. Certainly he was wrong in praying this way, for God had decided that Elijah would never die at all! He was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind, without dying! (2 Kings 2:11).

As Elijah slept the sleep of discouragement an angel touched him and said, "Arise and eat" (v.5). Miraculously, he found a cake baked on coals and a jar of water beside him. How gracious the Lord is! Instead of reproving Elijah He provided food that Elijah needed. Indeed, if we do partake of spiritual food this ought to take away our discouragement. But after Elijah had eaten, he laid down again to sleep. When we are in such a lazy state we need the words of Scripture, "Awake, you who sleep, arise from among the dead, and Christ will give you light" (Ephesians 5:14). Believers are not dead, but may be sleeping among the dead (who are unbelievers). However, Elijah was awakened the second time by the angel of the Lord and told, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you" (v.7). We too must take this to heart. Our journey through the world is too great for us if we are not sustained by the food of the Word of God.

But Elijah still did not ask the Lord to lead him: he was going in his own way, and our own way will usually take us to Horeb, the mountain where God gave the law to Israel. This was a 40 day journey that Elijah took without any more food besides what he ate at this time (v.8). Elijah's discouragement stemmed from a legal attitude, and he was only confirming that attitude by going to Horeb. He could have made the journey more quickly, but likely he stopped often to sleep on the way.

What does a legal attitude involve? It puts too much emphasis on a person's works instead of on the grace of God. Elijah was still thinking of his own works and his own reputation, therefore he lacked in the area of submitting to the work and Word of God.

He stayed the night in a cave on Mount Horeb, and in the morning the Lord in mercy came to him and asked, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" In hearing such a question, ought not Elijah to have seriously considered that his way was not right in the eyes of the Lord? He did not answer God's question, but sought to excuse himself for running away. He said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take away my life" (v.10). Was he alone left? What of the 100 prophets whom Obadiah had hidden from Jezebel?

Did Elijah think he was more zealous for God's glory than God was? He had acted for God, and God honored him for it. Why spoil it now by acting without God's guidance? He makes intercession against Israel rather than praying for Israel. Let us take such a lesson to heart.

THE "STILL SMALL VOICE"

(vs.11-18)

When Elijah spoke to the Lord with such a discouraged attitude, the Lord told him, "Go and stand on the mountain before the Lord." Then the Lord passed by, going before three great manifestations of His power, first, a great and strong wind breaking the rocks of the mountain apart, "but the Lord was not in the wind." "After the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire" (vs.11-12). These three manifestations of the great power of God did not reveal God as He is. Elijah thought that since God had shown His power in sending fire to consume Elijah's offering, this ought to have had a good effect in turning Israel's hearts to Him. but these great works of God do not accomplish real results in the hearts of people.

But "after the fire a still, small voice." It is God speaking, however quietly, directly to the people's hearts that has true spiritual effect in changing them. It is by the Word of God that people are born again (1 Peter 1:23). God may use great public signs to warn or to awaken people, but such signs do not save them: they need to hear the voice of God. Some individuals will hear it, others will ignore it.

That still small voice spoke to Elijah's conscience, but rather than judging himself there and then, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out. The mantle speaks of the Spirit of God (2 Kings 2:9; 2 Kings 2:13-14). The mantle was to be worn, but not intended to cover the eyes. Elijah was stubbornly taking the attitude that he had been led by the Spirit of God, as some people do today. They practically make the Spirit of God responsible for their own mistakes. This attitude blinds the eyes, for it is only honest to take the responsibility for our own wrongs.

As Elijah stood in the entrance of the cave, God's voice came again to him with the same question, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" If the Lord asks a question a second time, does this not mean that our first answer was faulty? But Elijah answered precisely the same the second time (v.14). It was not really an answer, but an attempt to excuse himself for being where he was. God had not accepted his excuse the first time, and Elijah ought to have apologized for his being where he was rather than to seek to justify himself. Why should a servant of the Lord be so stubborn? May we learn in this not to excuse ourselves for our lack of faith.

The Lord did not directly reprove Elijah, but the instructions he gave would surely serve as a serious reproof. He told Elijah to leave that place and go to the wilderness of Damascus - far to the north of where he was - and there anoint Hazael to be king over Syria (v.15). Why was this? Because Elijah had prayed against Israel and he could have his prayer answered by the vicious cruelty of Hazael against Israel! (2 Kings 8:7-13).

Also Elijah was told to anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi as king over Israel (v.16), for God would use Jehu to kill all the house of Ahab, including Jezebel and Ahab's seventy sons, and many others both of Israel and Judah (2 Kings 9:1-37; 2 Kings 10:1-36). What a lesson for Elijah, that he would have been wiser to intercede for Israel rather than against them!

But also, Elijah was told to anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat to take Elijah's place as prophet! Because his faith had faltered so badly, Elijah had to give place to another. This itself was a reproof, for he had said that he was alone, but there was another prophet who could be just as useful as Elijah had been.

The words of verse 17 are also a serious reproof to Elijah's criticism of Israel. God told him that whoever escaped the sword of Hazael would be killed by Jehu, and those who escaped the sword of Jehu would be killed by Elisha. God only speaks of judgment against Israel by these three men, and says not a word of the grace that Elisha would minister. God spoke in this way because Elijah had inferred that Israel deserved judgment.

Verse 18 contains another solemn reproof for Elijah. God had reserved in Israel 7000 who had not bowed to Baal, yet Elijah spoke of being alone! If we feel alone in whatever testimony we may be able to bear for the Lord, let us remember that God has many more than ourselves who are true to Him.

THE CALL OF ELISHA

(vs.19-21)

Elijah was not anxious to carry out the instructions of the Lord concerning Hazael and Jehu. There is no record of his ever anointing these two men. It was rather Elisha who solemnly told Hazael that he would be king of Syria (2 Kings 8:8-13). Also Elisha instructed one of the sons of the prophets to go to Ramoth Gilead to find Jehu and anoint him to be king of Israel. The son of the prophet did this and told Jehu to strike down the whole house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:1-10).

Thus, Elijah ignored God's word as to anointing Hazael and Jehu, but found Elisha who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. His plowing is typical of the spiritual work he was called to do, in plowing up the consciences of Israel in repentance toward God, in preparation for the seed of the Word of God to be sown.

In finding Elisha, Elijah threw his mantle over him (v.19). The mantle pictures the Spirit of God who invests the recipient with spiritual power. Thus Elisha was to have the same Spirit that Elijah had in reference to serving the Lord. Though Elijah said nothing, Elisha realized what was involved in this. He left his oxen and ran after Elijah, asking him to allow him to kiss his parents goodbye before following him (v.20).

Having gained this permission, he took a yoke of oxen, killed them and boiled their flesh to give to the people. This symbolized his complete break with secular employment in order to serve the Lord. The rest of the oxen were likely left with his father. When he left his employment and his relatives, he did not do this high handedly, but did so with kindness and consideration. God's call was the most important to him, and though he was considerate, his consideration of human relationships was not to interfere with the call of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Kings 19:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/1-kings-19.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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