Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Kings 17:12

But she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Barrel;   Blessing;   Bread;   Elijah;   Frugality;   Hospitality;   Minister, Christian;   Miracles;   Oil;   Poor;   Readings, Select;   Self-Denial;   Women;   Zarephath;   Thompson Chain Reference - Abundance-Want;   Barrel;   Bible Stories for Children;   Cakes;   Children;   Cruses;   Famine;   Home;   Human;   Instrumentalities, Weak;   Limitations, Human;   Limited Resources;   Oil;   Olive Oil;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Poverty;   Poverty-Riches;   Power;   Religion;   Small Things God Uses;   Stories for Children;   Weak;   Weakness-Power;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Oil;   Poor, the;   Self-Denial;   Widows;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Elijah;   Zarephath;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Food;   Oil;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Elijah;   Widow;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Barrel;   Cake;   Cruse;   Oven;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Cruse;   Oil;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Baking;   Barrel;   Cooking and Heating;   Flour;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Oil;   Zarephath;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ahab;   Barrel;   Bread;   Haggai;   House;   Meals;   Potter, Pottery;   Zarephath;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Bread;   Cruse;   Feeding the Multitudes;   Numbers (2);   Oil ;   Oven ;   Waterpot ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Barrel;   Cruse;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Elijah;   Zarephath;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Bread;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Barrel;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Israel;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Barrel;   Bread;   Cruse;   Elisha;   Fire;   Handful;   Meals;   Oil;   Potter;   Rain;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Amittai;   Fire;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for January 9;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

A handful of meal in a barrel - The word כד cad is to be understood as implying an earthen jar; not a wooden vessel, or barrel of any kind. In the East they preserve their corn and meal in such vessels; without which precaution the insects would destroy them. Travellers in Asiatic countries abound with observations of this kind.

The word cruse, צפחת tsappachath, says Jarchi, signifies what in our tongue is expressed by bouteille, a bottle. Jarchi was a French rabbin.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-kings-17.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

As the Lord thy God liveth - The words do not prove that the woman was an Israelite, or a worshipper of the true God; any Phoenician, recognizing in Elijah‘s appearance the garb and manner of a Jehovistic prophet, might have thus addressed him: Baal-worshippers would have admitted Yahweh to be “a” living God. The woman does not say “as the Lord my God liveth.”

That we may eat it and die - Phoenicia always depended for its cereal supplies on the harvests of Palestine (1 Kings 5:9 note); and it is evident that the famine was afflicting the Phoenicians at this time no less than the Israelites.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-kings-17.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And she said, as the Lord thy God liveth,.... Which shows her to be a good woman, swearing by the living God, and him only, and that she took Elijah to be a good man, and a prophet of the Lord:

I have not a cake; greater or less, not a morsel of bread in the house:

but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; these separate and unmixed, and not made into a cake, and dressed as she intended to do with them:

and, behold, I am gathering two sticks; or a few, which would be sufficient to bake such a quantity as her meal and oil would make; she speaks by the figure "meiosis", which expresses less than what is meant, as Ben Melech observes:

that I may go in and dress it for me, and my son, that we may eat it, and die; having nothing more left, and no expectation of any elsewhere, and the famine strong in the land; so that she could look for nothing but death after this was eaten.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-kings-17.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And she said, [As] the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I [am] gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and f die.

(f) For there is no hope of any more sustenance.
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-kings-17.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

She said — Therefore though she was a Gentile, yet she owned the God of Israel as the true God.

Two sticks — A few sticks, that number being often used indefinitely for any small number.

And die — For having no more provision, we must needs perish with hunger. For though the famine was chiefly in the land of Israel, yet the effects of it were in Tyre and Sidon, which were fed by the corn of that land. But what a poor supporter was this likely to be? who had no fuel, but what she gathered in the streets, and nothing to live upon herself, but an handful of meal and a little oil! To her Elijah is sent, that he might live upon providence, as much as he had done when the ravens fed him.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-kings-17.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Kings 17:12 And she said, [As] the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I [am] gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

Ver. 12. I have not a cake.] Not so much food ready as a cake. Half a cake, we say, is better than no bread: but here it was not to be had. It is God’s glory to help at a pinch. This poor widow was not alone distressed, but the rest of the Zidonians also, who as they had sent their idolatry to Israel, together with their daughter Jezebel, so do they partake of their punishment. Menander, a heathen historian, brought in by Josephus, telleth of a great drought and dearth in the time of Ithobaal, king of the Zidonians, and that when he had appointed supplications to be made, a great thunder followed, and much rain fell. Ita Diabolus operum Dei Momus et Mimus, per Menandrum hoc egit, ut divinum miraculum in Iudaea editum vilesceret, fidem et authoritatem amitteret, et tanti operis gloria ad turpissima dola rediret!

But a handful of meal in a barrel.] Happy was it for this widow, that she was no niggard of her last handful. Her barrel and cruse had thereby no bottom. The mercy of God crowneth our beneficence with abundance. Not getting, but giving, is the right way to wealth.

For me and my son.] The Greek version hath it, My sons, as if she had many: and then her goodness was the greater in parting with any to the prophet, as Eucherius observeth.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-kings-17.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Kings 17:12. An handful of meal in a barrel Sandys tells us, that in the east they kept their corn in long vessels of clay, it being subject to be eaten by worms without that precaution: this he observed at Gaza. Agreeable whereto, Norden informs us, that a barbarian of Upper Egypt opened one of his great jars, in order to show him how they preserved their corn there. The barrel in which the woman of Sarepta kept her corn, whereof she had only enough left to make a handful of meal, might be a vessel of much the same kind, and consequently כד kad is improperly translated a barrel. It is certainly in the original the same word as is used for the vessels in which Gideon's soldiers concealed their torches, and which they broke, with a clashing terrifying noise, when they blew with their trumpets; and both circumstances indicate their being vessels of earth. It does not, however, follow from hence, that they had these things with them for the keeping of their corn; it might be for fetching water; for we find that the same word is expressive of the vessels in which women were wont to fetch water, Genesis 24:14; Genesis 24:67.; and no wonder, since the same kind of vessels were used for both purposes. Norden speaks of great jars for corn, as was just remarked; and Bishop Pococke, on the other hand, more than once takes notice of the women of that country carrying water in earthen jars at this time. Rebecca, most certainly, did not carry a barrel, a vessel of above thirty gallons, upon her head. Observations, p. 150.

REFLECTIONS.—The brook being dry, Elijah is commanded to remove. We see that he waited to the last drop without solicitude, and even then removed not without an order. He that believeth will not make haste, but wait the Lord's leisure.

1. Zarephath, a city of Sidon, is the place fixed on for his abode, where God had provided a reception for him in the house of a widow, a Gentile, and poor withal, and in the very country where Jezebel might seize him. But they who have God's warrant to go, have no questions to ask.

2. Though he knew not the person that should be his hostess, he went, not doubting to find her; and lo! at the gate providence brings them together. A woman met him, one very unlikely to supply his wants, who appeared almost famishing herself. To her he addressed himself for a little water; and when she turned to fetch it, he desired a morsel of bread along with it. This led her to inform him of her distressed circumstances; a handful of meal, and a little oil in a cruse, were all that she possessed; and she was now come to gather a few sticks, to dress it for herself and her son, as the last morsel they ever exposed to eat. Elijah bids her do so, but first make him a cake, nor fear to want, since from God he assured her, that the meal should not fail, nor the oil be exhausted, till the days of famine were over. Behold a prodigy of faith! Without hesitation, though so difficult the command, against which reason, self-love, and natural affection might raise strong objections, she staggered not at the prophet's assurance, but did as she was desired, and trusted in the word of promise. Note; (1.) In our deepest distresses, God is nearer to relieve us than we are aware. (2.) God has ever chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom. (3.) Faith silences all objections; a word of promise is instead of a thousand arguments. (4.) They who can trust God with their all, will find themselves no losers by him.

3. The first essay confirmed the prophet's declaration, and the daily miracle continued for two years and upwards, during which Elijah, herself, and her son, even in those days of dearth, had enough. It was plain fare, indeed; but no doubt they were abundantly thankful for it, and, coming thus from the Lord's hand, it was doubly sweet. Note; (1.) The prophets and ministers of God must learn of Elijah to be content with hard fare. (2.) There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth. Works of piety and charity bring us again our own with usury. (3.) If our hearts be open to receive the great prophet, the greater than Elijah, we shall then never want any manner of thing that is good.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-kings-17.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

As the Lord thy God liveth; by which she discovers, that though she was a Gentile, yet she owned the God of Israel as the true God.

Two sticks, i.e. a few sticks, that number being oft used indefinitely for any small number, both in Scripture, as Hosea 6:2, and by other authors. That we may eat it, and die; for having no more provision, we must needs perish with hunger. For though the famine was only in the land of Israel, yet the effects of it were in Tyre and Zidon, which were fed by the corn of that land. See Acts 12:20. Or the same famine might be in those parts also; the chief cause of the famine, to wit, the worship of Baal, being common to both places.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-kings-17.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

12.As the Lord thy God liveth — This was a formula somewhat peculiar to Elijah, (see 1 Kings 17:1,) and her use of it indicates in her a knowledge and reverence of the God of Israel. But that she was a heathen, and not belonging to the tribes of Israel, seems evident from the manner in which she is mentioned in this passage, and also from the manner in which Jesus speaks of her in Luke 4:26. It is significant that in the time of famine Elijah finds a home and food in the land of Ethbaal, the father of the wicked Jezebel, (1 Kings 16:31,) and in the house of a poor heathen widow, in whom he finds, as Jesus found in a woman of this same land, (Matthew 15:28,) a faith unequalled in Israel

A barrel כד, a pitcher, a bucket, or jar, for holding meal or carrying water. Genesis 24:14.

Cruse — A flask for holding liquids. See cut at 1 Samuel 26:11.

Two sticks — That is, a few sticks. So two sheep, (Isaiah 7:21;) and two days, (Hosea 6:2,) mean a few sheep and a few days.

Eat it, and die — A picture of uttermost woe and want; but a means of developing in her a noble faith.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-kings-17.html. 1874-1909.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

a little oil. From Joshua 19:24-28 Zidon fell to Asher. From Deuteronomy 33:24 Asher had abundance of oil, though water was scarce. Compare Genesis 49:20.

cruse = flask. Compare Matthew 25:4.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-kings-17.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(12) I have not a cake.—The famine may have already extended to Phœnicia; for there, according to Menander, it lasted for a year; or, since the country depended upon Israel for supplies, the distress may have been only the reflex effect of the famine in Israel.

As the Lord thy God liveth.—The phrase indicates a recognition of Elijah as a prophet of Jehovah the God of Israel, but probably (as, indeed, seems to be implied by the use of the words “thy God”) no acknowledgment of Him as yet by the woman herself, such as the neighbouring heathen (as, for example, Hiram in the days of Solomon) often yielded.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-kings-17.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
As the Lord
1; 1 Samuel 14:39,45; 20:3,21; 25:26; 26:10; 2 Samuel 15:21; Jeremiah 4:2; 5:2
but an handful
2 Kings 4:2-7; Matthew 15:33,34
that we may eat it
Genesis 21:16; Jeremiah 14:18; Lamentations 4:9; Ezekiel 12:18,19; Joel 1:15,16
Reciprocal: Deuteronomy 28:16 - in the field;  1 Kings 18:10 - the Lord;  Job 6:7 - as my sorrowful meat;  Job 21:25 - never;  Ecclesiastes 5:17 - he eateth;  Haggai 1:6 - eat;  Matthew 4:4 - but;  Matthew 14:20 - were;  Luke 7:12 - the only

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-kings-17.html.