Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Kings 17:16

The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Barrel;   Blessing;   Elijah;   Hospitality;   Minister, Christian;   Miracles;   Oil;   Poor;   Readings, Select;   Women;   Zarephath;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible Stories for Children;   Children;   Home;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Providence, Divine;   Religion;   Stories for Children;   Supplies, Divine;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Miracles Wrought through Servants of God;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Elijah;   Miracle;   Zarephath;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Elijah;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Word;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Barrel;   Cruse;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Elijah;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Barrel;   Cruse;   Jug;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Oil;   Zarephath;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ahab;   Haggai;   Zarephath;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Feeding the Multitudes;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Barrel;   Cruse;   Miracles;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   Cruse;   Elijah;   Zarephath;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Israel;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Barrel;   Cruse;   Elisha;   Oil;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Amittai;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The barrel of meal wasted not - She continued to take out of her jar and out of her bottle the quantity of meal and oil requisite for the consumption of her household; and without carefully estimating what was left, she went with confidence each time for a supply, and was never disappointed. This miracle was very like that wrought by Jesus at the marriage at Cana in Galilee: as the servants drew the water out of the pots, they found it turned into wine; and thus they continued to draw wine from the water-pots till the guests had been sufficiently supplied.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

This is the first recorded miracle of its kind - a supernatural and inexplicable multiplication of food (compare 2 Kings 4:42-44; Matthew 14:15-21; Matthew 15:32-38). The sacred record does not explain these miracles; but if the explanations sometimes suggested - that there was a transformation of previously existing matter into meal, oil, fish, and bread - be the true one, the marvel of the thing would not be much greater than that astonishing natural chemistry by which, in the growth of plants, particles of water, air, and earth are transmuted into fruits and grains of corn, and so fitted to be human food. There would be a difference in the agency employed and in the time occupied in the transmutation, but the thing done would be almost the same.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Kings 17:16

The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail.

The inexhaustible barrel

In the midst of wrath God remembers mercy. Divine love is rendered conspicuous when it shines in the midst of judgments. Fair is that lone star which smiles through the rifts of the thunder-clouds; bright is the oasis which blooms in the wilderness of sand; so fair and so bright is love in the midst of wrath.

I. The objects of Divine love.

1. How sovereign was the choice. Our Saviour Himself teaches us when He says, “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land. But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Zidon, unto a woman that was a widow.” Here was Divine sovereignty.

2. What undeservingness there was in the person! She was no Hannah. I read not that she had smitten the Lord’s enemies, like Jael, or had forsaken the gods of her country, like Ruth. She was no more notable than any other heathen. Her idolatry was as vile as theirs, and her mind as foolish and vain as that of the rest of her countrymen. Ah, and in the objects too, of God’s love, there is nothing whatever that can move His heart to love them; nothing of merit, nothing which could move Him to select them.

3. Her condition was miserable too, in the very last degree. She had not only to suffer the famine which had fallen upon all her neighbours, but her husband was taken from her. Ah, this is just where sovereign grace finds us all--in the depth of poverty and misery. I do not mean, of course, temporal poverty, but I mean spiritual distress. So long as we have a full barrel of our own merits, God will have nothing to do with us. So long as the cruse of oil is full to overflowing, we shall never taste the mercy of God. For God will not fill us until we are emptied of self.

II. The grace of God in its dealings.

1. The love of God towards this woman in its dealings was of the most singular character.

2. The dealings of love with this poor woman were not only singular, but exceedingly trying. The first thing she hears is a trial: Give away some of that water which thy son and thyself so much require! Give away a portion of that last little cake which ye intended to eat and die! Nay, all through the piece it was a matter of trial, for there never was more in the barrel than there was at the first.

III. The faithfulness of divine love. “The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of off fail, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by Elijah.” You will observe that this woman had daily necessities. She had three mouths to feed; she had herself, her son, and the prophet Elijah. But though the need was threefold, yet the supply of meal wasted not. You have daily necessities. Because they come so frequently--because your trials are so many, your troubles so innumerable, you are apt to conceive that the barrel of meal will one day be empty, and the cruse of off will fail you. But rest assured that according to the word of God this shall not be the case. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The miracle is Zarephath

God’s blessings, whether of oil, or corn, or sense, or grace, come to us in accordance with three laws, and of these laws this miracle in Zarephath is a signal illustration.

I. The law of economy. The little which we have must not be wasted. The smallest capacity must be utilised. The most rudimentary gift must be employed. Out of the inventory of to-day comes the more of tomorrow. God works no superfluous miracles. He wastes no energy in mere spectacular display. In his administration everything is generous, nothing is wasteful; everything is orderly, nothing is paroxysmal; everything by law, nothing by caprice.

II. The law of continuity. There is no spontaneous generation in the chemistries of nature, character, or grace. The new comes out of the old; oil comes out of oil; meal comes out of meal; this year’s harvest comes out of last year’s corn crib; the perfect truth comes out of the partial truth; the extraordinary is only the ordinary carried up and completed. The supernatural is simply the natural touched with life, quickened with God. What we receive is the increase of what we have. What we may be is the outgrowth of what we are. Every future leaps out of the loins of some past.

III. The law of increase. Get a little meal underneath God’s blessing, in the drift of His purpose, and it means more meal. “St. Theresa and two sons are nothing; St. Theresa, two sons, and God are everything.” If we bring our weak faith to Him He will increase it. If we bring our torpid hearts to Him He will make them beat and burn. (M. B. Chapman.)

The barrel of meal and the cruse of oil

This miracle illustrates--

I. A principle in connection with economy. The greatest generosity would often be to teach economy. The economy of nature is as startling as uniform. The gas flung off by the vegetable world--do you think it is wasted? It becomes a source of your health and life! And the gas that you exhale in breathing is not wasted; it becomes food for the trees, and that carbon. Whence is the rain that refreshes the face of the earth? It is the result of economy, of God’s treasuring up the water, absorbed by the sun. Of all the refuse of this earth that the rivers bear into the ocean, there is nothing wasted. Out of it God is making the bones of fishes, coral reefs, etc. And if the principle on which the Deity is managing the great palace of nature were taken into the homes of destitution that abound, there might be less drunkenness, etc., but there would oftener be “the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil.”

II. A principle in connection with providence.

III. A principle in connection with piety. “Man liveth not by bread alone,” etc. We never starve in spiritual life for lack of help.

IV. A principle in connection with generosity, This woman gave and got. But let us remember that she gave unselfishly, and not in order to get. Moreover, she gave to her utmost. She gave to a prophet, in the name of a prophet, and she received a prophet s reward. The reward is not always a material one; it is sometimes sympathy, sometimes the benediction of poverty, and always the smile of the soul and God. (H. J. Martyn.)

The cruse that never jails

I wish to spiritualise this incident, with its barrel of unwasting meal and its cruse of unfailing oil, and see it in a type of that unfailing happiness and peace and comfort for which men are for ever seeking. We are all too well aware, though we are constantly deceiving ourselves about it, constantly trying to hide it from our eyes, that the ordinary stores of life’s joy do waste and fail.

1. One of our first sources of joy and comfort is youth.

2. Health is one of life’s great fountains of comfort and happiness. Our health is a barrel of meal and a cruse of oil constantly being used up. Most of us are already taking medicine to keep the worn machine sufficiently in order so that we can make it work awhile longer.

3. Closely allied to health is strength, though many men and women carry burdens through long lives on shoulders grown strong through tribulations, never knowing what it is to have health. Many people exult in their strength; many get happiness out of it; the mere ability to do things is a great blessing from God; but that, too, is a failing cruse. After awhile we come to know that there is only about so much force, about so much strength and vitality, in a human being, and that if men or women use their strength in one way it means they cannot use it in some other way.

4. This is true of all the joys and comforts that we get from earthly fortune.

5. Then there is that great source of earthly comfort and confidence, the joy which comes from the fellowship and kindness of our relatives and friends. And now I gladly turn away from this side of our study to contemplate with infinite thanksgiving to God the cruse of oil that never fails. There is a life which Jesus came to give us which is not affected with the passing of youth, with the breaking down of our health, with the failure of our strength, or with the frail character of our fortunes--a life that may grow more abundant under them all and may never be more full of the vigour and enthusiasm of youth than when it faces the king of terrors; a life that does not fail though one is thrown into a dungeon with John Bunyan, or cast into the inner prison with Paul and Silas, or exiled among the heathen with David Livingstone; a life that can do without money, or health, or youth, or friends, and still remain sweet and patient and glad and loving and brave. If you to-night will take God’s promise, with the same simplicity of faith shown by this poor woman towards the promise given through the lips of Elijah, you, too, shall save yourself alive unto eternal life. (L. A. Banks, D. D.)

The widow’s barrel of meal

Nothing is more wonderful in the orderings of God’s Providence than the economy of human supply, the marvellous adjustment of contingency and constancy, of precarious means and uniform provision. We often speak and feel as if the great marvels of God’s Providence were its signal interpositions, its great deliverances or hair-breadth escapes occurring once or twice during a lifetime, deliverance from a fire in which others have perished, from a railway accident or shipwreck in which others have lost their lives. But, rightly viewed, the true marvel of God’s Providence is its minuteness, its adjustment of little things, its constant maintenance of the myriad laws and causes upon which daily life depends, that pulse should follow pulse, that breath should succeed breath, that day after day and year after year all the mysterious functions of life should go on, and all the mysterious conditions of life be maintained--the chemistry of the atmosphere, the balance of forces, the supply of food, all the wonderful things of life within us and without us, by which every hour and every moment we live and move and have our being. It is a miracle in all ways, a miracle of power and wisdom, and a miracle of goodness, that God’s loving arm should never for a moment be withdrawn, His eye never for a moment be averted, His supplies never for a moment fail. It needs not a miracle to demonstrate God’s mercy. And the peculiarity of God’s Providence is that a general uniformity is blended with circumstantial uncertainty. The great law is invariable--seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, day and night do not fail; and yet how precarious and changeful the sunshine and shower, the labour and the fructifying influences upon which they depend! How anxiously the farmer sows and cultures l how easily his hope is frustrated! He knows not which shall prosper, this or that. The uniform law has a margin of contingent circumstance about it, in which much depends upon human effort and upon Divine blessing. It seems in each individual instance as if there were no certain law at all. And for moral purposes, for the education and discipline of men this is an arrangement of wonderful wisdom. If our wants were supplied by some mechanical law, there would be no religious culture, no religious appeal; the daily and hourly play of religious feeling Would be lost. We all know how rapidly uniformity produces Indifference, even though it be uniformity of blessing; even the most marvellous goodness ceases to impress us if it be invariable! If our food were to be supplied by what we call miracle, it would surprise and affect us at first, but if of regular occurrence we should soon cease to feel either surprise or gratitude. The manna of the wilderness which excited such wonder at first soon became as familiar as drops of rain. One great reason therefore why God diversifies the experience of our lives is that by constant excitement he may keep alive our sense of dependence upon Him. Every man’s experience attests the healthful influence of this diversity of things. How near to God it keeps us; how it enhances our sense of blessings!

1. How entirely dependent upon God we are for the common and necessary things of our life! And yet there is nothing that we are more prone practically to forget. Too often we become conscious of it only when they are withdrawn.

2. Another lesson is, Into how small a compass the real necessities of life may be reduced. Were we to take an inventory of this poor widow’s effects, how short and meagre it would be! A little meal in a barrel, and that perhaps not very fine meal, and a little off in a cruse. Were we to look round her cottage, we should find no superfluities in it. No doubt her little furniture had been all parted with, ere her last despairing resolution was taken. If the barrel and the cruse were not the whole of her effects, yet from them we may safely infer the rest. It is but an illustration of the process that every day goes on in many an English home: the deportation of goods to the pawnbroker’s, sometimes superfluities, sometimes precious objects of loving associations, sometimes the very necessities of life, the bed upon which children sleep, the clothes that should cover their nakedness, or keep them from the cold; sometimes these sad shifts are the result of thriftless extravagance, or of sensual indulgence, but too often they are the sad necessity of poverty, and those accustomed to comforts are glad to hold body and soul together by the commonest and scantiest food.

3. Again: how easily God can supply us with what is necessary for us! What innumerable agencies are at His disposal! If ordinary channels fail, how easy for Him to employ extraordinary ones! One way is as easy to Him as another, only it is not so common. Elijah was supplied by the ravens as easily and as surely as when the corn waved in the fields. And then, again, when he was an apparent pensioner upon the poor widow’s charity. Here were three different methods in which God supplied His servant’s need--the one as much His method, and as easy to Him, as the other. “He opens His hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.” (H. Allon.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Kings 17:16". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah. There being a continual increase and supply of both, through the mighty power of God working a continued miracle; just as the loaves and fishes were increased while the disciples were eating, Matthew 14:19.

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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 17:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.

Wasted not — See how the reward answered the service. She made one cake for the prophet and was repaid with many for herself and her son. What is laid out in charity is set out to the best interest, an upon the best securities.

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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 17:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Kings 17:16 [And] the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.

Ver. 16. And the barrel of meal wasted not.] There is nothing lost by bounty to God’s prophets: yea, it is ars omnium quaestuossima, the most gainful of all arts or trades. (a) There is in Spain, they say, a great mountain of salt, de quo quantum demas, tanturn accrescit; from which take never so much, it grows out as much again.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

God still creating new, as fast as the old was spent.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16.The barrel of meal wasted not — Here was an exhibition of that same Divine power that in the person of Jesus of Nazareth multiplied the loaves and fishes.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Kings 17:16. The barrel of meal wasted not, &c. But as much as they took out for their daily use, was immediately supplied by the almighty power of God. “Never did corn or olive so increase in growing,” says Bishop Hall, “as these did in using.” They multiplied, observe, not in the hoarding, but in the spending. For there is that scattereth, and yet increaseth. When God blesseth a little, it will go a great way, even beyond expectation; as on the contrary, though there be abundance, if he blow upon it, it comes to little, Haggai 1:9; Haggai 2:19.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
the barrel
Matthew 9:28-30; 19:26; Luke 1:37,45; John 4:50,51
by Elijah
Heb. by the hand of Elijah.
Reciprocal: 2 Kings 4:5 - she went

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".