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16:29-22:53 MINISTRY OF ELIJAH
Jezebel’s Baalism in Israel (16:29-17:24)
In a new political alliance, Ahab, the new king of Israel, married Jezebel, daughter of the king-priest of Phoenicia. Ahab not only accepted his wife’s Baalism, but also gave it official status in Israel by building a Baal temple in the capital (29-33). The Baalism imported by Jezebel was of a kind far more evil and far more dangerous to Israel’s religion than the common Canaanite Baalism practised at the high places. Jezebel’s Baalism (as we shall refer to it, to distinguish it from the common Baalism) was that of the great god Melqart, whose dwelling place was the Tyre-Sidon region of Phoenicia where Jezebel came from. Jezebel then set about making this the official religion of Israel.
The rebuilding of Jericho further demonstrated the spirit of rebellion against God that characterized Israel. The project was in direct opposition to God’s clear command (34; cf. Joshua 6:26).
Israel’s religious life was in such danger that God intervened with an unusually large number of miracles and judgments. First he sent the prophet Elijah to announce a three-year drought throughout the land (17:1). This showed the powerlessness of Baal, who was supposed to be the God of nature and fertility. At the same time it showed the power of Yahweh, who was still God of Israel. Elijah was no doubt unpopular because of the drought, so God directed him to hide near a stream in his home territory of Gilead, east of Jordan. No one knew where he was, and he did not even need to go out to look for food, because God provided it miraculously (2-6).
When Elijah’s water supply dried up (7), God sent him to Zarephath in Phoenicia. This was Baal’s home territory, but the drought there was just as severe. The miraculous feeding of Elijah, the widow and her household showed that God’s power was greater than Baal’s even in Baal’s home country; and, unlike Baal’s, it could work independently of nature. The events showed also that faith, not nationality, was the basis for God’s blessing (8-16; cf. Luke 4:25-26). The healing of the widow’s son confirmed her faith in God, and assured Elijah of God’s presence and power in the dangerous and lonely days ahead (17-24).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:2". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/1-kings-17.html. 2005.
ELIJAH FLED TO THE BROOK OF CHERITH
"And the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according to the word of Jehovah; for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land."
"Get thee hence, and turn eastward" (1 Kings 17:3). This was God's order for Elijah to get himself outside the jurisdiction of Ahab, who certainly would have murdered him if he could have found him.
"That is before Jordan" (1 Kings 17:3). In the O.T. this expression always means "east of."
"I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there" (1 Kings 17:4). A statement such as this runs some writers wild. Impossible! "Saga ... legend ... myth"! However, as Snaith wisely said: "More than human ingenuity is required in order to excise all the miraculous elements from these wonders."
The best explanation that rationalists have come up with is that the word here translated "ravens" can be translated "merchants" or "Arabians" as in Ezekiel 27:27; 2 Chronicles 21:16 and Nehemiah 4:7. However, we reject out of hand any such effort to diminish what is written here.
Tatum's advice should be heeded: "Here we are face to face with a series of miracles and any attempt to explain one of them away still leaves us a number of others even more amazing. It is better to accept them by faith in an all-powerful God." As Montgomery stated it in the International Critical Commentary, "The divine provision of the prophet's food was simply miraculous." Amen!
"And it came to pass ... that the brook dried up" (1 Kings 17:7). When a nation suffers, God's people must also suffer. Elijah was NOT exempt from the effects of the terrible drought.
Charles G. Martin wrote that, "Outwardly the northern kingdom prospered under Ahab." In support of that, he mentioned Ahab's ivory palace and Assyrian records that credit Ahab with contributing 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers in the battle of Qarqar (833 B.C.), the new temple of Baal in Samaria, and all those pagan priests brought in by Jezebel, but this writer believes that none of those things indicates any real prosperity. Those who remember the terrible drought in the U.S.A. (a three-year drought) 1927-1929 that precipitated events ending in the stock market crash of November 1929 will also remember that the depression that followed lasted for at least six more years. The three-year drought in Israel eliminated all possibility of any real prosperity during Ahab's reign. Josephus wrote that, "The famine had seized upon the whole country, and there was a great want of what was necessary for sustenance."
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-kings-17.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
By Chuck Smith
Let's turn to the First Kings, chapter seventeen.
The seventeenth chapter of First Kings introduces us now to a very interesting character, Elijah the Tishbite, whatever Tishbite means. Now Elijah came from the area of Gilead, which you'd call today TransJordan if you were in Israel; it was across Jordan in the area of Gad. And so he came from the area of Gilead. It is thought that it is possible that Tishbite means that he was not really an Israelite, that he was some other nationality. But that is only a conjecture, we don't know for sure. But he certainly had a very interesting career. And he comes to the apostate northern tribe at really sort of its lowest point when Ahab is the king with his wicked wife Jezebel. And they have just about eliminated the worship of Jehovah.
They have introduced Baal worship to Israel. They have broken down the altars of God. They have slain the prophets of God and they have just about eliminated the worship of God from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. And so at this dark period of history, Elijah comes on the scene with the message of God and the warning of God for the people, and so he's a very interesting character indeed. It is prophesied in Malachi that before Jesus comes again, that Elijah will come and will be turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. And God is going to send Elijah back to the nation Israel to really bring a great revival to Israel before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Now when Zechariah the priest, recorded in Luke chapter one, was in the temple fulfilling his course of ministry, the angel Gabriel stood beside the altar and informed Zechariah that his wife Elisabeth in her old age was to bear a son.
And he said, "And he shall go forth in the spirit and in the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the children unto their fathers." The key there, I think, is the spirit and the power of Elijah.
We then follow when in the first chapter of John when John the Baptist was fulfilling his ministry, they came to John and they said unto him, "Who gave you the authority to do these things? Are you Elijah?"
And he said, "No."
Are you that other prophet? "No."
Then who are you?
He said, "I'm the voice of one crying in the wilderness saying, Make straight the path of the Lord."
Now John denied that he was Elijah. However, after the death of John the Baptist, Jesus was talking about John and He said, "Of all men born of women there is not risen a greater prophet than John the Baptist: yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" ( Matthew 11:11 ).
The disciples then said to the Lord, how is it then, He's giving John the Baptist this credit for being one of the greatest prophets? He said, "How is it then that the Bible says Elijah must first come?"
And Jesus said, "Elijah shall first come." In other words, the prophecy of Malachi will be fulfilled. Before Jesus comes again, Elijah will first come. But He said, "if you are able to receive it, this is Elijah," referring to John the Baptist.
Now we realize that there are two aspects of the coming of Jesus Christ. His first coming was to give Himself as God planned as a sacrifice for our sins. His Second Coming is to reign and to establish God's kingdom upon the earth. But there are two aspects to the coming of Christ; and thus, there are two aspects to the prophecy of Elijah being the forerunner. And thus John the Baptist in the spirit and in the power of Elijah was the forerunner at the first coming; but Elijah will return to be the forerunner before Jesus comes again.
John the Baptist was in the spirit and in the power of Elijah. Now Elijah did appear with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. When Jesus went up into the high mountain with His disciples, Peter, James and John, He was transfigured before them, Elijah appeared there on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord. No doubt in Revelation, chapter eleven, verse two where it speaks of the Lord sending the two witnesses, His two witnesses unto the nation Israel, that one of the two witnesses will indeed be Elijah and the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi.
So Elijah is a very interesting character because he is interwoven. This is the beginning of his career but he showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration and he's going to show up once more before Jesus comes again. Now because of the prophecy that Elijah will first come, that is why the Jews at every Passover when they celebrate Passover they always set the empty chair and leave the door open. They're waiting for Elijah to come. The door is open. He's welcome and they've got the chair set for him at the table and it is a sign of their anticipation of the Messiah's return. But they know before He returns, or their anticipation of the Messiah, they are not really looking for Him to return, but their anticipation of the Messiah and the chair set for Elijah before the return.
So very interesting character and now we get into the study of this fellow Elijah who came into Israel at this dark period of their history when there is such a great spiritual decline.
And he comes in very dramatically, with a dramatic announcement and then he disappears. He came to Ahab, the wicked king and he said,
As the LORD God lives, before whom I stand, there is not going to be dew or rain for these years, until I say so ( 1 Kings 17:1 ).
And then he took off. And he was gone for three-and-a-half years. And for three-and-a-half years, there was a drought, not a drop of rain, no dew from heaven until the land became very dry and parch.
Now he took off first of all over to the brook Cherith, which is back towards Gilead, from which he had come. And the Lord instructed him to go to the brook and drink of its water and the Lord said, "I'll feed you there." And God commissioned a couple of ravens to bring him food to eat every day, actually in the morning and in the evening. They brought him bread and they brought him meat. And so he was there by the brook Cherith, morning and evening the ravens would show up with this food and he was just staying there until the brook dried up because of the lack of rain.
And so the Lord then commanded him to get to Zarephath, over near Zidon. So it would be in the area of the Lebanon today. Zidon is about ten miles north from Accho. And there is a widow woman there, the Lord said, "And she will take care of you."
So he went and he came to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, he saw this widow woman and she was gathering sticks ( 1 Kings 17:10 ):
Now in the more primitive cultures, the ladies go out and gather sticks for their fires. You can go down to Guatemala and see the ladies today out gathering sticks for their fires and all. And over in Israel in the primitive culture, and it still does exist in many areas there, the ladies out gathering sticks and they of course, cook over the open fires and it's quite interesting.
And so she was gathering these sticks and he said to her, "Would you bring me a drink of water?"
And so while she was going to get him a drink of water, he said, "Oh, while you're bringing me the water, how about bringing me some bread, too?"
And so she poured out her heart. She said, "I'm sorry, sir. I don't have any bread. In fact, I'm gathering a couple sticks now to build a fire and I have just a little oil and a little flour left, enough to make a couple of pieces of bread for my son and we're going to eat those and then we're just going to die. I'm just- we're depleted. We have no flour, no oil."
So Elijah said, "First make me some bread. And then make it for you and your son. And according to the Lord and the word of the Lord, the flour shall not cease nor the oil until this whole drought is over."
And so the widow lady went in and she made Elijah some bread and she found out that there was still flour left in the barrel, still oil. And she kept feeding him. And during this whole period of the drought, the flour did not fail, nor the oil, it was always enough to make just one more.
It's really a miracle indeed and there is no taking away from the miraculous aspect of it, how that God supplied miraculously. But it is interesting the prophet said, "Make it for me first, and then for yourself." There is sort of a spiritual kind of a thing here, as far as giving to God the firstfruits of our lives. Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these other things will be added unto you" ( Matthew 6:33 ).
Now if I twist this priority, and I start seeking first other things, then my life will be so involved in seeking other things that I don't have time for God. But if I seek first my relationship with God, then all of my other relationships come into balance. They all just work on in. You see, my life exists on two plains-the vertical axis upon which my life revolves, and the horizontal plain, this outer area, my relationship with other people. Now if the vertical axis of my life is correct, if my relationship with God is what it should be, then the horizontal plain of my life is in balance. My relationship with those around me is in balance and I am living a well-balanced life if the vertical axis is correct, if my relationship with God is all that it should be.
However, if the vertical axis of my life is not correct, if my relationship with God isn't all that it should be, then the horizontal plain of my life is also going to be out of kilter. And I find myself on this crazy topsy-turvy kind of an experience, where I'm always trying to balance my life. And I'm spending all my time trying to get my life into balance and things in the proper focus. And I just never can seem to quite make it. Just about the time I get up here to try and balance this side, then I come overboard this way, you know. And I'm constantly working to get my life into balance, never seeming to be able to do it. My relationships are all messed up.
Now if I spend my time in just trying to balance my life, I am only treating the symptoms. It's like trying to treat a brain tumor with aspirin. You know, just to sort of deaden the pain so you don't feel it so bad and you don't feel these headaches quite so severely. But you're only treating symptoms; you're not getting to the heart of the problem. Now any doctor who only treats symptoms is a quack. Stay away from him. You want a doctor that's going to find out what the cause is that's creating the symptoms. "Why are you getting dizzy? Why do you have this severe pressure in the head?" You want something more than aspirin. Now people are so often treating only the symptoms, the relationship, and trying to get this relationship to work. "No, I've got to work on this and I've got to work on that. And oh, this is all messed up now, you know." And we're so busy in the horizontal plain trying to get it in balance when in reality the solution is very simple. Get the vertical axis correct. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."
Elijah said, "Make me first the cake." Now had she gone in to make first of all the cake for herself and her son, that'd have been it. The barrel would have been empty of flour, the oil would have been gone; they would have died. "Make me first the cake and then for you and your son." Put the Lord first. Get your priorities correct and God will take care of you. God will take care of the other aspects of your life. So the most important relationship that I have in all this world is my relationship with God and nothing should get before it. And if I'm going to work on any relationship at all, I should be working on this relationship with God above every other relationship, because if this gets correct, then the others are all going to fall into balance. If this relationship with God is out of kilter, then there is no way I'm going to be able to balance my life. It will always be in this crazy topsy-turvy way. There is no way you can have a well-balanced life until your life is centered in God. And that is the vertical axis upon which your life is rotating. And until then it's always going to be out of balance, out of kilter.
So Elijah set forth really a principle for this gal for God to work. Put God first and God will take care of you. He'll take care of the seconds and the thirds and the fourths. But it's priority and it's simple and it's basic, and yet it's one of the most important truths that you need to learn in your whole experience of life, is that your relationship with God must supersede every other relationship. Make sure that you have a right relationship with God because that will see you through everything else.
So the little woman did what Elijah said and God took care.
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. Now it came to pass, that the son of this woman became very sick; and actually he was so sick, he quit breathing. And so she said to Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Are you come to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son ( 1 Kings 17:16-18 )?
Now it is interesting that she was sort of thinking that the death of her son was somehow related to her own sin.
And Elijah said unto her, Give me your son. And he took him out of her bosom, and he carried him up into a loft, [where he stayed in a loft there next to her house,] and he laid him on his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, have you brought this evil upon this woman that I'm staying with in slaying her son? And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul or consciousness come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came to him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down to his mother and presented him to her: and he said, Look, your son is living. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and the word of the LORD is in your mouth in truth ( 1 Kings 17:19-24 ).
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:2". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/1-kings-17.html. 2014.
Elijah’s announcement of God’s judgment 17:1-7
Again God raised up a prophet to announce what He would do. Evidently Ahab’s apostasy had been going on for 14 years before God raised up His prophetic challenge. [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 346.] Normally God gives sinners an opportunity to judge themselves and repent before He sends judgment on them (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:31; 2 Peter 3:9-10).
The three scenes in the Elijah narrative (chs. 17-19) form one story in which we can see the rising powers of the prophet. In each succeeding episode of the story he confronted an increasingly difficult problem. In this way God developed his faith and taught the reader the importance of trust and obedience. [Note: For five helpful, popular messages on incidents in these chapters, see Howard G. Hendricks, Taking a Stand: What God Can Do through Ordinary You.]
". . . cutting across the linear story are parallel patterns which unify the narrative in another way. Specifically, if the narrative is divided into its three major divisions, corresponding basically to the present chapter divisions, one can discern the same sequence of events in each. The corresponding events in each chapter are linked by verbal, thematic, and structural repetitions which create a texture of foreshadows and echoes, of balances and contrasts, of rising and falling action. This parallel patterning gives the narrative a dimension of depth which supports and enriches its linear logic. The following chart outlines the phenomena which we shall proceed to interpret.
|by Elijah (1 Kings 17:1)||by God (1 Kings 18:1)||by Jezebel (1 Kings 19:2)|
|from Israel (1 Kings 17:2-5)||to Israel (1 Kings 18:2)||from Israel (1 Kings 19:3-4)|
|C. Two encounters|
|ravens (1 Kings 17:6-7)||Obadiah (1 Kings 18:7-16)||an angel (1 Kings 19:5-6)|
|widow (1 Kings 17:8-16)||Ahab (1 Kings 18:17-20)||the angel of the Lord (1 Kings 19:7)|
|resuscitation (1 Kings 17:17-23)||fire (1 Kings 18:21-38)||theophany (1 Kings 19:9-18)|
|widow (1 Kings 17:24)||Israel (1 Kings 18:39-40)||Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21)|
|Ahab (1 Kings 18:41 to 1 Kings 19:1)|
"The parallel elements may be briefly summarized. Each act in the narrative begins with an announcement (A) which initiates the action and, thereby, precipitates a crisis. The announcement propels Elijah to a new locale (B). In the new setting he has two successive encounters or confrontations (C). The second encounter results in a challenge which requires Yahweh’s intervention to resolve (D). Finally, in response to this intervention, individuals are ’converted’ and declare or exhibit their loyalty to Yahweh (E)." [Note: Robert L. Cohn, "The Literary Logic of 1 Kings 17-19," Journal of Biblical Literature 101:3 (September 1982):343-44. This article has several good insights into the major motifs and structure of these chapters.]
This dramatic story opens with Elijah bursting onto the scene in Ahab’s palace.
"’Before whom I stand’ (1 Kings 17:1) is his claim to authority: it is a technical phrase used of a king’s first or ’prime’ minister-his confidant and chief executive." [Note: Auld, pp. 109-10.]
Elijah’s name means "Yahweh is my God." He could promise severe drought because God had said this is what He would bring on the land if His people forsook Him (Leviticus 26:18-19; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; Deuteronomy 28:23-24; Deuteronomy 33:28). This would have been a challenge to Baal since Baal’s devotees credited him with providing rain and fertility. Some representations of Baal that archaeologists have discovered picture him holding a thunderbolt in his hand.
"Why choose a drought? Why emphasize that Yahweh lives? Elijah determines to attack Baalism at its theological center. Baal worshipers believed that their storm god made rain, unless, of course, it was the dry season and he needed to be brought back from the dead. To refute this belief Elijah states that Yahweh is the one who determines when rain falls, that Yahweh lives at all times, and that Yahweh is not afraid to challenge Baal on what his worshipers consider his home ground." [Note: House, p. 213.]
God sent Elijah to Cherith (exact site unknown) to provide for his needs, to hide him from Ahab, and to teach him a lesson (cf. 1 Kings 18:10). [Note: See the map "Elijah’s Travels" in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 523.] Ravens do not even feed their own young (cf. Job 38:41). God provided miraculously for Elijah to build the prophet’s faith in view of the conflicts he would face. "Bread" (1 Kings 17:6) is literally "food" (Heb. lehem) and could include berries, fruit, nuts, eggs, etc. Elijah was learning experientially that Yahweh was the only source of food, fertility, and blessing. As God had promised, drought soon began to grip the nation (1 Kings 17:7).
"It is only our ignorance and neglect of Amos and Hosea that keep us from sensing the heart-shattering tragedy of 2 Kings 15:8-31; 2 Kings 17:1-6 in its true proportions. In just under forty years Israel, which had seemed to reach almost Solomonic glory under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25; 2 Kings 14:28), collapsed into nothingness, like the wooden house whose vitals have been devoured by termites." [Note: H. L. Ellison, The Prophets of Israel, pp. 44-45.]
|Miracles Involving Elijah [Note: Adapted from The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 541.]|
|Elijah fed by ravens||1 Kings 17:6||Water and food|
|Widow’s food multiplied||1 Kings 17:15||Flour and oil|
|Widow’s dead son raised to life||1 Kings 17:22||Life|
|Elijah’s altar and sacrifice consumed||1 Kings 18:38||Water and fire|
|Ahaziah’s 102 soldiers consumed||2 Kings 1:10-12||Fire|
|Jordan River parted||2 Kings 2:8||Water|
|Elijah’s transport to heaven||2 Kings 2:11||Fire and wind|
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-kings-17.html. 2012.
And the word of the Lord came to him,.... The word of prophecy, as the Targum; this shows that by word, in the former verse, he means the word of the Lord by him:
saying; as follows.
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
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-kings-17.html. 1999.
|Elijah's First Prophecy; Elijah Fed by Ravens.||B. C. 910.|
1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. 2 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, 3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. 5 So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. 7 And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.
The history of Elijah begins somewhat abruptly. Usually, when a prophet enters, we have some account of his parentage, are told whose son he was and of what tribe; but Elijah drops (so to speak) out of the clouds, as if, like Melchisedek, he were without father, without mother, and without descent, which made some of the Jews fancy that he was an angel sent from heaven; but the apostle has assured us that he was a man subject to like passions as we are (James 5:17), which perhaps intimates, not only that he was liable to the common infirmities of human nature, but that, by his natural temper, he was a man of strong passions, more hot and eager than most men, and therefore the more fit to deal with the daring sinners of the age he lived in: so wonderfully does God suit men to the work he designs them for. Rough spirits are called to rough services. The reformation needed such a man as Luther to break the ice. Observe, 1. The prophet's name: Elijahu--"My God Jehovah is he" (so it signifies), "is he who sends me and will own me and bear me out, is he to whom I would bring Israel back and who alone can effect that great work." 2. His country: He was of the inhabitants of Gilead, on the other side Jordan, either of the tribe of Gad or the half of Manasseh, for Gilead was divided between them; but whether a native of either of those tribes is uncertain. The obscurity of his parentage was no prejudice to his eminency afterwards. We need not enquire whence men are, but what they are: if it be a good thing, no matter though it come out of Nazareth. Israel was sorely wounded when God sent them this balm from Gilead and this physician thence. He is called a Tishbite from Thisbe, a town in that country. Two things we have an account of here in the beginning of his story:--
I. How he foretold a famine, a long and grievous famine, with which Israel should be punished for their sins. That fruitful land, for want of rain, should be turned into barrenness, for the iniquity of those that dwelt therein. He went and told Ahab this; did not whisper it to the people, to make them disaffected to the government, but proclaimed it to the king, in whose power it was to reform the land, and so to prevent the judgment. It is probable that he reproved Ahab for his idolatry and other wickedness, and told him that unless he repented and reformed this judgment would be brought upon his land. There should be neither dew nor rain for some years, none but according to my word, that is, "Expect none till you hear from me again." The apostle teaches us to understand this, not only of the word of prophecy, but the word of prayer, which turned the key of the clouds, James 5:17; James 5:18. He prayed earnestly (in a holy indignation at Israel's apostasy, and a holy zeal for the glory of God, whose judgments were defied) that it might not rain; and, according to his prayers, the heavens became as brass, till he prayed again that it might rain. In allusion to this story it is said of God's witnesses (Revelation 11:6), These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy. Elijah lets Ahab know, 1. That the Lord Jehovah is the God of Israel, whom he had forsaken. 2. That he is a living God, and not like the gods he worshipped, which were dead dumb idols. 3. That he himself was God's servant in office, and a messenger sent from him: "It is he before whom I stand, to minister to him," or "whom I now represent, in whose stead I stand, and in whose name I speak, in defiance of the prophets of Baal and the groves." 4. That, notwithstanding the present peace and prosperity of the kingdom of Israel, God was displeased with them for their idolatry and would chastise them for it by the want of rain (which, when he withheld it, it was not in the power of the gods they served to bestow; for are there any of the vanities of the heathen that can give rain?Jeremiah 14:22), which would effectually prove their impotency, and the folly of those who left the living God, to make their court to such as could do neither good nor evil; and this he confirms with a solemn oath--As the Lord God of Israel liveth, that Ahab might stand the more in awe of the threatening, the divine life being engaged for the accomplishment of it. 5. He lets Ahab know what interest he had in heaven: It shall be according to my word. With what dignity does he speak when he speaks in God's name, as one who well understood that commission of a prophet (Jeremiah 1:10), I have set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms. See the power of prayer and the truth of God's word; for he performeth the counsel of his messengers.
II. How he was himself taken care of in that famine. 1. How he was hidden. God bade him go and hide himself by the brook Cherith,1 Kings 17:3; 1 Kings 17:3. This was intended, not so much for his preservation, for it does not appear that Ahab immediately sought his life, but as a judgment to the people, to whom, if he had publicly appeared, he might have been a blessing both by his instructions and his intercession, and so have shortened the days of their calamity; but God had determined it should last three years and a half, and therefore, so long, appointed Elijah to abscond, that he might not be solicited to revoke the sentence, the execution of which he had said should be according to his word. When God speaks concerning a nation, to pluck up and destroy, he finds some way or other to remove those that would stand in the gap to turn away his wrath. It bodes ill to a people when good men and good ministers are ordered to hide themselves. When God intended to send rain upon the earth then he bade Elijah go and show himself to Ahab,1 Kings 18:1; 1 Kings 18:1. For the present, in obedience to the divine command, he went and dwelt all alone in some obscure unfrequented place, where he was not discovered, probably among the reeds of the brook. If Providence calls us to solitude and retirement, it becomes us to acquiesce; when we cannot be useful we must be patient, and when we cannot work for God we must sit still quietly for him. 2. How he was fed. Though he could not work there, having nothing to do but to meditate and pray (which would help to prepare him for his usefulness afterwards), yet he shall eat, for he is in the way of his duty, and verily he shall be fed, in the day of famine he shall be satisfied. When the woman, the church, is driven into the wilderness, care it taken that she be fed and nourished there, time, times, and half a time, that is, three years and a half, which was just the time of Elijah's concealment. See Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:14. Elijah must drink of the brook, and the ravens were appointed to bring him meat (1 Kings 17:4; 1 Kings 17:4) and did so, 1 Kings 17:6; 1 Kings 17:6. Here, (1.) The provision was plentiful, and good, and constant, bread and flesh twice a day, daily bread and food convenient. We may suppose that he fared not so sumptuously as the prophets of the groves, who did eat at Jezebel's table (1 Kings 18:19; 1 Kings 18:19), and yet better than the rest of the Lord's prophets, whom Obadiah fed with bread and water, 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:4. It ill becomes God's servants, especially his servants the prophets, to be nice and curious about their food and to affect dainties and varieties; if nature be sustained, no matter though the palate be not pleased; instead of envying those who have daintier fare, we should think how many there are, better than we, who live comfortably upon coarser fare and would be glad of our leavings. Elijah had but one meal brought him at a time, every morning and every evening, to teach him not to take thought for the morrow. Let those who have but from hand to mouth learn to live upon Providence, and trust it for the bread of the day in the day; thank God for bread this day, and let to-morrow bring bread with it. (2.) The caterers were very unlikely; the ravens brought it to him. Obadiah, and others in Israel that had not bowed the knee to Baal, would gladly have entertained Elijah; but he was a man by himself, and must be red in an extraordinary way. He was a figure of John the baptist, whose meat was locusts and wild honey. God could have sent angels to minister to him, as he did afterwards (1 Kings 19:5; 1 Kings 19:5) and as he did to our Saviour (Matthew 4:11), but he chose to send by winged messengers of another nature, to show that when he pleases he can serve his own purposes by the meanest creatures as effectually as by the mightiest. If it be asked whence the ravens had this provision, how and where it was cooked, and whether they came honestly by it, we must answer, as Jacob did (Genesis 27:20), The Lord our God brought it to them, whose the earth is and the fulness thereof, the world and those that dwell therein. But why ravens? [1.] They are birds of prey, ravenous devouring creatures, more likely to have taken his meat from him, or to have picked out his eyes (Proverbs 30:17); but thus Samson's riddle is again unriddled, Out of the eater comes forth meat. [2.] They are unclean creatures.Every raven after his kind was, by the law, forbidden to be eaten (Leviticus 11:15), yet Elijah did not think the meat they brought ever the worse for that, but ate and gave thanks, asking no question for conscience' sake. Noah's dove was to him a more faithful messenger than his raven; yet here the ravens are faithful and constant to Elijah. [3.] Ravens feed on insects and carrion themselves, yet they brought the prophet man's meat and wholesome food. It is a pity that those who bring the bread of life to others should themselves take up with that which is not bread. [4.] Ravens could bring but a little, and broken meat, yet Elijah was content with such things as he had, and thankful that the was fed, though not feasted. [5.] Ravens neglect their own young ones, and do not feed them; yet when God pleases they shall feed his prophet. Young lions and young ravens may lack, and suffer hunger, but not those that fear the Lord, Psalms 34:10. [6.] Ravens are themselves fed by special providence (Job 38:41; Psalms 147:9), and now they fed the prophet. Have we experienced God's special goodness to us and ours? Let us reckon ourselves obliged thereby to be kind to those that are his, for his sake. Let us learn hence, First, To acknowledge the sovereignty and power of God over all the creatures; he can make what use he pleases of them, either for judgment or mercy. Secondly, To encourage ourselves in God in the greatest straits, and never to distrust him. He that could furnish a table in the wilderness, and make ravens purveyors, cooks, and servitors to his prophet, is able to supply all our need according to his riches in glory.
Thus does Elijah, for a great while, eat his morsels alone, and his provision of water, which he has in an ordinary way from the brook, fails him before that which he has by miracle. The powers of nature are limited, but not the powers of the God of nature. Elijah's brook dried up (1 Kings 17:7; 1 Kings 17:7) because there was no rain. If the heavens fail, earth fails of course; such are all our creature-comforts; we lose them when we most need them, like the brooks in summer, Job 6:15. But there is a river which makes glad the city of God and which never runs dry (Psalms 46:4), a well of water that springs up to eternal life. Lord, give us that living water!
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Kings 17:2". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/1-kings-17.html. 1706.
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28