1 Kings 18
Elijah Encounters the Priests of Baal
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Text
Explanation
This story provides symbols which some consider as describing the battle of Armageddon. See more comments and a map at re1616.
.1 ¶ And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.
 2 And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
 3 And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:

  1 - Go to Ahab The encounter between the Elijah and the priests of Baal is to be replayed at the end of time. It may include you and me. re1313.. The time of drought was three years but there had been no rain for another six months. See lu0425, ja0517.
  3 - Obadiah The name appears several times in the OT but connections cannot be established between them ob01. The name means "servant of Yahweh." He was like Daniel who would live centuries later and serve kings because he was trustworthy.
.4 For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) 
 5 And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. 
  4 - Jezebel The moving force behind the rebellion against God. Obadiah helped some of the faithful ones to escape.
  5 - Save the horses and mules They represented military strength.
 6 So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
 7 And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?
 8 And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
 9 And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?
 10 As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.
  7 - My Lord Elijah Although holding high office in the kingdom, Obadiah realized the divine appointment of the prophet. Elijah dressed in primitive clothing 2ki0108.
  8 - Tell thy lord Ahab was Obadiah's lord in a very different way. If Ahab was to see Elijah he had to go to where he was.
  9 - Have I sinned? But Elijah was not ordering the death of Obadiah. He assured him by an oath v15. This he could do if the divine Lord revealed to him that Obadiah would not die.
  10 - No nation A refugee might flee to any of the many small people groups or kingdoms in the area.
 11 And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
 12 And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.
.13 Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD'S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?
 14 And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me.
.15 And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.
 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
  12 - As soon as I am gone Obadiah was confident that the Lord could protect Elijah but wasn't so sure about his own safety.
  16 - Obadiah went ... Ahab went God could have sent an angel or He could have worked without Obadiah, but He chooses to give people the opportunity to witness for Him. We need not fear when going on the Lord's errands.
.17 ¶ And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
 18 And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.

  17 - Troubler of Israel We may expect Satan to use this same pretext at the end of time. God's faithful ones facing the end-time apostate church and state will be accused as those who are making the trouble. They will be blamed for the calamities.
  18 - Forsaken the commandments This fundamental sign of apostasy will again threaten the faithful ones. re1316d.
  18 - Baalim Plural for Baal. May be translated "Baals."
.19 Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.
 20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
  19 - Mount Carmel A series of hills about 9 mi. (15 km.) long. Here had been temples among trees but the drought had changed the appearance. See map.
  19 - Of the groves The text may be translated, "of Astare," a female god.
  19 - Eat at Jezebel's table The false prophets were her paid clergy.
.21 ¶ And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. 
22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
 23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
 24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
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  21 - Halt between two opinions To halt is to limp. The indecision or attempt to please both Yahweh and the pagan gods left the people crippled. Was Elijah saying that either choice would be okay? No, he was calling them to true worship.
  23 - Answereth by fire A reasonable plan. Satan with evil people may work miracles (re1313, see note a). Here the contest was about whether the true god was Baal or Yahweh (Jehovah). Yahweh had power over Baal.
Image is of the 2 altars. The altar to the true God at the right would be repaired, v30. PK17
 25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
 26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
  26 - Leaped Literally "jumped up and down." The mad exhibition is characteristic of demon possession.
.27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. 
.28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. 
 29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
  27 - Elijah mocked them Not normally polite. Here, however, it helped the observers and the priests themselves to see the foolishness of thinking that they were dealing with powerful gods whom their actions and words could convince to help them.
  28 - Cut ... after their manner They felt that their gods, liking to see bloodshed, would thus be pleased je1606. The true God had forbidden this le1928, de1401.
  29 - Prophesied Probably unintelligible babbling 1co1433, 1sa1810.
.30 And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
  30 - Near Elijah wanted to show that he had noting to hide.
  30 - Repaired It had been used for true worship. Does your home "altar" need to be restored?
  31 - Israel ge3228.
 32 And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
 33 And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
 34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
 35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. 
   33 - Water A good spring is thought to have been in the area. Water could have come from the sea but that would have taken a lot of time and work. Pouring water on sacrifice and wood clarified that Elijah was not deceiving them.
 36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
  36 - Evening sacrifice At special times morning and evening sacrifices had been offered in the sanctuary system 1ch1640.
  36 - Let it be known A simple request in contrast to the demonstrations of the false priests. Our relationship with God today may likewise be simple. The fancy display of ceremony and rich robes and the supposed power of human priests re1408wi are not part of the example given to us by Christ.
.38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
.39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
.40 And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
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  38 - Fire ... licked up the water More than slight of hand. Compare am0704. It was a consuming fire de0424, de0903, he1228. The wicked will eventually be consumed by that fire re2009b.
  40 - Kishon ... executed The army of Sisera had been killed at the same stream jg0407. The wicked priests had made their decision firm. See map.  Image 1917
41 ¶ And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. 
 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,
 43 And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
.44 And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.

  41 - Sound of ... rain Elijah had not yet seen the evidence. The crisis had ended and God could again bless the land with moisture. The Holy Spirit prompted him to assure Ahab.
  44 - Cloud as small as a man's hand The long drought was like the spiritual dryness. The rule of Ahab had also been oppressive. For us who look forward to the return of Christ in the clouds of glory lu2127, the first glimpse of His appearance will bring great hope. Also see mt2430.
  44 - Say to Ahab Elijah was in a position of command all through this conflict with the heathen worship.
Image © GoodSalt

45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
 46 And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
  45 - Jezreel Ahab had a palace there. There Jezebel had ordered the murder of Naboth to take his vineyard 2ki21, and there she died 1ki2119, 2ki0910, 2ki0933. Probably 28 miles (45 km) from Mt. Carmel. See Galilee map, lower left.
  46 - Ran before Ahab Remember this was at night and in a rain storm! Although Ahab was evil, Elijah had no hatred for him an example for us.
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