After many days, the LORD's word came to Elijah (it was the third year of the drought): Go! Appear before Ahab. I will then send rain on the earth.
So Elijah went to appear before Ahab. Now the famine had become especially bad in Samaria.
Ahab had called Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace affairs. (Obadiah greatly feared the LORD.
When Jezebel killed the LORD's prophets, Obadiah took one hundred of them and hid them, fifty each in two caves. He supplied them with food and water.)
Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go throughout the land and check every spring of water and every brook. Perhaps we can find some grass to keep our horses and mules alive so we don't have to kill any of them."
To search, they divided the land between themselves. Ahab went one way by himself, while Obadiah went a different way by himself.
While Obadiah was out searching, suddenly Elijah met up with him. When Obadiah saw him, he fell on his face. "My master!" he said. "Are you Elijah?"
Elijah replied, "I am. Go and say to your master, ‘Elijah is here!'"
Then Obadiah said, "How have I sinned that you are handing me, your servant, over to Ahab so he can kill me?
As surely as the LORD your God lives, there's no nation or kingdom where my master Ahab hasn't looked for you. They would insist, ‘He's not here,' but Ahab would make them swear that they couldn't find you.
And now you are commanding me: ‘Go and say to your master, 'Elijah is here'?'
But here's what will happen: As soon as I leave you, the LORD's spirit will carry you off somewhere—I don't know where—then I'll report to Ahab, but he won't be able to find you. Then he will kill me! But your servant has feared the LORD from my youth.
Wasn't my master told what I did when Jezebel killed the LORD's prophets? I hid one hundred of the LORD's prophets, fifty each in two caves. I also supplied them with food and water.
But even after all that, you tell me, ‘Say to your master, 'Elijah is here!'' Ahab will kill me!"
Elijah said, "As surely as the LORD of heavenly forces lives, the one I serve, I will appear before Ahab today."
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab. He told him what had happened. Then Ahab went to meet Elijah.
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is that you, the one who troubles Israel?"
Elijah answered, "I haven't troubled Israel; you and your father's house have! You did as much when you deserted the LORD's commands and followed the Baals.
Now send a message and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel. Gather the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel's table."
Ahab sent the message to all the Israelites. He gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel.
Elijah approached all the people and said, "How long will you hobble back and forth between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow God. If Baal is God, follow Baal." The people gave no answer.
Elijah said to the people, "I am the last of the LORD's prophets, but Baal's prophets number four hundred fifty.
Give us two bulls. Let Baal's prophets choose one. Let them cut it apart and set it on the wood, but don't add fire. I'll prepare the other bull, put it on the wood, but won't add fire.
Then all of you will call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers with fire—that's the real God!" All the people answered, "That's an excellent idea."
So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of these bulls. Prepare it first since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but don't add fire."
So they took one of the bulls that had been brought to them. They prepared it and called on Baal's name from morning to midday. They said, "Great Baal, answer us!" But there was no sound or answer. They performed a hopping dance around the altar that had been set up.
Around noon, Elijah started making fun of them: "Shout louder! Certainly he's a god! Perhaps he is lost in thought or wandering or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he is asleep and must wake up!"
So the prophets of Baal cried with a louder voice and cut themselves with swords and knives as was their custom. Their blood flowed all over them.
As noon passed they went crazy with their ritual until it was time for the evening offering. Still there was no sound or answer, no response whatsoever.
Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here!" All the people closed in, and he repaired the LORD's altar that had been damaged.
Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob—to whom the LORD's word came: "Your name will be Israel."
He built the stones into an altar in the LORD's name, and he dug a trench around the altar big enough to hold two seahs of dry grain.
He put the wood in order, butchered the bull, and placed the bull on the wood. "Fill four jars with water and pour it on the sacrifice and on the wood," he commanded.
"Do it a second time!" he said. So they did it a second time. "Do it a third time!" And so they did it a third time.
The water flowed around the altar, and even the trench filled with water.
At the time of the evening offering, the prophet Elijah drew near and prayed: "LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. I have done all these things at your instructions.
Answer me, LORD! Answer me so that this people will know that you, LORD, are the real God and that you can change their hearts."
Then the LORD's fire fell; it consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up the water in the trench!
All the people saw this and fell on their faces. "The LORD is the real God! The LORD is the real God!" they exclaimed.
Elijah said to them, "Seize Baal's prophets! Don't let any escape!" The people seized the prophets, and Elijah brought them to the Kishon Brook and killed them there.
Elijah then said to Ahab, "Get up! Celebrate with food and drink because I hear the sound of a rainstorm coming."
So Ahab got up to celebrate with food and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. He bowed down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
He said to his assistant, "Please get up and look toward the sea." So the assistant did so. He said, "I don't see anything." Seven times Elijah said, "Do it again."
The seventh time the assistant said, "I see a small cloud the size of a human hand coming up from the sea." Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, ‘Pull yourself together, go down the mountain, and don't let the rain hold you back.'"
After a little while, the sky became dark with clouds, and a wind came up with a huge rainstorm. Ahab was already riding on his way to Jezreel,
but the LORD's power strengthened Elijah. He gathered up his clothes and ran in front of Ahab until he came to Jezreel.
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal's prophets with the sword.
Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: "May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven't made your life like the life of one of them."
Elijah was terrified. He got up and ran for his life. He arrived at Beer-sheba in Judah and left his assistant there.
He himself went farther on into the desert a day's journey. He finally sat down under a solitary broom bush. He longed for his own death: "It's more than enough, LORD! Take my life because I'm no better than my ancestors."
He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush. Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him, "Get up! Eat something!"
Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep.
The LORD's messenger returned a second time and tapped him. "Get up!" the messenger said. "Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you."
Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God's mountain.
There he went into a cave and spent the night. The LORD's word came to him and said, "Why are you here, Elijah?"
Elijah replied, "I've been very passionate for the LORD God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I'm the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!"
The LORD said, "Go out and stand at the mountain before the LORD. The LORD is passing by." A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the LORD. But the LORD wasn't in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the LORD wasn't in the earthquake.
After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the LORD wasn't in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.
When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave's entrance. A voice came to him and said, "Why are you here, Elijah?"
He said, "I've been very passionate for the LORD God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I'm the only one left, and now they want to take my life too."
The LORD said to him, "Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram.
Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi's son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat's son, to succeed you as prophet.
Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.
But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven't bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven't kissed him."
So Elijah departed from there and found Elisha, Shaphat's son. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him. Elisha was with the twelfth yoke. Elijah met up with him and threw his coat on him.
Elisha immediately left the oxen and ran after Elijah. "Let me kiss my father and my mother," Elisha said, "then I will follow you." Elijah replied, "Go! I'm not holding you back!"
Elisha turned back from following Elijah, took the pair of oxen, and slaughtered them. Then with equipment from the oxen, Elisha boiled the meat, gave it to the people, and they ate it. Then he got up, followed Elijah, and served him.
King Ben-hadad of Aram brought together all his army along with thirty-two kings plus horses and chariots. He went up, surrounded Samaria, and made war against it.
He sent messengers to Ahab, Israel's king, inside Samaria.
The message said, "This is what Ben-hadad says: ‘Your silver and your gold are mine. Your good-looking wives and children are mine.'"
Israel's king answered, "Whatever you say, my master, great king. I am yours and so is everything I have."
The messengers came back again: "This is what Ben-hadad says: ‘I sent you the message: Give me your silver and gold, your wives and your sons.
However, at this time tomorrow I will send my officers to you, and they will search your palace and the houses of your officers. Everything that you find valuable they will seize and take away.'"
Then Israel's king called all the elders of the land and he said, "Please know and understand the evil this man wants to do! He demanded from me my wives and sons, and my silver and gold; and I didn't refuse him."
All of the elders and the people said to him, "Don't obey and don't give in!"
So the king said to Ben-hadad's messengers, "Say to my master the king: ‘Everything that you first ordered your servant, I will do. But I can't comply with this new command.'" The messengers took this response to Ben-hadad,
who sent back this reply: "May the gods do whatever they want to me if there is even a handful of dust left in Samaria for the armies under me!"
Then Israel's king replied, "The one who prepares for battle shouldn't brag like one returning from battle."
When Ben-hadad heard this message, he and the other kings were drinking in their tents. Ben-hadad said to his officers, "Take your positions!" So they took up their positions against the city.
Suddenly a prophet approached Israel's King Ahab. He said, "This is what the LORD says: Do you see that great army? Today I am handing it over to you. Then you will know that I am the LORD."
Ahab said, "Who will do it?" The prophet answered, "This is what the LORD says: The servants of the district officials will do it." "Who should start the battle?" Ahab asked. "You should," the prophet replied.
So Ahab assembled the servants of the district officials. There were two hundred thirty-two of them. Next he assembled the entire Israelite army, seven thousand total.
At noon they marched for battle. Meanwhile, Ben-hadad and the thirty-two kings allied with him were getting drunk in their tents.
The servants of the district officials were at the head of the march. Ben-hadad sent for information and was told, "Some men have marched out of Samaria."
He said, "If they have come out in peace, take them alive; if they have come out for war, take them alive as well."
So the servants of the district governors with the army behind them marched out from the city.
Each one struck down his opponent, so that the Arameans fled. Israel chased after them. Ben-hadad, Aram's king, escaped with some horses and chariots.
Israel's king went out and attacked the horses and chariots. He attacked the Arameans with a fierce assault.
The prophet came to Israel's king and said to him, "Maintain your strength! Know and understand that at the turn of the coming year, Aram's king will attack you again."
The officers of Aram's king said to him, "Israel's god is a god of the mountains. That's why they were stronger than us. But if we fight them on the plains, we will certainly be stronger than they are.
This is what you need to do: Remove the kings from their military posts and appoint officials in their place.
Then raise another army like the one that was destroyed, with horses like those horses and chariots like those chariots. Then we will fight them on the plains, and we will certainly be stronger than they are." The king took their advice and followed it.
So in the spring of the year, Ben-hadad assembled the Arameans and marched up to Aphek to fight with Israel.
Now the Israelites had already been assembled and provisioned, so they went to engage the Arameans. The Israelites camped before them like two small flocks of goats, but the Arameans filled the land.
Then the man of God came forward and said to Israel's king, "This is what the LORD says: Because the Arameans said that the LORD is a god of the mountains but not a god of the valleys, I am handing this whole great army over to you. Then you will know that I am the LORD."
The two armies camped opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day, the battle began. The Israelites attacked and destroyed one hundred thousand Aramean foot soldiers in a single day.
Those who were left fled to Aphek, into the city where a wall fell on twenty-seven thousand more of them. But Ben-hadad escaped and hid in an inner room within the city.
Ben-hadad's officers said to him, "Listen, we have heard that the kings of Israel are merciful kings. Allow us to put mourning clothes on our bodies and cords around our heads. We will then go to Israel's king. Perhaps he will let you live."
So they put mourning clothes on their bodies and cords around their heads. They went to Israel's king and said, "Ben-hadad is your slave. He begs, ‘Please let me live!'" Israel's king said, "Is he still alive? He is my brother."
Taking this as a good sign, Ben-hadad's men quickly accepted this statement."Yes, Ben-hadad is your brother!" they said. "Go and get him," the king ordered. So Ben-hadad came to him, and the king received him into his chariot.
Ben-hadad said to the king, "I will return the towns that my father took from your father. Furthermore, you can set up markets for yourself in Damascus just as my father did in Samaria." The king replied,"On the basis of this covenant, I will let you go." So he made a covenant with Ben-hadad and set him free.
At the LORD's command a certain man who belonged to a prophetic group said to his friend: "Please strike me." But his friend refused to hit him.
So he said to his friend, "Because you didn't obey the LORD's voice, a lion will attack you as soon as you leave me." And as the friend left the prophet, a lion found him and attacked him.
Then the prophet found another man and said, "Please strike me." He hit the prophet, and the attack left a wound.
The prophet went and stood before the king by the road. He disguised himself by putting a bandage over his eyes.
When the king passed by, the prophet called out to the king, "Your servant was in the middle of the battle when someone brought a prisoner. ‘Guard this man,' he said. ‘If he escapes it will be your life for his—that, or you will owe me a kikkar of silver.'
Your servant got busy doing this and that, and the prisoner disappeared." Israel's king replied, "It appears you have decided your own fate."
The prophet quickly tore the bandage from over his eyes, and Israel's king recognized him as one of the prophets.
Then the prophet said to the king, "This is what the LORD says: Because you freed a man I condemned to die, it will be your life for his life, and your people for his people."
So Israel's king went to his palace at Samaria, irritated and upset.