1 Kings 18

Elijah and Obadiah

1 After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”
2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria,
3 and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD.
4 While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.)
5 Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.”
6 So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.
7 As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”
8 “Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’ ”
9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death?
10 As surely as the LORD your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you.
11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’
12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the LORD since my youth.
13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the LORD? I hid a hundred of the LORD’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water.
14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”
15 Elijah said, “As the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”

Elijah on Mount Carmel

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals.
19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.
21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.
22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.
23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.
24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.”
26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.
29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down.
31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.”
32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed.
33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time.
35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward 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 and have done all these things at your command.
37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”
40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.”
42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’ ”
45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.
46 The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

1 Kings 18 Commentary

Chapter 18

Elijah sends Ahab notice of his coming. (1-16) Elijah meets Ahab. (17-20) Elijah's trial of the false prophets. (21-40) Elijah, by prayer, obtains rain. (41-46)

Verses 1-16 The severest judgments, of themselves, will not humble or change the hearts of sinners; nothing, except the blood of Jesus Christ, can atone for the guilt of sin; nothing, except the sanctifying Spirit of God, can purge away its pollution. The priests and the Levites were gone to Judah and Jerusalem, 2Ch. 11:13, 2Ch. 11:14 , but instead of them God raised up prophets, who read and expounded the word. They probably were from the schools of the prophets, first set up by Samuel. They had not the spirit of prophecy as Elijah, but taught the people to keep close to the God of Israel. These Jezebel sought to destroy. The few that escaped death were forced to hide themselves. God has his remnant among all sorts, high and low; and that faith, fear, and love of his name, which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, will be accepted through the Redeemer. See how wonderfully God raises up friends for his ministers and people, for their shelter in difficult times. Bread and water were now scarce, yet Obadiah will find enough for God's prophets, to keep them alive. Ahab's care was not to lose all the beasts; but he took no care about his soul, not to lose that. He took pains to seek grass, but none to seek the favour of God; fencing against the effect, but not inquiring how to remove the cause. But it bodes well with a people, when God calls his ministers to stand forth, and show themselves. And we may the better endure the bread of affliction, while our eyes see our teachers.

Verses 17-20 One may guess how people stand affected to God, by observing how they stand affected to his people and ministers. It has been the lot of the best and most useful men, like Elijah, to be called and counted the troublers of the land. But those who cause God's judgments do the mischief, not he that foretells them, and warns the nation to repent.

Verses 21-40 Many of the people wavered in their judgment, and varied in their practice. Elijah called upon them to determine whether Jehovah or Baal was the self-existent, supreme God, the Creator, Governor, and Judge of the world, and to follow him alone. It is dangerous to halt between the service of God and the service of sin, the dominion of Christ and the dominion of our lusts. If Jesus be the only Saviour, let us cleave to him alone for every thing; if the Bible be the world of God, let us reverence and receive the whole of it, and submit our understanding to the Divine teaching it contains. Elijah proposed to bring the matter to a trial. Baal had all the outward advantages, but the event encourages all God's witnesses and advocates never to fear the face of man. The God that answers by fire, let him be God: the atonement was to be made by sacrifice, before the judgment could be removed in mercy. The God therefore that has power to pardon sin, and to signify it by consuming the sin-offering, must needs be the God that can relieve from the calamity. God never required his worshippers to honour him in the manner of the worshippers of Baal; but the service of the devil, though sometimes it pleases and pampers the body, yet, in other things, really is cruel to it, as in envy and drunkenness. God requires that we mortify our lusts and corruptions; but bodily penances and severities are no pleasure to him. Who has required these things at your hands? A few words uttered in assured faith, and with fervent affection for the glory of God, and love to the souls of men, or thirstings after the Lord's image and his favour, form the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous man, which availeth much. Elijah sought not his own glory, but that of God, for the good of the people. The people are all agreed, convinced, and satisfied; Jehovah, he is the God. Some, we hope, had their hearts turned, but most of them were convinced only, not converted. Blessed are they that have not seen what these saw, yet have believed, and have been wrought upon by it, more than they that saw it.

Verses 41-46 Israel, being so far reformed as to acknowledge the Lord to be God, and to consent to the execution of Baal's prophets, was so far accepted, that God poured out blessing upon the land. Elijah long continued praying. Though the answer of our fervent and believing supplications does not come quickly, we must continue earnest in prayer, and not faint or give over. A little cloud at length appeared, which soon overspread the heavens, and watered the earth. Great blessings often arise from small beginnings, showers of plenty from a cloud of span long. Let us never despise the day of small things, but hope and wait for great things from it. From what small beginnings have great matters arisen! It is thus in all the gracious proceedings of God with the soul. Scarcely to be perceived are the first workings of his Spirit in the heart, which grow up at last to the wonder of men, and applause of angels. Elijah hastened Ahab home, and attended him. God will strengthen his people for every service to which his commandments and providence call them. The awful displays of Divine justice and holiness dismay the sinner, extort confessions, and dispose to outward obedience while the impression lasts; but the view of these, with mercy, love, and truth in Christ Jesus, is needful to draw the soul to self-abasement, trust, and love. The Holy Spirit employs both in the conversion of sinners; when sinners are impressed with Divine truths, they should be exhorted to set about the duties to which the Saviour calls his disciples.

Cross References 56

  • 1. 1 Kings 17:1; Luke 4:25; James 5:17
  • 2. ver 15
  • 3. S Deuteronomy 28:12
  • 4. S Leviticus 26:26
  • 5. 1 Kings 16:9
  • 6. Nehemiah 7:2
  • 7. 1 Kings 21:23; 2 Kings 9:7
  • 8. ver 13; S 1 Kings 17:3; Isaiah 16:3; Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 32:2; Obadiah 1:14
  • 9. Jeremiah 26:24
  • 10. Jeremiah 14:3
  • 11. S Genesis 47:4
  • 12. 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4
  • 13. S 1 Kings 17:3
  • 14. 2 Kings 2:16; Ezekiel 3:14; Acts 8:39
  • 15. ver 1; 1 Kings 17:1
  • 16. Joshua 7:25; 1 Samuel 14:29; 1 Kings 21:20; Jeremiah 38:4; Acts 16:20
  • 17. 1 Kings 16:31,33; 1 Kings 21:25
  • 18. S Deuteronomy 31:16; 2 Chronicles 15:2
  • 19. 2 Kings 10:19
  • 20. S Joshua 19:26
  • 21. 2 Kings 9:22
  • 22. 2 Kings 2:25; 2 Kings 4:25
  • 23. Joshua 24:15; 2 Kings 17:41; Psalms 119:113; Matthew 6:24
  • 24. ver 39; Psalms 100:3; Psalms 118:27
  • 25. 1 Kings 19:10
  • 26. ver 19; Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 23:13
  • 27. S 1 Samuel 7:8
  • 28. S Genesis 4:26
  • 29. S ver 38; S Exodus 19:18; S Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26
  • 30. Isaiah 44:17; Isaiah 45:20
  • 31. Psalms 115:4-5; Psalms 135:16; Isaiah 41:26,28; Isaiah 46:7; Jeremiah 10:5; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 12:2
  • 32. Habakkuk 2:19
  • 33. S Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1
  • 34. S Exodus 29:41
  • 35. ver 26; 2 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 16:12; Jeremiah 10:5
  • 36. 1 Kings 19:10
  • 37. S Genesis 17:5; Genesis 32:28; Genesis 35:10; 2 Kings 17:34
  • 38. S Deuteronomy 18:7; Colossians 3:17
  • 39. S Genesis 22:9; Leviticus 1:6-8
  • 40. S Exodus 29:39,41
  • 41. S Genesis 24:12; S Exodus 4:5; Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:32
  • 42. S Joshua 4:24; S 1 Samuel 17:46; S Psalms 46:10; 1 Kings 8:43; 2 Kings 19:19
  • 43. Numbers 16:28
  • 44. S Joshua 4:24
  • 45. ver 24; S Exodus 19:18; S Leviticus 9:24; Judges 6:21; 2 Kings 1:10; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1; Job 1:16
  • 46. S Leviticus 9:24
  • 47. S ver 24; S Psalms 46:10
  • 48. S Judges 4:7
  • 49. S Exodus 22:20; S Deuteronomy 17:12; S 2 Kings 11:18; Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 18:20; 2 Kings 10:24-25
  • 50. ver 19-20; S 1 Samuel 12:17; James 5:18
  • 51. S Joshua 6:15
  • 52. Luke 12:54
  • 53. S 1 Kings 8:36; Job 37:13
  • 54. S 1 Samuel 29:1; S Hosea 1:4
  • 55. S Judges 3:10; S 1 Samuel 11:6; Luke 1:35; Luke 4:14; 2 Kings 3:15
  • 56. 2 Kings 4:29; 2 Kings 9:1

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. That is, probably about 24 pounds or about 11 kilograms

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO 1 KINGS 18

In this chapter Elijah has an order from the Lord to show himself to Ahab, who, going first, and meeting with a servant of his, Obadiah, charges him to tell his master where he was, that he might meet him, 1Ki 18:1-16, and, upon meeting him, desires that all Israel, and the prophets of Baal, might be convened, which was accordingly done, 1Ki 18:17-20, when he expostulated with the people of Israel for their idolatry, mocked and confounded the prophets of Baal, and gave the strongest proofs, to the conviction of the people, that Jehovah is the true God, 1Ki 18:21-39, on which all the prophets of Baal were slain, 1Ki 18:40, and rain in great abundance was given at the prayer of the prophet, 1Ki 18:41-46.

1 Kings 18 Commentaries