1 Kings 19 Study Notes
19:1-21 This chapter presents facts that argue for the truth of both chaps. 18 and 19. The preceding chapter was one of the best examples of a power encounter in the Bible, but chap. 19 demonstrates that God’s miraculous works did not bring about repentance, at least not on a scale broad enough to mention. Understandably, Elijah collapsed into an almost hysterical pessimism about what he took to be the failure of God’s purposes. The clear lesson is that while power witness is both biblical and effective, sinful people can still reject the greatest of God’s signs (Lk 16:31). So too, faithful disciples are wrong to suppose that they are all alone or that God’s purposes have truly failed.
19:1-2 Jezebel’s rejection of God’s signs and the determined, defiant way in which she later faced death (2Kg 9:30-31) demonstrate her character as a person who did what she wanted, no matter the consequences. Sin breeds this self-destructive heedlessness.
19:3 Elijah’s faith may have crumbled due to physical and emotional exhaustion. Although his future still included several tasks, it may be significant that his next task was to choose his successor. Beer-sheba, about a hundred miles south of Mount Carmel, served as a traditional southern boundary for Israelite territory (Jdg 20:1; 2Sm 24:2).
19:4 A day’s journey would have taken Elijah out of Judean territory and into deeper desert. The broom tree under which the prophet sat provided shade, and its roots could be used for heat and food. Elijah was in deep depression.
19:5-8 God’s miraculous provision was resumed, this time purely for the prophet. After Elijah ate and rested, he returned to the place where the covenant had been given, Mount Horeb, or Sinai. There Elijah would have his personal faith renewed by God’s presence.
19:9-10 Elijah explained his presence at Sinai by referring to his discouragement. Israel’s immediate future, as hindsight shows, gave good reason for despair. Judah was to have one more period of God-given prosperity under the four good kings from Joash to Jotham, but during that time, Israel was to be deported to Assyria.
19:11-13 God first reveals his presence to Elijah in his greatness and power, but he did not speak from that position. The Lord instead spoke to Elijah in a soft whisper, showing himself to be a God who communicates via a still, small voice as well as powerful displays. His power is especially present in his word.
19:14 Elijah is given a second audience with God to make his case against Israel.
19:15-16 God’s commands first pointed to judgment. Elijah was to anoint Hazael as king over Aram, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as his own successor. God was still controlling events.
19:17 This command indicated the extent of God’s judgment—death at the hands of Hazael, at the hands of Jehu, and even at the hands of Elisha through his pronouncements of judgment.
19:18 The second part of God’s response gave hope. God still had seven thousand people through whom he could work in the future.
19:19-21 Here we see an advance in agricultural technology—teams of oxen being used for deeper, more effective plowing (Pr 14:4). This showed that Elisha’s family was quite prosperous. Elisha’s capability to celebrate his new calling with sacrifices and feasting for the whole community also indicated his family’s prosperity. The mantle or robe worn by Elijah was a symbol of his position and of Elisha’s succession to that position. Compare Elisha’s words to those Jesus spoke to a would-be disciple in Lk 9:62.