1 Kings 18

Elijah's Message to Ahab

1 After a long time, the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year: "Go and present yourself to Ahab. I will send rain on the surface of the land."
2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria.
3 Ahab called for Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Obadiah was a man who greatly feared the Lord
4 and took 100 prophets and hid them, 50 men to a cave, and provided them with food and water when Jezebel slaughtered the Lord's prophets.
5 Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go throughout the land to every spring of water and to every wadi. Perhaps we'll find grass so we can keep the horses and mules alive and not have to destroy any cattle."
6 They divided the land between them in order to cover it. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went the other way by himself.
7 While Obadiah was [walking] along the road, Elijah suddenly met him. When Obadiah recognized him, he fell with his face [to the ground] and said, "Is it you, my lord Elijah?"
8 "It is I," he replied. "Go tell your lord, 'Elijah is here!' "
9 But Obadiah said, "What sin have I committed, that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to put me to death?
10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent someone to search for you. When they said, 'He is not here,' he made that kingdom or nation swear they had not found you.
11 "Now you say, 'Go tell your lord, "Elijah is here!" '
12 But when I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord may carry you off to some place I don't know. Then when I go report to Ahab and he doesn't find you, he will kill me. But [I], your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth.
13 Wasn't it reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel slaughtered the Lord's prophets? I hid 100 of the prophets of the Lord, 50 men to a cave, and I provided them with food and water.
14 Now you say, 'Go tell your lord, "Elijah is here!" ' He will kill me!"
15 Then Elijah said, "As the Lord of Hosts lives, before whom I stand, today I will present myself to Ahab."
16 Obadiah went to meet Ahab and report to him. Then Ahab went to meet Elijah.
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is that you, you destroyer of Israel?"
18 He replied, "I have not destroyed Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have abandoned the Lord's commandments and followed the Baals.
19 Now summon all Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel's table."

Elijah at Mount Carmel

20 So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel.
21 Then Elijah approached all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow Him. But if Baal, follow him." But the people didn't answer him a word.
22 Then Elijah said to the people, "I am the only remaining prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are 450 men.
23 Let two bulls be given to us. They are to choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and place it on the wood but not light the fire. I will prepare the other bull and place it on the wood but not light the fire.
24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers with fire, He is God." All the people answered, "That [sounds] good."
25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don't light the fire."
26 So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, "Baal, answer us!" But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they did their lame dance around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, "Shout loudly, for he's a god! Maybe he's thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away;[a] or maybe he's on the road. Perhaps he's sleeping and will wake up!"
28 They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed out on them.
29 All afternoon, they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no sound, no one answered, no one paid attention.[b]
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near me." So all the people approached him. Then he repaired the Lord's altar that had been torn down:
31 Elijah took 12 stones-according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Israel will be your name"[c]-
32 and he built an altar with the stones in the name of Yahweh. Then he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold about four gallons.[d][e]
33 Next, he arranged the wood, cut up the bull, and placed it on the wood. He said, "Fill four water pots with water and pour it on the offering to be burned and on the wood."
34 Then he said, "A second time!" and they did it a second time. And then he said, "A third time!" and they did it a third time.
35 So the water ran all around the altar; he even filled the trench with water.
36 At the time for offering the [evening] sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached [the altar] and said, "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things.
37 Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back."
38 Then Yahweh's fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, "Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!"
40 Then Elijah ordered them, "Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let even one of them escape." So they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.
41 Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a rainstorm."
42 So Ahab went to eat and drink, but Elijah went up to the summit of Carmel. He bowed down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
43 Then he said to his servant, "Go up and look toward the sea." So he went up, looked, and said, "There's nothing." Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."
44 On the seventh time, he reported, "There's a cloud as small as a man's hand coming from the sea." Then Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Get [your chariot] ready and go down so the rain doesn't stop you.' "
45 In a little while, the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and there was a downpour. So Ahab got in [his chariot] and went to Jezreel.
46 The power of the Lord was on Elijah, and he tucked his mantle under his belt and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of 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.

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. Or has turned aside, possibly to relieve himself
  • [b]. 2 Kg 4:31
  • [c]. Gn 35:10
  • [d]. LXX reads trench containing two measures of seed
  • [e]. Lit altar corresponding to a house of two seahs of seed

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