1 Kings 18

1 After some time, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, "Go and present yourself to King Ahab, and I will send rain."
2 So Elijah started out. The famine in Samaria was at its worst,
3 so Ahab called in Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devout worshiper of the Lord,
4 and when Jezebel was killing the Lord's prophets, Obadiah took a hundred of them, hid them in caves in two groups of fifty, and provided them with food and water.)
5 Ahab said to Obadiah, "Let us go and look at every spring and every stream bed in the land to see if we can find enough grass to keep the horses and mules alive. Maybe we won't have to kill any of our animals."
6 They agreed on which part of the land each one would explore, and set off in different directions.
7 As Obadiah was on his way, he suddenly met Elijah. He recognized him, bowed low before him, and asked, "Is it really you, sir?"
8 "Yes, I'm Elijah," he answered. "Go and tell your master the king that I am here."
9 Obadiah answered, "What have I done that you want to put me in danger of being killed by King Ahab?
10 By the living Lord, your God, I swear that the king has made a search for you in every country in the world. Whenever the ruler of a country reported that you were not in his country, Ahab would require that ruler to swear that you could not be found.
11 And now you want me to go and tell him that you are here?
12 What if the spirit of the Lord carries you off to some unknown place as soon as I leave? Then, when I tell Ahab that you are here and he can't find you, he will put me to death. Remember that I have been a devout worshiper of the Lord ever since I was a boy.
13 Haven't you heard that when Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord I hid a hundred of them in caves, in two groups of fifty, and supplied them with food and water?
14 So how can you order me to go and tell the king that you are here? He will kill me!"
15 Elijah answered, "By the living Lord Almighty, whom I serve, I promise that I will present myself to the king today."
16 So Obadiah went to King Ahab and told him, and Ahab set off to meet Elijah.
17 When Ahab saw him, he said, "So there you are - the worst troublemaker in Israel!"
18 "I'm not the troublemaker," Elijah answered. "You are - you and your father. You are disobeying the Lord's commands and worshiping the idols of Baal.
19 Now order all the people of Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel. Bring along the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah who are supported by Queen Jezebel."
20 So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and the prophets of Baal to meet at Mount Carmel.
21 Elijah went up to the people and said, "How much longer will it take you to make up your minds? If the Lord is God, worship him; but if Baal is God, worship him!" But the people didn't say a word.
22 Then Elijah said, "I am the only prophet of the Lord still left, but there are 450 prophets of Baal.
23 Bring two bulls; let the prophets of Baal take one, kill it, cut it in pieces, and put it on the wood - but don't light the fire. I will do the same with the other bull.
24 Then let the prophets of Baal pray to their god, and I will pray to the Lord, and the one who answers by sending fire - he is God." The people shouted their approval.
25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Since there are so many of you, you take a bull and prepare it first. Pray to your god, but don't set fire to the wood."
26 They took the bull that was brought to them, prepared it, and prayed to Baal until noon. They shouted, "Answer us, Baal!" and kept dancing around the altar they had built. But no answer came.
27 At noon Elijah started making fun of them: "Pray louder! He is a god! Maybe he is day-dreaming or relieving himself, or perhaps he's gone off on a trip! Or maybe he's sleeping, and you've got to wake him up!"
28 So the prophets prayed louder and cut themselves with knives and daggers, according to their ritual, until blood flowed.
29 They kept on ranting and raving until the middle of the afternoon; but no answer came, not a sound was heard.
30 Then Elijah said to the people, "Come closer to me," and they all gathered around him. He set about repairing the altar of the Lord which had been torn down.
31 He took twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes named for the sons of Jacob, the man to whom the Lord had given the name Israel. 1
32 With these stones he rebuilt the altar for the worship of the Lord. He dug a trench around it, large enough to hold about four gallons of water.
33 Then he placed the wood on the altar, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, "Fill four jars with water and pour it on the offering and the wood." They did so,
34 and he said, "Do it again" - and they did. "Do it once more," he said - and they did.
35 The water ran down around the altar and filled the trench.
36 At the hour of the afternoon sacrifice the prophet Elijah approached the altar and prayed, "O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove now that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant and have done all this at your command.
37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you are bringing them back to yourself."
38 The Lord sent fire down, and it burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones, scorched the earth and dried up the water in the trench.
39 When the people saw this, they threw themselves on the ground and exclaimed, "The Lord is God; the Lord alone is God!"
40 Elijah ordered, "Seize the prophets of Baal; don't let any of them get away!" The people seized them all, and Elijah led them down to Kishon Brook and killed them.
41 Then Elijah said to King Ahab, "Now, go and eat. I hear the roar of rain approaching."
42 While Ahab went to eat, Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, where he bowed down to the ground, with his head between his knees. 2
43 He said to his servant, "Go and look toward the sea." The servant went and returned, saying, "I didn't see a thing." Seven times in all Elijah told him to go and look.
44 The seventh time he returned and said, "I saw a little cloud no bigger than a man's hand, coming up from the sea." Elijah ordered his servant, "Go to King Ahab and tell him to get in his chariot and go back home before the rain stops him."
45 In a little while the sky was covered with dark clouds, the wind began to blow, and a heavy rain began to fall. Ahab got in his chariot and started back to Jezreel.
46 The power of the Lord came on Elijah; he fastened his clothes tight around his waist and 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 2

  • 1. 18.31Genesis 32.28; 35.10.
  • 2. 18.42-45James 5.18.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. [One ancient translation] Let us go and look; [Hebrew] You go and look.
  • [b]. you are bringing them back to yourself; [or] you yourself made them turn away from you.

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