1 Kings 18

Listen to 1 Kings 18
1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the LORD said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!”
2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab. Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria.
3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the LORD .
4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the LORD ’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.)
5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.”
6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.
8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”
9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab?
10 For I swear by the LORD your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim.
11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’
12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the LORD will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the LORD all my life.
13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the LORD ’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water.
14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”
15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the LORD Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”
16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah.
17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”
18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the LORD and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.
19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel. ”
20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel.
21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.
22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the LORD who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets.
23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it.
24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD . The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.
25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”
26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.
27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”
28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out.
29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.
30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been torn down.
31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,
32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the LORD . Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.
33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”
34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said,
35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command.
37 O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
38 Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!
39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD —he is God! Yes, the LORD is God!”
40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.
41 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!”
42 So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees.
43 Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look.
44 Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”
45 And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel.
46 Then the LORD gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way 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 7

  • [a]. Hebrew who eat at Jezebel’s table.
  • [b]. Or is busy somewhere else, or is engaged in business.
  • [c]. Hebrew each of the tribes of the sons of Jacob to whom the had said, “Your name will be Israel.”
  • [d]. Hebrew 2 seahs [14.6 liters] of seed.
  • [e]. Verse 18:34 in the Hebrew text begins here.
  • [f]. Hebrew and Israel. The names “Jacob” and “Israel” are often interchanged throughout the Old Testament, referring sometimes to the individual patriarch and sometimes to the nation.
  • [g]. Hebrew He bound up his loins.

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