|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:21-40 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.
Verse 30. - And Elijah said unto all the people [He has now done with the priests. They have had their opportunity; his turn is come], Come near unto me. [Hitherto they had gathered round the altar of Baal, and some, it may he, had joined their prayers to those of the priests (ver. 24). In ver. 21, he "drew near" - same word - to them. Now they must stand round the altar he is about to build. He will have "eyewitnesses and ear-witnesses" (Keil). There must be no suspicion of imposture.] And all the people came near unto him And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. [It has been already suggested that this altar may have dated from the time when there was no house built unto the name of the Lord. But it is just as likely that it had been restored, if not raised, by some of the "seven thousand who had not bowed their knees unto Baal," or by some of the faithful remaining in Israel after the calf-worship and the hostility between the two kingdoms had made worship at Jerusalem an impossibility. Anyhow we can hardly be mistaken in holding that this was one of the "altars" (1 Kings 19:10), thrown down" by command of Ahab or Jezebel. Elijah's repairing it was an act of profound significance. It showed him as the restorer of the law and the true religion.]
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Elijah said unto all the people, come near unto me,.... And observe what I do, and what will be done at my request:
and all the people came near unto him; left the prophets of Baal to themselves, and took no more notice of them, but attended to what the prophet should say and do:
and he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down; which had been set up when high places and altars were allowed of, while the tabernacle was unsettled, and the temple not built; this is supposed to have been erected in the times of the judges; though, according to a tradition of the Jews (d), it was built by Saul, see 1 Samuel 15:12 but had been thrown down by the idolatrous Israelites, who demolished such as were erected to the name of the Lord everywhere, and built new ones for their idols, 1 Kings 19:10. Benjamin of Tudela (e) says, that on the top of Mount Carmel is now to be seen the place of the altar Elijah repaired, which is four cubits round.
(d) Jarchi & Kimchi in loc. (e) ltinerar. p. 37.
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