|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 32. - And with the stones [the twelve he had chosen out of the ruins. Cf. Exodus 20:25] he built an altar in the name of the Lord [not "by the command of Jehovah" (Bahr), but rather as the minister and for the service of Jehovah, or, as Keil. "by the authority and for the glory of Jehovah." Nor is it certain that "he called, as he Built it, on the name of Jehovah, and so dedicated it to His service" (Rawl.) See Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4; Genesis 33:20; Genesis 35:7]: and he made a trench [or channel, 2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 36:2; Ezekiel 31:4. The word implies that it was for holding the water, not for keeping off the people] about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed [Heb. as the inside (lit., house) of two seahs of seed. These words have been variously interpreted. Keil, with Thenius and Wordsworth, understands that "the trench was so large that you could sow two seahs of seed upon the ground which it covered." But apart from the fact that בַּיִת must refer to capacity rather than superficial extent, one does not measure a trench, as Bahr observes, by the ground which it covers, but by its depth. He would follow Gesenius in understanding that the trench was so deep as to hold two seahs of seed; i.e., as deep as the grain measure containing two seahs. The סְאָה was the third of an ephah. Cf. Jos., Ant. 9:04. 5, and the σάτα τρία of Matthew 13:33.]
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And with the stones he built an altar in the same of the Lord,.... Whom the twelve tribes had formerly worshipped; and though now divided in their civil state, yet ought to be united in the worship of God:
and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed; or two seahs, one of which was the third part of an ephah, and two of them were more than half a bushel; and this trench or ditch round the altar was as broad as such a measure of seed would sow.
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