1 Kings 17:1
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Elijah the Tishbite of the inhabitants of Gilead.—The most probable rendering of this disputed passage is that of the LXX., and virtually of Josephus, “Elijah the Tishbite of Tishbe in Gilead,” the last words being added to distinguish the place from a Tishbe (or Thisbe) in Naphtali, referred to, though the reading is rather doubtful, in Tobit 1:2. The word here rendered “inhabitants” (properly “sojourners”) is evidently of the same derivation as the word rendered “Tishbite.” The only alternative would be to render “the stranger of the strangers of Gilead,” which has been adopted by some, as suggesting a startling and impressive origin of the great prophet. But it is doubtful whether the Hebrew will bear it.

Gilead—properly “the rocky region” that lay on the east of Jordan, between the Hieromax and the valley of Heshbon (although the name is often more widely used). Open to the desert on the east, and itself comparatively wild, with but few cities scattered through it, it suited well the recluse dweller in the wilderness.

The Lord God of Israel before whom I stand.—This adjuration (repeated in 18:15, and with some alteration by Elisha in 2Kings 3:14; 2Kings 5:16) is characteristic. Elijah is the servant of God standing to be sent whither He wills.

This is evidently not the first appearance of Elijah. In James 5:17, the withholding of rain, foretold again and again as a penalty on apostasy (see Leviticus 26:19, Deuteronomy 11:17; and comp. 1Kings 8:35), is noted as an answer to the prophet’s prayer, calling down judgment on the land. Evidently there had been a struggle against the Baal-worship of the time, and, no doubt, previous warnings from Elijah or from some one of the murdered prophets. This chapter introduces us suddenly to the catastrophe.

1 Kings

A PROPHET’S STRANGE PROVIDERS

ELIJAH STANDING BEFORE THE LORD

1 Kings 17:1
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This solemn and remarkable adjuration seems to have been habitual upon Elijah’s lips in the great crises of his life. We never find it used by any but himself, and his scholar and successor, Elisha. Both of them employ it under similar circumstances, as if unveiling the very secret of their lives, the reason for their strength, and for their undaunted bearing and bold fronting of all antagonism. We find four instances in their two lives of the use of the phrase. Elijah bursts abruptly on the stage and opens his mouth for the first time to Ahab, to proclaim the coming of that terrible and protracted drought; and he bases his prophecy on that great oath, ‘As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand.’ And again, when he is sent to confront Ahab once more at the close of the period, the same mighty word comes, ‘As the Lord of Hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself unto him this day.’ And then again, Elisha, when he is brought before the three confederate kings, who taunt, and threaten, and flatter, to try to draw smooth things from his lips, and get his sanction to their mad warfare, turns upon the poor creature that called himself the King of Israel with a superb contempt that stayed itself on that same great name and tells him, ‘As the Lord liveth before whom I stand, were it not that I had regard for the King of Judah, I would not look toward you or see you,’ And lastly, when the grateful Naaman seeks to change the whole character of Elisha’s miracle, and to turn it into the coarseness of a thing done for reward, once again the temptation is brushed aside with that solemn word, ‘As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none.’

So at every crisis where these prophets were brought full front with hostile power; where a tremendous message was laid upon their hearts and lips to utter; where natural strength would fail; where they were likely to be daunted or dazzled by temptations, by either the sweetness or the terrors of material things, these two great heroes of the Old Covenant, out of sight the strongest men in the old Jewish history, steady themselves by one thought,-God lives, and I am His servant.

For that phrase, ‘before whom I stand,’ obviously means chiefly ‘whom I serve.’ It is found, for instance, in Deuteronomy, where the priest’s office is thus defined: ‘The sons of Levi shall stand before the Lord to minister unto Him.’ And in the same way, it is used in the Queen of Sheba’s wondering exclamation to Solomon, ‘Blessed are thy servants, and blessed are the men that stand before thy face continually.’

So that the consciousness that they were servants of the living God was the very secret of the power of these men. This expression, which thus started to their lips in moments of strain and trial, lets us see into the very inmost heart of their strength. These two great lives, which fill so large a apace in the records of the past, and will be remembered for ever, were braced and ennobled thus. The same grand thought is available to brace and ennoble our little lives, that will soon be forgotten but by a loving heart or two, and yet may be as full of God and of God’s service as those of any of the great of old. We too may use this secret of power, ‘The Lord liveth, before whom I stand.’

What thoughts then, which may tend to lift and invigorate our days, are included in these words? The first is surely this-Life a constant vision of God’s presence.

How distinct and abiding must the vision of God have been, which burned before the inward eye of the man that struck out that phrase! ‘Wherever I am, whatever I do, I am before Him. To my purged eye, there is the Apocalypse of heaven, and I behold the great throne, and the solemn ranks of ministering spirits, my fellow-servants, hearkening to the voice of His word.’ No excitement of work, no strain of effort, no distraction of circumstances, no glitter of gold, no dazzle of earthly brightness, dimmed that vision for these prophets. In some measure, it was with them as it shall be perfectly with all one day, ‘His servants serve Him, and see His face,’-action not interrupting vision, nor vision weakening action. To preserve thus fresh and unimpaired, amidst strenuous work and many temptations, the clear consciousness of being ‘ever in the great Taskmaster’s eye,’ needs resolute effort and much self-restraint. It is hard to set the Lord always before us; but it is possible, and in the measure in which we do it, we shall not be moved.

How nobly the steadfastness and superiority to all temptations which such a vision gives, are illustrated by the occasions, in these prophets’ lives, in which this expression came to their lips! The servant of the Heavenly King speaks from his present intuition. As he speaks, he sees the throne in the heavens, and the Sovereign Ruler there, and the sight bears him up from quailing before the earthly monarchs whom he had to beard, and in connection with whom three out of the four instances of the use of the phrase occur. How small Ahab and his court must have looked to eyes that were full of the undazzling brightness of the true King of Israel, and the ordered ranks of His attendants! How little the greatness! How tawdry the pomp! How impotent the power, and how toothless the threats! The poor show of the earthly king paled before that awful vision, as a dim candle will show black against the sun. ‘I stand before the living God, and thou, O Ahab! art but a shadow and a noise.’ Just as we may have looked upon some mountain scene, where all the highest summits were wrapt in mist, and the lower hills looked mighty and majestic, until some puff of wind came and rolled up the curtain that had shrined and hidden the icy pinnacles and peaks that were higher up. And as that solemn white apocalypse rose and towered to the heavens, we forgot all about the green hills below, because our eyes beheld the mighty summits that live amongst the stars, and sparkle white through eternity.

My brethren, here is our defence against being led away by the gauds and shows of earth’s vulgar attractions, or being terrified by the poor terrors of its enmity. Go with that talisman in your hand, ‘The Lord liveth, before whom I stand,’ and everything else dwindles down into nothingness, and you are a free man, master and lord of all things, because you are God’s servants, seeing all things aright, because you see them all in God, and God in them all.

Still further, we may say that this phrase is the utterance and expression of a consciousness that life was echoing with the voice of the divine command. Elijah stands before the Lord, not only feeling in his thrilling spirit that God is ever near him, but also that His word is ever coming forth to him, with imperative authority. That is the prophet’s conception of life. Wherever he is, he hears a voice saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it.’ Every place where he stands is as the very holy place of the oracles of the Most High, the spot in the innermost shrine where the voice of God is audible, All circumstances are the voice of God, commanding or restraining. He is evermore pursued, nay, rather upheld and guided, by an all-embracing law. That law is no mere utterance of cold impersonal duty,-a thought which may make men slaves, but never makes them good. But it is the voice of the living God, loving and beloved, whose tender care for His children modulates His tone, while He commands them for their good. He speaks because He loves; His law is life. The heart that hears Him speak is filled with music.

Ahab and Jehoram, and all the kings of the earth, may thunder and lighten, may threaten and flatter, may command and forbid, as they list. They and their words are nought to him whose trembling ears have heard, and whose obedient heart has received, a higher command, and to whom, ‘across the storm,’ comes the deeper voice of the one true Commander, whom alone it is a glory absolutely to obey, even ‘the Lord, before whom I stand.’ People talk about the consciousness of ‘a mission.’ The important point, on the settling of which depends the whole character of our lives, is-Who do you suppose gave you your ‘mission’? Was it any person at all? or have you any consciousness that any will but your own has anything to say about your life? These prophets had found One whom it was worth while to obey, whatever came of it, and whoever stood in the way. May it be so with you and me, my friend! Let us try always to feel that in the commonest things we may hear the command of God; that the trifles of each day-trifles though they be-vibrate and sound with the reverberation of His great voice; that in all the outward circumstances of our lives, as in all the deep recesses of our hearts, we may trace the indications and rudiments of His will concerning us, which He has perfectly given us in that Gospel which is ‘the law of liberty,’ and in Him who is the Gospel and the perfect Law. Then quietly, without bluster or mock-heroics, or making a fuss about our independence, we can put all other commands and commanders in their right place, with the old words, ‘With me it is a very small matter to be judged of you, or of man’s judgment; He that judgeth me,’ and He that commandeth me, ‘is the Lord,’ In answer to all the noise about us we can face round like Elijah, and say, ‘As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand.’ He is my ‘Imperator,’ the Autocrat and Commander of my life; and Him, and Him only, must I serve. What calmness, what dignity that would put into our lives! The never-ceasing boom of the great ocean, as it breaks on the beach, drowns all smaller sounds. Those lives are noble and great in which that deep voice is ever dominant, sounding on through all lesser voices, and day and night filling the soul with command and awe.

Then, still further, we may take another view of these words. They are the utterance of a man to whom his life was not only bright with the radiance of a divine presence, and musical with the voice of a divine command, but was also, on his part, full of conscious obedience. No man could say such a thing of himself who did not feel that he was rendering a real, earnest, though imperfect obedience to God. So, though in one view the words express a very lowly sense of absolute submission before God, in another view they make a lofty claim for the utterer. He professes that he stands before the Lord, girt for His service, watching to be guided by His eye, and ready to run when He bids. It is the same lofty sense of communion and consecration, issuing in authority over others, which Elijah’s true brother in later days, Paul the Apostle, put forth when he made known to his companions in shipwreck the will of ‘the God, whose I am, and whom I serve.’ We may well shrink from making that claim for ourselves, when we think of the poor, perfunctory service and partial consecration which our lives show. But let us rejoice that even we may venture to say, ‘Truly I am Thy servant’; if only we, like the Psalmist, rest the confession on the perfectness of what He has done for us, rather than on the imperfection of what we have done for Him; and lay, as its foundation, ‘Thou hast loosed my bonds.’ Then, though we must ever feel how poor our service, and how unprofitable ourselves, how little we deserve the honour, and how impossible that we should ever earn the least mite of wages; yet we may, in all lowliness, think of ourselves as set free that we may serve, and lift our eyes, as the eyes of a servant turn towards his master, to ‘the living Lord, before whom we stand.

Such a life is necessarily a happy life. The one misery of man is self-will, the one secret of blessedness is the conquest over our own wills. To yield them up to God is rest and peace. If we ‘stand before God,’ then that means that our wills are brought into harmony with His. And that means that the one poison drop is squeezed out of our lives, and that sweetness and joy are infused into them. For what disturbs us in this world is not ‘trouble’ but our opposition to trouble. The true source of all that frets and irritates, and wears away our lives, is not in external things, but in the resistance of our wills to the will of God expressed by external things. I suppose that we shall never here bring these wills of ours into perfect correspondence with His, any more than we shall ever, with our shaking hands and blunt pencils, draw a perfectly straight line. But if will and heart are brought even to a rude approach to parallelism with His, if we accept His voice when He takes away, and obey it when He commands, we shall be quiet and peaceful. We shall be strong and unwearied, freed from corroding cares and exhausting rebellions, which take far more out of a man than any work does. ‘Thy word was found, and I did eat it.’ When we thus take God’s command into our spirits, and feed upon it with will and understanding, it becomes, as the Psalmist found it, the ‘joy and rejoicing of our hearts.’ Elijah-like, we shall ‘go in the strength of that meat many days.’ The secret of power and of calm is-yield your will to the loving Lord, and stand ever before Him with, ‘Here am I, send me!’

We may add one more remark to these various views of the significance of this expression, to which the last instance of its use may help us. Here it is: ‘And Naaman said, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none.’

The thought, which made all Elisha’s life bright with the light of God’s presence, which filled his ear with the unremitting voice of a Divine Law, which swayed and bowed his will to joyful obedience, chilled and deadened his desires for all earthly rewards. ‘I am not thy servant. I am God’s servant. It is not your business to pay my wages. I cannot dishonour my Master by taking payment from thee for doing His work. I look for everything from Him, for nothing from thee.’

And is there not a broad general truth involved there, namely, that such a life as we have been describing will find its sole reward where it finds its inspiration and its law? The Master’s approval is the servant’s best wages. If we truly feel that ‘the Lord liveth, before whom we stand, ‘we shall want nothing else for our work but His smile, and we shall feel that the light of His face is all that we need. That thought should deaden our love for outward things. How little we need to care about any payment that the world can give for anything we do! If we feel, as we ought, that we are God’s servants, that will lift us clear above the low aims and desires which meet us. How little we shall care for money, for men’s praise, for getting on in the world! How the things that we fever our souls by pursuing, and fret our hearts when we lose, will cease to attract! How small and vulgar the ‘prizes’ of life, as people call them, will appear! ‘The Lord liveth, before whom I stand,’ should be enough for us, and instead of all these motives to action drawn from the rewards of this world, we ought to ‘labour that, whether present or absent, we may be well-pleasing to Him.’

Not the fading leaves of the victor’s wreath, laurel though they be, nor the corruptible things as silver and gold, whereof earth’s diadems and rewards are fashioned, but the incorruptible crown that fadeth not away, which His hand will give, should fire our hope, and shine before our faith. Not Naaman’s gifts but God’s approval is Elisha’s reward. Not the praise from lips that will perish, or the ‘hollow wraith of dying fame,’ but Christ’s ‘Well done! good and faithful servant,’ should be a Christian’s aim.

May we, brethren, possess the ‘spirit and the power of Elias’;-the spirit, in that we know ourselves to be the servants of the living God; and then we shall have some measure of his dauntless power and heroic unworldliness!

Still better, may we have the Spirit of Him who was ‘the Servant of the Lord,’ diviner in His gentle meekness than the fiery prophet in his lonely strength! Make yours the mind that was in Christ, that you too may say, ‘Lo, I come! in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, yea, Thy law is within my heart.’1 Kings 17:1. And Elijah the Tishbite, &c. — So bad was the character, both of the Israelites and their princes, as represented in the foregoing chapter, that one would have expected God should have cast off a people that had so cast him off; but as an evidence to the contrary, never was Israel so blessed with a good prophet as when it was so plagued with a bad king. Never was a king so bold to sin as Ahab, never was a prophet so bold to reprove and threaten as Elijah, whose story begins in this chapter, and is full of wonders. Scarce any part of the Old Testament history shines brighter than this, concerning the spirit and power of Elias; he only, of all the prophets, had the honour of Enoch, the first prophet, to be translated that he should not see death; and the honour of Moses, the great prophet, to attend our Saviour in his transfiguration. Other prophets prophesied and wrote, he prophesied and acted, but wrote nothing; and his actings cast more lustre on his name than their writings on theirs.

Now this most eminent of the prophets under the Old Testament dispensation, is here brought in like Melchisedec, the most eminent of the priests, without any mention of his father or mother, or the beginning of his days, like a man dropped down from the clouds. All that we learn concerning his origin or country is that he was a Tishbite, and of the inhabitants of Gilead. Probably he had dwelt at Thishbe or Thesbeh, a town or region on the other side Jordan, either of the tribe of Gad, or that half tribe of Manasseh which inhabited Gilead, but whether he was a native of either of those tribes is uncertain. He was doubtless raised up by God’s special providence, to be a witness for him in this most degenerate time and state of things, that by his zeal, and courage, and miracles, he might give some check to their various and abominable idolatries, and some encouragement and reviving to that small number of the Lord’s prophets and people who yet remained in Israel. And the obscurity of his parentage and birth was no prejudice to his eminent usefulness. “We need not inquire,” says Henry, “whence men are, but what they are: if it be a good thing, no matter though it come out of Nazareth.” Elijah seems to have been naturally of a rough spirit, and certainly he was called to rough services. But, as his name signifies, My God Jehovah is he; he that sends me, and will own me, and bear me out; so his faith and confidence in God supported and carried him through all his arduous labours, and the violent persecutions to which he was exposed.

He said unto Ahab — Having doubtless admonished him of his sin and danger before, he now, upon his obstinacy in his wicked courses, proceeds to declare and execute the judgment of God upon him; As the Lord God of Israel liveth, &c. — I swear by the God of Israel, who is the only true and living God; whereas the gods whom thou hast joined with him, or preferred before him, are dead and senseless idols; before whom I stand — Whose minister I am, not only in general, but especially in this threatening, which I now deliver in his name and authority; There shall not be dew nor rain — This was a prediction, but was seconded with his prayer that God would verily it, James 5:17. And this prayer was truly charitable; that by this sharp affliction, God’s honour, and the truth of his word, (which was now so horribly and universally contemned,) might be vindicated; and the Israelites (whom impunity had hardened in their idolatry) might be awakened to see their own wickedness, and the necessity of returning to the true religion. These years — That is, these following years, which were three and a half; Luke 4:25; James 5:17. My word — Until I shall declare that this judgment shall cease, and shall pray to God for the removal of it.17:1-7 God wonderfully suits men to the work he designs them for. The times were fit for an Elijah; an Elijah was fit for them. The Spirit of the Lord knows how to fit men for the occasions. Elijah let Ahab know that God was displeased with the idolaters, and would chastise them by the want of rain, which it was not in the power of the gods they served to bestow. Elijah was commanded to hide himself. If Providence calls us to solitude and retirement, it becomes us to go: when we cannot be useful, we must be patient; and when we cannot work for God, we must sit still quietly for him. The ravens were appointed to bring him meat, and did so. Let those who have but from hand to mouth, learn to live upon Providence, and trust it for the bread of the day, in the day. God could have sent angels to minister to him; but he chose to show that he can serve his own purposes by the meanest creatures, as effectually as by the mightiest. Elijah seems to have continued thus above a year. The natural supply of water, which came by common providence, failed; but the miraculous supply of food, made sure to him by promise, failed not. If the heavens fail, the earth fails of course; such are all our creature-comforts: we lose them when we most need them, like brooks in summer. But there is a river which makes glad the city of God, that never runs dry, a well of water that springs up to eternal life. Lord, give us that living water!The name Elijah means "Yahweh is my God." It is expressive of the truth which his whole life preached.

The two words rendered "Tishbite" and "inhabitant" are in the original (setting aside the vowel points) "exactly alike." The meaning consequently must either be "Elijah the stranger, of the strangers of Gilead," or (more probably) "Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbi of Gilead." Of Tishbi in Gilead there is no further trace in Scripture; it is to be distinguished from another Tishbi in Galilee. In forming to ourselves a conception of the great Israelite prophet, we must always bear in mind that the wild and mountainous Gilead, which bordered on Arabia, and was half Arab in customs, was the country wherein he grew up.

His abrupt appearance may be compared with the similar appearances of Ahijah 1 Kings 11:29, Jehu 1 Kings 16:1, Shemaiah 2 Chronicles 11:2, Azariah 2 Chronicles 15:1, and others. It is clear that a succession of prophets was raised up by God, both in faithful Judah and in idolatrous Israel, to witness of Him before the people of both countries, and leave them without excuse if they forsook His worship. At this time, when a grosser and more deadly idolatry than had been practiced before was introduced into Israel by the authority of Ahab, and the total apostasy of the ten tribes was consequently imminent, two prophets of unusual vigour and force of character, endowed with miraculous powers of an extraordinary kind, were successively raised up, that the wickedness of the kings might be boldly met and combated, and, if possible, a remnant of faithful men preserved in the land. The unusual efflux of miraculous energy at this time, is suitable to the unusual emergency, and in very evident proportion to the spiritual necessities of the people.

As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand - This solemn formula, here first used, was well adapted to impress the king with the sacred character of the messenger, and the certain truth of his message. Elisha adopted the phrase with very slight modifications 2 Kings 3:14; 2 Kings 5:16.

Drought was one of the punishments threatened by the Law, if Israel forsook Yahweh and turned after other gods (Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:23; Leviticus 26:19, etc.).

CHAPTER 17

1Ki 17:1-7. Elijah, Prophesying against Ahab, Is Sent to Cherith.

1. Elijah the Tishbite—This prophet is introduced as abruptly as Melchisedek—his birth, parents, and call to the prophetic office being alike unrecorded. He is supposed to be called the Tishbite from Tisbeh, a place east of Jordan.

who was of the inhabitants of Gilead—or residents of Gilead, implying that he was not an Israelite, but an Ishmaelite, as Michaelis conjectures, for there were many of that race on the confines of Gilead. The employment of a Gentile as an extraordinary minister might be to rebuke and shame the apostate people of Israel.

said unto Ahab—The prophet appears to have been warning this apostate king how fatal both to himself and people would be the reckless course he was pursuing. The failure of Elijah's efforts to make an impression on the obstinate heart of Ahab is shown by the penal prediction uttered at parting.

before whom I stand—that is, whom I serve (De 18:5).

there shall not be dew nor rain these years—not absolutely; but the dew and the rain would not fall in the usual and necessary quantities. Such a suspension of moisture was sufficient to answer the corrective purposes of God, while an absolute drought would have converted the whole country into an uninhabitable waste.

but according to my word—not uttered in spite, vengeance, or caprice, but as the minister of God. The impending calamity was in answer to his earnest prayer, and a chastisement intended for the spiritual revival of Israel. Drought was the threatened punishment of national idolatry (De 11:16, 17; 28:23).Elijah foretelleth, Ahab that there shall be a great drought; is sent to Cherith, where the ravens feed him, 1 Kings 17:1-7. He is sent to Zarephath to a widow, who feedeth him with meal and oil, which wasted not, 1 Kings 17:8-16. Her son dieth, and he raiseth him, 1 Kings 17:17-23. She acknowledgeth him to be a prophet, 1 Kings 17:24.

Elijah was the most eminent of the prophets, Matthew 17:3, who is here brought in, like Melchisedek, Genesis 14:18 Hebrews 7:3, without any mention of his father, or mother, or beginning of his days; like a man dropped out of the clouds, and raised by God’s special providence as a witness for himself in this most degenerate time and state of things; that by his zeal, and courage, and power of miracles, he might give some check to their various and abominable idolatries, and some reviving to that small number of the Lord’s prophets and people who yet remained in Israel, as we shall see.

The Tishbite; so called, either from the place of his birth or habitation, or for some other reason not now known.

Of the inhabitants of Gilead; which was the land beyond Jordan. See Genesis 31:21.

Said unto Ahab; having doubtless admonished him of his sin and danger before this; and now, upon his obstinacy in his wicked courses, he proceeds to declare and execute the judgment of God upon him.

As the Lord God of Israel liveth: I swear by the God of Israel, who, is the only true and living God; when the gods whom thou hast joined with him, or preferred before him, are dead and senseless idols.

Before whom I stand; either,

1. Whose minister I am, (as this phrase is oft used, as Numbers 3:6 Deu 10:8 17:12 18:5) not only in general, but especially in this threatening, which I now deliver in his name and authority, and not from my own imagination or passion. Or,

2. Who is now present with me, and a witness of what I say; and let him punish me severely, if I speak not the truth. There shall not be dew nor rain: this was a prediction, but was seconded with his prayer, that God would verify it, as it is recorded, Jam 5:17. And this prayer of his was not voluntary and malicious, but necessary, and (all things considered) truly charitable; that by this sharp and long affliction God’s honour, and the truth of his word and threatenings, (which was now so horribly and universally contemned,) might be vindicated, and the Israelites (whom their present impunity and prosperity had hardened in their idolatry) might hereby be awakened to see their own wickedness, and the vanity of their calves and other idols, and their dependence upon God, and the necessity of returning to the true religion. These years, i.e. these following years, which were three and a half, Luke 4:25 Jam 5:17. But according to my word, i.e. until I shall declare that this judgment shall cease, and shall pray to God for the removal of it.

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead,.... Which belonged partly to the Reubenites and Gadites, and partly to the half-tribe of Manasseh on the other side Jordan, where this prophet dwelt; but why he is called the Tishbite is not easy to say; what Kimchi observes seems right, that he was at first of a city called Toshab, and afterward's dwelt at Gilead; which city perhaps is the same with Thisbe, in the tribe of Naphtali, the native place of Tobit,

"Who in the time of Enemessar king of the Assyrians was led captive out of Thisbe, which is at the right hand of that city, which is called properly Nephthali in Galilee above Aser.'' (Tobit 1:2)

and, if so, is an instance of a prophet, even the prince of prophets, as Abarbinel calls him, coming out of Galilee, contrary to the suggestions of the Jews, John 7:52. R. Elias Levita (l) observes, that after the affair of Gibeah an order was given to smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead, Judges 21:8, and that as it is reasonable to suppose some might escape, he thinks Elijah was one of them; and that when this began to be inhabited again, they that returned were called the inhabitants of Gilead, of whom Elijah was, who lived in those times, being, as the Jews suppose, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron, see Judges 20:28, but that he should be Elijah, and live to the times of Ahab, is beyond belief. By Origen (m) he is said to be in Thesbon of Gilead; and by Epiphanius (n) to be of Thesbis, of the land of the Arabians, Gilead bordering upon it: the same

said unto Ahab; who perhaps had been with him before, and reproved him for idolatry, warned him of the evil consequences of it, but to no purpose, and therefore now threatened in a very solemn manner:

as the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand; he swears by the living God, in whose presence he was, and to whom he appeals as the omniscient God, whose minister and prophet he was, and in whose name he came and spoke, and to whom he prayed; for standing was a prayer gesture, and sometimes put for it; see Gill on Matthew 6:5 and it was at the prayer of Elijah that rain was withheld, as follows, see James 5:17.

there shall not be dew nor rain these years; for some years to come, even three years and a half:

but according to my word; in prayer, or as he should predict, in the name of the Lord.

(l) In Tishbi, p. 275. Vid. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 11. 1. & David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 235. 4. (m) Comment. in Matth. p. 224. Ed. Huet. (n) De Prophet. Vit. c. 6.

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I {a} stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but {b} according to my word.

(a) That is, whom I serve.

(b) But as I will declare it by God's revelation.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Chap. 1 Kings 17:1-7. Elijah the Tishbite. His prophecy of a drought and its fulfilment (Not in Chronicles)

1. And Elijah the Tishbite] Elijah comes suddenly upon the scene and throughout the history his appearances are rare, sudden and brief. His history is most probably drawn from some independent narrative of the work of the prophets, and introduced here abruptly as soon as it begins to touch upon the reign of Ahab. The schools of the prophets seem to have had their origin in Samuel’s day, and were founded in various parts of the land, and in connexion with them Elijah appears in Israel. He is called the Tishbite because he was born at Thisbe in the tribe of Naphtali, a place known afterwards as the birthplace of Tobit (Tob 1:2). Josephus (Ant. viii. 13, 2) says he was ἐκ πόλεως θεσβώνης τῆς Γαλααδίτιδος χώρας, as if his birthplace had been in Gilead. For the connected history of Elijah, the student would do well to consult Mr (now Sir Geo.) Grove’s Article, Elijah, in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible.

who was of the inhabitants [R.V. sojourners] of Gilead] The Hebrew noun is found frequently in the phrase ‘a stranger and sojourner,’ cf. Genesis 23:4; Leviticus 25:35; Leviticus 25:47; and does not imply that the person spoken of was a native of the place mentioned thus. Hence there is no difficulty in understanding that Elijah, a native of the tribe of Naphtali, was a dweller for a time in Gilead. Such a man was likely to retire from the world and dwell alone among the mountain fastnesses. The Fathers (Epiphanius, Dorotheus, Isidore) represent Elijah as of a priestly family, but there is no warrant for the statement.

As the Lord God of Israel liveth] Elijah prefaces his message with his authority. He does not come in his own name, nor will the drought be of his bringing. He is but sent as the bearer of Jehovah’s word, the word of Him whom Israel had forsaken, but who alone was worthy to be called the Living God.

but according to my word] i.e. As God shall proclaim through me; cf. 1 Kings 18:41; 1 Kings 18:44. Josephus, having in mind the disappearance of Elijah after this message and his reappearance to Ahab before the coming of the rain, makes the prophet say that there should be no rain ‘except on his appearance’ εἰ μὴ φανέντος αὐτοῦ. He also states that this drought is mentioned by Menander in his history of Ethbaal, the king of the Tyrians. It endured, he says, for a whole year, but after that time, on the king’s earnest prayer, there came down abundant thunder showers. In Luke 4:25 and James 5:17, the duration of the drought in Israel is said to have been three years and six months. By such long-continued want of rain there the neighbouring countries must also have been affected.

The LXX. rendering εἰ μὴ διὰ στόματος λόγου μου, is a literal translation of the Hebrew.Verse 1. - And Elijah [This name, which appears both as אֵלִיָּהוּ, and, less frequently, אֵלִיָּה, means my God is Jehovah. It is so singularly appropriate to the man who bore it, and so exactly expresses the idea of his life and the chapter of his work (see especially 1 Kings 18:39), that it is difficult to resist the belief that it was assumed by him. This is certainly more probable than that it was due to the prescience of his parents. It may, however, mark their piety and hopes, and may have influenced the life of their son. Cf. 1 Chronicles 4:10], the Tishbite [So he is called without any further designation in 1 Kings 21:17; 2 Kings 1:8, 8, etc. The presumption is altogether in favour of תשבי being the name of his birthplace. (Cf. 1 Kings 11:29], who was of the inhabitants of Gilead [The interpretation of these words is much disputed. The Heb. stands גִלְעָד הַתִּשְׁבִּי מִתּשָׁבֵי It will be the first and second words have the same radicals, and it hits been inferred that they cannot mean "two entirely distinct things" (Rawlinson cf.) and that either the Masoretic pointing must be set aside, when the words would yield the meaning, "Elijah, the Tishbite of Tishbe of Gilead" or they must be interpreted "Elijah the stranger of the strangers of Gilead." But it is by no certain that the current interpretaioni not the best. Such a play upon words as it involves is not at all uncommon in Hebrew. The meaning would then be that Elijah , who was, if not by birth, by domicile, of Tishbe, was one of the strangers - תּושִׁב is found in the sense of πάροικος, inquilinus, in Genesis 23:4; Exodus 12:45; Leviticus 22:10; Leviticus 25:35, 47, etc. - or immigrants who had settled in Gilead. The only objection to this rendering - apart from the identity of radicals just mentioned - is that we should have expected to find תּשָׁבֵי written plene, as the word always is elsewhere. It is alleged by Keil, Bahr, al., however, that the stat. constr. plur. may well be an exception to the rule, and in support of this view it may be mentioned that the cognate word, יושֵׁב, is constantly found in the constr, plural as ישְׁבֵי (see Gesen., Thessalonians 635). It is clear, then, that the usual interpretation is by no means to be lightly set aside. It is certainly preferable to the rendering, "Elijah the stranger," etc., for we have no proof that הַתִּשְׁבִּי can bear this meaning. In favour of the alternative rendering "the Tishbite of Tishbe," it may be said that it has the support of the LXX., ὁ ἐκ Θεσβῶν, and of Josephus (Ant. 8:13. 2), ἐκ πόλεως Θεσδώνης τῆς Γαλααδίτιδος χώρας. Nor is it any weighty objection to this view that we now here read of a Tishbe in Gilead: as for the matter of that, we have no undoubted traces of any such place west of the Jordan; the passage in Tobit (ch. 1:2, LXX.), which is often alleged as proving that there was a Tishbe in Galilee, and from which Gesenius, Bahr, Keil, etc., conclude that this must be the Tishbi here referred to, being too uncertain to permit us to build any positive conclusions thereupon. See Dict. Bib. 3. pp. 1489, 1516. In any case - and it is perhaps impossible to decide positively between this and the rendering of the A.V. - it is clear that Elijah, even if born in Galilee (but see John 7:52, for the belief of the Jews), was trained for his work in Gilead. It was, therefore, a rugged, unsettled, half-civilized, trans-Jordanic region gave to the world the greatest of its prophets. In this respect he was like Moses (Exodus 3:1), and his antitype the Baptist (Luke 1:80). "The fact that this mission was entrusted not to a dweller in royal city or prophetic school, but to a genuine child of the deserts and forests of Gilead, is in exact accordance with the dispensations of Providence in other times" (Stanley)] said unto Ahab [The abrupt way in which Elijah appears upon the scene without a word of introduction or explanation is certainly remarkable. Ewald observes that "his first entry within the province of the history seems almost as unique and inexplicable as his final disappearance." "Elijah comes in with a tempest, and goes out with a whirlwind" (Hall). But there is no sufficient ground for believing (Thenius, al.) that a part of our history which described some of his antecedents has been lost to us, or that our text merely recites the issue of a long conference which Elijah had held with Ahab, for other prophets of this period, Ahijah, Shemaiah, Jehu, are introduced to us in a similar manner, though it must be allowed that their respective ministries were of very different proportions and importance from Elijah's. This sudden appearance, however, is thoroughly characteristic of the man. He presently disappears just as suddenly (ver. 5. Cf. 19:3; 2 Kings 1:8). It was thought by some in that age that he was borne hither and thither by the Spirit of God! 1 Kings 18:12), and men of a later time caught this as one of his prominent characteristics (Ecclus. 48:1-12). Hence, too, the traditions of a still later period, according to which he was "the fiery Phinehas returned to earth, or an angel hovering on the outskirts of the world," Stanley], As the Lord God of Israel liveth [This formula here occurs for the first time, and it is full of meaning. It asserts first that Jehovah, not Baal, is the God of Israel, and it suggests, in the second place, that he is the living God, such as Baal was not, and that though ordinarily He keeps silence, He is one who can make His power felt], before whom I stand [i.e., "Whose I am and whom I serve" (Acts 27:23). Cf. 1 Kings 18:15. The slaves of the East stood before their masters. See note on 1 Kings 1:28, and cf. 1 Samuel 3:1; Luke 1:19. Elijah claims to speak in God's name, and as His ambassador], there shall not be dew nor rain [Observe the order of the words. Dew is perhaps put first as more essential to vegetable life. Elijah only denounces a plague already threatened in the law as the punishment of idolatry (Deuteronomy 11:16, 17; Deuteronomy 28:23; Leviticus 26:19). He came forward as the vindicator and restorer of the law] these years [An indefinite period. Its duration depended on Elijah's word, and that again on the penitence, etc., of the people. It was because of the obduracy of king and people that it lasted so long] but according to my word. [The idolatrous priests no doubt claimed for Baal the dominion over nature and absolute control over the clouds and rain - a power which, it may be worth observing, the monks of the convent of St. Katherine at Sinai, where Elijah was, are thought to possess by the Arabs of the Sinaitic peninsula. Elijah directly challenges them to a trial of strength. It was as if he had said, "The God that answereth by rain, let him be God." On the fitness of this miracle, both as a sign and as a punishment, see "Homil. Quart." 5:100,101. "To Eastern and Southern nations, where life and water go always together, where vegetation gathers round the slightest particle of moisture and dies the moment it is withdrawn...the withholding of rain is the withholding of pleasure, of sustenance, of life itself " (Stanley). "My word" is somewhat emphatic, "Nisi ego, et non alius vir... dixero " (Seb. Schmidt). No doubt there is a special reference to the prophets of Baal. Their inability to remove the ban would prove the impotency of their god. Elijah had asked for the supernatural powers which he here claims (James 5:17, 18).] The ascent of the throne of Israel by Ahab (1 Kings 16:29) formed a turning-point for the worse, though, as a comparison of 1 Kings 16:30 with 1 Kings 16:25 clearly shows, the way had already been prepared by his father Omri.
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