1 Kings 18:26
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped on the altar which was made.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) O Baal, hear us.—This repeated cry—the ever-recurring burden of the prayer, uttered probably first in measured chant, afterwards in a wild excited cry—stands in an instructive contrast (which has been splendidly emphasised in Mendelssohn’s music) with the simple, earnest solemnity of the prayer of Elijah. It has been obvious to see m it an illustration of our Lord’s condemnation of the worship of the heathen, who “think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7). There is a grave irony in the notice of the blank silence which followed this frenzied cry. “There was no voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”

They leaped upon—properly, leaped up and down at the altar, in one of those wild dances, at once expressing and stimulating frenzy, in which Oriental religions delight, even to this day.

1 Kings 18:26. They took the bullock which was given them — Which, being chosen by them, was now put into their hands by those who had the beasts in their custody till they were taken away for sacrifice; and dressed it — Cut it in pieces, and laid the parts upon the wood. From morning — From the time of the morning sacrifice; which advantage Elijah suffered them to take. They leaped upon — Or, beside the altar; or, before it. They used some superstitious and disorderly gestures; either pretending to be actuated by the spirit of their god, and to be in a kind of religious ecstasy, or in a way of devotion to their god.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.And called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon - Compare the parallel in the conduct of the Greeks of Ephesus. Acts 19:34. The words "O Baal, hear us," probably floated on the air as the refrain of a long and varied hymn of supplication.

They leaped upon the altar which was made - The marginal rendering is preferable to this. Wild dancing has always been a devotional exercise in the East, and remains so to this day; witness the dancing dervishes. It was practiced especially in the worship of Nature-powers, like the Dea Phrygia (Cybele), the Dea Syra (Astarte?), and the like.

21-40. Elijah said unto all the people, How long halt ye?—They had long been attempting to conjoin the service of God with that of Baal. It was an impracticable union and the people were so struck with a sense of their own folly, or dread of the king's displeasure, that they "answered not a word." Elijah proposed to decide for them the controversy between God and Baal by an appeal, not to the authority of the law, for that would have no weight, but by a visible token from Heaven. As fire was the element over which Baal was supposed to preside, Elijah proposed that two bullocks should be slain and placed on separate altars of wood, the one for Baal, and the other for God. On whichever the fire should descend to consume it, the event should determine the true God, whom it was their duty to serve. The proposal, appearing every way reasonable, was received by the people with unanimous approval. The priests of Baal commenced the ceremony by calling on their god. In vain did they continue invoking their senseless deity from morning till noon, and from noon till evening, uttering the most piercing cries, using the most frantic gesticulations, and mingling their blood with the sacrifice. No response was heard. No fire descended. Elijah exposed their folly and imposture with the severest irony and, as the day was far advanced, commenced his operations. Inviting the people to approach and see the entire proceeding, he first repaired an old altar of God, which Jezebel had demolished. Then, having arranged the cut pieces of the bullock, he caused four barrels or jars of water to be dashed all over the altar and round in the trench. Once, twice, a third time this precaution was taken, and then, when he had offered an earnest prayer, the miraculous fire descended (Le 9:24; Jud 6:21; 13:20; 1Ch 21:26; 2Ch 7:1), and consumed not only the sacrifice, but the very stones of the altar. The impression on the minds of the people was that of admiration mingled with awe; and with one voice they acknowledged the supremacy of Jehovah as the true God. Taking advantage of their excited feelings, Elijah called on them to seize the priestly impostors, and by their blood fill the channel of the river (Kishon), which, in consequence of their idolatries, the drought had dried up—a direction, which, severe and relentless as it seems, it was his duty as God's minister to give (De 15:5; 18:20). The natural features of the mount exactly correspond with the details of this narrative. The conspicuous summit, 1635 feet above the sea, on which the altars were placed, presents an esplanade spacious enough for the king and the priests of Baal to stand on the one side, and Elijah on the other. It is a rocky soil, on which there is abundance of loose stones, to furnish the twelve stones of which the altar was built—a bed of thick earth, in which a trench could be dug; and yet the earth not so loose that the water poured into it would be absorbed; two hundred fifty feet beneath the altar plateau, there is a perennial fountain, which, being close to the altar of the Lord, might not have been accessible to the people; and whence, therefore, even in that season of severe drought, Elijah could procure those copious supplies of water which he poured over the altar. The distance between this spring and the site of the altar is so short, as to make it perfectly possible to go thrice thither and back again, whereas it would have been impossible once in an afternoon to fetch water from the sea [Van De Velde]. The summit is one thousand feet above the Kishon, which nowhere runs from the sea so close to the base of the mount as just beneath El-Mohhraka; so that the priests of Baal could, in a few minutes, be taken down to the brook (torrent), and slain there. They took the bullock which was given them; which being chosen by them, 1 Kings 18:25, was now put into their hands by those who had the beasts in their custody, till they were taken away for sacrifice.

They dressed it; cut it in pieces, and laid the parts in or upon the wood.

From morning; from the time of the morning sacrifice; which advantage Elijah suffered them to take for their sacrifice.

Upon the altar; or, over the altar; which might easily be done, the altar being low, and suddenly made for the present use. Or rather, beside (as the Hebrew (al) oft signifies) the altar; or, before it. They used some superstitious, unusual, and disorderly gestures, either pretending to be acted by the spirit of their god, and to be in a kind of holy rage, and religious ecstasy; or in way of devotion to their god; which they might borrow from the practice of their progenitors, who, amongst other things, used dancing in God’s service and presence, as Exodus 15:20 32:19 Judges 21:21 2 Samuel 6:14.

Which was made, Heb. which he made; either, first, Elijah; which some think was already made, though the making of it be not mentioned till afterwards, 1 Kings 18:31, and that it was their design, by leaping upon his altar, to overthrow it. Or rather, secondly, Ahab on their behalf; or any other person; that being only a Hebraism, the third person active being put for the passive verb, as our translators well render it. And they took the bullock which was given them,.... By such of them as made the choice:

and they dressed it; slew it, and cut it in pieces, and laid it on the wood, but put no fire under it:

and called on the name of Baal, from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us; and send fire down on the sacrifice; and if the sun was their Baal, they might hope, as the heat he gradually diffused was at its height at noon, that some flashes of fire would proceed from it to consume their sacrifice; but after, their hope was turned into despair, they became and acted like madmen:

but there was no voice, nor any that answered; by word, or by sending down fire as they desired:

and they leapt upon the altar which was made; not by Elijah, but by themselves, either now or heretofore, and where they had formerly sacrificed; and they danced about it, and leaped on it, either according to a custom used by them; such as the Salii, the priests of Mars, used, so called from their leaping, because they did their sacred things leaping, and went about their altars capering and leaping (s); or rather they were mad on it, as the Targum renders it, and acted like madmen, as if they were agitated by a prophetic fury and frenzy.

(s) Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 8. "tum Salii ad cantus", &c. Vid. Gutberleth. de Salii, c. 2. p. 9.

And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they {i} leaped upon the altar which was made.

(i) As men possessed by some strange spirit.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. which was given them] These words are omitted in the LXX., which represents ‘hear us’ in the latter part of the verse twice over.

and they leaped upon [R.V. about] the altar] One part of the heathen worship consisted in a dance around the altar, during which the devotees wrought themselves up to a pitch of frenzy, and then their action took the form of wild leaping. Such was probably the kind of worship of the Salii whom Numa instituted at Rome, and hence their name = Jumpers. The dances of the Aborigines of Australia were very much of this fashion.Verse 26. - And they took the bullock which was given them [Heb. which he (or one) gave; i.e., they declined to choose], and they dressed it, and called on the name of from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us [Heb. answer us. Same word as below. They thought they would be heard for their much speaking]. But there was no voice [Heb. and not a voice], nor any that answered. And they leaped [or limped. Same word as that translated "halt" in ver. 21. Gesenius thinks the word is "used scornfully of the awkward dancing of the priests of Baal." But it seems more natural to understand it as descriptive of what actually occurred, i.e., of the reeling, swaying, bacchantie dance of the priests, which was probably not unlike that of the dancing dervishes or the Indian devil worshippers of our own time] upon [or near, i.e., around] the altar which was made, [Heb. he, that is, one made, עָשָׂה impersonal. But some MSS. and most versions read עָשׁוּ]. Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal. - Ahab sent through all Israel and gathered the prophets (of Baal) together upon Mount Carmel. According to 1 Kings 18:21, 1 Kings 18:22, and 1 Kings 18:39, a number of the people ("all the people") had also come with them. On the other hand, not only is there no further reference in what follows to the 400 prophets of Asherah (cf. 1 Kings 18:25 and 1 Kings 18:40), but in 1 Kings 18:22 it is very obvious that the presence of the 450 prophets of Baal alone is supposed. We must therefore assume that the Asherah prophets, foreboding nothing good, had found a way of evading the command of Ahab and securing the protection of Jezebel.

(Note: It is true that in 1 Kings 18:22 the lxx have this clause, καὶ οἱ προφῆται τοῦ ἄλσους (i.e., האשׁרה) τετρακόσιοι, which Thenius regards as an original portion of the text, though without observing the character of the lxx. If the Asherah prophets had also been present, Elijah would not only have commanded the prophets of Baal to be seized and slain (1 Kings 18:40), but the Asherah prophets also. From the principle a potiori fit, etc., it may be possible to explain the omission of the Asherah prophets in 1 Kings 18:25, but not in 1 Kings 18:40.)

King Ahab also appeared upon Carmel (cf. 1 Kings 18:41), as he had no idea of Elijah's intention, which was by no means "to prove to the king that he (Ahab) and not Elijah had brought Israel into trouble" (Vat., Seb. Schm.), but to put before the eyes of the whole nation a convincing practical proof of the sole deity of Jehovah and of the nothingness of the Baals, that were regarded as gods, and by slaying the priests of Baal to give a death-blow to idolatry in Israel.

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