1 Kings 18:27
And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
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(27) Elijah mocked them.—The mockery of Elijah—apparently even blunter and more scornful in the sense of the original—has been with over-ingenuity explained as applying to various supposed actions of Baal. It is merely the bitter irony of sheer contempt, calling Baal a god only to heap upon him ideas most ungodlike; “He is busy, or he is in retirement; he is far away, or in the noon-day heat he is asleep.” Characteristic of the fierce indignation of Elijah’s nature, in this crisis of conflict, it is yet not unlike the righteous scorn of the psalmists or the prophets (see Psalm 115:4-8; Psalm 135:15-18; Isaiah 44:9-20; Isaiah 46:1-7; Jeremiah 10:2-10, &c.) for the worship of “the vanities” of the heathen. There was no place for toleration of prejudice, or tender appreciation of a blind worship feeling after God, like that of St. Paul at Athens (Acts 17:22-23). The conflict here was between spiritual worship and a foul, cruel idolatry; and the case was not of heathen ignorance, but of Israel’s apostasy.

1 Kings 18:27. And it came to pass at noon — When they had long tried all means in vain. Elijah mocked them — He derided them and their god, that he might awaken them out of their stupidity, and expose them to all the bystanders as deceivers of the people, in leading them to worship such senseless and contemptible things. Cry aloud, for he is a god — As you suppose: but what a god, who cannot be made to hear without all this clamour! Either he is talking — Or meditating, as the Hebrew is, thinking of something else, and not minding his own important concerns, when not only your credit, but all his honour lies at stake, and his interest in Israel. Or he is pursuing — His enemies, or hunting and pursuing the prey. He is employed about some other business, and is not at leisure to mind you. For, being a god of a small and narrow understanding, he cannot mind two things at once; and you are unreasonable to expect it from him. Or he is in a journey, &c. — The worship of idols being a most ridiculous thing, it is perfectly just to represent it so, and expose it to scorn. And “nothing can be imagined more cutting and sarcastic than these words of the prophet, in which he ridicules, in the finest manner possible, their wretched, false, and derogatory ideas of the Deity. The two last notions of being asleep and not at home, how absurd soever they may be, when applied to the Deity, were certainly such as several idolaters conceived of their gods, as appears from various passages in Homer; in one of which, (Iliad 1. 18:423,) he tells us, that Thetis could not meet with Jupiter, because he was gone abroad, and would not return in less than twelve days; and at the conclusion of that book he gives us an account of the manner in which the gods went to sleep. How debasing ideas these compared with that awful intelligence which revelation gives us of the true God, who neither slumbereth nor sleepeth; but who, everywhere present, is, at all times, conscious even of the secrets of the heart; at all times ready to hear, and able to grant the petitions of his people!” — Dodd.

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.The object of Elijah's irony was two-fold;

(1) to stimulate the priests to greater exertions, and so to make their failure more complete, and

(2) to suggest to the people that such failure would prove absolutely that Baal was no God.

The force of the expressions seems to be, "Cry on, only cry louder, and then you will make him hear, for surely he is a god; surely you are not mistaken in so regarding him." He is "talking," or "meditating;" the word used has both senses, for the Hebrews regarded "meditation" as "talking with oneself;" "or he is pursuing;" rather, perhaps, "he hath a withdrawing," i. e., "he hath withdrawn himself into privacy for awhile," as a king does upon occasions. The drift of the whole passage is scornful ridicule of the anthropomorphic notions of God entertained by the Baal-priests and their followers (compare Psalm 50:21). The pagan gods, as we know from the Greek and Latin classics, ate and drank, went on journeys, slept, conversed, quarrelled, fought. The explanations of many of these absurdities were unknown to the ordinary worshipper, and probably even the most enlightened, if his religion was not a mere vague Pantheism, had notions of the gods which were largely tainted with a false anthropomorphism.

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. At noon; when they had long tried all means in vain.

Elijah mocked them; derided them and their gods, which were indeed, and had now proved themselves to be, ridiculous and contemptible things. By this example we see that all jesting is not unlawful, but only that which intrencheth upon piety and good manners. See Poole "Ephesians 5:4".

Either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey; he is employed about some other business, and hath not leisure to mind you; for being a god of a small and narrow understanding, he cannot mind two things at once, and you are immodest and unreasonable to expect it from him.

And it came to pass at noon,.... When they had been from the time of the morning sacrifice until now invoking their deity to no purpose:

that Elijah mocked them; he jeered and bantered them:

and said, cry aloud; your god does not hear you; perhaps, if you raise your voice higher, he may;

for he is a god; according to your esteem of him, and, if so, he surely may hear you: unless

either he is talking; with others about matters of moment and importance, who are waiting on him with their applications to him; or he is in meditation; in a deep study upon some things difficult to be resolved:

or he is pursuing; his studies, or his pleasures, or his enemies, to overtake them; or he is employed on business (t):

or he is in a journey; gone to visit his friends, or some parts of his dominions; so Homer (u) represents Jupiter gone to pay a visit to the Ethiopians, and as yesterday gone to a feast, and all the gods following him, from whence he would not return until twelve days; and in like manner Lucian (w) speaks of the gods, mocking at them:

or, peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked; with a loud crying to him: it being now noon, Abarbinel thinks this refers to a custom of sleeping after dinner; Homer (x) also speaks of the sleep of the gods, and which used to be at noon; and therefore the worshippers of Baal ceased then to call upon him; and it is said (y), the Heathens feared to go into the temples of their gods at noon, lest they should disturb them; but such is not the true God, the God of Israel, he neither slumbers nor sleeps, Psalm 121:4.

(t) David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 211. 1.((u) Iliad. ver. 1. 423. (w) Jupiter Tragoedus. (x) Ut supra, (Iliad. ver. 1. 423.) in fine, & Iliad. 2. ver. 1, 2.((y) Meurs. Auctuar. Philol. c. 6. apud Quistorp. in loc.

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be {l} awaked.

(l) He mocks their beastly madness, who think that by any instance or suit, the dead and vile idols can help their worshippers in their necessity.

27. Elijah mocked them] i.e. To make their folly more apparent to the people, he urged them on to greater exertions.

for he is a god] As you deem him. Elijah attributed no power to Baal. He merely addresses the priests from their own level, and to make the object of their worship more contemptible attributes to him certain acts and necessities which proclaim him no more powerful than his worshippers.

either he is talking] R.V. musing. The word and its cognates are more frequently used of meditation than of speech, and to picture Baal as so preoccupied by thought as not to hear the loud cries of these frantic prophets suits, better than the rendering of A.V., with the mockery which Elijah designed.

or he is pursuing] R.V. gone aside. The word appears to be used here to express the idea that Baal had withdrawn himself for rest or some other physical necessity. Gesenius renders ‘recessit in conclavia interiora.’

Verse 27. - And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked [or deceived] them, and said, Cry aloud [Heb. with a great voice]: for he is a god [i.e., in your estimation. "Here is one of the few examples of irony in Scripture" (Wordsworth)]; either he is talking [the marg. he meditateth is preferable. Cf. 1 Samuel 1:16; Psalm 142:3. But the word has both meanings (see 2 Kings 9:11), fairly preserved in the LXX., ἀδολεσχία αὐτῷ ἐστι], or he is pursuing [Heb. for he hath a withdrawal, i.e., for the purpose of relieving himself. A euphemism. Cf. Judges 3:24; 1 Samuel 24:3. Stanley attempts to preserve the paronomasia, שִׂיג שִׂיח, by the translation, "he has his head full" and "he has his stomach full"], or he is in a Journey [the thrice repeated כִּי must be noticed. It heightens the effect of the mockery], or peradventure he sleepeth [Though it was noon, it is not clear that there is a reference to the usual midday siesta of the East], and must be awaked. 1 Kings 18:27As no answer had been received before noon, Elijah cried out to them in derision: "Call to him with a loud voice, for he is God (sc., according to your opinion), for he is meditating, or has gone aside (שׂי, secessio), or is on the journey (בּדּרך, on the way); perhaps he is sleeping, that he may wake up." The ridicule lies more especially in the הוּא אלהים כּי (for he is a god), when contrasted with the enumeration of the different possibilities which may have occasioned their obtaining no answer, and is heightened by the earnest and threefold repetition of the כּי. With regard to these possibilities we may quote the words of Clericus: "Although these things when spoken of God are the most absurd things possible, yet idolaters could believe such things, as we may see from Homer." The priests of Baal did actually begin therefore to cry louder than before, and scratched themselves with swords and lances, till the blood poured out, "according to their custom" (כּמשׁפּטם). Movers describes this as follows (Phnizier, i. pp. 682,683), from statements made by ancient authors concerning the processions of the strolling bands of the Syrian goddess: "A discordant howling opens the scene. They then rush wildly about in perfect confusion, with their heads bowed down to the ground, but always revolving in circles, so that the loosened hair drags through the mire; they then begin to bite their arms, and end with cutting themselves with the two-edged swords which they are in the habit of carrying. A new scene then opens. One of them, who surpasses all the rest in frenzy, begins to prophesy with signs and groans; he openly accuses himself of the sins which he has committed, and which he is now about to punish by chastising the flesh, takes the knotted scourge, which the Galli generally carry, lashes his back, and then cuts himself with swords till the blood trickles down from his mangled body." The climax of the Bacchantic dance in the case of the priests of Baal also was the prophesying (התנבּא), and it was for this reason, probably, that they were called prophets (נביאים). This did not begin till noon, and lasted till about the time of the evening sacrifice (לעלות עד, not עלות עד, 1 Kings 18:29). המּנחה עלות, "the laying on (offering) of the meat-offering," refers to the daily evening sacrifice, which consisted of a burnt-offering and a meat-offering (Exodus 29:38.; Numbers 28:3-8), and was then offered, according to the Rabbinical observance (see at Exodus 12:6), in the closing hours of the afternoon, as is evident from the circumstances which are described in 1 Kings 18:40. as having taken place on the same day and subsequently to Elijah's offering, which was presented at the time of the evening sacrifice (1 Kings 18:36).
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