1 Kings 18:31
And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be your name:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) Twelve stones.—The emphatic notice of these, as emblematic of the twelve tribes, is significant. In spite of political division, and even religious separation, the tribes were still united in the covenant of God.

1 Kings 18:31. Elijah took twelve stones — This he did, with a view to renew the covenant between God and all the tribes, as Moses did, Exodus 24:4; to show, that he prayed and acted in the name and for the service of the God of all the patriarchs, and of all the tribes of Israel, and for their good: and to teach the people, that though the tribes were divided as to their civil government, they ought all to be united in the worship of the same God, and in the same religion. Israel shall be thy name — Jacob was graciously answered by God when he prayed to him, and was honoured with the glorious title of Israel, which noted his prevalency with God and men. And I, calling upon the same God, doubt not of a gracious answer; and if ever you mean to have your prayers granted, you must seek to the God of Jacob. And if you would recover the honour which was once conferred on Jacob, and continued a long time to his posterity, you must return to that God from whom you are revolted.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 they prophesied - Compare 1 Kings 22:12. The expression seems to be used of any case where there was an utterance of words by persons in a state of religious ecstasy.

Until the time of the offering etc - Rather, "Until toward the time." Elijah had built his altar by the actual time of the offering 1 Kings 18:36.

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. This he did, partly, to renew the covenant between God and all the tribes, as Moses did, Exodus 24:4; partly, to show that he prayed and acted in the name and for the service of the God of all the patriarchs, and of all the tribes of Israel, and for their good; and partly, to teach the people, that though the tribes were divided as to their civil government, they ought all to be united in the worship of the same God, and in the same religion.

Unto whom the word of the Lord came; which Jacob was graciously answered by God when he prayed to him, and was honoured with the glorious title of Israel, which noted his prevalency with God and men. And I, calling upon the same God, doubt not of a like gracious answer; and if ever you mean to have your prayers granted, you must not seek to Baal for it, who, as you now see, neither hears nor regards his most devout worshippers; but unto the God of Jacob; and if you would recover the honour which was once conferred upon Jacob, and continued a long time to his posterity, you must return to that God from whom you are revolted. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob,.... Which he might very easily come at from the mountain:

unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name, which signifies one that has power with God, as Jacob had, when the word came to him to make a change in his name at Penuel, Genesis 32:28, and as Elijah hoped and believed he should have at this time, being a prophet, and a worshipper of Israel's God.

And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
31. Elijah took twelve stones] On a similar preparation for an altar, compare the command of Joshua (Joshua 4:5) where the stones are also taken ‘according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel.’ In this way the unity of worship of the same one God was signified. Elijah’s prayer also recalls the still earlier memories of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.

of the sons of Jacob] The LXX. reads τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, thus making the expression more nearly to accord with the passage of Joshua just quoted. Also instead of ‘he built an altar’ the LXX. has ‘he built the stones,’ in the next verse.Verse 31. - And Elijah took twelve stones [This number, too, was full of significance. Not only would it carry back their thoughts to the giving of the law (Exodus 24:4; Exodus 28:21), and to their fathers' entrance into the promised land (Joshua 4:3, 9), but it would remind them of the essential unity of the people, notwithstanding the division of the kingdom. The act was thus a protest against the schism. We cannot hold with Keil, Wordsworth, al. that it was "a practical declaration on the part of the prophet that the division of the nation into two kingdoms was at variance with the will of God," because we are distinctly told that that division was "from the Lord" (1 Kings 12:15). But it was certainly a witness against a divided Church, and a reminder of the unity of the race], according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came [Genesis 32:28], saying, Israel shall be thy name. [He thus protests against the exclusive assumption of the name of Israel, and the exception of the southern kingdom from the glorious heritage and calling of Israel, by the ten tribes. But we cannot follow Bahr in the belief that Jacob received "from Jehovah the name of Israel," i.e., the "soldier of God," because he commanded his house to "put away the strange gods" (Genesis 35:2, 10 sqq.), or that Elijah would teach that "only those who did as Jacob did had a claim to his name." The great idea is that the people are one, and are the Lord's.] As the people adhered to their undecided double-mindedness, Elijah proposed to let the Deity Himself decide who was the true God, Jehovah or Baal. The prophets of Baal were to offer a sacrifice to Baal, and he (Elijah) would offer one to Jehovah. And the true God should make Himself known by kindling the burnt-offering presented to Him with fire from heaven, and in this way answering the invocation of His name. This proposal was based upon the account in Leviticus 9. As Jehovah had there manifested Himself as the God of Israel by causing fire to fall from heaven upon the first sacrifice presented in front of the tabernacle and to consume it, Elijah hoped that in like manner Jehovah would even now reveal Himself as the living God. And the form of decision thus proposed would necessarily appear all the fairer, because Elijah, the prophet of Jehovah, stood alone in opposition to a whole crowd of Baal's prophets, numbering no less than 450 men. And for that very reason the latter could not draw back, without publicly renouncing their pretensions, whether they believed that Baal would really do what was desired, or hoped that they might be able to escape, through some accident or stratagem, from the difficult situation that had been prepared for them, or fancied that the God of Elijah would no more furnish the proof of His deity that was desired of Him than Baal would. In order, however, to cut off every subterfuge in the event of their attempt proving a failure, Elijah not only yielded the precedence to them on the occasion of this sacrifice, but gave them the choice of the two oxen brought to be offered; which made the fairness of his proposal so much the more conspicuous to every one, that the people willingly gave their consent.
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