1 Kings 18:32
And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
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(32) Measures.—The “measure,” the third part of the ephah, hence also often called shalish (a “tierce,” or “third”), was something less than three gallons. A trench to contain only six gallons seems too insignificant for the context; hence it is supposed that the sense is “large enough for the sowing (as in a furrow) of two measures of seed.”

1 Kings 18:32-33. With the stones he built an altar — With the assistance of the people, who now readily yielded their helping hands. In the name of the Lord — By the authority of God and for his worship. He made a trench, as great as would contain two measures of seed — As capacious, say some, as a sack that would contain that quantity, namely, two third parts of an ephah. Others understand the words as meaning a trench of sufficient breadth and circuit to sow therein that quantity of seed, or about twenty pounds’ weight of barley: which must have been very large indeed. Fill four barrels with water — This they could quickly fetch, either from the river Kishon; or, if that was dried up, from the sea; both were at the foot of the mountain. This he did to make the miracle more glorious, and more unquestionable; to show that there was no fallacy in it, no fire concealed in or about the altar; but that the lightning which was to consume the sacrifice came from heaven; and came at Elijah’s invocation; and Josephus tells us, that Elijah invited the people to draw near, that they might search and spy everywhere, if they could find any fire secretly conveyed under the altar. Antiq. lib. 8. cap. 7.

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.He built an altar in the name of the Lord - i. e., calling, as he built it, on the name of Yahweh, and so dedicating it to His service.

Two measures of seed - literally, "two seahs of seed." The seah contained about three gallons.

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. With the assistance of the people, who readily yielded their helping hand,

he built an altar; which, though generally forbidden, he might do, because he did it by the command and suggestion of God, who can dispense with his own laws, and upon apparent and urgent necessity, and for a work of great mercy, (to which even by God’s command the ceremonial laws must give place, Hosea 6:6 Mark 2:27) even for the conversion of the Israelites, whom it was impossible to bring to the altar of Jerusalem at this time.

In the name of the Lord; by the authority of God, and for his worship.

Two measures, i.e. two third parts of an ephah; which shows that the trench was of a competent largeness.

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.

And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
32. a trench] The LXX. has θάλασσαν = a sea, which is interesting in connexion with the name given to the great cistern which Solomon caused to be made for the temple-services. Cf. 1 Kings 7:23 above.

as great as would contain two measures of seed] The LXX. omits these words, which are not quite easy of explanation. The measure mentioned is a seah, which is the third part of an ephah. But whether the dimension applies to each side of the altar, so that on each of the four sides there would be a ditch of this capacity, or whether this was the capacity of the whole surrounding trench is not evident. It was clearly intended to catch the water that was poured over the sacrifice.

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.] 1 Kings 18:32Elijah took twelve stones, "according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come (Genesis 32:29; Genesis 35:10), Israel shall be thy name," and built these stones into an altar. The twelve stones were a practical declaration on the part of the prophet that the division of the nation into two kingdoms was at variance with the divine calling of Israel, inasmuch as according to the will of God the twelve tribes were to form one people of Jehovah, and to have a common sacrificial altar; whilst the allusion to the fact that Jehovah had given to the forefather of the nation the name of Israel, directs attention to the wrong which the seceding ten tribes had done in claiming the name of Israel for themselves, whereas it really belonged to the whole nation. יהוה בּשׁם (in the name of Jehovah) belongs to יבנה (built), and signifies by the authority and for the glory of Jehovah. "And made a trench as the space of two seahs of seed (i.e., so large that you could sow two seahs

(Note: i.e., about two Dresden pecks (Metzen). - Thenius.)

of seed upon the ground which it covered) round about the altar." The trench must therefore have been of considerable breadth and depth, although it is impossible to determine the exact dimensions, as the kind of seed-corn is not defined. He then arranged the sacrifice upon the altar, and had four Kad (pails) of water poured three times in succession upon the burnt-offering which was laid upon the pieces of wood, so that the water flowed round about the altar, and then had the trench filled with water.

(Note: Thenius throws suspicion upon the historical character of this account, on the ground that "the author evidently forgot the terrible drought, by which the numerous sources of the Carmel and the Nachal Kishon must have been dried up;" but Van de Velde has already answered this objection, which has been raised by others also, and has completely overthrown it by pointing out the covered well of el Mohraka, in relation to which he makes the following remark: "In such springs the water remains always cool, under the shade of a vaulted roof, and with no hot atmosphere to evaporate it. While all other fountains were dried up, I can well understand that there might have been found here that superabundance of water which Elijah poured so profusely over the altar" (vol. i. p. 325, trans.). But the drying up of the Kishon is a mere conjecture, which cannot be historically proved.)

Elijah adopted this course for the purpose of precluding all suspicion of even the possibility of fraud in connection with the miraculous burning of the sacrifice. For idolaters had carried their deceptions to such a length, that they would set fire to the wood of the sacrifices from hollow spaces concealed beneath the altars, in order to make the credulous people believe that the sacrifice had been miraculously set on fire by the deity. Ephraem Syrus and Joh. Chrysostom both affirm this; the latter in his Oratio in Petrum Apost. et Eliam proph. t. ii. p. 737, ed. Montf., the genuineness of which, however, is sometimes called in question.

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