Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)1 Kings 18:38. The fire of the Lord fell — And not only, as at other times, (see the margin,) consumed the sacrifice and the wood, in token of God’s acceptance of the offering, but licked up all the water that was in the trench, exhaling and drawing it up as a vapour, to descend (with other water, to be raised from the adjoining sea) in the intended rain, which was to be the fruit of this sacrifice and prayer, more than the product of natural causes. And this was not all. To complete the miracle, the fire consumed the stones of the altar, and the very dust, to show that it was no ordinary fire, and perhaps to intimate that though God accepted this occasional sacrifice from this altar, yet for the future they ought to demolish all the altars on their high places, and for their constant sacrifices make use of that at Jerusalem only. Moses’s altar and Solomon’s were consecrated by fire from heaven; but this was destroyed, because it was to be used no more. We may well imagine, what a terror this fire struck on guilty Ahab, and all the worshippers of Baal, and how they fled from it as far and as fast as they could, saying, in their hearts, Lest it consume us also, Numbers 16:34.
and consumed the burnt sacrifice; as it had done in former instances, Leviticus 9:24, and besides this, which is still more extraordinary,
and the wood, and the stones, and the dust; of the altar, thereby signifying that even such were not to be used any more:
and licked up the water that was in the trench; around the altar, see 1 Kings 18:32.Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)38. Then the fire of the Lord fell] In the LXX. we have ‘and there fell fire from the Lord out of heaven.’
burnt sacrifice] R.V. burnt-offering as in 1 Kings 18:33. To mark the might of Him who sent the fire, it not only consumes the victims and licks up the water, but devoured wood, stones and dust alike.Verse 38. - Then the fire of the Lord [Jehovah. Not lightning, but supernatural light and heat emanating from God Himself. Cf. Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1; Hebrews 12:29] fell, and consumed [Heb. ate up, devoured] the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones [in calcem redigit, Cler.], and the dust [Bahr translates die Erde, and understands this to be the earth with which the altar of twelve stones had been packed. Similarly Rawlinson. But it is very doubtful whether עָפָר pulvis, could be used in this sense. It may mean dry earth, but this altar had been deluged with water], and licked up [לָחַך is clearly onomatopoetic, like our lick; Germ. lecken; Gr. λείχω, etc. It expresses well the action of tongues of flame] the water that was in the trench. 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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