1 Kings 18:4
For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Jezebel cut off the prophets.—The persecution here referred to, in which for the first time the royal power was placed in distinct antagonism to the prophetic order, is only known by this allusion. It may probably have followed on the denunciation of judgment; and Elijah’s retirement to Cherith and Zarephath may have been a means of escape from it. If Elijah’s oft-repeated phrase, “I, even I, alone remain,” is to be taken literally, Obadiah’s merciful interposition must have availed only for a time, or have simply given opportunity of escape.

1 Kings 18:4. When Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord — The name of prophets was not only given to such as were endowed with an extraordinary spirit of prophecy, but to such ministers of religion as devoted themselves to the service of God, in preaching, praying, and praising him. There were schools of these prophets, it is likely, still remaining in Israel; but Jezebel endeavoured both to destroy the schools, and those that were brought up in them, in order that none might be left to instruct the people in the true religion. Obadiah — hid them by fifty in a cave — At the hazard of his own life, and against the king’s command; wisely considering that no command of an earthly prince could overrule the command of the King of kings. And fed them with bread and water — Sent them meat and drink privately every day. See how wonderfully God raises up friends for his ministers and people, where one would least expect them!

18:1-16 The severest judgments, of themselves, will not humble or change the hearts of sinners; nothing, except the blood of Jesus Christ, can atone for the guilt of sin; nothing, except the sanctifying Spirit of God, can purge away its pollution. The priests and the Levites were gone to Judah and Jerusalem, 2Ch 11:13,14, but instead of them God raised up prophets, who read and expounded the word. They probably were from the schools of the prophets, first set up by Samuel. They had not the spirit of prophecy as Elijah, but taught the people to keep close to the God of Israel. These Jezebel sought to destroy. The few that escaped death were forced to hide themselves. God has his remnant among all sorts, high and low; and that faith, fear, and love of his name, which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, will be accepted through the Redeemer. See how wonderfully God raises up friends for his ministers and people, for their shelter in difficult times. Bread and water were now scarce, yet Obadiah will find enough for God's prophets, to keep them alive. Ahab's care was not to lose all the beasts; but he took no care about his soul, not to lose that. He took pains to seek grass, but none to seek the favour of God; fencing against the effect, but not inquiring how to remove the cause. But it bodes well with a people, when God calls his ministers to stand forth, and show themselves. And we may the better endure the bread of affliction, while our eyes see our teachers.We have no details of Jezebel's deed of blood. Some have conjectured that it was the answer of Jezebel to Elijah's threat, and that the command given him to hide in Cherith alone saved him from being one of the victims. This view receives some support from Obadiah's act and words 1 Kings 18:13.

Fifty in a cave - The limestone formation of Judaea and Samaria abounds with large natural caverns, the size of which is easily increased by art. These "caves" play an important part in the history of the country, serving especially as refuges for political offenders and other fugitives Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6; Hebrews 11:38.

4. an hundred prophets—not men endowed with the extraordinary gifts of the prophetic office, but who were devoted to the service of God, preaching, praying, praising, &c. (1Sa 10:10-12).

fed them with bread and water—These articles are often used to include sustenance of any kind. As this succor must have been given them at the hazard, not only of his place, but his life, it was a strong proof of his attachment to the true religion.

Prophets: this name is not only given to such as are endowed with an extraordinary spirit of prophecy, but to such ministers as devoted themselves to the service of God in preaching, praying, praising God, and the like, as 1 Samuel 10:10-12; and in this place compared with 1 Kings 18:22, where Elijah saith,

I only remain a prophet of the Lord, to wit, strictly so called; and Matthew 10:41 1 Corinthians 12:28,29 1 Corinthians 14:29.

Fed them, with the hazard of his own life, and against the king’s command; as wisely considering that no command of an earthly prince could overrule the command of the supreme Lord, the King of kings, or discharge him from those acts of piety to God, and charity to men, which God’s law indispensably required.

With bread and water; either properly, which was a great kindness in those circumstances; or figuratively, i.e. with meat and drink.

For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord,.... Or slew them, as the Targum; put them to death some way or another; such as were brought up in the schools of the prophets, trained up in religious exercises, and instructed others therein:

that Obadiah took one hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave; fifty in one cave and fifty in another; for there were large caves in the land of Israel capable of holding such a number, and many more, see 1 Samuel 22:1 and fed them with bread and water; which in this time of famine were very acceptable; though these may be put for all the necessaries of life.

For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord] Not content with having Baal-worship established and fostered by her husband, the queen determined to destroy all the worshippers of Jehovah, and probably she included in her extermination the priests who ministered at Dan and Bethel, for they did not disown Jehovah, though they brake His law by setting up an image to represent him. But no doubt the larger number whom Jezebel cut off were ‘the sons of the prophets,’ those who belonged to the schools of the prophets, which we learn from 2 Kings 2. were both numerous and largely frequented. It was a hundred of these men whom Obadiah saved in the time of persecution. The story of Jezebel’s butchery is not given us, but it is alluded to here and in 1 Kings 19:10-14.

Verse 4. - For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord [Our author now instances a proof of Obadiah's devotion. The incident to which he refers is otherwise unknown to us, nor can we refer it with certainty to its proper place in the history. But it is extremely probable that this work of extermination was begun as an act of reprisals for the drought denounced by Elijah. Ver. 13 almost implies that it had taken place during his absence. We see here, consequently, an additional reason for his flight (cf. 1 Kings 19:2). These "prophets" are the same as those elsewhere called the "sons of the prophets, i.e., members of the prophetic schools; cf. 2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7, etc.] that Obadiah took an hundred prophets [This would lead us to suppose that the great majority escaped. But see ver. 19 and 1 Kings 22:6. That we find so large a number still in the land, notwithstanding the exodus (2 Chronicles 11:16), and the steady growth of impiety, shows that God had not left Himself without witnesses], and hid them by fifty [Keil would insert a second הֲחמִשִׁים as do some MSS. (Gardiner), and as in ver. 13. Such a word might easily be omitted in transcription, it is true. But "proclivi lectioni," etc.] in a cave [Heb. the cave; but LXX. ἐν σπηλαὶῳ. Similarly in ver. 13. What is the force of the article here it is somewhat difficult to say. It has been suggested that these caves were in the sides of Mount Carmel; there are large caves under the western cliffs (Stanley); more than two thousand, according to others; "often of great length and extremely tortuous" (Dic. Bib. 1. p. 278); but this is mere guesswork, as Palestine, being of limestone formation, abounds in caverns. See Stanley, S. and P. pp. 151, 52. From the earliest times we find men - outlaws and the like - taking up their abode therein. Of. Joshua 10:17; Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 22:1; Ezekiel 33:27; Hebrews 11:38. Probably the division into two companies was partly for the sake of security (see Genesis 22:8), and partly for the sake of convenience. The greater the number to be fed, the greater the chance of detection. Compare also Jacob's precautions Genesis 32:8], and fed them with bread [or, food] and water.) [It is to be observed, as bearing on 1 Kings 17:3-6, that these hundred prophets, though preserved by the special providence of God, were nevertheless maintained through human agency and by natural means. 1 Kings 18:4Elijah's meeting with Ahab. - 1 Kings 18:1, 1 Kings 18:2. In the third year of his sojourn at Zarephath the word of the Lord came to Elijah to show himself to Ahab; since God was about to send rain upon the land again. The time given, "the third year," is not to be reckoned, as the Rabbins, Clericus, Thenius, and others assume, from the commencement of the drought, but from the event last mentioned, namely, the sojourn of Elijah at Zarephath. This view merits the preference as the simplest and most natural one, and is shown to be the oldest by Luke 4:25 and James 5:17, where Christ and James both say, that in the time of Ahab it did not rain for three years and six months. And this length of time can only be obtained by allowing more than two years for Elijah's stay at Zarephath. - From 1 Kings 18:2 to 1 Kings 18:6 we have parenthetical remarks introduced, to explain the circumstances which led to Elijah's meeting with Ahab. The verbs ויּקרא, ויהי, ויּאמר ,ויהי , and ויחלּקוּ (1 Kings 18:3, 1 Kings 18:4, 1 Kings 18:5, 1 Kings 18:6) carry on the circumstantial clauses: "and the famine was..." (1 Kings 18:2), and "Obadiah feared..." (1 Kings 18:3), and are therefore to be expressed by the pluperfect. When the famine had become very severe in Samaria (the capital), Ahab, with Obadiah the governor of his castle (הבּית על אשׁר, see at 1 Kings 4:6), who was a God-fearing man, and on the persecution of the prophets of Jehovah by Jezebel had hidden a hundred prophets in caves and supplied them with food, had arranged for an expedition through the whole land to seek for hay for his horses and mules. And for this purpose they had divided the land between them, so that the one explored one district and the other another. We see from Obadiah 1:4 that Jezebel had resolved upon exterminating the worship of Jehovah, and sought to carry out this intention by destroying the prophets of the true God. The hundred prophets whom Obadiah concealed were probably for the most part pupils ("sons") of the prophets. אישׁ חמשּׁים must signify, according to the context and also according to Obadiah 1:13, "fifty each," so that חמשּׁים must have fallen out through a copyist's error. מן נכרית ולוא, that we may not be obliged to kill (a portion) of the cattle (מן partitive). The Keri מהבּהמה is no doubt actually correct, but it is not absolutely necessary, as the Chethb בּהמה מן may be taken as an indefinite phrase: "any head of cattle."
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