1 Kings 19:9
And he came thither to a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, What do you here, Elijah?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) A cave.—This is properly, “the cave”—perhaps a reference to some cave already well known, as connected with the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, or perhaps only an anticipatory reference to the cave which Elijah’s sojourn was to make famous.

The word of the Lord came to him.—The connection suggests that this message came to him in vision or dream at night. The LXX. implies this distinctly by inserting in 1Kings 19:11 the word “to-morrow,” which is also found in the rather vague and prosaic paraphrase of the passage in Josephus. What Elijah replies in imagination in the vision, he repeats next day in actual words.

1 Samuel - 1 Kings

ELIJAH’S WEAKNESS, AND ITS CUBE

WHAT DOEST THOU HERE?

1 Samuel 29:3
. - 1 Kings 19:9.

I have put these two verses together, not only because of their identity in form, though that is striking, but because they bear upon one and the same subject, as will appear, if, in a word or two, I set each of them in its setting. David was almost at the lowest point of his fortunes when he fled into foreign territory, and for awhile took service under one of the kings of the Philistines. He served him faithfully, and so, when the last great fight, in which Saul lost his life, was about to be waged between Philistia and Israel, David and his men came as a contingent to the army of the former. The Philistine commanders, very naturally, were suspicious of these allies, just as Englishmen would have been if, on the night before Waterloo, a brigade of Frenchmen had deserted and offered their help to fight Napoleon. So the question ‘What do these Hebrews here?’-amongst our ranks-was an extremely natural one, and it was answered in the only possible way, by the subsequent departure of David and his men from the unnatural and ill-omened alliance.

Now, that suggests to us that Christian people are out of their places, even in the eyes of worldly people, when they are fighting shoulder to shoulder with them in certain causes; and it suggests the propriety of keeping apart. ‘Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord’ ‘What do these Hebrews here?’ is a question that Philistia often asks. But now turn to the other question. Elijah had fallen into the mood of depression which so often follows great nervous tension. He had just offered the sacrifice on Carmel, and brought all Israel back to the Lord, and Jezebel had flamed out and threatened his life. The usually undaunted prophet, in the reaction after his great effort, was fearful for his life and deserted his work, flung himself into solitude and shook the dust off his feet against Israel. Was that not just doing what I have been saying that Christian people ought to do-separating himself from the world? In a sense, yes, but the voice came, ‘What dost thou here, Elijah?’ ‘Go back to your work; to Ahab, to Jezebel. Go back to death if need be. Do not shirk your duty on the pretence of separating yourself from the world.’

So we put the two questions together. They limit one another, and they suggest the via media, the course between, and lead me to say one or two plain things about that duty of Christian separation from an evil world.

I. The first thing that I would suggest to you is the inevitable intermingling, which is the law of God, and therefore can never be broken with impunity.

Christ’s parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in the world being like a man that sowed good seed in his field, which sprung up intermingled with tares, contains the lesson, not so much of the purity or nonpurity of the Church as of the inseparable intertwining in the world of Christian people with others. The roots are matted together, and you cannot pull up a tare without danger of pulling up a wheat-stalk that has got interlaced with it. That is but to say that Society at present, and the earthly form of the Kingdom of God, are not organised on the basis of religious affinity, but upon a great many other things, such as family, kindred, business, a thousand ties of all sorts which mat men together, and make it undesirable, impossible, contrary to God’s intention, that the good people should club themselves together, and leave the bad ones to rot and stink. The two are meant to be in close contact. ‘Let both grow together till the harvest.’ If any Christian man were to do as the monks of old did, fly into solitude to look after his own soul, then the question which came to Elijah would be suitable to him, ‘What doest thou here?’ Is there not work enough for you out there, in that wicked world? Is that not the place for you? Where is the place for the ‘salt’? Where the meat is in danger of putrefaction. Rub it in! That is what it was meant for. ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ That suggests the picture of a lamp upon a pedestal that it may send out its rays, but itself remains apart. But the companion metaphor suggests the closest possible contact, and such contact is duty for us Christian people. Elijah ran away from his work. There are types of Christian life to-day unwholesomely self-engrossed, and too much occupied with their own spiritual condition, to realise and discharge the duty of witnessing in the world. Wherever you find a Christian man -whether he is a monk with bare foot, and a rope round his brown robe, and shaven head, or whether he is in the garb of modern Protestantism- that tries more to keep himself apart, in the enjoyment and cultivation of his own religious life, than to fling himself into the midst of the world’s worst evil, in order to fight and to cure it, you get a man who is sharing in Elijah’s transgression, and needs Elijah’s rebuke. The intermingling is inevitable in the present state of things; and family, kindred, business, social and political movements, all require that Christian people should work side by side with men who are not possessors of ‘like precious faith.’ If ever there have been individuals or communities that have tried to traverse that law, they have developed narrowness and bitterness and stunted growth, and a hundred evils that we all know.

II. And now let me say a word about the second thing, and that is-the imperative separation.

‘What do these Israelites here?’ is the question. Much of all our lives lies outside these necessary connections with the world, of which I have been speaking. And the question for each of us is, What do we do when we are left to do as we like? Where do we go? When the iron weight fastened by the bit of string is taken off the sapling, it starts back to its original uprightness. Is that what your Christianity does for you? When you are left to yourself, when you have done all the work that is required, and you are free, where do you turn naturally? It is of no use to lay down special regulations. There has been far too much regulation and red-tape in our Christianity all along. Do not let us put so much stress upon individual acts. Let us look at the spirit. Whither do I turn? What do I like to do? Who are my chosen companions? What are my recreations? Is my life of such a sort as that the world will point to me, and say, ‘What! you here I a professing Christian; what are you doing here?’

I remember that in the autobiography of Mr. Spurgeon, there is a story told about what he did when a child, and living with his grandfather, the pastor of a little country church. There was a very prominent member of that church who was in the habit of going into the public-house occasionally; and the small boy stepped into the sanded parlour where this inconsistent man was sitting, walked up to him, and said, ‘What doest thou here, Elijah?’ It was the turning-point of the man’s life. That is the question that I desire us all to ask ourselves-where do we go, and what sort of lives do we live in the moments when our own voluntary choice determines our action?

‘A man is known by the company he keeps,’ says an old Latin proverb, and I am bound to say that I do not think that it is a good sign of the depth of a Christian professor’s religion if he feels himself more at home in the company of people who do not share his religion than in the company of those that do. I do not wish to be strait-laced and narrow, but I do not wish, either, to be so broad as to obliterate altogether the distinction between Christian people and others. The fact of the case is this, dear friends; if we are Christ’s servants we have more in common with the most uncongenial Christians than we have with the most congenial man who is not a Christian. And if we were nearer our Master we should feel that it was so. ‘Being let go they went to their own company.’ Where do you go when you can make your choice?

I am not going to speak in detail about occupations or recreations. I can quite believe that the theatre might be made an instrument of morality. I can quite believe that a race-course might be a perfectly innocent place. I can quite believe that there may be no harm in a dance. All that I say is that there are two questions which every Christian professor ought to ask himself about such subjects. One is, Can I ask God to bless this thing, and my doing it? And the other is, Does this help or hinder my religion? If we will take these two questions with us as tests of conduct and companionship, I do not think that we shall go far wrong, either in the choice of our companions, or in the choice of our surroundings of any kind, or in the choice of our recreations and our occupations. But if we do not, then I am quite sure that we shall go wrong in them all. ‘What communion hath light with darkness?’ ‘What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.’

The main question is, do I grasp the aim of life with clearness and decision as being to make myself by God’s help such a character as God has pleasure in? If I do I shall regulate all these things thereby.

III. Now there is one last suggestion that I wish to make, and that is the double questioning that we shall have to stand.

The lords of the Philistines said, ‘What do these Hebrews here?’ They saw the inconsistency, if David and his men did not. They were sharp to detect it, and David and his band did not rise in their opinion, but decidedly went down, when they saw them marching there, in such an unnatural place as ‘behind Achish,’ and ready to flesh their swords in the blood of their brethren. So let me tell you, you will neither recommend your religion nor yourselves to men of the world, by inconsistently trying to identify yourselves with them. There are a great many professing Christians nowadays whose mouths are full of the word ‘liberality,’ and who seem to try to show how absolutely identical with a godless man’s a God-fearing one’s life may be made. Do you think that the world respects that type of Christian, or regards his religion as the kind of thing to be admired? No; the question that they fling at such people is the question which David was humiliated by having pitched at his head-’What do these Hebrews here?’ ‘Let them go back to their mountains. This is no place for them.’ The world respects an out-and-out Christian; but neither God nor the world respects an inconsistent one.

But there is another question, and another Questioner-’What doest thou here, Elijah?’ God did not ask Elijah the question because he did not know the answer; but because he wished to make Elijah put his mood into words, since then Elijah would understand it a little better, and, when he found the tremendous difficulty of making a decent excuse, would begin to suspect that the conduct that wanted so much glozing was not exactly the conduct fit for a prophet. And so let us think that God is looking down upon us, in all our occupation of our free time, and that He is wishing us to put into words what we are about, and why we are where we are.

What do you think you would say if, in some of these moments of unnecessary intermingling with questionable things and doubtful people, you were brought suddenly to this, that you had to formulate into some kind of plausibility your reason for being there? I am afraid it would be a very lame and ragged set of reasons that many of us would have to give. Well! better that we should now have to answer the question ‘What doest thou here?’ than that we should have to fail in answering the future question, after we have done with the world: ‘What didst thou there?’

Dear brethren, let us cleave to Christ, and that will separate us from the world. If we cleave to the world, that will separate us from Christ. I do not insist on details of conduct, but I do beseech you, professing Christians, to recognise that you are set in the world in order to grow like your Master, and that their tendency to help you to that likeness is the one test of all occupations, recreations, and companionships, by which we may know whether we are in or out of the place that pleases Him. And if we are in it, that blessed hope which is held forth in the parable to which I have already referred, will come full of sweetness and of strength to us, that, yonder, men will be grouped according to their moral and religious character; that the tares will be taken away from the wheat, and, that as Christ says, ‘Then shall the righteous flame as the sun in their heavenly Father’s Kingdom.’

1 Kings

ELIJAH’S WEAKNESS, AND ITS CUBE

1 Kings 19:1 - 1 Kings 19:18
.

The miracle on Carmel cowed, if it did not convince, Ahab, so that he did not oppose the slaughter of the Baal prophets; but Jezebel was made of sterner stuff, and her passionate idolatry was proof against even a sign from heaven. Obstinacy in error is often a rebuke to tremulous faith in God. She fiercely puts her back to the wall, and defies Elijah and his God. Her threat to the prophet has a certain audacity of frankness almost approaching generosity. She will give her victim fair play. This woman is ‘magnificent in sin.’ The Septuagint prefixes to her oath, ‘As surely as thou art Elijah and I Jezebel,’ which adds force to it. It also reads, by a very slight change in the Hebrew, in 1 Kings 19:3, ‘he was afraid,’ for ‘he saw,’-which is possibly right, as giving his motive for escape more distinctly.

I. We may note, first, the prophet’s flight {1 Kings 19:3 - 1 Kings 19:8}. Beersheba, on the southern border of the kingdom of Judah, was eloquent of memories of the patriarchs, but though it was nearly a hundred miles from Jezreel, Jezebel’s arm was long enough to reach the fugitive there, and therefore he plunged deeper into the dreary southern desert. He left behind him his servant, his ‘young man,’ as the original has it, whom Rabbinical tradition identified with the miraculously resuscitated son of the widow of Zarephath, and supposed to become afterwards the prophet Jonah. Thus alone but for the company of his own gloomy thoughts, and wearied with toilsome travel in the sun-smitten waste, he took shelter under the shadow of a solitary shrub {the Hebrew emphatically calls it ‘one juniper,’ or rather ‘broom-plant’}, and there the waves of depression went over him.

His complaint is not to be wondered at, though it was wrong. The very overstrain of the scene on Carmel brought reaction. The height of the crest of one wave measures the depth of the trough of the next, and no mortal spirit can keep itself at the sublime elevation reached by Elijah when alone he fronted and converted a nation. The supposed necessity for flight, coming so immediately after apparent victory, showed him how hollow the change in the people was. What had become of all the fervency of their shout, ‘The Lord, He is the God!’ if they could leave Jezebel the power to carry out her threat? Solitude and the awful desert increased his gloom. The strong man had become weak, and it was ebb-tide with him. His prayer was petulant, impatient, presumptuous. What right had he to settle what was ‘enough’? If he really wished to die, he could have found death at Jezreel, and had no need to travel a hundred miles to seek a grave. He was weary of his work, and profoundly disappointed by what he hastily concluded was its failure, and in a fit of faithless despondency he forgot reverence, submission, and obedience.

If Elijah can become weak, and his courage die out, and his zeal become torpid apathy and cowardly wish to shuffle off responsibility and shirk work, who shall stand? The lessons of self-distrust, of the nearness to one another of the most opposite emotions in our weak natures, of the depth of gloom into which the boldest and brightest servant of God may fall as soon as he loses hold of God’s hand, never had a more striking instance to point them than that mighty prophet, sitting huddled together in utter despondency below the solitary retem bush, praying his foolish prayer for death.

The meal to which an angel twice waked him was God’s answer to his prayer, telling him both that his life was still needful and that God cared for him. Perhaps one of Elijah’s reasons for taking to the desert was the thought that he might starve there, and so find death. At all events, God for the third time miraculously provides his food. The ravens, the widow of Zarephath, an angel, were his caterers; and, instead of taking away his life, God Himself sends the bread and water to preserve it. The revelation of a watchful, tender Providence often rebukes gloomy unbelief and shames us back to faith. We are not told whether the journey to Horeb was commanded, or, like the flight from Jezreel, was Elijah’s own doing; but, in any case, he must have wandered in the desert, to have taken forty days to reach it.

II. The second stage is the vision at Horeb {1 Kings 19:9 - 1 Kings 19:14}. The history of Israel has never touched Horeb since Moses left it, and it is not without significance that we are once more on that sacred ground. The parallel between Moses and Elijah is very real. These two names stand out above all others in the history of the theocracy, the one as its founder, the other as its restorer; both distinguished by special revelations, both endowed with exceptional force of character and power of the Spirit; the one the lawgiver, the other the head of the prophetic order; both having something peculiar in their departure, and both standing together, in witness of their supremacy in the past, and of their inferiority in the future, by Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. The associations of the place are marked by the use of the definite article, which is missed in the Authorised Version,-’the cave,’ that same cleft in the rock where Moses had stood. Note, too, that the word rendered ‘lodged’ is literally ‘passed the night,’ and that therefore we may suppose that the vision came to Elijah in the darkness.

That question, ‘What doest thou here?’ can scarcely be freed from a tone of rebuke; but, like Christ’s to the travellers to Emmaus, and many another interrogation from God, it is also put in order to allow of the loaded heart’s relieving itself by pouring out all its griefs. God’s questions are the assurance of His listening ear and sympathising heart. This one is like a little key which opens a great sluice. Out gushes a full stream. His forty days’ solitude have done little for him. A true answer would have been, ‘I was afraid of Jezebel.’ He takes credit for zeal, and seems to insinuate that he had been more zealous for God than God had been for Himself. He forgets the national acknowledgment of Jehovah at Carmel, and the hundred prophets protected by good Obadiah. Despondency has the knack of picking its facts. It is colour-blind, and can only see dark tints. He accuses his countrymen, as if he would stir up God to take vengeance.

How different this weak and sinful wail over his solitude from the heroic mention of it on Carmel, when it only nerved his courage I {verse 22}. The divine manifestation which followed is evidently meant to recall that granted to Moses on the same spot. ‘The Lord passed by’ is all but verbally quoted from Exodus 34:6, and the truth that had been proclaimed in words to Moses was enforced by symbol to Elijah. If the vision was in the night, as 1 Kings 19:9 suggests, it becomes still more impressive. The fierce wind that roared among the savage peaks, the shock that made the mountains reel, and the flashing flames that lighted up the wild landscape, were all phenomena of one kind, and at once expressed God’s lordship over all destructive agencies of nature, and symbolised the more vehement and disturbing forms of energy, used by Him for the furtherance of His purposes in the field of history or of revelation. Elijah’s ministry was of such a sort, and he had now to learn the limitations of his work, and the superiority of another type, represented by the ‘sound of gentle stillness.’

It is the same lesson which Moses learned there, when he heard that the Lord is ‘a God full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy and truth.’ It was exemplified in the gentle Elisha, the successor of Elijah. It reached far beyond the time then present, and was indeed a Messianic prophecy, declaring the inmost character of Him in whom ‘the Lord is,’ in an altogether special sense. Elijah as a prophet brought no new knowledge, and uttered no far-reaching predictions; but he received one of the deepest and clearest prophecies of the gentleness of God’s highest Messenger, and on Horeb saw afar off what he saw fulfilled on the Mountain of Transfiguration. Nor is his vision exhausted by its Messianic reference. It contains an eternal truth for all God’s servants. Storm, earthquake, and fire may be God’s precursors, and needed sometimes to prepare His way; but gentleness is ‘the habitation of His throne,’ and they serve Him best, and are nearest Him whom they serve, who are meek in heart and gentle among enemies, ‘as a nurse cherisheth her children.’ Love is the victor, and the sharpest weapons of the Christian are love and lowliness.

The lesson was not at first grasped by Elijah, as his repetition of his complaint, word for word, with almost dogged obstinacy, shows. The best of us are slow to learn God’s lessons, and a habit of faithless gloom is not soon overcome. It is much easier to get down into the pit than to struggle out of it.

III. The commission for further service, which closes the scene, is a further rebuke to the prophet. He is bidden to retrace his way and to take refuge in the desert lying to the south and east of Damascus, where he would be safe from Jezebel, and still not far from the scene of his activity. The instructions given to anoint a king of Syria and one of Israel were not fulfilled by Elijah, but by his successor; and we have to suppose that further commands were given to him on that subject. The third injunction, to anoint his successor, was obeyed at once on his journey, though Ahelmeholah, on Gilboa, was dangerously near Jezreel. The designation of these future instruments of God’s purpose was at once a sign to Elijah that his own task was drawing to a close {having reached its climax on Carmel}, and that God had great designs beyond him and his service. The true conception of our work is that we sire only links in a chain, and that we can be done without. ‘God removes the workers and carries on the work.’ To anoint our successor is often a bitter pill; but self-importance needs to be taken down, and it is blessed to lose ourselves in gazing into the future of God’s work, when we are gone from the field.

Further, the commissions met Elijah’s despondency in another way; for they assured him of the divine judgments on the house of Ahab, and of the use of the Syrian king as a rod to chastise Israel. He had thought God too slow in avenging His dishonoured name, and had been taught the might of gentleness; but now he also learns the certainty of punishment, while the enigmatical promise that Elisha should ‘slay’ those who escaped the swords of Hazael and Jehu dimly points to the merciful energy of that prophet’s word, his only sword, which shall slay but to revive, and wound to heal. ‘I have hewed them by the . . . words of my mouth.’

Finally, the revelation of the seven thousand-a round number, which expresses the sacredness as well as the numerousness of the elect, hidden ones-rebukes the hasty assumption of his being left alone, ‘faithful among the faithless.’ God has more servants than we know of. Let us beware of feeding either our self-righteousness or our narrowness or our faint-heartedness with the fancy that we have a monopoly of faithfulness, or are left alone to witness for God.1 Kings 19:9. He came thither — Unto the mount where God had formerly manifested his glory in so extraordinary a manner; unto a cave, and lodged there — Perhaps the same cave, or cleft of a rock, in which Moses was hid, when the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed his name. Hither, in his wanderings, the Lord led him, probably to assist his faith and devotion with the sight of that famous place where the law was given, and so many great things were done, and that he might meet God there, where Moses had so often met with him. Behold, the word of the Lord came to him — We cannot go any where so as to be out of the reach of God’s eye, his arm, and his word: Whither can I flee from thy Spirit? God will take care of his outcasts; and those that for his sake are driven out from among men, he will find and own, and gather with everlasting loving-kindness. What doest thou here, Elijah? — A tacit reproof: as much as to say, I have no business for thee here. This is not thy proper place, nor a place wherein to do me service. It is not the station in which I set thee, which was in Israel, that thou mightest turn unto me that backsliding people, to which end I endowed thee with extraordinary powers, and vouchsafed thee my almighty aid and protection, and would not have failed to continue them unto thee, if thou hadst remained there.19:9-13 The question God put, What doest thou here, Elijah? is a reproof. It concerns us often to ask whether we are in our place, and in the way of our duty. Am I where I should be? whither God calls me, where my business lies, and where I may be useful? He complained of the people, and their obstinacy in sin; I only am left. Despair of success hinders many a good enterprise. Did Elijah come hither to meet with God? he shall find that God will meet him. The wind, and earthquake, and fire, did not make him cover his face, but the still voice did. Gracious souls are more affected by the tender mercies of the Lord, than by his terrors. The mild voice of Him who speaks from the cross, or the mercy-seat, is accompanied with peculiar power in taking possession of the heart.A cave - Rather, "the cave." Some well-known cave must be intended - perhaps the "cliff of the rock" Exodus 33:22. The traditional "cave of Elijah" which is shown in the secluded plain immediately below the highest summit of the Jebel Mousa, cannot, from its small size, be the real cavern. 1Ki 19:4-18. He Is Comforted by an Angel.

4-18. went a day's journey into the wilderness—on the way from Beer-sheba to Horeb—a wide expanse of sand hills, covered with the retem (not juniper, but broom shrubs), whose tall and spreading branches, with their white leaves, afford a very cheering and refreshing shade. His gracious God did not lose sight of His fugitive servant, but watched over him, and, miraculously ministering to his wants, enabled him, in a better but not wholly right frame of mind, by virtue of that supernatural supply, to complete his contemplated journey. In the solitude of Sinai, God appeared to instruct him. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" was a searching question addressed to one who had been called to so arduous and urgent a mission as his. By an awful exhibition of divine power, he was made aware of the divine speaker who addressed him; his attention was arrested, his petulance was silenced, his heart was touched, and he was bid without delay return to the land of Israel, and prosecute the Lord's work there. To convince him that an idolatrous nation will not be unpunished, He commissions him to anoint three persons who were destined in Providence to avenge God's controversy with the people of Israel. Anointing is used synonymously with appointment (Jud 9:8), and is applied to all named, although Jehu alone had the consecrated oil poured over his head. They were all three destined to be eminent instruments in achieving the destruction of idolaters, though in different ways. But of the three commissions, Elijah personally executed only one; namely, the call of Elisha to be his assistant and successor [1Ki 19:19], and by him the other two were accomplished (2Ki 8:7-13; 9:1-10). Having thus satisfied the fiery zeal of the erring but sincere and pious prophet, the Lord proceeded to correct the erroneous impression under which Elijah had been laboring, of his being the sole adherent of the true religion in the land; for God, who seeth in secret, and knew all that were His, knew that there were seven thousand persons who had not done homage (literally, "kissed the hand") to Baal.

A tacit reproof. This is not thy proper place, nor the station in which I set thee, which was in Israel, to turn that backsliding people, to which end I gave thee my help, and would have proceeded to assist thee further, if thou hadst continued there. Nor did I give thee those excellent gifts to lie idle in this wilderness, but to employ them for thy people’s good, whom now thou hast deserted, and art come hither, not by my command, but through thy own fear and cowardice. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there,.... This cave, some travellers say (u), is to be seen at this day, not far from a church dedicated to the prophet Elijah, and that the cave itself has the appearance of a chapel; but a more particular account of it is given in a journal (w) lately published, which says, this cave exists to this very day, and is situated at the foot of Mount Sinai, and is now enclosed in a church built of red and white granite marble, the entrance into which is from the west; the dimensions of this cave are in length five feet, in depth four feet, and in height four and a half. The Jewish writers are of opinion that this was the cleft of the rock in which Moses was put, when the Lord passed before him; but, if so, there would have been no need of Elijah to have gone forth to and stand upon the mount when the Lord passed by, 1 Kings 19:11,

and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him; an articulate voice was heard by him:

and he said unto him, what dost thou here, Elijah? this is not a proper place for a prophet to be in, in a wilderness, in a mountain, in a cave in it: what work could he do for God? or what service to his people? in the land of Israel he might bear his testimony against idolatry, and so be a means of reclaiming backsliders, and of establishing those that were in the true religion; but of what usefulness could he be here? Abarbinel takes it to be a reproof of Elijah, for going into a place so holy as it was, and in which Moses, the chief of the prophets, had been, and that it did not become such a man as he was to be in such a place.

(u) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 2. p. 166. (w) Journal from Cairo to Mount Sinai in 1722, p. 26. Ed. 2.

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9–18. God’s revelation and direction to Elijah (Not in Chronicles)

9. unto a cave] The Hebrew has the article, and this is represented in the LXX. by τὸ σπήλαιον ‘the cave.’ It is very likely that by Elijah’s time tradition had fixed on a definite place as that ‘cleft of the rock’ in which Moses stood (Exodus 33:22) when Jehovah passed by. If this were so the place would be deemed very sacred, and would be most appropriate to that divine explanation now to be given to Elijah. For to him was to be presented another Theophany. Some have suggested, as an explanation of the definite description, that the cave had already become a resort of pilgrims to Horeb, but for this there appears no evidence.

What doest thou here?] An opportunity is given to Elijah to open his whole heart. The question here must have a different force from that which it bears after the manifestation of God’s presence in 1 Kings 19:13. Here it must signify ‘Why art thou thus cast down?’ ‘Has thy knowledge of Jehovah gone no farther than to see Him only in works of vengeance?’Verse 9. - And he came thither unto a cave [Heb. the cave. LXX. τὸ σπήλαιον. Many commentators identify this with "the cliff of the rock" where Moses was concealed while the Lord "passed by" (Exodus 33:22), and the use of the same word, עבֵר in ver. 11 certainly favours this view. But is it clear that the clift (נִקְרָה fissure) was a cave? Ewald understands "the cave in which at that time travellers to Sinai commonly rested." It is perhaps worth remembering that a part of the desert, though at some distance from Horeb; boars at this day the name of Magharah, or cave. But there is a "narrow fret" pointed out by tradition as the abode of Elijah, on the side of Jebol Muss. "There is nothing to confirm, but there is nothing to contradict, the belief that it may have been in that secluded basin, which has long been pointed out as the spot No scene could be more suitable for the vision which follows" (Stanley). There is, however, one formidable difficulty in the way of this identification, viz., that the cave is only just large enough for a man's body, which does not agree with ver. 18], and lodged [לוּן means strictly to pass the night. It is possibly connected radically with לַיְלָה] there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him [Not "in vision as he slept" (Rawlinson). He could not "go forth" in his sleep. That he was to go forth "on the morrow" is equally unlikely see ver. 11, note], and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? [Many writers, Bahr and Keil among them, will not allow that there is aught of reproof in this question, or that Elijah had in any way erred in his hasty flight. The former asks how it comes to pass that the angel, instead of reproving him, succoured and strengthened him (vers. 6, 7), if he was acting in faithlessness or disobedience. But surely it does not follow that God denies all grace and sustenance to His elect servants even if they do, in a moment of despair, forget or distrust Him. Elijah may have been strengthened for this very journey, Because God would meet with him and teach him the lessons of patience and trust he needed to learn, at the "mount of God" itself. And his answer, especially when contrasted with that of ver. 14 (where see note), certainly betrays, not only irritation and despair, but a "carnal zeal which would gladly have called down the vengeance of the Almighty upon all idolaters" (Keil). The question in itself, it is true, does not necessarily impart censure - it might merely mean, "What wouldst thou learn of me?" But when it is remembered that the prophet had been sent to every other destination by the "word of the Lord," and that he had left Jezreel without any such word - left it in terror and bitter disappointment and sheer distrust of God - it does look as if the words conveyed a gentle reminder that he had deserted the post of duty, and had no right to be there. So Clerieus, "Quasi Deus diceret nihil esse Eliae negotii in solitudine, sed potius in locis habitatis, ut illic homies ad veri Dei cultum adduceret."] But when Elijah saw (ויּרא), sc. how things stood, or the audacity of Jezebel, from which the failure of his work was evident, he rose up and went to Beersheba in Judah, i.e., Bir-seba on the southern frontier of Canaan (see at Genesis 21:31). The expression ליהוּדה אשׁר, "which to Judah," i.e., which belonged to the kingdom of Judah, for Beersheba was really allotted to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:2), is appended not merely as a geographical indication that Elijah went outside the land, but to show that he meant to leave the kingdom of Israel, the scene of his previous labours, just as Jeremiah in a similar internal conflict gave utterance to the wish that he could leave his people, if he had but a lodging-place in the wilderness (Jeremiah 9:2). ויּרא is not to be altered into ויּירא, et timuit, after the lxx and Vulg., notwithstanding the fact that some Codd. have this reading, which only rests upon an erroneous conjecture. For it is obvious that Elijah did not flee from any fear of the vain threat of Jezebel, from the fact that he did not merely withdrawn into the kingdom of Judah, where he would have been safe under Jehoshaphat from all the persecutions of Jezebel, but went to Beersheba, and thence onwards into the desert there to pour out before the Lord God his weariness of life (1 Kings 19:4).

ילך אל־נפשׁו, he went upon his soul, or his life, i.e., not to save his life (as I once thought, with many other commentators), for his wish to die (1 Kings 19:4) is opposed to this; but to care for his soul in the manner indicated in 1 Kings 19:4, i.e., to commit his soul or his life to the Lord his God in the solitude of the desert, and see what He would determine concerning him.

(Note: G. Menken (christl. Homil. b. den Proph. Elias, p. 231) has given the following admirable explanation of אל נפשו fo so far as the sense is concerned: "For conscience sake, from conviction, out of obligation, not from fear. After all his former experience, and from the entire relation in which Elijah stood to God, it was impossible that he should be afraid, and not be firmly convinced that the God who had shut up heaven at his word, who had supplied him with bread and flesh for a whole year in the desert through the medium of ravens, who had supported him miraculously for years in a foreign land through the medium of a poor widow, who had concealed and rescued him for three years and a half from the search of the king, who had accredited and honoured him in the sight of all the people as His servant, who had given an immediate answer to his prayer for rain, could also defend him in this extremity, and rescue him from this danger, if such should be His will.")

- He left his servant in Beersheba, while he himself went a day's journey farther into the desert (Paran), not merely because he was so filled with weariness of life in his dark oppression, that he thought he should have no further need of his servant, and therefore left him behind in Beersheba, but that he might pour out his heart before God alone in the desert and yield himself up to His guidance. For however unquestionably his lamentation in 1 Kings 19:4, for example, expresses a weariness of life, this merely indicates the feeling which had taken possession of his soul after a day's journey in the barren desert. And even there he lays his wish to die before God in prayer; so that this feeling is merely to be regarded as one result of the spiritual conflict, which is bodily exhaustion had now raised to a height that it cannot have reached when he was in Beersheba. If, therefore, he did not start with the intention of making a pilgrimage to Horeb, he had certainly gone into the desert for the purpose of seeing whether the Lord would manifest His mercy to him, as He had formerly done to His people under Moses, or whether He would withdraw His hand entirely from him. After a day's journey he sat down under a רתם (construed here as a feminine, in 1 Kings 19:5 as a masculine), a species of broom (genista Retem in Forskl), which is the finest and most striking shrub of the Arabian desert, growing constantly in the beds of streams and in the valleys, where places of encampment are frequently selected for the sake of the shelter which they afford by night from the wind and by day from the sun (Rob. Pal. i. 299). למוּת...ויּשׁאל: and wished that his soul might die (a kind of accusative with infinitive; see Ewald, 336, b.), and said, עתּה רב, "Enough now; take, Lord, my soul, for I am not better than my fathers;" i.e., I have worked and endured enough, and deserve no longer life than my fathers. From this it appears that Elijah was already of a great age.

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