Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.Chap. 1 Kings 18:1-6. Ahab and Obadiah search the land for grass. Elijah goes to meet Ahab (Not in Chronicles)
1. in the third year] According to the tradition preserved in the New Testament (Luke 4:25; James 5:17) these three years cannot be reckoned from the beginning of the drought: for that is said to have lasted for three years and six months. The Jewish tradition reckons this third year to be the third year after the restoration of the widow’s son.
shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain] Hence the LXX. on 1 Kings 17:1 explains that the rain would not come εἰ μὴ φανέντος αὐτοῦ. See note there.
And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.2. And there was a sore famine] R.V. with more strict adherence to the original, And the famine was sore.
And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:3. Obadiah] The Hebrew word Obadjahu, signifies ‘servant of Jehovah,’ and is a frequent name in the Old Testament, the most conspicuous person so called being the prophet who was contemporary with Jeremiah. See Obadiah 1:1.
which was the governor of his house] R.V. more literally, which was over the household. See above 1 Kings 16:9.
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.)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.
And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.5. Go into [R.V. through] the land] The change gives a clearer idea of what is meant, and the preposition is the same which in 1 Kings 18:6 is rendered ‘throughout.’ In the next clause, as both nouns are definite in the original, the R.V. has ‘the fountains’ and ‘the brooks.’ In their neighbourhood grass would remain longest.
grass to save] R.V. ‘grass and save,’ which is literal and equally good English with A.V.
that we leese not all the beasts] They might have to kill some, but the discovery of grass might save a part. The LXX. gives καὶ οὐκ ἐξολοθρευθήσονται ἀπὸ τῶν σκηνῶν. ‘Leese’ is the old English form of ‘lose.’ Cf. Shakspeare, Sonn. 1 Kings 18:14, ‘Flowers distilled leese but their show.’
So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.6. Ahab went one way by himself] We can see the grievous necessity the land was in when the king himself goes forth on such a quest. No one save the two chief persons in the realm could be trusted to make this all-important search. The LXX. does not specify that Ahab went alone, but makes further mention of Obadiah’s solitary journey, by saying ‘And Obadiah was in the way alone, and Elijah by himself came to meet him.’ There is a reason for Obadiah’s being alone when such a meeting was to take place; why Ahab should go alone is not so clear.
And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?7–16. Meeting of Obadiah and Elijah (Not in Chronicles)
7. and he knew him] The prophet’s garb would probably make him easy to be recognized, and he must have been seen more than once in Samaria, and by Ahab’s household. The LXX. renders καὶ ἔσπευσε = and he hastened.
fell on his face] For to Obadiah Elijah would seem to be God’s special representative, and the champion of the cause of the true religion. Josephus, wrongly, represents Elijah as bowing down to Obadiah. The expressions ‘lord’ and ‘servant’ or rather ‘slave’ used by Obadiah are indexes of his fear of Elijah.
Art thou that my lord Elijah?] R.V. better, ‘Is it thou, my lord Elijah?’ The word which A.V. translates is merely an addition to render the pronoun emphatic. See note on 1 Kings 17:2-7, where the emphatic particle is the same as in this verse.
And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.8. I am] R.V. It is I. To correspond with the change in the preceding verse.
tell thy lord] It would be news of great interest to the king of Israel, as is clearly shewn by the efforts which he had already made to find Elijah.
And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?9. What [R.V. wherein] have I sinned] Obadiah’s fear is very natural. He is asked to carry a message to Ahab, which another disappearance of Elijah may make to seem untrue. He thinks in his alarm that the prophet does not know how great a friend he has been to the cause of Jehovah’s servants, and so asks why his life should be put in jeopardy who had done so much to save the lives of the prophets.
As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.10. there is no nation or kingdom] Of course Obadiah’s words only apply to those countries immediately around Israel and into which Elijah could be supposed to have fled for refuge. But he employs the language of Oriental hyperbole, so frequently found in the Old Testament Cf. Genesis 7:19; Deuteronomy 2:25.
he took an oath] The search had been made after a very thorough and formal manner, and solemn attestation made of its fruitlessness. The LXX. says ‘he burnt up that kingdom and the countries thereof because he did not find thee.’
And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.12. And it shall come to pass] Clearly Obadiah regards Elijah’s concealment as only possible, amid such a thorough inquiry, by reason of divine aid. This may be exercised again, and he be taken away and concealed, before Ahab can be brought to him.
the spirit of the Lord shall carry thee] So Acts 8:39, of the supernatural removal of Philip. Cf. likewise 2 Kings 2:16.
fear the Lord from my youth] The true worshippers of Jehovah had not all perished out of Israel through Jeroboam’s sin. Not only in special bodies, as the sons of the prophets, but also in positions of secular employment, we find some who still hold to the pure religion of Jehovah, and teach their children the same. The Hebrew, literally is ‘but thy servant feareth the Lord from my youth,’ which accounts for the italic ‘I’ of A.V.
Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD'S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?13. Was it not told my lord] Obadiah’s thought seems to be that Elijah could believe nothing but evil of one who was in the household of Ahab. So by a question he tries to place himself in his true light, and to excuse himself at the same time, from being sent on so perilous an errand. The conduct of Obadiah in saving the prophets can hardly have been known to Ahab or his wife. But it would be likely to come to the knowledge of Elijah, as he would be a companion and friend of those who were rescued from Jezebel’s fury.
And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me.
And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.15. I will surely shew myself unto him to day] With this assurance Obadiah is satisfied, and goes to find Ahab.
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.16. And Ahab went] The LXX. has ‘And Ahab ran forth and went to meet Elijah.’
And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?17–40. Meeting of Ahab and Elijah. Baal proved to be no god. Slaughter of Baal’s prophets (Not in Chronicles)
17. Art thou he that troubleth Israel?] R.V. Is it thou, thou troubler of Israel? For Ahab would ascribe the drought and consequent famine directly to Elijah, after the language of 1 Kings 17:1.
And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.18. ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord] This was done before the Baal-worship was introduced, by Jeroboam and by each king after him, and Omri, Ahab’s father, was no better than the rest. The LXX. omits ‘the commandments of.’
and thou hast followed Baalim] R.V. the Baalim. This was Ahab’s additional sin; so that it is said of him (1 Kings 21:25) ‘There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness.’ The plural Baalim is used because there were many forms or aspects of Baal, so that he was worshipped under several names, at different places, as Baal-berith, Baal-zebub, Baal-peor, &c. Ahab in compliance with the will of Jezebel had admitted them all into Israel.
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.19. all Israel] i.e. A representative body of the whole people.
unto mount Carmel] There seems to have been in Elisha’s time a residence on Mt. Carmel, where he dwelt. For the Shunammite goes thither to find him. Perhaps Elijah chose the place because there was an altar there, which had been used for the worship of Jehovah, but was now thrown down. The mountain was also easy of access, and the sea, from whence the signs of the coming rain would be seen, was visible from it.
and the prophets of Baal] These, as the narrative shews, were the priests who presided over the Baal worship, and with their office was mixed up, as we see from chap. 22, the profession of divination and soothsaying. Hence they are called prophets. The LXX. following the Jewish abhorrence for the name Baal, translate by τῆς αἰσχύνης, = of the shame, as if ‘Bosheth’ and not ‘Baal’ had been read by them.
the prophets of the groves] R.V. of the Ashêrah. See note on 1 Kings 14:15. Jezebel had introduced the female as well as the male divinity, so that nothing might be wanting to the complete observance of the worship to which she had been trained at home. The staff of priests, 850 for the two divinities, shews what an outlay was made for the perfection of the idolatrous rites.
which eat at Jezebel’s table] That the queen should shew them special favour, and feed them at her own board, was one of the surest ways of making the Baal-priests and their service popular. She no doubt also supplied funds for the support of those priests who were not in the royal city.
So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.21. And Elijah came] R.V. adds near. The word is the same which is twice so rendered in 1 Kings 18:30. It indicates an approach for the purpose of conference and support.
How long halt ye between two opinions] The verb is an expressive word, and is used below for the irregular, stumbling sort of dance about the altar of Baal (1 Kings 18:26). It indicates a lame uncertain gait. Hence it suits very well the conduct of Israel, now drawn toward Jehovah, but not earnest there, and then attracted to Baal, but not altogether satisfied with that worship. The LXX. renders ἕως πότε ὑμεῖς χωλανεῖτε ἐπʼ ἀμφοτέραις ταῖς ἰγνύαις; How long go ye lame on both knees? But there is no ground for the last word of that translation, and it loses the sense. It was a lame going, now in one direction, now in another, that Elijah was reproaching.
Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.22. I, even I only, remain] R.V. am left. As in 1 Kings 19:10 for the same word. Elijah means that he is the only one who now stands forward in Jehovah’s name. No doubt there were others of those saved by Obadiah and in other ways, but in such dangerous days they kept out of sight. The scene on Carmel is full of sublimity. Elijah alone against the host of Baal-priests, and with the calm dignity befitting so solemn a time, in the midst of them all, proceeding to repair the broken altar of the Lord.
The LXX. adds at the close of this verse ‘and the prophets of the grove four hundred.’
Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:23. Let them therefore give us] i.e. Let there be given unto us. Let there be provided, for the trial which I am about to propose.
and let them choose one] Elijah yields place to them because of their greater number. So 1 Kings 18:25 ‘for ye are many.’
cut it in pieces] This was a part of the duty of the offerer of a burnt-offering. See Leviticus 1:6; ‘he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into his pieces.’
and I will dress the other bullock] The Hebrew uses for ‘dress’ the verb עשׂה = to make, which, in connexions like this, = ‘to make ready’ a victim for sacrifice. The same word is used Psalm 66:15 ‘I will offer bullocks with goats,’ also Exodus 29:36; Exodus 29:38-39; Exodus 29:41. The LXX. translates by καὶ ἐγὼ ποιήσω τὸν βοῦν τὸν ἄλλον, a sentence from which we may see in what way ποιεῖν came to be used of sacrifice. But by itself ποιεῖν can no more mean ‘to sacrifice’ than could the English verb ‘make.’ The object, the victim, must always be expressed. The same word is employed again in 1 Kings 18:25-26.
and lay it on wood] The LXX. omits these words.
no fire under] Deceit was largely practised in the heathen temples and sacrifices represented as miraculously consumed, for the accomplishment of which preparation was made in the ground beneath the altar.
And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.24. call ye on the name of your gods] R.V. god. And so in 1 Kings 18:25. Baal was meant, and though the plural ‘Elohim’ came to be specially used of Jehovah, as embracing all that other nations conceived as attributes of all their gods, yet the plural is also applied to single heathen divinities. Thus 1 Samuel 5:7, ‘Dagon our god’; 2 Kings 1:2, ‘Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron.’
Elijah by saying ‘call ye’ identifies the people, to whom he is speaking, with the Baal-prophets to whom he uses the same words in the next verse.
on the name of the Lord] The LXX. adds ‘my God.’
that answereth by fire] As Baal was specially the Sun-god, the trial by sending down fire was one to which the prophets of Baal could make no objection.
And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.25. the prophets of Baal] Here, as above in 1 Kings 18:19, the LXX., instead of ‘Baal’ has τῆς αἰσχύνης. See note there. The pomp and splendour of the priests of Baal glittering no doubt with gorgeous vestments (cf. 2 Kings 10:22) would shew the more because of the rough shaggy garb of the Tishbite, whose congenial abode was the mountain tops or the fastnesses of Gilead.
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.26. which was given them] These words are omitted in the LXX., which represents ‘hear us’ in the latter part of the verse twice over.
and they leaped upon [R.V. about] the altar] One part of the heathen worship consisted in a dance around the altar, during which the devotees wrought themselves up to a pitch of frenzy, and then their action took the form of wild leaping. Such was probably the kind of worship of the Salii whom Numa instituted at Rome, and hence their name = Jumpers. The dances of the Aborigines of Australia were very much of this fashion.
And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.27. Elijah mocked them] i.e. To make their folly more apparent to the people, he urged them on to greater exertions.
for he is a god] As you deem him. Elijah attributed no power to Baal. He merely addresses the priests from their own level, and to make the object of their worship more contemptible attributes to him certain acts and necessities which proclaim him no more powerful than his worshippers.
either he is talking] R.V. musing. The word and its cognates are more frequently used of meditation than of speech, and to picture Baal as so preoccupied by thought as not to hear the loud cries of these frantic prophets suits, better than the rendering of A.V., with the mockery which Elijah designed.
or he is pursuing] R.V. gone aside. The word appears to be used here to express the idea that Baal had withdrawn himself for rest or some other physical necessity. Gesenius renders ‘recessit in conclavia interiora.’
And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.28. And they cried aloud] Not recognizing the mockery of Elijah, but admitting that Baal might be overtaken by the necessities or occupations implied in the prophet’s words.
after their manner] For devotees to wound and mutilate themselves in the worship of their divinities was common in other cults beside that of Baal and Ashêrah.
with knives and lancets] R.V. lances. The former of these nouns is commonly rendered ‘sword,’ though it is also used of other instruments for cutting, as of a razor (Ezekiel 5:1), and an axe (Ezekiel 26:9). The second is constantly employed for ‘spear’ in connexion with ‘shield’ of a fully-armed soldier. The Baal-dance was most likely performed by the chief devotees with weapons in their hands, and with these it was that in their frenzy they wounded themselves.
And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.29. And it came to pass [R.V. it was so], when midday was past, and [R.V. that] they prophesied] The word used for the wild raving of these heathen priests is the same which is employed for the most solemn utterances of the prophets of Jehovah (cf. Ezekiel 37:10). The thought which connects the two uses seems to be of a person acting under some influence which he cannot control. In both cases the external manifestation was in a degree alike, for Jehovah’s prophets were moved at times by great outward excitement. In these Baal-prophets it appears to have been of the nature of raving. On the bodily agitations of the prophets Maimonides (de Fundam. Legis VII. 3) writes ‘The limbs of all the prophets, during the time of their prophetic inspiration, are agitated, their strength of body fails, their thoughts are snatched aside, and their intellect is left free to understand what is shewn to them.’ Then he quotes the instances of Abraham (Genesis 15:12) and of Daniel (Daniel 10:8).
the offering of the evening sacrifice] R.V. oblation. The Hebrew word מנחה here used signifies that offering of fine flour mixed with oil, salt and frankincense, which was the accompaniment at times of sacrifices, but which at times was offered alone. It is generally rendered in A.V. ‘meat offering,’ and R.V. has changed this to ‘meal offering’ that the nature of the oblation might be more nearly described in the translation. ‘Sacrifice’ here is misleading, for the offering was without blood.
that [R.V. but] there was neither voice … regarded] The change in R.V. follows on the alterations made in the first half of the verse. The sense then is given more clearly. What is meant to be expressed is, that though they went on the whole day through, yet there was no result of their cries and lacerations.
The LXX. omits this clause, and gives instead ‘And Elijah the Tishbite spake to the prophets of the abominations, saying, Stand aside now, and I will offer my burnt offering. And they stood aside and went away.’
And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.30. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down] On the top of Carmel had been one of the high places where worship was paid to Jehovah, after the manner of the worship in the wilderness, till the place which God had chosen became known and the Temple built there. The custom of worship at such spots was continued for a long time after Solomon’s date, and Elijah here treats the altar as a specially sacred erection, to be restored in Jehovah’s honour.
The LXX. omits this clause here, but introduces one very similar in 1 Kings 18:32.
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: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.
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.
And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.33. and laid him [R.V. it] on the wood, and [R.V. and he] said] The former of these changes is in accordance with modern usage.
on the burnt sacrifice] R.V. burnt-offering. Which latter is the constant rendering of the Hebrew word. At the close of the verse the LXX. adds ‘And they did so.’
And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.35. he filled the trench also] The twelve barrels had not filled the trench, and so more water was added to make it quite full.
And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.36. And it came to pass … evening sacrifice] R.V. oblation. This change follows on what was done in 1 Kings 18:29. The LXX. omits this clause entirely. Elijah waited till the usual hour for the evening offering, that in this way his action might be in more accord with the order of worship which had been appointed in the Law, and so the people be put in mind of Jehovah’s worship which they had cast aside.
Elijah the prophet came near] He was no priest, but at such time the protesting prophet assumed all the functions of the priestly office. And the people would be in no way surprised, for the patriarchal rule, which allowed others than the tribe of Levi to come near to the altar, had not become obsolete, as we can see from the action of Solomon. The LXX. gives, instead of these words, ‘And Elijah cried unto heaven.’
Lord God of Abraham, Isaac [R.V. of Isaac], and of Israel] After these opening words of the invocation the LXX. adds ‘Hear me, O Lord, hear me this day by fire,’ and continues ‘and let all this people know, &c.’
at thy word] The LXX. explains by διὰ σὲ = ‘for thy sake.’
Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.37. that thou art the Lord God] R.V. that thou Lord art God. This is what Elijah desired, that it should be shewn that to apply the name ‘Elohim’ to Baal, and idols like him, was a folly and a delusion. The heathen, and those who went after them, used this name for the objects of their worship, and Elijah in his mockery had employed their phrase (1 Kings 18:27) and said of Baal ‘He is Elohim.’ In the present verse, as in 1 Kings 18:39 below, the noun has the article before it, which is shewn by the rendering of the A.V. in 1 Kings 18:39 ‘he is the God.’ But such an insertion is needless. If we assert that Jehovah is God, it is implied that there is none else. The R.V. therefore omits the article twice over in 1 Kings 18:39, reading he is God.
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.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.
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.39. And when all the people saw it, they fell] The LXX. simply says ‘And all the people fell.’ Josephus describes the reaction thus, ‘They fell upon the ground and worshipped the one God, calling Him most mighty and true, while the others were but names devised by wrong and senseless opinion.’
And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.40. Take the prophets of Baal] Elijah avails himself of the newlykindled enthusiasm to put an end, as far as he may, to the false worship. Josephus explains ‘they seized and slew the prophets, Elijah exhorting them so to do.’ Although the text may be taken to signify that Elijah put the priests to death with his own hand, we can hardly suppose this to have been so. He is only said to do himself what he caused others to do.
the brook Kishon] This is at the foot of Mount Carmel on the side towards the sea. It was the spot where Sisera was overthrown by Barak (Jdg 4:7) and the stream then was pictured as sweeping away the dead bodies of those who had been slain by the Israelite forces (Jdg 5:21).
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.41–46. The prophecy of rain. Elijah awaits its approach on Mount Carmel and then goes to Jezreel (Not in Chronicles)
41. Elijah said unto Ahab] The king had been present through all the events of the day, but had been powerless to stay the slaughter of the false prophets. Ahab was overpowered by what he had seen, and Jezebel was not at hand to prompt him to oppose either the prophet or the people.
Get thee up, eat and drink] There was probably preparation made for the king’s refreshment on the top of Carmel, where the offerings had been made, and the words of the prophet apply to Ahab’s return from the Kishon, which was at a lower level. The expression ‘eat and drink’ has been taken by some to be spoken in mockery or uttered as if to one who was callous even after such a scene of butchery. It would rather seem as if Elijah had not yet despaired of Ahab, and was giving the king, who must have been paralysed by the scene, the best advice for his present need, after the long and tragic day. The words may also imply that now there was no longer any fear of want, for the rain was coming at once. Thus they would form a fit introduction for the announcement which follows.
for there is a [R.V. the] sound of abundance of rain] The expression is definite in the original. The LXX. has a very poetical paraphrase ὅτι φωνὴ τῶν ποδῶν τοῦ ὑετοῦ, ‘for there is the sound of the feet of the rain.’
So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,42. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel] To a different point from that to which Ahab had gone. This is clear from 1 Kings 18:44, where the prophet despatches his servant with a message to the king.
and he cast [R.V. bowed] himself] The prophet’s attitude was that of prayer. Cf. James 5:18. The humble position is further indicated by the clause which follows, ‘he put his face between his knees.’
And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.43. look toward the sea] Because from that quarter would come the indication of the approaching storm. The LXX. omits ‘he went up’ in the next clause, and adds at the close of the verse ‘and the servant went again seven times.’
seven times] Meaning an indefinite number. ‘Seven’ is thus used Psalm 12:6; Psalm 119:164; Proverbs 24:16.
And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.44. there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand] R.V. a cloud out of the sea as small as a man’s hand. This is more in accordance with the Hebrew construction. The statement was not meant to describe the shape of the cloud, but the size of it. The servant returns as soon as there appears the smallest token of a rain-cloud. The Hebrew word here employed, כף, is sometimes used for the ‘sole of the foot’ (see Joshua 1:3). Josephus therefore gives here οὐ πλέον ἴχνους ἀνθρωπίνου ‘not bigger than the sole of a man’s foot.’
Prepare [R.V. make ready thy chariot] The change is introduced from 2 Kings 9:21, where the word for ‘chariot,’ which is here understood, stands in the text.
And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.45. in the mean while] [R.V. in a little while] The literal sense is ‘until so and until so.’ The expression is probably borrowed from a waving of the hand backward and forward, and means ‘before you could do that.’ Hence ‘in a little while’ seems to be the better rendering.
And Ahab rode] The LXX. says ‘Ahab wept.’ Ahab made his way to his palace (see 1 Kings 21:2) at Jezreel, that he might report to Jezebel what had happened. Jezreel stood in the plain of Jezreel, in the tribe of Issachar, and became one of the most famous of the royal residences of the kings of Israel.
And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.46. the hand of the Lord was on Elijah] A divine impulse which directed and supported him in what he was to do. If there was still hope of a change in Ahab, neither God nor His prophet would be wanting to help him in the struggle after better courses. The running was a sign of Bedouin endurance, the halting outside the city, at the entrance of Jezreel, was a piece of Bedouin wariness.