Darby's Bible Synopsis
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.
The following commentary covers Chapters 17 and 18.
Elijah and Elisha, on the contrary (witnesses for God in the midst of a people that according to grace God still recognised as His own, but who had openly forsaken God and worshipped golden calves), perform striking miracles in proof of their divine mission. They maintain the power and the rights of Jehovah in the midst of a people who disavow His title; while the prophets of Judah, standing amid those who publicly profess to own Jehovah's authority, insist upon the consequences of this position. God sent indeed to Israel by the mouth of His prophets-such as Hosea and Amos-threatenings similar to those addressed to Judah; but it does not appear that miracles were wrought in Judah by the prophets who bore witness there.
Elisha's miracles, of which we will speak farther on, have a different character from those of Elijah. The latter have a character which none but the miracles of Moses share with them. They are judicial miracles with respect to the people among whom the prophet dwelt. Accordingly God preserved His servant in a miraculous manner. I only speak now of what Elijah did in testimony in the very midst of the people. Elijah's miracles are few in number, and of striking character. He shuts up the heavens [See Note #1] over a rebellious and apostate people, so that there should be no rain. He brings down fire from heaven upon the captains sent by the king to take him prisoner. At length he proves that Jehovah is God, and (in spite of all that had happened) the God of all the tribes of Israel, according to immutable rights which depend upon His counsels, and upon what He is in Himself. When the people confess this, by executing judgment themselves upon the priests of Baal, Jehovah grants His blessing anew, and the heavens give rain [See Note #2]. The import of these signs is evident. Moses was in a different position. The people of God were in captivity, not in rebellion, and the judgment falls on their oppressors. It is neither the heaven become brass closed over the people, nor heaven the source of judgment which falls from thence. The earth, given to the children of men, and possessed by those who will not acknowledge that Jehovah is its God, or that He has any rights over its inhabitants, is smitten with all kinds of plagues. The earth, the water, the fruits of the earth, the cattle, the air, and, finally, man himself in his firstborn, all is smitten by the rod of God, according to the powerful word of God's witness. The Egyptians, enjoying the providential bounties of the gracious Creator, have not judgment inflicted upon them until they have refused to let go the people of God and to recognise His rights, who claims them for His own. After having refused to hear, they are first of all smitten in the enjoyment of the earthly blessings which they hold from Him, and afterwards the people themselves are smitten in the persons of their firstborn.
We may remark here, that the power of the two witnesses in the Apocalypse manifests itself in these two kinds of signs. They shut heaven that it rain not, they bring down fire from heaven: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. That is Elijah. They smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will. That is Moses. Their testimony also will, no doubt, be given in the midst of a people who bear the double character of a rebellious people, and of a people in captivity, oppressed by the world who will not hear the God of the earth whose rights their testimony proclaims.
If, in the case of Elijah, God shut heaven over His rebellious people, He takes care of the remnant according to grace, overstepping even in this grace the limits of the covenant of law. There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah the prophet, but unto none of them was he sent, save unto a widow of Sarepta in Sidon, a widow who hearkened to the voice of God's testimony, and by faith acted on that testimony in a case that required self-denial; and her life is preserved. The grace-a hard thing to the hearts of Jews-which is a revelation of His heart, whom they knew not, reveals itself in power equal to the need; and the dead is restored to life. The poor widow receives her son by a power which is that of resurrection, and her faith is fully established in the word of God [See Note #3].
Afterwards God blesses Israel again, when they are brought back to the confession of His name by a striking manifestation of His power which confounds the priests of Baal. These are all slain by the people, now convinced of the folly of idolatry and made the instrument of God's judgment. It is here that-looked upon as the general expression of the mind of God-Elijah's mission closes, although his ministry was prolonged for some time.
Let us remark here that this book gives us, as a solemn and positive declaration of the prophet's, that which we know from James's testimony to have been an answer to the prayer of a man like ourselves. This is the history of all true spiritual energy. It appears to man as a simple action, accompanied with more or less demonstration on God's part, and as a proof of the authority and spiritual power of the man who performs it; and so it is. But at the same time, in fact, all these things flow from the energy of divine life, and from communion with God; they are its expression and its fruit, but in power exercised on God's part. Compare Christ's words. at the tomb of Lazarus. It is profitable to examine such cases when presented to us in the word. There are others also which have two aspects. Historically the mission of the spies was according to the will of God; it was nevertheless, as to its origin, the fruit of the people's unbelief, an unbelief which soon manifested its effects. Paul's journey to Jerusalem, related in Acts 15, is apparently the same which he mentions in Galatians 2, but we find in the latter elements and motives which are not spoken of at all in the Acts.
Elijah had said "but at my word," yet the rain is given when God is glorified; for Elijah was, as a witness, the witness of the government of Jehovah, of Jehovah the God of Israel, despised by Israel. Hence the truth and reality of Jehovah's authority and the principles of His government were both displayed.
This reference to the sovereign rights and exercise of power of God in grace, out of the limits of Israel, is frequent and full of interest; and here, as followed by the renewed blessing of Israel, looked at as composed of the whole twelve tribes, is very striking. It will be remembered that Jesus refers to it in the Gospel of Luke, which is the witness of this great principle, and causes thereby the anger of the Jews. Pride sinks the lowest and worst when it clothes itself with a religious form.
And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:
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.)
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.
So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
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?
And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?
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.
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.
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?
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.
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of 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,
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.
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.
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.
And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.