Matthew Henry's Commentary
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.
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.
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?
18:17-20 One may guess how people stand affected to God, by observing how they stand affected to his people and ministers. It has been the lot of the best and most useful men, like Elijah, to be called and counted the troublers of the land. But those who cause God's judgments do the mischief, not he that foretells them, and warns the nation to repent.
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.
18:21-40 Many of the people wavered in their judgment, and varied in their practice. Elijah called upon them to determine whether Jehovah or Baal was the self-existent, supreme God, the Creator, Governor, and Judge of the world, and to follow him alone. It is dangerous to halt between the service of God and the service of sin, the dominion of Christ and the dominion of our lusts. If Jesus be the only Saviour, let us cleave to him alone for every thing; if the Bible be the world of God, let us reverence and receive the whole of it, and submit our understanding to the Divine teaching it contains. Elijah proposed to bring the matter to a trial. Baal had all the outward advantages, but the event encourages all God's witnesses and advocates never to fear the face of man. The God that answers by fire, let him be God: the atonement was to be made by sacrifice, before the judgment could be removed in mercy. The God therefore that has power to pardon sin, and to signify it by consuming the sin-offering, must needs be the God that can relieve from the calamity. God never required his worshippers to honour him in the manner of the worshippers of Baal; but the service of the devil, though sometimes it pleases and pampers the body, yet, in other things, really is cruel to it, as in envy and drunkenness. God requires that we mortify our lusts and corruptions; but bodily penances and severities are no pleasure to him. Who has required these things at your hands? A few words uttered in assured faith, and with fervent affection for the glory of God, and love to the souls of men, or thirstings after the Lord's image and his favour, form the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous man, which availeth much. Elijah sought not his own glory, but that of God, for the good of the people. The people are all agreed, convinced, and satisfied; Jehovah, he is the God. Some, we hope, had their hearts turned, but most of them were convinced only, not converted. Blessed are they that have not seen what these saw, yet have believed, and have been wrought upon by it, more than they that saw it.
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.
18:41-46 Israel, being so far reformed as to acknowledge the Lord to be God, and to consent to the execution of Baal's prophets, was so far accepted, that God poured out blessing upon the land. Elijah long continued praying. Though the answer of our fervent and believing supplications does not come quickly, we must continue earnest in prayer, and not faint or give over. A little cloud at length appeared, which soon overspread the heavens, and watered the earth. Great blessings often arise from small beginnings, showers of plenty from a cloud of span long. Let us never despise the day of small things, but hope and wait for great things from it. From what small beginnings have great matters arisen! It is thus in all the gracious proceedings of God with the soul. Scarcely to be perceived are the first workings of his Spirit in the heart, which grow up at last to the wonder of men, and applause of angels. Elijah hastened Ahab home, and attended him. God will strengthen his people for every service to which his commandments and providence call them. The awful displays of Divine justice and holiness dismay the sinner, extort confessions, and dispose to outward obedience while the impression lasts; but the view of these, with mercy, love, and truth in Christ Jesus, is needful to draw the soul to self-abasement, trust, and love. The Holy Spirit employs both in the conversion of sinners; when sinners are impressed with Divine truths, they should be exhorted to set about the duties to which the Saviour calls his disciples.
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.