Matthew Poole's Commentary
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.Elijah, threatened by Jezebel, fleeth to Beer-sheba; is comforted by an angel, 1 Kings 19:1-8. At Mount Horeb, complaining to God, he is strengthened by a special revelation, 1 Kings 19:9-14; is sent to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha, 1 Kings 19:15-18. Elisha followeth Elijah, 1 Kings 19:19-21.
Ahab told Jezebel this for his vindication, and her satisfaction. All the prophets, to wit, of Baal; not of the groves, who were not present, as may be gathered from 1 Kings 18:19,22 22:6.
Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah; she gives him notice of it beforehand; partly, out of the height of her spirit, as scorning to kill him secretly and surreptitiously, and resolving to make him a public sacrifice; partly, out of her impatience, till she had breathed out her rage, which she could do speedily, when it required some time and preparation to seize him, who was now so much esteemed and favoured by all the people; partly, because she supposed that he who had the confidence to come thither, (where, it seems, she was at this time,) would still have the same confidence to stay there, and be obliged in honour to maintain his ground; and principally, from God’s all-disposing providence, that so he might have an opportunity of escaping.
So let the gods do to me, and more also: so far was she from being changed by that most evident miracle, that she persists in her former idolatry, and adds to it a mad and monstrous confidence, that in spite of God she would destroy his prophet.
And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.Went for his life, i.e. to save his life; or, according to his soul, or mind; whereby it may be intimated, that he did not flee from Jezreel by the hand or direction of the Lord, by which he came thither, 1 Kings 18:46, but because of his own fear and apprehension of danger; for this may seem to be an act of human frailty. For God had brought him hither, and his presence might seem very necessary here to encourage and engage the king and people to go on to destroy the priests of the groves, and to purge out idolatry; and his withdrawing, as we see, did discourage all the rest, and occasioned their return to idolatry again; and having had such a late and ample experience of God’s all-sufficiency in protecting him against the king and four hundred and fifty of Baal’s priests, and the current of the people incensed against him for the famine, he had little reason to fear the threats of an impotent woman, whom God could cut off in a moment. But Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, Jam 5:17, which probably is said with respect to his fear and discontent, manifested here and 1 Kings 19:4. And lest he should be exalted above measure (which was also Paul’s case, 2 Corinthians 12:7) for his eminent gifts, and graces, and miraculous works, God saw fit to withdraw his grace, and to leave him to himself, that he might be sensible of his own impotency and sinfulness, and might not dare to take any part of God’s honour to himself.
Which belonged to Judah; either, first, To the tribe of Judah, according to the first division; for Simeon’s part, in which Beer-sheba was, was afterwards taken out of it. Or, secondly, To the kingdom of Judah.
Left his servant there; partly, that he might abide there in safety; and partly, that he should wait there till his return: partly, because he would not expose him to those perils and hardships which he expected; and partly, because he desired solitude, that he might more freely converse with God.
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.Into the wilderness; the vast wilderness of Arabia. He durst not stay in Judah, though good Jehoshaphat reigned there, because he was allied to Ahab, and was a man of an easy temper, whom Ahab might circumvent, and either by force or art seize upon Elijah.
For himself, Heb. for his life, or his soul, that it might be taken away from his body. Or, with his soul, as it is Isaiah 26:9, i.e. he desired it heartily or fervently. Which he did, not only for his own sake, that he might be freed from his great fears and troubles; but especially from his zeal for God’s glory, which he saw was and would be dreadfully eclipsed by the relapse of the Israelites into idolatry, and by Elijah’s death, if it should be procured by the hands of Jezebel, or of the worshippers of Baal; and therefore he wished to die in peace, and by the hand of God.
It is enough; I have lived long enough for thy service, and am not like to do thee any more service; neither my words nor works are like to do any good upon these unstable and incorrigible people.
I am not better than my fathers, that I should continue in life, when other prophets who have gone before me have lost their lives by Jezebel, or other persecutors.
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.i.e. Above thy strength, now especially when thou art faint, and weary, and fasting.
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.In the strength of that meat; God giving that food a far greater and more durable virtue than ordinary.
Unto Horeb: he wandered hither and thither for forty days, till at last he came to Horeb, which in the direct road was not above three or four days’ journey.
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?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 said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; I have not been wholly wanting to my vocation, but have executed my office with zeal for God’s honour and service, and with the hazard of my own life; and am fled hither, not being able to endure to see the dishonour done to thy name by their obstinate idolatry and wickedness.
Thrown down thine altars; those which were erected for thy worship in high places, which they did not destroy because they were to be abolished by thy command, Deu 12, but out of mere contempt and opposition against thee, and therefore they suffered the altars of Baal to stand.
I only am left, to wit, of all thy prophets, I mean, which do boldly and publicly plead thy cause; for the rest of thy prophets who are not slain hide themselves, and dare not appear to do thee any service.
They seek my life to take it away: I despair of doing them any good; for instead of receiving my testimony, they hunt for my life.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:The Lord passed by; either, first, by his harbingers; for, as it follows, the Lord was not yet there; or, secondly, himself. And so this is a brief and general description of the thing, after which the manner of it is particularly explained.
Rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks; whereby be both prepares Elijah to receive this discovery of God with greatest humility, reverence, and godly fear; and signifies his almighty and irresistible power to break the hardest hearts of the Israelites, and to bear down all opposition that was or should be made against him in the discharge of his office.
The Lord was not in the wind; the Lord did not vouchsafe his special and gracious presence to Elijah in that wind, where he confidently expected him; which possibly was, either, first, To qualify the excessive fervour and passion of Elijah, which mixed itself with his zeal for God, and to make him more mild in his censures, and more meek and patient in waiting for the conversion of Israel; wherein he might sooner expect God’s presence and blessed success, than in the storm of anger or impatience. Or, secondly, To teach him not to wonder if God did not accompany his terrible administration at Mount Carmel with the presence of his grace, to turn the hearts of the Israelites to himself, as he desired, but God for wise and just reasons saw fit to deny.
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.Wherein it is implied that God was present; which peradventure was to insinuate, that God would do his work in and for Israel in his own time, not by might or power, but by his own Spirit, Zechariah 4:6, which moves with a powerful, but yet with a sweet and gentle gale.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?He wrapped his face in his mantle, through horror and dread of God’s presence, being sensible that he was neither worthy nor able to endure the sight of God with open face. Compare Genesis 16:13, with Exodus 3:6.
Stood in the entering in of the cave; which God commanded him to do; and as he was going towards the mouth of the cave, he was affrighted and stopped in his course, by the dreadful wind, and earthquake, and fire; and when these were past, he prosecutes his journey, and goeth on to the mouth of the cave, and there stands still. Or the words may be rendered, after (as vau is elsewhere used) he was gone out, and standing in the mouth of the cave; which may be mentioned as the reason why he covered his face, because now he wanted the shelter of the cave.
What doest thou here, Elijah? what before he spake by an angel, he now speaks to him again immediately.
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:Return on thy way, by which thou camest; for so in part lay the way from Horeb to Damascus.
Anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: anoint; either, first, Figuratively, i.e. appoint or declare him king; which was done, 2 Kings 8:12; for this word is oft used of them who were never anointed with oil, Psalm 45:7 Isaiah 45:1 41:1 Zechariah 4:14 Daniel 9:24. Or, secondly, Properly; which might be done, though it be not related. Again, anoint, either by thyself, or by another; for so he anointed Jehu by Elisha, 2 Kings 9:1,6.
And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.The son of Nimshi, i. e. his grandson, for he was the son of Jehoshaphat, 2 Kings 9:2; he constituted
Elisha prophet, by casting his mantle over him, here, 1 Kings 19:19.
And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.Here the order of times seems to be perverted; for Elisha was prophet before Jehu or Hazael were kings, and Hazael was king before Jehu. But that is of no moment as to the substance of the thing threatened, which is only this, that one or other of these should infallibly execute God’s judgments upon the apostatical Israelites. Elisha is said to slay them, either because he slew those forty-two children, 2 Kings 2:24, besides others whom upon like occasions he might destroy; or because he by God’s appointment inflicted the famine, 2 Kings 6:31; or rather, by the sword which came out of his mouth, as Isaiah 49:2 Revelation 1:16 19:15,21, by his cutting prophecies and threatenings of God’s judgments; the prophets being said to pull down and to destroy what they only declare and foretell shall be pulled down, &c. Hazael began to slay them before Jehu was king, 2 Kings 8:28, though his cruelty was much increased afterward, 2 Kings 10:32 13:1-3; and Jehu destroyed those whom Hazael did not, king Joram himself, and Ahaziah, and his forty-two brethren, 2 Kings 9:24,27 10:14, all the near relations of wicked Ahab.
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.I have left, or, I have reserved to myself; I have by my grace kept from the common contagion; therefore thou art mistaken to think that thou art left alone, or that the people are universally corrupted. Or, I will reserve, from the slaughters last mentioned, and from Jezebel’s rage.
Seven thousand; either definitely so many; or rather, indefinitely, for many thousands; the number of seven being oft used for a great number, as Leviticus 26:18 Psalm 12:6 Micah 5:5 Zechariah 3:9 Luke 17:4. For it is altogether improbable that all the Israelites except seven thousand did worship Baal; except Baal be here synecdochically put for all their idols, and the calves among others.
All the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him, i.e. all those who have not worshipped Baal, nor professed reverence or subjection to him; which idolaters did to their idols, by bowing the knee, Romans 11:4; compare Romans 14:11 Philippians 2:10, and by kissing them, or by kissing their hand with their mouth before them, and in respect to them; of which mention is made both in Scripture, as Job 31:26,27 Ho 13:2; compare Psalm 2:12, and in Pliny, Apuleius, and other profane authors. And God chooseth these expressions here, to teach men that it is not sufficient to deny inward veneration of mind and heart to idols, unless they do also forbear all outward significations of worship or reverence to them; and that he will own none for his people that do otherwise.
So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.He with the twelfth; who had twelve ploughs going, whereof eleven were managed by his servants, and the last by himself; according to the simplicity and humility of those ancient times, in which men of good worth and estate submitted themselves to the meanest employments.
Cast his mantle upon him; by that ceremony conferring upon him the office of a prophet, which God was pleased to accompany with the gifts and graces of his Spirit, wherewith he endowed and qualified him for it. The mantle was the usual habit of the prophets. See 2 Kings 1:8 Zechariah 13:4. But whether he did also anoint him is uncertain. See Poole "1 Kings 19:16".
And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?He ran after Elijah; being powerfully moved by God’s Spirit to follow Elijah, and wholly to give up himself to his affection.
And said; or, but he said; or, yet he said.
Let me kiss my father and my mother, i.e. bid them farewell, by the usual ceremony. See Genesis 29:11 31:28 Acts 20:37.
Go back again, and take thy leave of them, as thou desirest, and then return to me again.
What have I done to thee? either, first, To hinder thee from performing that office. That employment to which I have called thee doth not require an alienation of thy heart from thy parents, nor the total neglect of them. Or, secondly, To make such a change in thee, that thou shouldst be willing to forsake thy parents, and lands, and all, and desire only this liberty to go and bid them farewell, that thou mayest follow me. Whence comes this marvellous change? It is not from me, who did only throw my mantle over thee; but from a higher power, even from God’s Spirit, which hath changed thy heart, and consecrated thee to thy prophetical office; which therefore it concerns thee vigorously to execute, and wholly to devote thyself to it.
And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.He returned back from him; from Elijah to his parents, whom when he had seen and kissed, he returned to the field where Elijah was.
With the instruments of the oxen, i.e. with the wood belonging to the plough, &c., to which more was added, as occasion required; but that he burned, to show his total relinquishing of his former employment.
Gave unto the people, i.e. he made thereof a feast for his servants who had been ploughing with him, and for him, and his other friends and neighbours who came to take their leave of him. Hereby he showed how willingly and joyfully he forsook all his friends, that he might serve God in that high and honourable employment.