And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
Verse 1. - And Elijah [This name, which appears both as אֵלִיָּהוּ, and, less frequently, אֵלִיָּה, means my God is Jehovah. It is so singularly appropriate to the man who bore it, and so exactly expresses the idea of his life and the chapter of his work (see especially 1 Kings 18:39), that it is difficult to resist the belief that it was assumed by him. This is certainly more probable than that it was due to the prescience of his parents. It may, however, mark their piety and hopes, and may have influenced the life of their son. Cf. 1 Chronicles 4:10], the Tishbite [So he is called without any further designation in 1 Kings 21:17; 2 Kings 1:8, 8, etc. The presumption is altogether in favour of תשבי being the name of his birthplace. (Cf. 1 Kings 11:29], who was of the inhabitants of Gilead [The interpretation of these words is much disputed. The Heb. stands גִלְעָד הַתִּשְׁבִּי מִתּשָׁבֵי It will be the first and second words have the same radicals, and it hits been inferred that they cannot mean "two entirely distinct things" (Rawlinson cf.) and that either the Masoretic pointing must be set aside, when the words would yield the meaning, "Elijah, the Tishbite of Tishbe of Gilead" or they must be interpreted "Elijah the stranger of the strangers of Gilead." But it is by no certain that the current interpretaioni not the best. Such a play upon words as it involves is not at all uncommon in Hebrew. The meaning would then be that Elijah , who was, if not by birth, by domicile, of Tishbe, was one of the strangers - תּושִׁב is found in the sense of πάροικος, inquilinus, in Genesis 23:4; Exodus 12:45; Leviticus 22:10; Leviticus 25:35, 47, etc. - or immigrants who had settled in Gilead. The only objection to this rendering - apart from the identity of radicals just mentioned - is that we should have expected to find תּשָׁבֵי written plene, as the word always is elsewhere. It is alleged by Keil, Bahr, al., however, that the stat. constr. plur. may well be an exception to the rule, and in support of this view it may be mentioned that the cognate word, יושֵׁב, is constantly found in the constr, plural as ישְׁבֵי (see Gesen., Thessalonians 635). It is clear, then, that the usual interpretation is by no means to be lightly set aside. It is certainly preferable to the rendering, "Elijah the stranger," etc., for we have no proof that הַתִּשְׁבִּי can bear this meaning. In favour of the alternative rendering "the Tishbite of Tishbe," it may be said that it has the support of the LXX., ὁ ἐκ Θεσβῶν, and of Josephus (Ant. 8:13. 2), ἐκ πόλεως Θεσδώνης τῆς Γαλααδίτιδος χώρας. Nor is it any weighty objection to this view that we now here read of a Tishbe in Gilead: as for the matter of that, we have no undoubted traces of any such place west of the Jordan; the passage in Tobit (ch. 1:2, LXX.), which is often alleged as proving that there was a Tishbe in Galilee, and from which Gesenius, Bahr, Keil, etc., conclude that this must be the Tishbi here referred to, being too uncertain to permit us to build any positive conclusions thereupon. See Dict. Bib. 3. pp. 1489, 1516. In any case - and it is perhaps impossible to decide positively between this and the rendering of the A.V. - it is clear that Elijah, even if born in Galilee (but see John 7:52, for the belief of the Jews), was trained for his work in Gilead. It was, therefore, a rugged, unsettled, half-civilized, trans-Jordanic region gave to the world the greatest of its prophets. In this respect he was like Moses (Exodus 3:1), and his antitype the Baptist (Luke 1:80). "The fact that this mission was entrusted not to a dweller in royal city or prophetic school, but to a genuine child of the deserts and forests of Gilead, is in exact accordance with the dispensations of Providence in other times" (Stanley)] said unto Ahab [The abrupt way in which Elijah appears upon the scene without a word of introduction or explanation is certainly remarkable. Ewald observes that "his first entry within the province of the history seems almost as unique and inexplicable as his final disappearance." "Elijah comes in with a tempest, and goes out with a whirlwind" (Hall). But there is no sufficient ground for believing (Thenius, al.) that a part of our history which described some of his antecedents has been lost to us, or that our text merely recites the issue of a long conference which Elijah had held with Ahab, for other prophets of this period, Ahijah, Shemaiah, Jehu, are introduced to us in a similar manner, though it must be allowed that their respective ministries were of very different proportions and importance from Elijah's. This sudden appearance, however, is thoroughly characteristic of the man. He presently disappears just as suddenly (ver. 5. Cf. 19:3; 2 Kings 1:8). It was thought by some in that age that he was borne hither and thither by the Spirit of God! 1 Kings 18:12), and men of a later time caught this as one of his prominent characteristics (Ecclus. 48:1-12). Hence, too, the traditions of a still later period, according to which he was "the fiery Phinehas returned to earth, or an angel hovering on the outskirts of the world," Stanley], As the Lord God of Israel liveth [This formula here occurs for the first time, and it is full of meaning. It asserts first that Jehovah, not Baal, is the God of Israel, and it suggests, in the second place, that he is the living God, such as Baal was not, and that though ordinarily He keeps silence, He is one who can make His power felt], before whom I stand [i.e., "Whose I am and whom I serve" (Acts 27:23). Cf. 1 Kings 18:15. The slaves of the East stood before their masters. See note on 1 Kings 1:28, and cf. 1 Samuel 3:1; Luke 1:19. Elijah claims to speak in God's name, and as His ambassador], there shall not be dew nor rain [Observe the order of the words. Dew is perhaps put first as more essential to vegetable life. Elijah only denounces a plague already threatened in the law as the punishment of idolatry (Deuteronomy 11:16, 17; Deuteronomy 28:23; Leviticus 26:19). He came forward as the vindicator and restorer of the law] these years [An indefinite period. Its duration depended on Elijah's word, and that again on the penitence, etc., of the people. It was because of the obduracy of king and people that it lasted so long] but according to my word. [The idolatrous priests no doubt claimed for Baal the dominion over nature and absolute control over the clouds and rain - a power which, it may be worth observing, the monks of the convent of St. Katherine at Sinai, where Elijah was, are thought to possess by the Arabs of the Sinaitic peninsula. Elijah directly challenges them to a trial of strength. It was as if he had said, "The God that answereth by rain, let him be God." On the fitness of this miracle, both as a sign and as a punishment, see "Homil. Quart." 5:100,101. "To Eastern and Southern nations, where life and water go always together, where vegetation gathers round the slightest particle of moisture and dies the moment it is withdrawn...the withholding of rain is the withholding of pleasure, of sustenance, of life itself " (Stanley). "My word" is somewhat emphatic, "Nisi ego, et non alius vir... dixero " (Seb. Schmidt). No doubt there is a special reference to the prophets of Baal. Their inability to remove the ban would prove the impotency of their god. Elijah had asked for the supernatural powers which he here claims (James 5:17, 18).]
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
Verse 2. - And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying [cf. ver. 8; 1 Kings 18:1; 1 Kings 21:17; 2 Kings 1:3],
Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
Verse 3. - Get thee hence, and turn thee [for the construction (dat. commodi) cf. Genesis 12:2; Genesis 22:2; Song of Solomon 2:11] eastward [This he must do, whichever side of the Jordan, east or west, the brook Cherith was, for his interview with Ahab had probably taken place at Samaria. But the word would be specially appropriate, if the Cherith was beyond Jordan. Ewald, indeed, holds that our text is decisive on this point], and hide thyself [Heb. be hid, i.e., lie hid, Niphal. It does not seem to have occurred to the prophet that such a calamity as he had denounced against the country almost made his disappearance from the scene a necessity, or if it did, he still waited for instructions. Cf. ver. 9; 1 Kings 18:1, etc. Not merely was his flight necessary in order to escape persecution or punishment - the search which Ahab instituted for him in part explains his disappearance - but to avoid importunity. It would have been morally impossible for him, though a man of inflexible will (Bahr) to dwell among the people, while the land groaned under the terrible burden which he had laid upon it, and which he alone was able to remove. His life would not have been safe - see 1 Kings 18:4 - and the ordeal would have been intolerable. And 1 Kings 19:2 shows that the prophet's nature had its weaker side. Wordsworth observes that Elijah's escapes and departures into unknown places are "faint resemblances of the mysterious vanishings of our blessed Lord, after He had delivered some of His Divine messages which excited the anger of the people;" Luke 4:29; John 8:59; John 10:39] by [Heb. in] the brook [Heb. נַחַל; i.e., watercourse, wady. This word has two meanings. Its primary meaning is torrent; its secondary and, from the fact that the torrents of the East are for the most part dried up during the greater part of the year, its common meaning is torrent-bed, or ravine, valley. Both meanings are brought out here. Elijah should dwell in and drink of the נַחַל. Cf. 1 Kings 15:3] Cherith [The word means separation, a name which may possibly indicate that it was extremely secluded, or it may have been a boundary line of some sort. Tradition identifies the brook Cherith with the Wady-et-kelt, i.e., the great valley, west of the Jordan, which debouches into the Ghor, half a mile south of Jericho, and Robinson and Porter pronounce in its favour. Van de Velde (2. 310, 311) suggests the Wady Fasael, a few miles to the north. But it is much more probable that it is to be sought in the region east of the Jordan, where, indeed, Eusebius and Jerome place it. It is extremely doubtful whether the Wady-el-kelt, or any Cis-Jordanic ravine, would afford sufficient privacy. Probably Jericho was already rebuilt. As we cannot decide with certainty, we may reasonably conjecture that it is to be sought in Elijah's own country of Gilead, and probably in the Waddy Alias, i.e., at no great distance from Abara (Conder, "Tent-work," p. 230), the Jordan ford nearly opposite Bethshan, where, indeed, an old tradition places it] that is before [Nothing positive can be concluded from עַל פְנֵי. In Genesis 16:12; Genesis 23:19; Genesis 25:18; Joshua 18:14, etc., it means eastward. But this meaning is gathered from the context] Jordan. [The Cherith was clearly one of the lateral valleys which run into the Ghor. It is just possible that the name may be recovered by the survey of the country east of the Jordan, which is now (1880) being organized.]
And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
Verse 4. - And it shall be that thou shalt drink of the brook [There was clearly nothing miraculous about the supply of water. No miracle was wrought even to continue the supply, ver. 7]; and I have commanded [cf. ver. 9; Isaiah 5:6; Amos 9:3, etc.] the ravens to feed thee there. [Despite the general agreement of scholars that by ערבים we must understand "ravens," I think probability favours the meaning Orbites, i.e., inhabitants of Orbo. In support of the received rendering is the very powerful consideration, that it is the interpretation of all the versions (except the Arabic) and of Josephus, who, beyond all question, represented the belief current in his own time (Ant. 8:13. 2). It is also certain that elsewhere in Scripture we find some of the inferior animals supernaturally constrained to effect God's purposes, both of mercy and of judgment (1 Kings 13:24; 2 Kings 2:24; Daniel 6:22; 2 Peter 2:16), though never it must be said, in so rational and methodical a way. Nor can it rightly be contended that the words "I have commanded," צִוִתִי, imply human agency, for elsewhere we find the Almighty commanding (same word) the serpent (Amos 9:3) and the clouds (Isaiah 5:6; Psalm 78:23). It is not, however, a sufficient account of this narrative to say that the prophet merely helped himself to the food which the ravens, whose habitat was in the Wady Cherith, brought, day by day, to their nests and their young. For, not to insist on the words, מְבִיאִים לו bringing to him (ver. 6), the expressions '" bread (or food, לֶחֶם) and flesh," and "morning and evening" certainly point to something more than such a fortuitous supply. Whether the Orebim were "ravens" or not, they certainly acted in an intelligent and rational way: they brought food, that is to say, to the prophet, and they brought it for months together with unfailing regularity. But against this view the following considerations may be urged.
1. It is hardly in accord with God's usual way of working, that he should employ birds of the air and those unclean (Leviticus 11:15; Deuteronomy 14:14) and ravenous birds, to feed and succour His saints, rather than men or angels. Of course, no one who does not altogether repudiate the supernatural will deny for a moment that the Almighty could, had it seemed good to Him, have sustained His prophet by the instrumentality of ravens, just as easily as by any other means. But it appears to be almost a fixed principle of His dealings with men, not to resort to miracles when ordinary means will suffice; or if He does employ miracles, they are never bizarre or fantastic; they are not such as to suggest the idea of fable or legend; they are invariably the simplest and directest means to the end. And it is submitted that this prolonged and methodical ministry of ravens is altogether unlike God's method of procedure on other occasions. It was an angel succoured Hagar and Ishmael in their need (Genesis 16:7). It was an angel fed Elijah himself, a few years later (1 Kings 19:5, 6). They were angels who ministered to our blessed Lord after His long fast (Matthew 4:11). But God's,' chief means," it is always to be remembered, "is man." And it is to be carefully observed that when, about this very time, not one, but one hundred prophets were threatened, just as Elijah was, with death, no miracle was wrought to save their lives or to supply their wants, but they were fed by human agency, with bread and water (1 Kings 18:13). But it is still more significant that elsewhere in this narrative, which is characterized by the profoundest sobriety and reticence, there is what we may almost call a studied absence of the miraculous element. No miracle is wrought to protect Elijah against Jezebel, but he must consult for his own safety by flight. He is sent to the brook Cherith, because there is water there; in other words, God chose that hiding place in order to obviate the necessity for a miracle. And when the water of the brook dries up, no miracle is wrought to prolong the supply, but the prophet, at the risk of detection, must go forth and seek it elsewhere. And at Zarephath he is fed, not by ravens, but by human agency - by a widow woman. It is true a miracle appears to have been wrought, but the narrative has so little idea of effect and gives so little prominence to the supernatural that even that is doubted. To put the interpretation of "ravens," consequently, on the word ערבים, provided it will yield any other meaning, appears to be to do violence to the spirit of the context, and to the tenour of Scripture generally.
2. It is somewhat difficult to believe that such a prodigy as this, so altogether unique and irregular, would not have been mentioned, had it really happened, elsewhere in Scripture. The absence of all reference thereto is remarkable, when we consider how constantly the ministry of Elijah and its lessons (Luke 4:25, 26; Luke 9:54; James 5:17; Revelation 11:5, 6) are referred to in the New Testament; but when we observe what an admirable and unequalled illustration of God's providential care this incident would have supplied to some of our Lord's discourses, and notably to that of Luke 12:22 sqq., this silence becomes almost suspicious.
3. Despite the practical unanimity of the versions, the interpretation "ravens" has been disputed from very early times. St. Jerome among Christians, Rabbi Judah Hakkodesh and Kimchi amongst Jews - these are but some of those who have repudiated this rendering.
4. A very slight change in the vowel points - עַרְבִּים instead of ערְבִים - yields the meaning "Arabians." That a fugitive would readily find, not only shelter but sustenance among the Bedouin, whose generous hospitality and loyalty to strangers is proverbial, is obvious, and we knew that about this time some Arab tribes had dealings with the Jews (2 Chronicles 17:11); but without any change at all, a sufficient meaning may be extracted from the word. For we find that somewhere in the Ciccar, or plain of the Jordan, off which the Wady Cherith lay, was a rock Oreb (עורֵב, Judges 7:25), apparently east of the Jordan (Judges 8:1), but in any case, at no great distance from Bethabara (John 1:28). Now Beth-abara has been identified, almost to a certainty (Conder, "Tent-work," pp. 229-232) with the modern Abarah (i.e., passage or ferry), "one of the main fords of the Jordan just above the place where the Jalud river flowing down the valley of Jezreel and by Beisan, debouches into Jordan." But we learn from an ancient and independent source, the Bereshith Rabba (see Dict. Bib. ii. 464), that in the neighbourhood of Beisan, i.e., Bethshean, there was anciently a town named Orbo, עַרְבו - a word, it is to be observed, which preserves the radicals of עורֵב transposed. We may safely assume that these two places, Orbo and Oreb, were identical; that the former was the representative at a later day of the latter, or was the shape which the name assumed when bestowed on the hamlet, as distinct from the rock. The inhabitants of this place would, of course, be called עֹרְבִים, just as the in. habitants of Ziph were known as Ziphim (1 Samuel 26:1), or the men of Zidon as Zidonim (1 Kings 5:6). We find, consequently, that this word, which means "ravens," also designates the inhabitants of a village near Bethshean, and probably east of the Jordan; that is to say, in or near Elijah's native country of Gilead. And with this agree the testimonies of Rabbi Judah and Jerome already referred to. The former held that the Orebim were not ravens at all, but inhabitants of Orbo or the rock Oreb, while the latter says, with equal positiveness, Orbim, accolae villae in fini-bus Arabum, Eliae dederunt alimenta. It only remains for us to notice the perfect naturalness and consistency of the narrative thus interpreted. Elijah is bidden to go eastward; to hide in the Wady Cherith, where he would be among tribesmen or friends. For water, there is the brook; for food, the Orbites, whose name would be familiar to him, and whom he may have known, are commanded to feed him. He goes; he is received with Arab hospitality; the Eastern law of Dakheel, by which any man at any time is entitled to throw himself upon the mercy and protection of another, ensures his safety. The Orebim minister assiduously to his wants. Every morning before the dawn, every evening after dark, they bring him bread and flesh.]
So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
Verse 5. - So he went and did according auto the word of the Lord: for [Heb. and] he went and dwelt by [Heb. in] the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
Verse 6. - And the ravens brought [Heb. bringing] him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening [the Vat. LXX. has" bread in the morning and flesh in the evening." It has been objected that this verse is fatal to the view advanced above - that the ערבים were not birds but men - that no men would have "come regularly twice a day,., thus giving themselves needless trouble and increasing the chance of detection, when they might easily have left him a supply for several days" (Rawlinson). But if we may believe that the prophet was, if not among kinsmen or friends, yet among the pastoral, semi-nomadic people of Gilead, a people, that is to say, like the Bedawin in their instincts and customs, it is easy to understand that having taken him under their protection, they would make a point of visiting him regularly, not only to show him all possible honour, as a person endued with supernatural powers (cf. 1 Kings 18:7, 13), but to afford him some measure of sympathy and companionship. And we can then see a reason for the morning and evening being mentioned. Their visits would be made in the twilight, which is really longer in the East than is generally supposed]; and he drank [Hebrew drinks. The Heb. future often has the force of an imperfect, and expresses continued or repeated action] of the brook.
And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.
Verse 7. - and it came to pass after awhile, [Heb. at the end of days. Not necessarily post annum. The words no doubt have this force elsewhere, Leviticus 25:29; Judges 11:40; Judges 17:10; 1 Samuel 27:7, etc.; but in all these cases, the meaning is not resident in the words themselves, but in the context. It is impossible to say how long Elijah remained in the Wady. All we can be sure of is that he must have been more than two rears, out of the three and a haft, at Zare-phath. See on 1 Kings 18:1] that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. [גֶּשֶׁם imber, signifies heavy rain. The word used in ver. 1 is מָטָר, rain of any kind.]
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
Verse 8. - And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,
Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
Verse 9. - Arise, get thee to Zarephath [Cf. Obadiah 1:20. The name points to furnaces or workshops for the refining of metals, צָרַפ, liquavit. LXX. Σαρεπτὰ; cf. Luke 4:26. It is now represented by an insignificant village, Surafend, which, however, preserves the original name. It lies still, as no doubt it did then, on the high road between Tyre and Sidon, and on the shore. The prophet would thus be in the lion's den, in the very heart of the dominions of Ethbaal. See Porter, 2:397. Stanley (S. and P. p. 268) shows how the memory of this visit still lingers in the traditions of the neighbourhood], which belongeth to Zidon [Sidon is visible from a spot a quarter of an hour distant. "The dependence of Sarepta on Sidon is indicated in the inscriptions of Sennacherib, where it is mentioned as belonging to Luliya, king of Sidon," Rawlinson], and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee [In considering these words the generally destitute condition of the widow of the East should be borne in mind (Acts 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:3-5, etc.) We gather from Luke 4:25, 26, that it was for her sake as well as his that the prophet was sent thither. Matthew 15:21-28 tells of another Syro-Phoenician woman.]
So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
Verse 10. - So he arose and went to Zarephath [It does not follow that his route lay over the "White Promontory," or Ladder of Tyre, the way our Lord took when He "departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon" (Matthew 15:21). If his place of concealment was anywhere near 'Abara, or Bethshean, it is probable he would keep east of the Jordan, as far as Banias or Dan, where the river is fordable, and whence a road leads direct to Sidon. He would thus avoid Tyro]. And when he came to the gate of the city [the ruins of Surafend are still very considerable (see Thomson,"Land and Book," 1:235) and prove it to have been a place of importance, a town with gates and walls. "Gate," however, is used somewhat loosely in the O.T. - of the entrance to a village, or even of the place of concourse and of judgment], behold, the [Heb. a. He did not yet know that this was the widow to whom he was sent. Her replies to his requests first informed him that this was the object of his search] widow woman was there [Heb. behold there, a widow woman] gathering of sticks [This was not a promising sign. It only proved her poverty]: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel [Heb. the vessel. Bahr understands the drinking-cup that Elijah had brought with him from the Wady Cherith; but surely it is extremely improbable that he would carry either cup or bottle with him. "The vessel" probably imports the ordinary vessel used for the purpose - the "potter's earthen bottle" Jeremiah 19:1). That this was used for fetching water, we know from Isaiah 30:14], that I may drink.
And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
Verse 11. - And as she was going to fetch it [The gift of water to the thirsty is always regarded as a sacred duty in the East. "Never yet during many years' residence in Syria and many a long day's travel, have I been refused a draught of water by a single individual of any sect or race. The Bedawy in the desert has shared with me the last drop in his waterskin" (Porter). It is clear that the water supply of Phoenicia had not entirely failed. "The fresh streams of Lebanon would retain their life giving power long after the scantier springs of Palestine had been dried up," Stanley] he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread [The request for food will soon reveal to him whether this is the widow woman who is to sustain him] in thine hand. [Bahr would understand here, "Give me a morsel of the bread which thou hast in thine hand" - einen Bissen des Brodes das du besitzest - and he has the LXX., ψωμὸν ἄρτου τοῦ ἐν τῇ χειρί σου, to support him. But it is fatal to this view
(1) that the verb is לִקְחִי - the same as already used in the request for water (ver. 10), and
(2) that there is no article before bread. "The bread in thine hand" would have been clear, but the words as they stand can only mean, "Bring me, together with the water in the vessel, a morsel of bread in thine hand." Besides, "in thy possession" would probably have been expressed by "under thine hand," as in 1 Samuel 21:3, 4, 8, though "in the hand" is found in Ecclesiastes 5:13; Ezra 7:25, in a somewhat similar sense.]
And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
Verse 12. - And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth [Bahr, Keil, al. conclude from this formula that the woman was a worshipper of the God of Israel. Bahr is extremely positive on this point, affirming that, had she been a heathen, the words would have been positively hypocritical, and more, that Elijah would never have been sent (Luke 4:26) to an idolater. He further suggests that possibly she was an Israelite by birth, who had been married to a Phoenician. But all this is extremely doubtful. In the first place, it is noteworthy that the words are, "Jehovah thy God," words which show that she recognized Elijah, perhaps by his Jewish face, probably by his prophetic dress (2 Kings 1:8) as a worshipper of Jehovah. But had she also been the same, it is probable that she would have said "my God," for that form would not only have given greater force to her obtestation, but would have established a bond of sympathy - such as Jews in a foreign land were only too glad to recognize - between them. And the remark that it is hypocrisy to swear by a god in whom one does not believe is disposed of by the consideration that she may well have believed in the Lord as well as in Baal. See note on 1 Kings 5:7. The Tyrians knew nothing of monotheism], I have not a cake [מָעונֹ, the synonym of עֻגָּה (ver. 13), the smallest kind of bread. It was baked in the ashes; hence the LXX. ἐγρυφίας. We gather from this pitiful disclosure that the famine had already extended to Phoenicia, as it naturally would do, considering how dependent that country was on Israel for its breadstuffs; see note on 1 Kings 5:9,11. Josephus (Ant. 8:13, 2) cites Menander as attesting to a year's drought in the reign of Ethbaal], but an handful of meal in a [Heb. the] barrel [כַּד, probably connected with cadus, cadeau, etc.; bucket, pail], and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks [i.e., a few sticks (Gesenius). We may compare the German idiom ein Paar and our "two or three." But "two" in this sense occurs nowhere else in the Bible - "two or three" is found in 2 Kings 9:32; Isaiah 17:6; Amos 4:8. According to Roberts, the word is constantly used for "few" by the natives of India. This widow was evidently reduced to the greatest extremities], that I may go in and dress it for me and my son [The LXX. has τέκνοις here and in ver. 13, and τὰ τέκνα in ver. 15. Bahr contends that Elijah first learnt from these words - the mention of a son and the absence of any mention of her husband - that he was addressing a "widow woman." But we read Genesis 38:14, 19, of "garments of widowhood" (cf. Deuteronomy 24:17), and ver. 10, "a widow woman," etc., almost implies that Elijah from the first recognized her as such], that we may eat it, and die.
And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
Verse 13. - And Elijah said unto her [This looks at first like a further test. But it is pretty clear that the prophet now knew that the widow of whom God had spoken was before him], Fear not; go and do as thou hast said [Heb. according to Shy word] but [Heb. only, however]: make me thereof [Heb. thence, i.e., of the oil as well as the meal. The former took the place of butter. Bread was sometimes baked in oil] a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and thy son. [The "first" and "afterwards" are emphatic by position. When Bahr says that Elijah would never have made this demand, and that still less would the widow have paid any attention to it, had she been a heathen, he appears to forget the words that followed (ver. 14). When one in the garb of a prophet swore, as this man did, by the sacred name, a heathen, with the belief of the heathen in miracles, might well be persuaded that the word was truth. Elijah's manner alone would carry conviction with it.]
For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
Verse 14. - For thus saith the Lord God of Israel [The words, "God of Israel," if anything, favour the supposition that he was speaking to one who was not of Israel. See on ver. 1. There the words were addressed to one who was denying the God of Israel] The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fall, until the day that the Lord sendeth [Heb. giveth. For תִּתֵן see note on 1 Kings 6:19] rain upon the earth. [Heb. on the face of the ground. Like expression 1 Kings 18:1; Genesis 2:5. It has been said that there is not a syllable here to imply a miracle, and it has been contended that this Sareptan household was sustained for over two years simply by the blessing of God on the use of natural means. But clearly, if there was nothing else, there was supernatural knowledge on Elijah's part. And it cannot be denied that the literal construction of the words points to a "supernatural and inexplicable multiplication of food" (Rawlinson), similar to those of which the Gospels tell. It is just possible that this was a figure of speech, which practically meant no more than the necessaries of life should somehow be provided, directly or indirectly, by God. Nor is this view effectually negatived, as Bahr contends, by Luke 4:26; but, in view of 2 Kings 4:44, Matthew 14:15-21; 2 Kings 15:32-38, it is extremely improbable. It is curious how many miracles of Elijah and Elisha foreshadowed those of our blessed Lord.
And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
Verse 15. - And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah [the echo of ver. 13, "Go and do according to thy saying"]: and she, and he, [or he and she, according to Chethib] and her house [probably her friends or poor relatives who came to partake of her plenty (Bahr)], did eat many days. [Heb. days, i.e., an indefinite period. See note on ver. 7. The word does not refer to the first baking (ver. 13), but it is to be explained by the next verse.
And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
Verse 16. - And [Omit. This verse is explicative, not additional] the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fall, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by [Heb. by the hand of] Elijah. [Having received a prophet in the name of a prophet, she received a prophet's reward. (Matthew 10:41, 42). Stanley suggests that our Lord, when He spoke of the "cup of cold water," may have had this incident in his mind.
And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.
Verse 17. - And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. [Does this mean that he was dead? Keil thinks it perfectly clear that it does. Bahr is as firmly persuaded that it does not. He justly remarks
(1) that the same expression occurs in Daniel 10:17 (cf. 1 Kings 10:5) where it does not imply death.
(2) That as the text does not say, "and he died," we must conclude that it did not mean to say it.
(3) Verses 18, 20 do not necessitate the belief that he was dead (see below).
(4) Josephus, who was not afraid of the miraculous, has interpreted the words thus: ὡς καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἀφεῖναι καὶ δόξαι νεκρον. To this it may be added that נְשָׁמָה simply means breath, and that where it is desired to convey the idea of rife, additional words are used (as in Genesis 2:7, "the breath of life; Genesis 7:22, "the breath of the spirit of life." Cf. Job 27:3, Proverbs 20:27 (where the intelligence or reason appears to be meant), Ecclesiastes 3:21. It must be confessed also that the statement, "his sickness was so sore," etc., is quite apropos and intelligible, if we may understand that he lay in a state of coma, but would be an extremely roundabout way of affirming that he was dead.
And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?
Verse 18. - And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee [Heb. what to me and thee. Same formula, Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Kings 3:13; Matthew 8:29; John 2:4. It means, "What is there between us?" or practically, "What have I done?" "Is this the result of my association with thee? Must such sorrow befal me because thou art with me?" Bahr], O thou man of God? [This woman, if a Phoenician, was evidently familiar with the titles borne by the Hebrew prophets (1 Kings 12:22; 1 Kings 13. passim; Judges 13:6, 8). Nor is this to be wondered at. The intercourse between the two nations had been very considerable] art thou come unto me to call my sin [not necessarily any "special sin in her past life,"] to remembrance [her idea evidently is that the prophet by residing with her, seeing her life, etc., had become acquainted with her sinfulness, and had called it to the remembrance of the Almighty. She does not mean that he had recalled it to her mind, but that he had been the מִזְכִּיר or remembrancer of God. Cf. Genesis 40:14; Ezekiel 21:28; Jeremiah 4:16] and to slay my son? [Observe, she does not speak of him as slain.]
And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.
Verse 19. - And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out Of her bosom, [the age of the child may hence be roughly inferred] and carried him up into a loft [Heb. הָעֲלִיָּה the upper chamber. LXX. τὸ ὑπερῷον. Loft is most misleading. The upper room, was often [rather, always] the best apartment in an Eastern house" (Rawlinson). It was sometimes the guest chamber (Luke 22:11, 12), and, from the uses to which it was put, must have been large (Acts 1:13; Acts 9:39; Acts 20:8; 2 Kings 1:2). Thomson (L. & B. 1:235) infers from the fact that the widow's house had an upper room, "that the mode of building in Elijah's time and the custom of giving the alliyeh to the guest were the same as now; also that this poor widow was not originally among the poorest classes (who bare no alliyeh), but that her extreme destitution was owing to the famine"], and laid him upon his own bed. [It may be doubted whether the verb תךל יַשְׁכִּבֵהוּ., made him to lie down, would be used of a corpse.]
And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?
Verse 20. - And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast Thou also [i.e. in addition to the misery and suffering brought through me upon my country] brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying [Heb. to slay. Words. worth partly bases his conclusion that the child was dead on the inexact translation of the A.V.] her son?
And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.
Verse 21. -And he stretched himself [marg. measured himself, but Gesenius holds that stretch out is the primary meaning of the root] upon the child [cf. 2 Kings 4:34. The commentators are again at variance as to whether these words imply the use of natural means or not. Those who hold that the child was dead naturally adopt the negative, and some (Keil, Rawlinson, al.) compare with it the action of our Lord in the case of the blind, deaf and dumb (Matthew 9:35; Luke 7:14; John 9:6, 7). But surely the circumstances and the purpose alike, in these latter cases, were entirely different. The object of the touch, of anointing the eyes, etc., in these cases of healing, appears to have been to awaken a sufficient faith - without which "He could do no miracle" (Matthew 13:58) - in men whose infirmities of blindness, deafness, etc., prevented their attaining faith through the ordinary channels of seeing and hearing the merciful and gracious Son of man. But here the child, if not dead, was senseless. We are driven, therefore, to the belief that the prophet "used rational means for warming and revivifying" the child, "not with the hope that of themselves they would prove effectual, but in the sure confidence that God, in answer to his weeping supplication, would impart supernatural force to the natural human agencies," Bahr] three times [Not only in his prayer but also in this triple repetition do we recognize Elijah's profound conviction that only by the Almighty power of God could the child be restored, and that whatever means were used, God alone could make them effectual. For three is the number and signature of the Godheads" die eigentlieh gottliche Zahl, die Signatur des gottlichen Wesens" (Bahr, Symb. 1:143). Hence it is, inter alia, that "the calling upon the name of Jehovah in the old covenant" - he might have added, "and in the new;" cf. Mark 14:39, 41; 2 Corinthians 12:8 - "was a threefold act:" Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10, 13; Numbers 6:24-26; Isaiah 6:3 (Bahr). The correspondence with 2 Corinthians 12:8 is very striking] and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray Thee [Heb. now] let this child's soul come into him [Heb. upon his inside עַל is here, as elsewhere, used for אֵל again. [Though נֶפֶשׁ, here translated "soul," constantly means "life," yet it by no means settles the question whether the child was really living or dead. For,
(1) the, primary meaning of the word is breath (Gesen., Thesaurus, s.v.), and
(2) the words might with perfect propriety, even if we interpret "life" or "soul," be used of one who lay in a lifeless and inanimate condition. Massillon's graphic language (vol. 1. p. 91, ed. 1858), showing the contrast between Elijah's procedure and that of our blessed Lord (Luke 7:14; Luke 8:54; John 11:43), is worth citing here: "Elie ressuscite des morts, il est vrai; mais il est oblige de se coucher plusieurs fois sur le corps de l'enfant qu'il ressuscite; il souffle, il se retrecit, it s'agite; on voit bien qu'il invoque une puissance etrangere; qu'il rappelle de l'empire de ta mort une ame qui n'est pas soumise a savoix, et qu'il n'est pas lui-meme le maitre de la mort et de la vie: Jesus-Christ ressuscite les morts comme il fait les actions les plus communes; il parle en maitre a ceux qui dorment d'un sommeil eternel, et l'on sent bien qu'il est le Dieu des morts comme des vivants, jamais plus tranquille que lorsqu'il opere les plus grandes choses."]
And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
Verse 22. - And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again and he revived [or recovered. Cf. 2 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 8:8].
And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.
Verse 23. - And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house [Probably the עֲלִיָּה. was reached by an outside staircase, and did not directly communicate with the lower rooms. Cf. Matthew 24:17; Mark 2:4; 2 Kings 9:13] and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.
And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.
Verse 24, - And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this [Heb. this. Gesenius interprets עַתָּה זֶה just now. Similarly Bahr, nunmehr] I know that thou art a man of God [not that she had doubted it before. See ver. 18. In the face of what Elijah had done for her, she could not doubt it. All that she means is that this is a great fresh proof of his mission], and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth. [This last word ךאמֶת from which Amittai (Jonah 1:1) is formed, perhaps gave rise to the tradition that this boy was afterwards known as the prophet Jonah. Amiitai was held to have been this widow's husband.