1 Kings 17:16
The jar of flour was not exhausted and the jug of oil did not run dry, according to the word the LORD had spoken through Elijah.
Entertaining a StrangerJ. Waite 1 Kings 17:16
The Barrel of Meal and the Cruse of OilH. J. Martyn.1 Kings 17:16
The Cruse that Never JailsL. A. Banks, D. D.1 Kings 17:16
The Inexhaustible BarrelSpurgeon, Charles Haddon1 Kings 17:16
The Inexhaustible BarrelCharles Haddon Spurgeon 1 Kings 17:16
The Miracle is ZarephathM. B. Chapman.1 Kings 17:16
The Widow's Barrel of MealH. Allon.1 Kings 17:16
The Widow's CruseA. Rowland 1 Kings 17:16
Divine CareJ. Urquhart 1 Kings 17:7-16
Second Preparation of ElijahE. De Pressense 1 Kings 17:7-24
The Barrel of MealJ.A. Macdonald 1 Kings 17:10-16

Describe this incident in the life of Elijah. Show some of the ADVANTAGES which arose from his visit to Zarephath; e.g.,

1. It was a means of blessing to himself. He found a true worshipper of Jehovah even in the coasts of Tyre, where, under the rule of Jezebel's father, one was least to be expected. This would strengthen his faith, and it would keep alive his hope that his work in Israel would "not be in vain in the Lord." We may sometimes assure ourselves of the vitality of Christianity by witnessing its effects among the heathen. A visit to the South Sea islands would prove a tonic to debilitated faith.

2. It was a means of blessing to the widow. Not only was she kept alive in famine for the prophet's sake, but she received spiritual blessing. Christ refers to Elijah's visit as a sign of the care God had, even under the old dispensation, for the heathen peoples, where He left not Himself without witness. (Compare Luke 4:25.) Show that as Elijah turned from Israel to Zidon, so the apostles turned to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6). Learn from the story the following general lessons: -

I. THAT GOD PROVIDES FOR THE NECESSITIES OF HIS SERVANTS. In the famine He had already made provision for Elijah at Cherith, and now that the supply there had failed, other resources were opened. Not always in our way, but in some way, He answers the prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread." He does not promise luxuries or wealth, but our "bread shall be given to us, and our water shall be sure." We are not to be anxious about our future, but are to remember that it is in the hands of God. It is said of our food and raiment, that our "heavenly father knoweth that we have need of these things." When a child is at home he learns his lessons, obeys the rules of his parents, etc., but he has no care about the food he will want on the morrow. He never dreams but that it will be provided. Such should be our spirit, whatever may be our powers of productive work. We are diligently and earnestly to do whatsoever our hands find to do, feeling certain that "they who seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." The Israelites followed the cloud, though it led them into the wilderness, with the conviction that God was leading them; and when it was necessary He provided manna in proportion to their wants. If God does not ignore our temporal necessities, He will certainly not fail to supply our spiritual wants. In the Father's house there is bread enough and to spare. This we may prove on earth, but its highest fulfilment will be seen in heaven, where the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, shall feed us.

II. THAT GOD USES WHAT MEN WOULD DESPISE. With limitless resources, we should have imagined that God would miraculously create what was required, disregarding "the handful of meal" and the little oil left in a cruse. Not so, however. There is no waste in the Divine economy. The breath of men, the exhalations of plants, the refuse cast into the field, or into the sea, the rising mist, the falling shower, are all accounted for, and have a purpose to fulfil, a work to do. There is no physical force which becomes utterly extinct, though it passes from one form of manifestation to another. Motion passes into heat, heat into electricity, etc., in an endless cycle. The economy of force asserts itself everywhere under the rule of God. This, which is proclaimed by science, is constantly illustrated in Scripture. It is the same God who worketh all in all. If manna is given to the Israelites, it ceases directly the people can eat of the corn of the country. The supernatural rises out of the natural. The miraculous provision for Elijah was not a new creation, but an increase of what already existed; and in the use of this there was no prodigality or waste. Compare with Christ's miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. After showing that He had infinite resources, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost."

III. THAT GOD REVEALS OUR WAY STEP BY STEP. Picture Elijah sitting by the brook Cherith, watching its waters becoming shallower day by day under the drought. He knew not what he should do next, but he waited, and trusted, and prayed; and when the brook was dried up, "the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath," etc. God does not reveal the future to us, but draws across it an impenetrable, or at most a semi-transparent veil. We know not with absolute certainty what a day may bring forth. The advantages of this are evident -

1. It saves us from sorrow and from sin.

(1) From sorrow, because if we foresaw all that we should have to endure, if we knew the day of our death, the extent of our losses, etc., our burden would be greater than we could bear. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

(2) From sin, because we should grow absorbed in worldly occupations it we were certain life would be long; or become despondent and spiritless in work if we knew it would be short.

2. It fosters in us the graces of trust and prayer. If we know nothing of the future ourselves, and cannot feel confident about our own plans, we are led to confide in Him who foresees what is before us, and to ask Him in prayer for daily guidance and support.

IV. THAT GOD REWARDS OUR CONSECRATION OF WHAT WE HAVE TO HIM. It was a generous act towards a stranger, a pious act towards a servant of Jehovah, to fetch for Elijah the water which was now so costly, and to be willing to share with him what appeared to be her last meal. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth." Even in temporal affairs this is true. Hoard seed in the springtime, and you cannot be enriched; scatter it, and the harvest will come. Give to the poor in the name of their Lord, and you will not fail of reward - either here or hereafter. We are to give, however, not for the sake of applause or recompense, but "as unto the Lord," to whom we owe all that we have. This woman not only gave to the prophet, but gave to him in the name of a prophet, and therefore "received a prophet's reward" (Matthew 10:40-42). May He who commended the widow when she gave her two mites so accept our gifts and services, and so approve our motives, as at last to say, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me!" (Matthew 25:40.) - A.R.

The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail.
In the midst of wrath God remembers mercy. Divine love is rendered conspicuous when it shines in the midst of judgments. Fair is that lone star which smiles through the rifts of the thunder-clouds; bright is the oasis which blooms in the wilderness of sand; so fair and so bright is love in the midst of wrath.


1. How sovereign was the choice. Our Saviour Himself teaches us when He says, "I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land. But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Zidon, unto a woman that was a widow." Here was Divine sovereignty.

2. What undeservingness there was in the person! She was no Hannah. I read not that she had smitten the Lord's enemies, like Jael, or had forsaken the gods of her country, like Ruth. She was no more notable than any other heathen. Her idolatry was as vile as theirs, and her mind as foolish and vain as that of the rest of her countrymen. Ah, and in the objects too, of God's love, there is nothing whatever that can move His heart to love them; nothing of merit, nothing which could move Him to select them.

3. Her condition was miserable too, in the very last degree. She had not only to suffer the famine which had fallen upon all her neighbours, but her husband was taken from her. Ah, this is just where sovereign grace finds us all — in the depth of poverty and misery. I do not mean, of course, temporal poverty, but I mean spiritual distress. So long as we have a full barrel of our own merits, God will have nothing to do with us. So long as the cruse of oil is full to overflowing, we shall never taste the mercy of God. For God will not fill us until we are emptied of self.


1. The love of God towards this woman in its dealings was of the most singular character.

2. The dealings of love with this poor woman were not only singular, but exceedingly trying. The first thing she hears is a trial: Give away some of that water which thy son and thyself so much require! Give away a portion of that last little cake which ye intended to eat and die! Nay, all through the piece it was a matter of trial, for there never was more in the barrel than there was at the first.

III. THE FAITHFULNESS OF DIVINE LOVE. "The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of off fail, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by Elijah." You will observe that this woman had daily necessities. She had three mouths to feed; she had herself, her son, and the prophet Elijah. But though the need was threefold, yet the supply of meal wasted not. You have daily necessities. Because they come so frequently — because your trials are so many, your troubles so innumerable, you are apt to conceive that the barrel of meal will one day be empty, and the cruse of off will fail you. But rest assured that according to the word of God this shall not be the case.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

God's blessings, whether of oil, or corn, or sense, or grace, come to us in accordance with three laws, and of these laws this miracle in Zarephath is a signal illustration.

I. THE LAW OF ECONOMY. The little which we have must not be wasted. The smallest capacity must be utilised. The most rudimentary gift must be employed. Out of the inventory of to-day comes the more of tomorrow. God works no superfluous miracles. He wastes no energy in mere spectacular display. In his administration everything is generous, nothing is wasteful; everything is orderly, nothing is paroxysmal; everything by law, nothing by caprice.

II. THE LAW OF CONTINUITY. There is no spontaneous generation in the chemistries of nature, character, or grace. The new comes out of the old; oil comes out of oil; meal comes out of meal; this year's harvest comes out of last year's corn crib; the perfect truth comes out of the partial truth; the extraordinary is only the ordinary carried up and completed. The supernatural is simply the natural touched with life, quickened with God. What we receive is the increase of what we have. What we may be is the outgrowth of what we are. Every future leaps out of the loins of some past.

III. THE LAW OF INCREASE. Get a little meal underneath God's blessing, in the drift of His purpose, and it means more meal. "St. Theresa and two sons are nothing; St. Theresa, two sons, and God are everything." If we bring our weak faith to Him He will increase it. If we bring our torpid hearts to Him He will make them beat and burn.

(M. B. Chapman.)

This miracle illustrates —

I. A PRINCIPLE IN CONNECTION WITH ECONOMY. The greatest generosity would often be to teach economy. The economy of nature is as startling as uniform. The gas flung off by the vegetable world — do you think it is wasted? It becomes a source of your health and life! And the gas that you exhale in breathing is not wasted; it becomes food for the trees, and that carbon. Whence is the rain that refreshes the face of the earth? It is the result of economy, of God's treasuring up the water, absorbed by the sun. Of all the refuse of this earth that the rivers bear into the ocean, there is nothing wasted. Out of it God is making the bones of fishes, coral reefs, etc. And if the principle on which the Deity is managing the great palace of nature were taken into the homes of destitution that abound, there might be less drunkenness, etc., but there would oftener be "the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil."


III. A PRINCIPLE IN CONNECTION WITH PIETY. "Man liveth not by bread alone," etc. We never starve in spiritual life for lack of help.

IV. A PRINCIPLE IN CONNECTION WITH GENEROSITY, This woman gave and got. But let us remember that she gave unselfishly, and not in order to get. Moreover, she gave to her utmost. She gave to a prophet, in the name of a prophet, and she received a prophet s reward. The reward is not always a material one; it is sometimes sympathy, sometimes the benediction of poverty, and always the smile of the soul and God.

(H. J. Martyn.)

I wish to spiritualise this incident, with its barrel of unwasting meal and its cruse of unfailing oil, and see it in a type of that unfailing happiness and peace and comfort for which men are for ever seeking. We are all too well aware, though we are constantly deceiving ourselves about it, constantly trying to hide it from our eyes, that the ordinary stores of life's joy do waste and fail.

1. One of our first sources of joy and comfort is youth.

2. Health is one of life's great fountains of comfort and happiness. Our health is a barrel of meal and a cruse of oil constantly being used up. Most of us are already taking medicine to keep the worn machine sufficiently in order so that we can make it work awhile longer.

3. Closely allied to health is strength, though many men and women carry burdens through long lives on shoulders grown strong through tribulations, never knowing what it is to have health. Many people exult in their strength; many get happiness out of it; the mere ability to do things is a great blessing from God; but that, too, is a failing cruse. After awhile we come to know that there is only about so much force, about so much strength and vitality, in a human being, and that if men or women use their strength in one way it means they cannot use it in some other way.

4. This is true of all the joys and comforts that we get from earthly fortune.

5. Then there is that great source of earthly comfort and confidence, the joy which comes from the fellowship and kindness of our relatives and friends. And now I gladly turn away from this side of our study to contemplate with infinite thanksgiving to God the cruse of oil that never fails. There is a life which Jesus came to give us which is not affected with the passing of youth, with the breaking down of our health, with the failure of our strength, or with the frail character of our fortunes — a life that may grow more abundant under them all and may never be more full of the vigour and enthusiasm of youth than when it faces the king of terrors; a life that does not fail though one is thrown into a dungeon with John Bunyan, or cast into the inner prison with Paul and Silas, or exiled among the heathen with David Livingstone; a life that can do without money, or health, or youth, or friends, and still remain sweet and patient and glad and loving and brave. If you to-night will take God's promise, with the same simplicity of faith shown by this poor woman towards the promise given through the lips of Elijah, you, too, shall save yourself alive unto eternal life.

(L. A. Banks, D. D.)

Nothing is more wonderful in the orderings of God's Providence than the economy of human supply, the marvellous adjustment of contingency and constancy, of precarious means and uniform provision. We often speak and feel as if the great marvels of God's Providence were its signal interpositions, its great deliverances or hair-breadth escapes occurring once or twice during a lifetime, deliverance from a fire in which others have perished, from a railway accident or shipwreck in which others have lost their lives. But, rightly viewed, the true marvel of God's Providence is its minuteness, its adjustment of little things, its constant maintenance of the myriad laws and causes upon which daily life depends, that pulse should follow pulse, that breath should succeed breath, that day after day and year after year all the mysterious functions of life should go on, and all the mysterious conditions of life be maintained — the chemistry of the atmosphere, the balance of forces, the supply of food, all the wonderful things of life within us and without us, by which every hour and every moment we live and move and have our being. It is a miracle in all ways, a miracle of power and wisdom, and a miracle of goodness, that God's loving arm should never for a moment be withdrawn, His eye never for a moment be averted, His supplies never for a moment fail. It needs not a miracle to demonstrate God's mercy. And the peculiarity of God's Providence is that a general uniformity is blended with circumstantial uncertainty. The great law is invariable — seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, day and night do not fail; and yet how precarious and changeful the sunshine and shower, the labour and the fructifying influences upon which they depend! How anxiously the farmer sows and cultures l how easily his hope is frustrated! He knows not which shall prosper, this or that. The uniform law has a margin of contingent circumstance about it, in which much depends upon human effort and upon Divine blessing. It seems in each individual instance as if there were no certain law at all. And for moral purposes, for the education and discipline of men this is an arrangement of wonderful wisdom. If our wants were supplied by some mechanical law, there would be no religious culture, no religious appeal; the daily and hourly play of religious feeling Would be lost. We all know how rapidly uniformity produces Indifference, even though it be uniformity of blessing; even the most marvellous goodness ceases to impress us if it be invariable! If our food were to be supplied by what we call miracle, it would surprise and affect us at first, but if of regular occurrence we should soon cease to feel either surprise or gratitude. The manna of the wilderness which excited such wonder at first soon became as familiar as drops of rain. One great reason therefore why God diversifies the experience of our lives is that by constant excitement he may keep alive our sense of dependence upon Him. Every man's experience attests the healthful influence of this diversity of things. How near to God it keeps us; how it enhances our sense of blessings!

1. How entirely dependent upon God we are for the common and necessary things of our life! And yet there is nothing that we are more prone practically to forget. Too often we become conscious of it only when they are withdrawn.

2. Another lesson is, Into how small a compass the real necessities of life may be reduced. Were we to take an inventory of this poor widow's effects, how short and meagre it would be! A little meal in a barrel, and that perhaps not very fine meal, and a little off in a cruse. Were we to look round her cottage, we should find no superfluities in it. No doubt her little furniture had been all parted with, ere her last despairing resolution was taken. If the barrel and the cruse were not the whole of her effects, yet from them we may safely infer the rest. It is but an illustration of the process that every day goes on in many an English home: the deportation of goods to the pawnbroker's, sometimes superfluities, sometimes precious objects of loving associations, sometimes the very necessities of life, the bed upon which children sleep, the clothes that should cover their nakedness, or keep them from the cold; sometimes these sad shifts are the result of thriftless extravagance, or of sensual indulgence, but too often they are the sad necessity of poverty, and those accustomed to comforts are glad to hold body and soul together by the commonest and scantiest food.

3. Again: how easily God can supply us with what is necessary for us! What innumerable agencies are at His disposal! If ordinary channels fail, how easy for Him to employ extraordinary ones! One way is as easy to Him as another, only it is not so common. Elijah was supplied by the ravens as easily and as surely as when the corn waved in the fields. And then, again, when he was an apparent pensioner upon the poor widow's charity. Here were three different methods in which God supplied His servant's need — the one as much His method, and as easy to Him, as the other. "He opens His hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing."

(H. Allon.)

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