Then Elijah ordered them, "Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let a single one escape." So they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered them there.
Genesis 4:5; Leviticus 9:24; Judges 6:21; 1 Chronicles 21:26.) About a century before this that fire came from heaven which was still kept burning upon the altar at Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 7:1). But Carmel is not Jerusalem; and Jehovah has not promised to record His name here. And, should Elijah fail, then would they fall upon him and destroy him. Yet, on the other hand, he is an extraordinary servant of Jehovah; his word concerning the rain and dew has come true; so may his confidence respecting this answer of fire be honoured. Such thoughts flashed through their minds; but the moment has arrived; the preparations are complete. Now observe -
I. THE PRAYER.
1. It is offered at the time of the evening sacrifice.
(1) The stated evening sacrifice is now on the temple altar. Elijah holds communion with that altar. He, too, though on Carmel, is a true worshipper of the God of David. There are differences in religious worship sanctioned by God which must not be accounted schism. Protestant Nonconformists are not necessarily schismatics.
(2) It is the "hour of prayer." Prayer should ascend with the sacrifice; Christ should be in an our supplications. The hour of prayer was the "ninth hour" (Acts 3:1), that hour in which Jesus "cried with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit" (Matthew 27:50). So in submission must we yield up our spirits with his in prayer to God.
2. It pleads for the honour of God.
(1) It reminds Him of His covenant. "Jehovah Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel." With these patriarchs He had established His covenant. They knew nothing of Baal's covenants.
(2) "Let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel." Let those who will not acknowledge Thee be confounded. (See Joshua 2:11.) Let those who repent be reconciled to Thy favour.
(3) "Let it be known this day in Israel that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word." Else to have so acted would have been the height of presumption. But with the authority of God mistrust would have been presumption. We are bound to believe the promises of God.
3. It sues for mercy to the penitent.
(1) "Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that thou art Jehovah Elohim;" that Thou art the self existent, covenant keeping God.
(2) "And that thou hast turned their heart back again." The blessings of the covenant are conditioned upon faith. Without repentance there is no tame faith.
(3) How few are the words of this prayer! No vain repetitions. How wide the contrast with the clamour of Baal's priests!
II. THE RESPONSE.
1. Then the fire of the Lord fell.
(1) There was no mistake about it. It was indeed the "fire of Jehovah" - miraculous fire; for it worked downwards, contrary to the ordinary operation of fire, which works upwards. The sacrifice was soon consumed. Then the wood. The water was licked up. The very stones and dust were vitrified and volatilized.
(2) The destruction of the altar pointed to the pleasure of God that patriarchal high places should be removed, and that all Israel should henceforth worship at the Levitical altar of the temple at Jerusalem. This is the last instance on record in which God accepted a sacrifice offered on a patriarchal altar.
(3) But where now is Baal? Is not that celestial fire which was worshipped as a god completely in the hands of Jehovah?
2. The demonstration was irresistible.
(1) "When all the people saw it they fell upon their faces." Here was an act of reverence towards God. It was the sign also of their renunciation of Baal.
(2) This confession in symbol was accompanied by a corresponding confession in words. "And they said, Jehovah, he is the Elohim; Jehovah, he is the Elohim." Words are signs of a fuller expression.
(3) But words must be followed up by deeds. The prophets of Baal have now to be sacrificed. The law required this. (See Deuteronomy 13:1-11.) They were accordingly slaughtered by the brook Kishon. Thus was returned upon their heads the slaughter of the prophets of the Lord. (See vers. 4, 18.)
(4) The retribution was complete. Some are of opinion, because the "prophets of Baal" only are mentioned, that the 400 prophets of Ashere were absent and escaped. But this does not follow, for the prophets of Ashere might be included under the designation "prophets of Baal," as Saul's sons are included in his name. (See 1 Samuel 31:8-18; 2 Samuel 21:13.) The prophets of Ashere certainly were present. (See vers. 19, 20; also 1 Kings 19:1.) Let us confess the Lord. In signs: observing His sacraments and ordinances of worship public and private. In words: confessing Him before men upon all fitting occasions. In deeds: bringing forth the fruits of good living, and sacrificing the idolatries that would lead us astray. - J.A.M.
Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.
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