1 Kings 17:1
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand…
In this sudden manner the Tishbite is introduced, upon which Bishop Hall remarks, "He comes in with a tempest who went out with a whirlwind." And Lamartine says, "Recalling his life and his terrible vengeance, it seems as if this man had the thunder of the Lord for a soul, and that the element in which he was borne to heaven was that in which he was brought forth." Let us consider -
I. HIS PRESENCE.
1. It is awful in its vagueness.
(1) It was of the inhabitants of Gilead - "The hard, stony region," south of the river Jabbok. This was one of the wildest parts of the Holy Land. The awful scenery of that district harmonized well with the ruggedness of the spirit of this prophet. John the Baptist first appeared in a wilderness. Out of a wilderness Jesus came up when He entered upon His public ministry (Matthew 3:1; Luke 4:1, 14, 15).
(2) He is distinguished as the Tishbite. Calmer says Tishbe was a city beyond Jordan in the tribe of Gad, and in the land of Gilead. Gesenius, from Relandi, mentions Tishbe as "a town of Napthali." Could there have been two Tishbes; and were the words "Of the inhabitants of Gilead" added to distinguish?
(3) "The Tishbite," we incline to think, was a name of office or commission. It designates Elijah as the Converter (תשבי from נרעת ות שב). In this he resembled John the Baptist, whose commission also was to preach repentance. (See Matthew 11:13, 14; Matthew 17:12; Luke 1:17.) When Elijah comes again "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord," it will be in his character of Tishbite or Converter, viz., "to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." (See Matthew 4:5, 6),
2. It is awful also in its intensity,
(1) His name (אליהו) some interpret to be, "My God Jehovah is he," others, "God is my strength." In either case it reminds us of God, and God is the very centre of all reality.
(2) Elijah brings us into the very presence of God also by the manner in which he announces himself. "As Jehovah liveth, before whom I stand." In this way also the angel Gabriel announced himself to Zacharias, and that too when he revealed the coming of the Baptist. (See Luke 1:19.) It is probable Elijah, like John the Baptist, also was a priest, and the expression under review may intimate this. (Compare Deuteronomy 10:8.) About 940 years after this, Elijah, with Moses, in a remarkable manner stood, in the presence of Jehovah, in the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3).
(3) This declaration of the living God was appropriately timed. For the calves or young bulls of Jeroboam, and the bulls and goats of Sidon established through the influence of Jezebel, had so occupied public attention that He was forgotten. Lamentable is the substitution of death for life! HIS FAITH.
1. It is bold in its assertion.
(1) "There shall be neither dew nor rain." The material elements which mechanically produce dew and lain were worshipped by the Phoenicians, and now by the Israelites, while the God that made them was forgotten. Is not this the very error of modern atheistic physicists? They worship Baal, Ashtoreth, and Ashere under other names, and ridicule faith and prayer. But Elijah asserts the living God as superior to nature, who will restrain both dew and rain, and so make the gods to worship him. (See Deuteronomy 11:16, 17; Jeremiah 14:22.)
(2) "There shall be neither dew nor rain these years." Dew and rain, according to the course of nature, may be withholden for days, for weeks, even, in rare cases, for months; but not for years. When therefore for "three years and six months" these meteors were awanting, the phenomenon was supernatural.
2. The qualification is no less remarkable - "But according to my word."
(1) Unless divinely authorized to say this, such a declaration would be most presumptuous. And the inevitable failure of the prediction would cover the pseudo-prophet with ridicule and confusion.
(2) But Elijah was a genuine man. He spoke under the inspiration of Jehovah before whom he stood. Such inspiration makes all the difference between presumption and faith. This is just the distinction made by James, who describes Elijah's faith as (ἐνεργουμεν) inwrought persuasion of a righteous man (James 5:16). Faith is the gift of God.
3. The directness is admirable.
(1) This address is to Ahab. It comes not to him as a hearsay, but with the highest authenticity. The inspired messenger of God is above kings. (See Jeremiah 1:10.)
(2) It is fearlessly delivered. When a man is conscious that he stands before Jehovah he may use great freedom of speech. The courage of the lion is in the heart of faith. Elijah was a man of faith because he was a man of prayer. It is an encouragement to our faith to know that "Elias was a man of like passions as we are" (James 5:17). - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the foreigners of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As Yahweh, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word."