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which Ahab hoped to secure to himself the passage across the Jordan. – Keil. He laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born. In exact accordance with the words of Joshua's curse, he lost his first-born son when he began to lay anew the foundations of the walls, and his youngest when he completed his work by setting up the gates. We need not suppose that Jericho had been absolutely uninhabited up to this time. The contrary is implied in 2 Sam. 10:5, and perhaps in Judges 3:13. But it was a ruined and desolate place, without the necessary protection of walls, and containing probably but few houses. Hiel re-established it as a city, and it soon became once more a place of some importance (see 2 Chron. 28: 15). - Cook.
LIBRARY REFERENCES. Rawlinson's Historical Illustrations of the Old Test., chap. 5, pp. 122-127, and Appendix 2, for the history and translation of the Moabite Stone ; for Moabite Stone, see also any good Bible Dictionary, and Dr. Ginsburg's Moabite Stone and Green's History of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah ; Ancient History of Assyria from the Monuments, chap. 3, by George Smith; sermon on ver. 22 by Ray Palmer, in Formation of Religious Opinions; Kitto's Daily Bible Illustrations; Maurice's Prophets and Kings of the Old Tesi.; Stanley's Jewish Church, vol 11; Mill's Ancient Hebrews.
PRACTICAL. 1. The tendency of sin to grow worse and worse. He who once begins to sin never knows where it will lead him.
2. Frequently the sins of the parents are “ visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those who hate God.”
3. Vers. 24, 25. A man may be skilful and useful to himself and others in all material and worldly things, whilst in spiritual and divine things he works only mischief and destruction. What, without religion, is so-called civilization ? — Bahr.
4. Architectural splendors and military victories are not proofs of national prosperity. 5. Evil men are generally seducers of others to sin. 6. It is a terrible thing to sin against God. It is more awful to lead others into sin.
7. Ahab's whole life is a mournful illustration of resisted and scorned warnings, slighted messages of remonstrance and mercy. The God he rejected strove with him to the last. — Macduff.
8. Ver. 31. Ahab's marriage with Jezebel. Show from this (1) how one wrong step leads to another. This marriage to the establishment of idolatry. (2) How companionship influences character. The stronger moulding the weaker. “A companion of fools shall be destroyed.” (3) How personal fascination may cause men to swerve from rectitude. Jezebel's fascinating power was regarded as witchery, and became proverbial (Rev. 2: 20). (4) How young people should be warned against unholy alliances. Marriage makes or mars character, hope, and blessedness (2 Cor. 6:14). “ Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” - Pulpit Com.
9. God is angry with the wicked every day.
10. Ver. 34. Hiel lived in Bethel, the city where one of Jeroboam's calves was set up. Like Lot in Sodom, men are contaminated by their surroundings and companions.
PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS. Briefly glance at the INTERVENING HISTORY, and the differences in the kings of the two kingdoms, as illustrating the differences in the kingdoms themselves.
Present the HISTORICAL FRAMEWORK of the lesson, with a general view of the state of the kingdom.
SUBJECT, -- GROWING WORSE AND WORSE.
I. OMRI, – outward splendor and increasing sin (vers. 23-28). Note the hints in the lesson of Omri's splendor of buildings, and his might as a warrior.
Illustration. "The Moabite Stone. The Bible accuracy is confirmed, and Omri's worldly renown is revealed by this stone, three feet nine inches long, and two feet four inches wide, found in Dhiban of Moab in 1868, by Rev. F. Klein, a missionary. On it is an inscription of Mesha, king of Moab, who began to reign about B.c. 925, and gives an account of his wars with Israel. Nearly two-thirds of the inscription relate to the deliverance of his land from its vassalage to the house of Omri. But Omri was bad in God's sight. God saw through all this outward splendor a bad heart. Omri grew worse and worse, and so did his kingdom.
Illustrations. The increasing velocity of a falling body. The power of habit. The fable of the camel who asked permission to put his head in the window, and soon entered with his whole body.
Omri not only sinned, but led others into sin. Why do bad men wish to make others bad? (1) Because they love company in sin. (2) Those who refuse to sin with them are a reproof. (3) Each sinner sanctions the others with his approval. (4) Because people think it safer to sin in company. (5) Because they want others to be as bad and unhappy as they are. — Newman Hall.
II. AHAB, — WORSE AND WORSE THROUGH BAD COMPANIONS (vers. 29–34). In what ways worse? (1) He repeated the sins of his fathers. (2) He went into bad company. (3) He cherished the basest and most immoral idolatries. (4) He tempted others into the most degrading sins. (5) Defiance of God's threatenings. (6) And the result, God's anger and punishment.
Dwell largely on the effects of bad companions. Jezebel was the ruin of Ahab. He was too weak to withstand her fascinations.
Illustration. Compare Jezebel with Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. Note what the Scriptures say of bad companionship.
David's warnings (Psalms 1:1; 26:4, 5; 101:7).
LESSON IV.— JULY 26. ELIJAH THE TISHBITE. — 1 KINGS 17:1-16. GOLDEN TEXT. - So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord. - 1 KINGS 17:5.
TIME. – Elijah appeared to Ahab probably about 910 B.C., in the roth year of Ahab's reign. - Smith. He prophesied about 14 years, and was translated about 896 B.C.
PLACE. — (I) Samaria, the capital of Israel. (2) The brook Cherith, a deep ravine, with a brook running into the Jordan. (3) Zarephath, a Phænician town, between Tyre and Sidon, on the Mediterranean.
RULERS. — Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, B.C. 914-889; Ahab, king of Israel, B.C. 918–896; Mesha, king of Moab, B.C. 925-885; Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon; Benhadad II., king of Syria.
PRONUNCIATIONS. — A'hăb; Ash'torěth; Ba'ălim; Běnhā'dăd; Che'rith (ke'. rith); Eli'jah; Eth'ba'ăl; Gilead; Meshă; Tish'bite; Ză'réphăth.
THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH. Great and unusual prosperity and wealth prevailed in Judah; the people were specially instructed in the law of Moses; Jehoshaphat, their king, was both virtuous and pious, rich and happy, great and powerful, beloved by his subjects, revered by his enemies. — Mills.
THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL. — It was the darkest night of Israel's spiritual declension. - Smith. Clouds and thick darkness covered the whole land; the images of Baalim and Ashtoreth fearfully gleam everywhere; idolatrous ternples and heathen altars occupy the sacred soil; every hill smokes with their sacrifices; every vale resounds with the blasphemous yells of cruel priestcraft. The people drink in iniquity like water, and sport in shameless rites around their idols. — Krummacher. Those who still worshipped Jehovah were bitterly persecuted; the schools of the prophets were closed, and many of the teachers put to death. — Mills. Elijah thought that every person had yielded to idolatry, and even God's eye saw only 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). The altars of God were everywhere thrown down, and his prophets were slain (1 Kings 19:10). The whole nation seemed to be carried away with the fanaticism, or quelled by the fury, of the queen. — Todd.
EXPLANATORY. 1. Elijah the Tishbite. - Ver. 1. (1) His name. The name Elijah is compounded of two divine names, and means, Jehovah, my God. — Taylor Lewis. (2) 1125
1. And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, 2 before whom I stand, 3 there shall not be dew nor rain 4 these years, but according to my word.
1 2 Kings 3: 14. Deut. 10:8. James 5:17. Luke 4: 25. native country. The Tishbite. This denotes the town or country of Elijah. He belonged to Tisbe or Thisbe, a place in Gilead. Of the inhabitants of Gilead. Gilead was the wild hill-country east of the Jordan, between Bashan on the north, and Moab on the south. It was a wild, mountainous region, on the borders of the desert. Its inhabitants were always a wild, vigorous, fierce, and lawless race, more barbarous than civilized, more Bedouin than Israelitish. Such are the people of this district to this day. Elijah was a fair type of these people. In his savage dress (2 Kings 1:8), in his fleetness and strength (i Kings 18:46), in his power of endurance (i Kings 19:8), in his rapidity of movement (1 Kings 18:12), and in his fondness for wild and especially mountainous regions (1 Kings 18: 19; 19:8). — Todd. (3) His appearance. He was above the common height of man. He had long, wild hair. His language is brief, plain, rude.- Milman. His only clothing was a girdle of skin round his loins, and the “mantle," or cape, of sheepskin, the descent of which upon Elisha has passed into a proverb. — Smith. (4) His character. Elijah the Tishbite has been well called “the grandest and the most romantic character that Israel ever produced.” He meets us with a suddenness as startling as the first appearance of John the Baptist preaching repentance in the wilderness of Judea. - Smith. All his acts show him, like a fire, consuming the ungodly; an embodiment of the avenging justice of Jehovah in an evil day. Glowing zeal, dauntlessness of soul, and unbending severity are his leading traits, though he showed the gentlest sympathy in the relations of private life. Elijah came to open the path for the kingdom of God, and bring about a state of things in which its gentle message of love could be proclaimed amongst men. - Geikie. The times were fit for Elijah, and Elijah for the times. The greatest prophet is reserved for the worst age Israel had never such an impious king as Ahab, nor such a miraculous prophet as Elijah. - Bishop Hall. (5) His early history. It is in the highest degree probable that Elijah lived, up to that moment, in retirement, that his prophetic activity first began with his encounter with Ahab. —- Lange. In this retirement, as to Moses during his 40 years' preparation in Midian, the Lord spoke to Elijah's soul. There was long and deep communion with God, and the state of the nation and its dangers burned in his soul like the fires in the heart of a volcano. — P.
II. The Famine.- Ver. 1. Said unto Ahab. This is the first we know of the prophet. It must have required great courage, great faith in God, and a soul filled with the power and importance of his mission, to have enabled a poor, lone man, of uncouth speech and wilderness dress, to enter the splendid court of King Ahab, and announce the message God gave Elijah. -- P. As the Lord God of Israel liveth is the usual form of an oath, which here at the same time places Jehovah, the only living God, in contrast with Baal, the dead idol. The God of Israel. The true living God is he also who had chosen Israel and made a covenant with them, which was now shamefully broken by idolatry. With the words before whom I stand (chap. 1:2; 10: 5, 8), Elijah designates himself to the king as the servant and ambassador of Jehovah, and that as such he stands before him and announces the impending punishment. — Lange. In the East, servants stood in the presence of their masters, and officials stood in the presence of their king. There shall not be dew nor rain. Drought was one of the punishments threatened by the law, if Israel forsook Jehovah and turned after other gods (see Deut. I1:17; 28:23; Lev. 26: 18, etc.). — Cook. The fertility of Palestine is entirely dependent upon the regularity and copiousness of the rains, and, during the long intervals between them, upon the heavy dews. Hence both dew and rain are frequently employed in the Scriptures as emblems of blessing (Deut. 33: 28; Ps. 72:6); and the cessation of them is treated as a great misfortune (2 Sam. 1:21; Isa. 5:6). — Todd. These years. An indefinite period. The drought lasted three and a half years (Luke 4 : 25; Jas. 5:17). But according to my word. Not at his own caprice, but as directed by the Lord. And his word would depend on the penitence, etc., of the people. It was because of the obduracy of king and people that it lasted so long. — Pulpit Com.
THE SOURCE OF ELIJAH'S POWER. An apostle takes us into the secret of Elijah's power. Elijah had asked for the supernatural powers which he here claims (Jas. 5:17, 18). – Pulpit Com. He had prayed amid the solitudes of his Gileadite home; pleading with Jehovah his own cause in those days of national guilt, imploring some sign that might arouse
2. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
3. Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
4. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
5. 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.
6. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
the consciences of the people, fix their wavering decision, and even reach the royal heart. The sign was given, and the beneficent rains for three weary years were withheld from the parched land. - Green.
REASONS FOR THIS FAMINE. (1) To compel Ahab and the people to listen to his message. Ahab would despise the rough, uncouth man as a lunatic, and give no heed to his message. But the famine would compel him to listen. This was but preparatory to the message of Elijah, as the miracles of Moses before Pharaoh were to compel the king to hear and grant his request. — P. (2) It showed that Jehovah was still the rightful God of Israel, to whom they owed allegiance, and that he was the same mighty God as of old. (3) It was a righteous punishment for their sins, and would tend to show them the dreadful nature of sin, and lead to repentance. - P. (4) Such a punishment was at the same time an evi. dence against the Baal-worship; for since Baal was worshipped conspicuously as the generating Nature-power, so was the impending drought and barrenness a tangible proof of the impotence and nullity of this idol. — Pulpit Com.
III. God Cares for Elijah through the Powers of Nature. - Vers. 2–7. 2. The word of the Lord came unto him. In what manner is unknown, whether by inward impulse, or vision, or angelic messenger. But it was clearly God's word.
3. Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, i.e., toward the Jordan, and Gilead, his own country. And hide thyself. (1) To escape persecution and death. (2) To wait till the famine had done its work on the hearts of king and people. — P. (3) To avoid importunity. It would have been morally impossible for him, though a man of inflexible will (Bähr) 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. — Pulpit Com. By the brook Cherith. The brook Cherith is the brook of the gorge; and instead of hiding “by" it, as our translation has it, Elijah hid in it, that is, in the gorge. — Todd. That is before Jordan. The word "before" sometimes means “to the east of," as in Joshua 18: 14. But it also means “towards," as in Gen. 18:16; 19:28. Where the brook Cherith was is unknown. (1) Tradition identifies the brook Cherith with the Wády-el-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 favor.— Spence. (2) It is much more probable that Cherith is to be sought in the region east of the Jordan, where, indeed, Eusebius and Jerome place it. Elijah would naturally go to his own country, whose wilds and fastnesses would be perfectly familiar to him. It was probably in the Wady Alias, i.e., at no great distance from 'Abara (Conder, “Tent-work,” p. 230), the Jordan ford, nearly opposite Bethshan. - Spence.
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). - Spence. I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. The raven is one of the most common birds of Palestine. To command the ravens is to provide in the order of nature for their doing so. It may be called a particular providence, but is not, on that account, necessarily a miracle. — Tayler Lewis.
6. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh. The bringing to Elijah of suitable food, “ bread and flesh,” at regular intervals,“ morning and evening,” by such birds, was evidently miraculous. Various attempts have been made to get rid of the miracle. Some scholars have claimed that the word which is rendered “ravens” means also “merchants," and is so translated in other places. Their idea is, that Elijah was fed by travelling companies of merchants, who passed by his hiding-place. Others, and among them no less an authority than Jerome, have held that there was a town near by, called Orbo, or Oreb, whose inhabitants, the Orebim (which is the word rendered “ ravens"), fed the prophet. Jerome seems to speak of the town as if it were known to him. But the best scholars generally take the story as it stands, and understand that it speaks of ravens. — Todd.
7. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.
8. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
9. Arise, get thee to 1 Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there : behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
10. 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.
1 Obad. 20. Luke 4:26, called Sarepta. REASONS FOR ELIJAH'S RETIREMENT. (1) For his safety. (2) To prepare his soul for the work yet to be done. (3) To strengthen his faith. (4) To leave the people no resource but God in their trouble. 7. And it came to pass after a while. Hebrew, at the end of days. An indefinite term, which furnishes no idea of the exact time. All we can be sure of is, that he must have been more than two years, out of the three and a half, at Zarephath. — Pulpit Com. How Elijah's faith must have been tried as the waters slowly dried up, leaving him without resource. It is such slow processes that try faith most of all. Many possess the faith for any sudden great and heroic deed — for one who can maintain his faith unshaken in the midst of such slow trials as this. This trial the faith of Elijah stood. Yet it may be that now and then, in his solitary musings upon the ways of God, the thought may have occurred to him that this one stream might have been spared for his sake. But there was faith even in such a doubt. Such an exemption of this stream would, however, have brought crowds of people thither for water, and thus his retreat would have been discovered. God does not always exempt those whom he loves from their share in such visitations as these. “It is,” says Bishop Hall, “no unusual thing with God to suffer his own dear children to be enwrapped in the common calamities of offenders. He makes a difference in the use and issue of their stripes, not in the infliction. The corn is cut down with the weeds, but to a better purpose.” — Kitto.
IV. God Cares for Elijah through Human Aid. — Vers. 8-16. 9. Arise, get thee to Zarephath. The name (meaning smelting-house) points to furnaces or workshops for the refining of metals. Greek, Zarepta (Luke 4: 26). It is now represented by an insignificant village, Surafend. 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. — Pulpit Com. It was beyond the limits of the kingdom of Israel; and therefore the prophet was here comparatively safe from the vengeance of Ahab.– Todd. Ahab sought everywhere for Elijah. But he would not dream of his going into the territories of Jezebel's father; and, as a peasant in the cottage of a poor widow, he would be unsuspected. — Green. I have commanded. That is, have put it into her heart. It is not necessarily implied that God had spoken to the woman, or inspired her. — Todd.
10. And when he came ... behold, the widow woman was there. He, with a famished body and famished heart; she, mourning over her breadless household. Says she, “Ah! he know's nothing of the agony of a widow's heart.” And he, " Ah! she knows nothing of the heavy burden of the prophet of the Lord.” Thus it has often been a way of God to bring, as at Sarepta, burdened hearts together. They shall do each other good, those two. - Hood. The widow showed by the oath, "as Jehovah thy God liveth," that she was a worshipper of the true God. - Spence. Never would Elijah have made the demand, and still less would she have paid any attention to it, had she been a heathen and worshipper of idols. — Bähr. She had seen better days, for her house had an “ aliyeh," or roof-chamber, built over it, — the room specially appropriated for guests, as the best furnished in the house, and usually dedicated, in a well-ordered family, to meditation and prayer. - Geikie. Gathering of sticks. Two sticks (ver. 12). This shows her poverty, and how small a fire would suffice to cook her remaining food. Fetch me ... a little water in a vessel. Elijah asked this to test whether he had found her to whom he had been sent, and her instant compliance showed him that he had. His appearance, very probably, convinced her that he was a "holy man"; a title often given to the devotees of Eastern religions. — Geikie.
II. Bring me ... a morsel of bread. He tests her again by asking of her a still greater favor, appealing to human kindness.