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11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah : and she, and he, and her house, did eat, many days.
16. 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.
12. And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth. Showing her recognition of him as an Israelite and a man of God, and therefore having peculiar claims upon her; and also her own religious tendencies. 'I have not a cake. Rather loaf, the smallest kind of bread. Bread was baked in small round and flat loaves, about a span in diameter, and a finger's breadth in thickness, shaped not unlike flat stones (Matt. 4:3; 7:9); and three of them were allowed for each person for one meal (Luke 11:5). — Todd. An handful of meal. Wheat, ground in a hand-mill. In a barrel. Probably an earthern jar. In the East, the people kept their corn in earthern jars to protect it from insects which swarm in the heat of the sun. - Canon Exell. And a little oil. Olive oil. Hasselquist speaks of bread baked in oil as being particularly sustaining. In a cruse. At the present time this vessel is made of a blue, porous clay, and is of a globular form, about nine inches in diameter, with a slender neck about three inches long; a small handle below the neck, and, on the side opposite the handle, a straight spout having an orifice about as large as a straw. — Todd. Two sticks. That is, a few, as we say “two or three." Dress it. Prepare it for eating. That we may eat it, and die. The famine prevailed there, and she was in the last extremity. She needed Elijah much more than Elijah needed her help. A heathen historian, quoted by Josephus, speaks of a great drought and famine as having occurred in the reign of Ethbaal, king of Tyre. — Todd.
13. Fear not. The prophet says this because he was about to mention something startling, something really supernatural, the thought of which always brings its dread upon us, even when designed in munificence. Such was the fear which fell upon the apostles after the miraculous draught of fishes. – Tayler Lewis. Make me thereof a little cake first, ... and after make for thee and for thy son. This was not from the selfishness of the prophet, but because he wished to give her an evidence before her eyes of the reality of the promise made in the next verse. — Lewis. It was also a test of her faith whether she were worthy of the help Elijah offered. And this faith was necessary in order to make the provision for her wants a real blessing to her spirit. — P.
14. For thus saith the Lord God, etc. This unfailing oil and meal was doubt. less due to a miracle. And it was worthy of God to work the miracle here. (1) To uphold his own prophet. (2) To show his kindness and love to the poor. (3) To strengthen the faith of Elijah and the poor widow. (4) To be an unfailing source of instruction and comfort to all God's people, an object lesson for all ages. — P.
15. And she went and did. She had faith, and her faith produced good works. Did eat, many days. Between two and three years. — Lange.
16. And the barrel of meal wasted not. God's word proved true.
For the heart grows rich in giving;
All its wealth is living grain;
Seeds which mildew in the garner,
Scattered, fill with gold the plain.
Is thy burden hard and heavy?
Do thy steps drag wearily?
Help to bear thy brother's burden
God will bear both it and thee.
Numb and weary on the mountains,
Is the heart a well left empty?
None but God its void can fill:
Nothing but a ceaseless Fountain
Can its ceaseless longings still.
Is the heart a living power?
Self-entwined, its strength sinks low,
It can only live in loving,
And by serving love will grow.
- Mrs. Charles. ZAREPHATH, THE FURNACE OF TRIAL. I. It was a place of trial to Elijah. (1) He must go into the country most at enmity with the God he served. (2) His path is untried and unknown. (3) He is led to one of the poorest of people, unable to sustain herself. (4) He lives by a perpetual miracle, his sustenance coming day by day. (5) The trial is long continued. (6) His reward. He was sustained, and at the same time prepared for his future work. Well says Lange, “ Elijah had to make good, first of all, obedience and resignation to the will of God at the brook Cherith, compassion and love at Sarepta; then it was that he appeared in the sight of God, furnished with iron severity to judge and to punish. “Now since thou hast learned sympathy, go hence and preach, and speak to the people.' These are the words to him which Chrysostom puts into the mouth of God.” – P.
II. It was a place of trial for the widow. (1) She is asked to entertain a man of God, whom the king desires to kill; hence her life was in danger. (2) She gives to a stranger, on his word as a man of God, her last loaf. (3) She was tested day by day, as only the supply for a day was given at a time. (4) Her faith was rewarded by constant support; by the presence and life of a man of God; by spiritual blessings.
LIBRARY REFERENCES. Lives of Elijah, by Wm. M. Taylor, Krummacher, Edersheim, Macduff, and Lowrie; Geikie's Hours with the Bible, IV.; Hall's Contemplations, II; Bush's Illustrations of Scripture, 261-263; on the brook Cherith, see Thomson's Land and the Book (last edition), pp. 396–400; the Pulpit Commentary has many practical applications; the Sunday School Times for Jan. 13, 1877, is very good.
PRACTICAL. 1. God raises up suitable instruments in every crisis. The most eminent prophet is reserved for the corruptest age. — Hall.
2. The preacher and the teacher must be faithful, and deliver God's messages of warning at whatever cost.
3. When the seed is sown, it is often best to let it germinate in silence.
4. By silent communing with nature and nature's God, we are prepared for active work.
“One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Than all the sages can.”
7. Everything in nature is a servant of God to minister to his people. The Lord will care for thee; rest assured of that, and do not ask how it shall come to pass. Despise no instrumentality which he points out to thee. — Krummacher.
8. God's extremity is man's opportunity. 9. Life is full of trials of our faith.
10. Those who trust in the Lord will find that he himself is their exceeding great reward.
11. It is always safe to give freely to the Lord. Our alms will not lessen, but increase, our store. “The heart grows rich in giving." 12. God's grace and love are an unfailing fountain.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. This lesson follows close upon the last.
We need to REVIEW the last lesson so far as to obtain a vivid PICTURE OF THE SIN AND DANGER of the kingdom of Israel under Ahab.
I. ELIJAH (ver. 1). Describe his appearance, character, etc. MARK the hint we obtain from Jas. 5:17 that the prophet brooded and prayed over the wickedness and danger of his country, and that he was sent in answer to his prayer.
II. THE FAMINE (ver. I). A calamity brought upon the people for their sins. So God had threatened for such sins as they were committing (Deut. 28: 15, 23, 24). The only hope of the people was that they repent and return to God. The famine long continued, at the word of God's prophet, would compel them to think, and lead them back to God.
III. ELIJAH AT THE BROOK CHERITH (vers. 2–7). The reasons and advantages of his retirement here (see 1 Kings 18:10). So Christ retired to the desert. So Moses was forty years preparing for his work.
Illustration. A curious anecdote of ravens was given in the Saturday Magazine. It occurred many years ago at the Red Lion Inn, Hungerford, England. “Coming into the inn yard,” says a gentlemen who resided there," my chaise ran over and bruised the leg of a favorite Newfoundland dog, and while we were examining the injury, Ralph, the raven, looked on also. The minute the dog was tied up under the manger with my horse, Ralph not only visited him, but brought him bones, and attended him with particular marks of kindness. I observed it to the hostler, who told me that the bird had been brought up with the dog, and that the affection between them was mutual, and all the neighborhood had been witnesses of the many acts of kindness performed by the one to the other. Ralph's friend, the dog, in course of time had the misfortune to break his leg, and during the long period of his confinement the raven waited on him constantly, carried him his provisions, and scarcely ever left him alone. One night, by accident, the stable door had been shut, and Ralph had been deprived of his friend's company all night; but the hostler found, in the morning, the door so pecked away that, had it not been opened, in another hour Ralph would have made his own entrance." — Bp. Stanley's History of Birds. APPLICATION. Nor is it a singular case;
Thus Satan, that raven unclean,
Who croaks in the ears of the saints,
Compelled by a power unseen,
Administers oft to their wants;
God teaches them how to find food
From all the temptations they feel:
This raven, who thirsts for my blood,
Has helped me to many a meal.
- John Newton. IV. ELIJAH AT ZAREPHATH (vers. 8–16).
Illustration. St. George of England is fabled to have fought the famous dragon at Zarephath, and his fame still lingers there. We see here a double trial of faith and a double reward. In every way it was a trial to Elijah, to go to a strange family, in extreme poverty, and in his enemies' country, like Daniel in the lion's den, and to do nothing for two years. But it fitted him for his work, and sustained him to do it. The widow woman's faith was tried also, and she bore the trial, trusted the Lord, and gave all her living to his hungry prophet. And her reward was great and blessed.
Illustration. The unfailing oil and meal was no stranger, though a miracle, than God's daily care of his people by the operations of nature. All nature, every garden and field and tree, is an unfailing cruse, renewed year by year, and far more wonderful than what was done for the widow of Zarephath.
LESSON V. — AUGUST 2. ELIJAH MEETING AHAB. — 1 KINGS 18:1-18. GOLDEN TEXT.— Ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. - I KINGS 18:18.
TIME. - About B.C. 907. Three and a half years after Elijah's first appearance to Ahab.
PLACE. — The country north-west from Jezreel (ver. 46), near the base of Mt. Carmel.
RULERS.- Ahab, king of Israel (11th year). Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (7th year). A religious reformation in Judah. Idolatry prevailing in Israel. PRONUNCIATIONS. - A'hăb; Bā'alim; Jěz'ěběl; Obădi'áh; Zăr'ěphăth.
INTRODUCTION. In our last lesson, we left the prophet hidden in the home of the widow of Zarephath, waiting for the time when the word of the Lord should come to him, and bid him do his further work of reformation. He remained here more than two years. The only incident of this long period, given in the history, was the healing of the widow's son when he was “so
1. And it came to pass after I many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and 2 I will send rain upon the earth.
2. And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
sick that there was no breath in him.” The results were two. (1) The mother's faith was confirmed that Elijah was a man of God, and she kept him from the searching eyes of his enemies. (2) Elijah's own faith was strengthened for his further work. And now the time had arrived for him to come forth from his hiding-place and enter upon his work for the salvation of the people.
EXPLANATORY. 1. The Work of the Famine Done. — Vers. 1, 2. 1. The word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year. Not the third year from the commencement of the drought, but in the third year of his sojourn with the widow. The whole period of drought was three years and a half (Luke 4:25; Jas. 5:17); of this, probably about one year was passed by Elijah in the torrent-course of Cherith, which, without fresh rains, must have dried up in that space, and two years and a half at Sarepta. — Cook. Go, shew thyself unto Ahab. As the interdict had been placed on the land in Ahab's presence, by direct announcement to him, so it was fitting that it should be removed in the same way, — Cook. Had Elijah now conferred with flesh and blood, this would have seemed to him like a command to plunge into the raging waves of the sea, or to walk into a lion's den. He had to present himself to a wicked and idolatrous king, a tyrant armed with despotic power, whose personal enmity against him had been increasing for at least three years and a half, and had been doubly aggravated by the distress of the country, of which Elijah was reputed to be the author. During all this time, Ahab) had been intent upon apprehending him. If the wrath of a king be as messengers of death, what had Elijah to expect from such a king as Ahab ? And yet he receives the brief and positive direction, “Go, shew thyself unto him!” But let no one suppose that our Lord ever expects what is above human nature from any of his children, without imparting, at the same time, sufficient grace and strength for the purpose. He leads none of his children into the valley of the shadow of death without becoming to them their rod and staff. Thus Elijah, on this arduous path of faith, was supported by the promise, “ I will send rain upon the earth.” He could depart from Zarephath as a messenger of joy, and carry a blessing with him; he could be cheered by the assurance of his commission to announce the return of rain, and by the hope that many would at length give up their hateful idolatry and humble themselves before the God of their fathers. - Krummacher.
The effect of a three years' drought would be to reduce the entire people to the verge of starvation. The severity of the famine was no doubt mitigated, as on a former occasion (Gen. 41:57), by the importation of corn from Egypt. — Pulpit Com. All was dry, and parched, and barren, and the face of the earth seemed to have been burnt up by the wrath of God. No traces of the products or the labors of the field were to be seen; cultivation had ceased. All seemed solitary. Men had no business to bring them abroad, and they remained at home musing in their cottages, or crouching about the market-places, which trade had by this time almost forsaken. Even the birds had abandoned the land which afforded no nour
Even the cattle had disappeared. The shepherd, tending his sheep and goats, was to be seen no longer; and the herds of neat cattle, which once enlivened the scene, had altogether disappeared, for there was no more pasture. — Kitto. The agony of distress had now risen to such a pitch that throughout the land there was one earnest, plaintive cry for life.
THE MORAL EFFECTS OF THE FAMINE. (1) It would lead the people to distrust Baal. He, the source of life, was unable to supply their wants when Jehovah forbade the rain and dew to come. (2) It would make them realize their sin in departing from God. They would here read such places in their Bible as Deut. 28. There is nothing like the terrible results of sin to make men feel the evil of sin. (3) It would lead the people, therefore, to a repentant and humble state of mind. (4) It would enable even Ahab to resist the influence of Jezebel for a time, so that he would no longer persecute God's people. (5) It
3. And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly :
4. For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)
5. And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks : peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.
would lead the people to seek for some remedy. Some would seek help from nature, as Ahab did. Some would call upon God. The minds of all were being prepared for a return to true religion. — P.
II. The Vain Search for Help.- Vers. 3-6. Ahab was a great and renowned king. He lived in splendor; he was surrounded with magnificent palaces and temples in his two capitals. He was a great warrior. He had a most beautiful, though artful queen. No wonder he hesitated to yield to an unknown prophet. He therefore made one more effort on a large scale to obtain food and water without the aid of God, and the true way out of his trouble, — repentance, confession, and forsaking his sin. — P.
3. Ahab called (rather, had called) Obadiah. Obadiah's name indicates his religious character. It means “servant of Jehovah." — Cook. Which was the governor of his house. That is, he was in charge of the royal household, a kind of lord high chamberlain, or mayor of the palace. Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly. That is, he was deeply and devoutly religious. “Fear” does not mean in such connections as this that he was “afraid of” God, but he revered and served God. A loving, trusting awe and reverence. P. Ahab could scarcely have been ignorant of Obadiah's faithfulness to Jehovah. — Cook. It is quite probable that it was because of his religion that he occupied this post of trust. Ahab could depend on his fidelity and conscientiousness. — Pulpit Com. Obadiah was religious (1) in a time of general declension. He went against wind and tide. (2) In a very difficult place, the very centre of idolatry, a frivolous, idolatrous, licentious court. (3) He was very religious. Only a man of strong religious convictions could maintain his relig. ion under such circumstances. But the very difficulties made a strong man stronger, and a good man better.
4. For it was so. The writer now gives an instance in proof of Obadiah's character. When Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord. It is extremely probable that this work of extermination was begun as an act of reprisals for the drought denounced by Elijah. Ver. 13 almost implies that it had taken place during his absence. — Spence. Prophets of the Lord. Not men endowed with the extraordinary gifts of the prophetic office, but who were devoted to the service of God, preaching, praying, teaching, etc. (1 Sam. 10:10). —
7., F. and B. An hundred prophets. That we find so large a number still in the land, notwithstanding the exodus (2 Chron. 11:16), and the steady growth of impiety, shows that God had not left himself without witnesses. — Spence. Hid them by fifty in a cave. Probably the division into two companies was partly for the sake of security, and partly for the sake of convenience. The greater the number to be fed, the greater the chance of detection. Compare also Jacob's precautions (Gen. 32:7, 8). It has been sug. gested that these caves were in the sides of Mt. Carmel; there are large caves under the western cliffs. — Stanley. But this is mere guess-work, as Palestine, being of limestone formation, abounds in caverns (see Stanley, S. and P., pp. 151, 152). — Pulpit Com. Bread and water. That is, food and drink,
5. Go... unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks. Rather, “ to all springs of water and to all torrent-courses.” The “fountains” or “springs” are the perennial streams; the “brooks" are the torrent-courses, which become dry in an ordinary summer. Ahab hoped that even in the latter there might be occasional moist places where fodder might be found. — Cook. To save the horses and mules alive. It has been inferred from Ahab's concern for his stud that he viewed the sufferings of his subjects with comparative indifference, or at least regarded them as of altogether secondary importance. But this is a too hasty conclusion. His subjects were, for the most part, as well able to find water for themselves as he was for them, and he might safely trust to their instinct of self-preservation to do their best to meet the emergency. But the dumb cattle, confined to the stall, could not act for themselves. Hence this expedition in search of fodder. — Pulpit Com.