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33. And he l put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and 2 pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
34. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
35. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled 3the trench also with water.
36. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD 4 God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, 5 let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that 6 I have done all these things at thy word.
3 Vers. 32, 38. • Ex. 3:6. 81 Kings. 8:43. 2 Kings 19:19. Ps. 83: 18.
And he made a trench, or channel for holding water. As great as would contain two measures of seed. Literally, " as the space of two seahs of seed.” The seah contained about three of our gallons. — Cook. A trench as deep as the grain measure containing two seahs. — Gesenius. It would therefore contain considerable water.
33. And he put the wood in order, etc. Rawlinson says " he obeyed,” that is, in all the injunctions of the law with respect to the offering of a burnt sacrifice (see Lev. 1:3-9), and adds, “ He thus publicly taught that all the ordinances of the law were binding on the kingdom of Israel." But it is very probable that the priests of Baal had done the same things. All sacrifice involved such manual acts. No doubt the prophet did everything in an orderly and regular way, -Spence. Fill four barrels. Or "water-jars, such as the maidens used to carry on their heads. The word is the same which is translated “ pitcher" in Gen. 24: 14-20. — Cook. And pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. The water, as already remarked, was doubtless brought from the adjoining spring (though it is clear from ver. 40 that the Kishon was not dry, and Thomson thinks that its sources, and particularly the fountain of Saadieh, furnished the supply). — Pulpit Com. In such springs the water remains always cool, under the shade of a vaulted roof, and with no hot atmosphere to evaporate it. While all other fountains were dried up, I can well understand that there might have been found here that superabundance of water which Elijah poured so profusely over the altar. — Van de Velde.
34. Do it the second time ... third time. The water which had run down into the trench from the twelve pitchers poured over the sacrifice was insufficient to fill it. Elijah, therefore, had more water brought, till the trench was filled (ver. 35). – Cook. Elijah adopted this course for the purpose of precluding all suspicion of even the possibility of fraud in connection with the miraculous burning of the sacrifice. For idolaters had carried their deceptions to such a length that they would set fire to the wood of the sacrifices from hollow spaces concealed beneath the altars, in order to make the credulous people believe that the sacrifice had been miraculously set on fire by the deity. — Keil. It was an old tradition (found in Ephrem Syrus and Chrysostum) that the Baal prophets had concealed a man for that purpose beneath their altar, but that he had died from suffocation. — Stanley.
II. Elijah's Prayer. --- Vers. 36, 37. 36. At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. The time at which the evening sacrifice was offered in his day, which was probably that mentioned by Josephus (" Ant. Jud.” xiv. 4. $ 3), “ the ninth hour," or three o'clock. — Cook. Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel. Note (1) he appeals to the covenant God of their pious ancestors with all his promises to them. (2) This was the same God who had done wonders for their nation in the past, delivering them from Egyptian bondage, dividing the Red Sea, bringing water from the rock, and manna from heaven. (3) This formula was first used by God himself at the burning bush, when he revealed himself in flaming fire (Ex. 3:6, 16). (4) The variation “Israel," instead of “ Jacob," suggests “ that the name and privileges of Israel belonged to all the sons of Jacob.” The very title of address was, therefore, an argument for God's revealing himself once more. - P. And that I have done all these things at thy word. That is to say, "that I have been divinely directed in all that I have done publicly as a prophet, in proclaiming the drought, in gathering this assembly, and in proposing this trial. - Cook. He would give the responsibility and the honor to God.
37. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
38. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces : and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
40. And Elijah said unto them, 2 Take the prophets of Baal ; let not one of them escape. And they took them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and 3 slew them there.
Lev. 9:24. Judg. 6:21.
Chron. 21:26. 2 Chron. 7:1. ? 2 Kings 10:25. 3 Deut. 13:5; 18: 20.
37. That this people may know that thou art the Lord God. Elijah did not seek his own honor, but God's. He forgot himself in his desire that the true God should be known and worshipped. He knew that God only was worthy of worship; that it was ruin to his country not to serve the true God; that people became like the God they loved. And that thou hast turned their heart. He had begun to turn them already, and the process was still going on. Back again. From idols to the true God.
III. The Answer. - Vers. 38–40. 38. Then the fire of the Lord fell. This denotes not lightning, for an ordinary flash could have produced no such effect, but a fire miraculously proceeding from Jehovah (Lev. 9: 24). — Keil. From the clear blue ether overhead the whole multitude saw the bright, white flame descend. — Cook. Thus they could plainly see for themselves that there was no trickery, no hidden fire, but that the answer could be only from God himself. And consumed ... the wood, and the stones. Of which the altar was built. And the dust (or earth). Usually it is supposed that the earth means that which was thrown up in the building of the altar; but it can also be that with which the altar, built of twelve stones, was filled up (Ex. 20: 24). — Bähr. The heat must have been intense to "consume," or melt up and pulverize these stones. This fire demonstrated the existence and omniscience and omnipotence of Jehovah, and set in a strong light the folly of worshipping the purely imaginary Baal. It also vindicated the prophet as God's authorized and commissioned messenger. The consumption of the twelve stones by the divine flame which inwrapped them was also interpreted as a prophecy that the twelve tribes would be restored to their unity as a nation, by the pervasive influence of God's Spirit, blending all into one. If there was any such prophecy intended, however, it was spiritual in its meaning, and looked forward to the Christian church for its fulfilment. — Todd. What is the miracle of that fire which devoured the burnt-offering, and compelled the whole people to cry out, “ The Lord, he is God,” in comparison with the miracle that God has sent his Son into the world to kindle the greatest fire which has ever burnt in the world? -- Lange.
VALUE OF MIRACLES. Miracles like this are God's signature to his truth; the proof that it is God that speaks. Miracles are not a breaking of the laws of nature, but simply the higher spiritual power of God using nature, as we, lifting up a stone against the law of gravitation, do not break that law nor suspend it, but only apply the higher power of our wills. It is only in miracles that men, however satisfied in their own souls, can prove to others that God himself is speaking through them. We in our days do not need this kind of miracles, because (1) we have their record in the Bible. (2) We have the best kind of divine proof in the work of the Holy Spirit converting men from sin to God. These conversions are the same proof to us that miracles were in ancient times. Miracles, to attest divine truth, must (1) be worthy in kind; (2) be fully sustained, with no chance for trickery; (3) attest worthy doctrine; (4) have an occasion worthy of such interference from God; (5) be such that only God could do them. – P.
39. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces. In reverent worship and awe at the spectacle. Perhaps (as Cook) they hid their eyes lest they should be blinded by the brilliance of the divine light. The Lord, he is the God. The people understand thoroughly the nature and bearing of the whole scene, as a trial to determine whether Baal or Jehovah is the true God. And they now pronounce the matter to be clearly and certainly decided. Baal is overthrown; he is proved to be no God at all. The Lord Jehovah, he, and he alone, is God. Him will they henceforth acknowledge, and no other.-Cook.
40. Take the prophets of Baal. Elijah gives abiding power to the impressions the people had received by crystallizing them into action. As if he had said, “ You acknowledge
41. And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
Jehovah as the true God; now therefore obey his commandments; and there is an opportunity at hand. Take these teachers of idolatry, — some of them renegades from the faith of Israel, some of them foreign emissaries introduced into the land, - and destroy them as God has commanded on three separate occasions" (Ex. 22: 20; Deut. 13:1-18; 17:2–7). And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon. A stream which flows along the northern slope of Carmel (" and nowhere so near as immediately beneath the spot where Elijah's altar stood”), and empties into the Mediterranean. A precipitous ravine leads directly down from the sacred spot to the river beneath, and down this ravine the priests were probably burried. Near the river is a mound which is still called Tell Kusis, or “ the hill of the priests,” and the river itself bears the name of “ River of Slaughter"; but it has witnessed too many slaughters to make it certain that the name refers to the story before us.
- Todd. And siew them there. Not certainly all with his own hand, though some he may have actually so slain, as Samuel slew Agag (1 Sam. 15:33). Elijah is said to have slain them because the people slew them by his orders, as Josephus understands the passage (“Ant. Jud.” viii. 13, $ 6). — Cook.
REASONS FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF BAAL'S PROPHETS. This destruction was not an act of cruelty, but of mercy, and under like circumstances, and by the right authority, similar acts are justified every year by the best nations in the light of the nineteenth century. For (1) it stood precisely as a defensive war stands. Every one is sorry for the sufferings of death of the individual marauders, but they rejoice in the country defended, the liberty secured, the righteous cause upheld; which ends it was possible to gain only by the defeat of the enemy. (2) It was done on the same principle as we execute criminals; with sorrow for their death, but with the certainty that it is not only just, but is mercy, life, safety to multitudes of the innocent. There is no greater cruelty than in neglecting to punish the criminal. The deed was a solemn, terrible execution, not a fanatical massacre. Idolatry was no mere religious error; it was treason, direct and defiant, against Israel's supreme King. -- Green. The law is found in Deut. 13:1-18; Ex. 22:20. (3) It was necessary for the very existence of the nation. It may seem small in our eyes, but in the sight of God these priests of Baal had been committing an enormous crime. Hardly any punishment would be thought too severe for men engaged in the poisoning of wells, or adulterating the staple food of a land, but the spiritual health of a people is of far more importance than any physical hygiene: especially is this true where a nation has a religion or a code of morals given to them expressly by God. Above all does it assume importance when a people are yet homogeneous in the exercise of such religion as something most precious to be transmitted to their posterity. Its value soars above all estimates when it is designed not only for their own and their children's highest welfare, but for the world's supremest good. Had it not been for this, we ourselves might now be worshipping the cruel, monstrous, and impure gods of our Baltic and Caucasian ancestors. – Tayler Lewis. (4) It was necessary that this be done by Elijah, because the execution of this law could not be expected of such a king as Ahab. (5) It is not for us to destroy idolaters in this way (a) because our relation to them is entirely different; (6) because the true religion is established, and idolatry, however wicked it is, is not treason; (c) because we live under new light, and in a new dispensation, with other and better methods; (d) because God has told us“ Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." — P.
IV. The Coming of the Rain. - Vers. 41-46. 41. And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up. From these words, it follows that Ahab had gone to Kishon, and was present at the execution of his Baal priests. — Pulpit Com. Eat and drink. It is extremely probable that the excitement of the ordeal was so intense that the king had barely tasted food all day long. Elijah now bids him eat if he can, after what he has witnessed. There is now, he suggests, no further cause for anxiety or alarm, for the rain is coming. — Pulpit Com. All special sacrifices were accompanied with feasts, which had a sacred character (1 Sam. 9: 12, 13; 1 Kings 12: 32, etc). The feast on this occasion was spread near the altar, on the broad, open place, just beneath the summit of the mountain, on which the altar was built. — Todd. There is a sound of abundance of rain. Either the wind, which in the east usually heralds rain, had begun to rise, and sighed through the forests of Carmel, or perhaps the sound was simply in the prophet's ears, a mysterious intimation to him that the drought was to end, and rain to come that day.
42. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and 1 he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,
43. And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
44. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
45. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
1 James 5: 17, 18.
42. So Ahab went up to eat. Who had greater cause than Ahab to seek solitude, fall down upon his knees and say, God be merciful to me and blot out my sins (Ps. 51: 3)? But of all this not a word. The rain alone was of importance to him, not the Lord and his mercy. How many like-minded ones in our day! — Lange. And Elijah went up. The king goes to feast, the prophet to pray. To the top of Carmel. The high point of Carmel rising from the place where the sacrifice took place. From the top of this elevation there is a wide prospect of the Mediterranean Sea. He cast himself down. The natural attitude of humble, penitent, earnest prayer.
43. And said to his servant. His attendant, who was not a mere servant, but was usually a pupil under his instruction, who aspired, himself, to be a prophet in due time. Todd. Tradition says that he was the son of the widow of Zarcphath. - Cook. Go up. A little higher than where the prophet was bowed in prayer. There is nothing. The contrast is remarkable between the immediate answer to his earlier prayer (see vers. 36, 37) and the long delay here. The one was for the sake of the people; the other for some lesson - perhaps of humility and patience — to Elijah himself. When the answer does come, it fulfils itself speedily. - Old Test. Com. for English Readers. Yet the praying Elijah does not despair, for he has the promise of God. He is too earnest, too strong in faith to cease praying. The promise does not keep him from praying, but keeps him at it. -- P. Seven times. Either exactly seven, or many times, as the phrase often means.
44. A little cloud . . i like a man's hand. “A little cloud," that is, “ that looks no bigger than a man's hand.” — Cook. The clearness of the sky renders the smallest speck distinctly visible; and this is in Palestine the uniform precursor of rain. It rises higher and higher, and becomes larger and larger with astonishing celerity, till the whole heaven is black, and the cloud bursts in a deluge of rain. -- 7., F. and B.
“And thus twice, thrice, seven times they strive A finger, hand, an arm, a form With faith that cannot fail,
of power and grace divineOne watching on the mount above,
The heavens shall swell with blessed showers, One wrestling in the vale.
The earth with raindrops shine:
Oh, dare with loving hearts to bring
The sacrifice of blood!
While Hope stands watching on the mount,
- Homer N. Dunning. Go up. That is, not up to a higher point, for Ahab was below; but, as we should say, “Go up to such a person”; that is, up to his face. That the rain stop thee not. These words have caused some perplexity to commentators. Their meaning becomes perfectly clear as read on the spot. The river Kishon, easily fordable at this point, would soon become a rushing, furious torrent, as in the days of Sisera. Besides which, the plain of Esdraelon consists of a rich, alluvial soil, which after a heavy rainfall becomes absolutely impassable for carriages, and is difficult even for horsemen and pedestrians. If Ahab is to return to Jezreel, he must do so at once. — Samuel Manning.
45. In the mean while. This is too slow. The literal Hebrew conveys the idea of great rapidity. It would correspond nearly to our expressions one could hardly look here and look there, or, one could hardly turn round, before the heavens were growing dark with
Cease not your seven-fold prayer!
46. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he 'girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
12 Kings 4: 29; 9:1.
cloud and tempest. — Tayler Lewis. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. Ahab's summer residence, situated about 17 miles from Carmel, in the tribe of Issachar. He betook himself thither because Jezebel was then at this summer residence, and he wished to let her know the news (chap. 19:1). — Lange.
46. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah. Hand is here used as the symbol of power. The meaning is, that the Spirit of God came upon him, and imparted to him unusual strength. For “ the hand” in the sense of “the Spirit” of the Lord, see Ezek. 1: 3; 37: 1. As a wild Gileadite, Elijah doubtless had great strength, and speed, and endurance; but the strength which enabled him to keep in advance of Ahab's chariot, driven furiously to escape the storm, all the way from Carmel to Jezreel, was something superhuman. --- Todd. He girded up his loins. Gathered his mantle around him with his girdle, and made it tight for running. And ran before Ahab. His object was apparently twofold. First, to honor the sovereign whom he had that day humbled in the presence of his subjects. The great prophet, by assuming the lowly office of a foot-man, or forerunner, would give due reverence to the Lord's anointed, like Samuel on a somewhat similar occa. sion (1 Sam. 15: 30, 31). Secondly, he may have hoped, by his presence near the king and court, to strengthen any good resolves which the former might have made, and to further the work of reformation which he could not but hope the proceedings of that day would inaugurate. That this tribute of respect would be grateful to Ahab, who hitherto had only regarded Elijah as an adversary, it is impossible to doubt. And that Elijah believed he had struck a death-blow to the foreign superstitions fostered by the court, and especially by the queen, is equally certain. — Spence. To the entrance of Jezreel. It might not be safe for him to enter the city and put himself into the power of the angry queen.
PRACTICAL. 1. Vers. 30, 31. Let us be frequently reminded that the church of God is one.
2. In reforming the country or the church, use all the good there already is in them; repair old altars rather than build new ones.
3. Vers. 33–35. Let us so guard our work for the Lord that men shall clearly see that all the power is from him, and not from the “ machinery” we use.
4. Ver. 36. There is peculiar power and helpfulness in worship at the stated seasons.
5. All that God has done for our fathers is a power and encouragement for the work of to-day. So the Christian is strengthened in faith by remembering what God has done for him in the past. By past victories given by God he gains hope for present battles; by past answers of prayer, faith that the answer is coming to the prayer of to-day.
6. Ver. 38. Miracles are God's endorsement of his messengers and their message.
7. God still answers by fire, through his Holy Spirit. His miracles of to-day are miracles of conversion, — sinners changed to saints, nations elevated, — the fruits of the Gospel.
8. Ver. 40. Righteous punishment of crimes against society is mercy to the nation. 9. As soon as men are convinced of the truth they should be set to practising it. 10. Ver. 42. We are to pray even for those things which are promised. II. Ver. 43. We must watch for the answer as well as pray.
12. We must persevere in prayer. The answer is sometimes delayed for good reasons, but it will come.
13. Ver. 46. Even those who reprove rulers boldly for their sins should show that they are true and obedient subjects.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS.
I. THE PRAYER OF ELIJAH FOR FIRE FROM HEAVEN (vers. 30–37). Notice the various points mentioned in the notes, — the symbol of a united nation, the fairness of Eli. jah even to generosity; the qualities to be remarked in this prayer, (1) at the appointed season, (2) recalling past blessings, (3) appealing to a covenant-keeping God, (4) short, (5) earnest, (6) unselfish, seeking the good of the people and the glory of God. II. THE FIRST ANSWER (ver. 38). The fire fell from heaven in a manner to convince