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13. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he l wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave : and, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah ?
14. And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts : because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
15. And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus ; ? and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.
look only at the fire and the storm of outward changes. There is a hidden life of the people, a working of God in the heart, that lies beneath all these other things, as the still, deep sea beneath the waves that move only the surface, and change no great current or flow of the ocean. (3) This is true of our own characters. They are formed mostly by silent, unobtrusive forces. The great and marked events have had less effect than the inward working of God's spirit and the influences amid which we live. (4) It is true of the progress of the church. (5) It is true of success in our spiritual work. Robertson well says, “For teachers, --- not in the flushing of a pupil's cheek or the glistening of an attentive eye, not in the shining results of an examination, does your real success lie. It lies in that invisible influence on character which he alone can read who counted the seven thousand nameless ones in Israel. For ministers, — What is ministerial success? Crowded churches, full aisles, attentive congregations, the approval of the religious world, much impression produced? Elijah thought so; and when he discovered his mistake, and found out that the Carmel applause subsided into hideous stillness, his heart well-nigh broke with disappointment. Ministerial success lies in altered lives and obedient, humble hearts, unseen worth recognized in the judgment day.” (6) The weapons of his warfare, the instruments of religious progress, must be spiritual, not carnal. Not in fire and sword and slaughter, but by a secret voice speaking to the conscience, will God regain his sway over the hearts of Israel. Spence. (7) God's chief manifestation of his power and glory is (a) in Jesus Christ, who made no show among men, but has made the greatest changes the world's history has known; (6) in his love; and (c) in the gift of the Holy Spirit, with his mighty working and reformation in the souls of men and in the world. — P.
13. That he wrapped his face in his mantle. In reverent awe at the power of God. The “mantle" of Elijah was the upper garment, a sort of short cloak or cape, - perhaps made of untanned sheepskin. - Cook. And went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. Elijah had remained in the cave during the storm, the earthquake, and the lightning. Now that he recognizes the presence of God, he obeys the injunction given him to "go forth" (ver. II), and “goes forth," and stands just at the mouth of the cave. Cook.
IV. Third Cure, — Active Work for the Lord's Cause. — Vers. 13-17. 13. And, behold, there came a voice. The question of ver. 9 is repeated. God now speaks directly to Elijah. This voice is not to be identified with the “still small voice" of ver. 12.
14. And he said, etc. The words are the same as in ver. 10, but probably they were spoken in a different tone, and with a different spirit. The facts are the same. He repeats them, because they, and they alone, explain why he is there, and because he cannot see as yet how they are to be remedied. But he is now conscious of a misgiving as to the wisdom and piety of his course. He will go back if it be God's will; he will be content to wait God's time and to follow his leading. The commission which is straightway given him almost proves that he had experienced a change. It implies that he is now fitted for his high ministry, - Spence.
15. And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way. Instead of a reproof, the Lord simply sent the prophet back to his work. Reproof is implied, and so is forgive. ness. Now what the prophet needed for his encouragement was active work for his master. New interest, new usefulness, with the aid and approval of God, would help greatly to cure his despondency. The wilderness of Damascus. Damascus was on the borders of the desert. Here he would be beyond the dominions of Ahab. Anoint. It was customary to set apart by anointing kings and prophets. It often means merely to set apart for some special service of God. Hazael. The confidential officer of Benhadad, the king of Syria
16. And 'Jehu, the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel : and 2 Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
17. And 3 it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu 4 shall Elisha slay.
18. 5 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, 6 and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
at that time. He was set apart, as we see in ver. 17, to be the instrument of punishing Israel for their sins.
16. Jehu, the son of Nimshi. That is, the direct descendant. He was in reality the grandson (2 Kings 9:2, 14). So Christ was called the son of David. By Jehu the king. dom of Israel was shaken within; he put an end to the house of Ahab, from which the idolatry proceeded and was kept up (2 Kings 9:24, 33; 10: 1-28), and was the divine rod of correction for the idolatrous within Israel. - Lange. Elisha (see Lessons X.-XII.). Of Abel-meholah. “The meadow of the dance." A town in the Jordan valley, at no great distance from Beth-shean. - Spence. By Elisha, as successor of Elijah, who strove with fiery zeal against all idolatry, the reformatory work of the latter was to be continued. — Lange. The great lesson, as in vers. II and 12 above, that souls are to be won, that God's kingdom is to be advanced, not by wrath and vengeance, by fire and sword, but by meekness and gentleness, through the reason and the conscience, is proclaimed. Hazael and Jehu each was God's instrument to punish; each was like the sweeping storm and the devouring fire; each was an engine of destruction; but by neither of these were the hearts of men turned to the Lord. It was the sword of Elisha, the sword of his mouth (cf. Isa. 11:4; 49:2; Rev. I: 16; 2: 16), should constrain men to hide their faces and humble themselves before God. — Pulpit Com.
17. And it shall come to pass, etc. See above. It is not recorded that Elijah actually anointed these with oil. If he did, it was repeated in the case of Jehu (2 Kings 9:1-6). But he may have done it. And it may be that the anointing meant only the designating of them for their work.
V. Fourth Cure, - A Truer View of the Facts. — Ver. 18. God, by his own words, taught the prophet, and through him all of us, to look not alone at the dark side of things, but at the brighter side. To see only the dark is death and despair. To see also the bright side, to know that our work is succeeding, and God's cause is advancing, that we are on the strong and winning side, - this is hope and peace. — P.
18. Yet I have left me seven thousand. This is the answer to Elijah's third complaint, “ I ONLY am left.” Seven thousand faithful shall survive all the persecutions of Ahab and Jezebel, and carry down the worship of Jehovah to another generation. — Cook. The prominent idea is perhaps this: Though the children of Israel have forsaken my covenant, yet I have kept and will keep it. It also suggests how the still small voice had been speaking in the silence. — Pulpit Com. Every mouth which hath not kissed him. Idolators sometimes kissed the hand to the object of their worship (Job 31: 26, 27); at other times they kissed the actual image (Hosea 13:2). Cicero speaks of having seen an image of Hercules at Agrigentum, the mouth and beard of which were worn away by the kisses of worshippers (Cic. “adv. Verrem," iv. 42), — Cook.
PRACTICAL. 1. Vers. 1, 2. This history may well astound us with its illustrations of the terrible influence of one bad woman. May the Lord spare the world from other such! - Cowles.
2. Ver. 4. The best of people have their hours of despondency and doubt. 3. Mark God's tender kindness in reproof of his children.
4. Physical weariness and mental exhaustion are often the occasion of our dark views, of life, of the church, and of the world.
5. Vers. 5-8. By caring for the bodies of men, we prepare the way for spiritual instruction and help.
6. The bread and the water with which God nourishes souls in the wilderness are the truths of his Word and promises. — Krummacher. Jesus Christ is the bread of life.
7. Ver. 9. God asks every one of us, What doest thou here? Are you in your right place and doing your right work?
8. Ver. 10. Note the progress of sin in this verse.
9. Ver. 11. God calls to men, Go forth from the cave of Skepticism, of Impenitence, of Guilty Despondency, of Sorrowful Distrust. - N. Hall.
10. Vers. 11-13. God's mightiest workings are by silent, secret forces, both in the natural and in the spiritual world.
11. The power of the church is not so much in splendid buildings, or great assemblies, or temporal fame and power, as in the character of Christians, the power of the Holy Spirit, the daily influences of the Word, the individual work for the salvation of men, the power of love.
12. Ver. 14. Religion is not dead nor dying. I want no other proof of this than the pains so many take to kill it. -- French Author.
13. Ver. 18. There are more good people in the world than some wise and holy men think. – Henry.
14. There is far more good in the church, far more done for Christ and the world than many give Christians credit for.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS.
We saw the prophet flushed with victory, and full of high hopes of a whole people turning to the Lord, come to the gates of Jezreel like a conqueror. In a few hours he is fleeing to the desert, the most discouraged of mortals. Mark the cause of this discouragement as given in the Notes.
BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATIONS. Peter sinking in the waves and denying his Lord. John the Baptist in prison sending to Christ. Moses when the people murmured. All typified in Bunyan's Slough of Despond.
FIRST REMEDY, – Refreshment and rest of body.
Illustrations of this long fasting. Such fasting is not impossible. The Daily News, April, 1881, relates the case of Harriet Duell of Iowa, who died after a fast of 47 days. The same paper for July gives the case of Mr. Griscom of Chicago, who fasted 45 days. Dr. Tanner's fast of 40 days is well known. Elijah's case was different. He was learning divine lessons.
APPLICATIONS. There are many times, when in certain states of health, we cannot judge ourselves or others rightly. Let us be just to ourselves in these moods, and take God's way of helping others who are in this state.
SECOND REMEDY, — A view of God's way of working. By secret and silent forces he does most of his work. The lightning is but a small part of God's working by electricity. The earthquake a small portion of God's chemical action. The tornado a meagre part only of what the air does in the world. God taught Elijah that his work on Carmel was not the greatest proof of success; nor the power of Jezebel a proof of failure.
Illustrations. How frail are the crystals of snow, and yet so much of this snow as a child can carry in its arms embodies, according to Tyndall, force enough to take a whole village, soil and all, and toss it to the clouds. What more gentle and delicate than the rays of the sun? And yet the water of all the rivers and lakes of the world are lifted up by these rays, and carried on the cloud-chariots to their sources. So in the moral world. Thoughts, ideas, feelings, are the real powers, far more than thrones, and wars, and revolutions.
THIRD REMEDY, — More work.
Illustration. There is a quaint legend which tells how, some years after the event, St. Thomas was again troubled with agonizing doubts as to our Lord's resurrection. He sought the apostles, and began to pour his soul's troubles into their ears. But first one, then the other, looked at him in astonishment, and told the unhappy doubter that he was sorry for him, but really he had so much to do he had no time to listen to his tale. Then he was fain to impart his woes to some devout women. But they, as busy as Dorcas, and in like employment, soon made him understand that they had no leisure for such thoughts as these. At last it dawned upon him that perhaps it was because they were so busy that they were free from the doubts by which he was tortured. He took the hint; he went to Parthia, occupied himself in preaching Christ's Gospel, and was never troubled with doubts any more.
FOURTH REASON, — A truer view of the facts. The bright side of the picture of which he had seen only the dark.
LESSON IX. — AUG. 30.
GOLDEN TEXT. – Thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord. - 1 KINGS. 21: 20.
TIME. - Probably about the year B.C. 900.
RULERS. — Ahab, king of Israel, B.C. 918–897. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, B.C. 914889. Benhadad II., king of Syria.
PRONUNCIATIONS. — Be'liăl; Jěz'rēělite; Nā'both.
INTRODUCTION. Some, with the Septuagint, place the events of this chapter before those of chap. 20, but the order here is probably correct. - Cook.
After the events of the last lesson, Elijah seems to have retired from public notice in Israel for several years. Perhaps the king and queen thought they were rid of him for ever. But their expectation was vain." Ahab, king of Israel, having successfully resisted two invasions of his land by the king of Syria, employed the interval of peace which followed in attending to affairs at home. Among other projects, he conceived The idea of enlarging the grounds of his royal palace at Jezreel, by purchasing a vineyard which adjoined them on the east, and turning it into a garden. This incident, unimportant in itself, is narrated because it was the immediate cause of the fall of the house of Ahab, and the great political and religious revolution which followed. — Todd.
EXPLANATORY. Scene I., - Ahab Coveting Naboth's Vineyard. Although Samaria was the metropolis of his kingdom, Ahab had a palace at Jezreel, where he seems to have resided during part of the year. This palace was situated on the heights at the western extremity of Mount Gilboa, on the eastern borders of the plain of Esdraelon, and about 25 miles north of Samaria. -- Kitto. Here stood a royal palace and pleasure grounds, close to the city gate; and adjoining, on the outside, was the vineyard which the king coveted. A neighboring spring, twelve minutes' walk from the present diminished town, would furnish water to convert it into that great oriental luxury, a "garden of herbs," replenished with fresh vegetables and every variety of fruit-tree, and cooled by a water-tank, with its usual favorite plat of grass, shaded by a climbing vine. - 11. 7. Van Lennep. Ahab wished to buy this vineyard, which belonged to Naboth, one of the citizens of Jezreel. He even offered more than it was worth. But Naboth refused to sell the vineyard, because it was "the inheritance of his fathers." He refused because (1) he had as good a right to what he possessed as any king. (2) On religious grounds, because the sale of a paternal inheritance was forbidden in the law (Lev. 25: 23–28; Num. 36: 7 seq.), i.e., he was forbidden to sell it permanently out of the family. He was therefore not merely at liberty as a personal right to refuse the king's proposal, but bound by the commandment of God. — K'cil. (3) The associations of family and history were connected with it. No consideration would induce Naboth to violate his sacred obligations; neither greater gain (for Ahab offered him a better vineyard or wished to pay him well), nor the royal authority and the fear of the royal displeasure, especially when, as here, not need, but a royal whim only, was concerned. — Lange. It may be that Naboth declined the offer somewhat bluntly and decidedly, though it was not churlish and unreasonable. Naboth's answer, “the Lord forbid” (ver. 3), shows that he was one of those who recognized Jehovah, and not Baal, and was probably a sincere and faithful worshipper; for only such an one would have acknowledged Jehovah in such a time of persecution, and especially in speaking to the king himself.
Scene II.,— Discontent in a Palace. -- Ver. 4. The scene now changes to Samaria, out of sight of Naboth and the coveted possession. 4. And Ahab came into his house. At Samaria, as we gather from vers. 18, 14, 16, etc. -- Cook. And he laid him down upon his bed. The bed-chamber was in the most retired and secret part of the palace (Exod. 8: 3; 2 Kings 6:12). Hence, in going to it, Ahab showed a disposition to get away from his court, their society being distasteful to him for the moment, and hide his mortification. — Todd. Such an open manifestation of ill-temper is thoroughly charac
4. And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him : for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.
5. But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread ?
6. And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.
7. And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry ; I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.
8. So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.
teristic of an Oriental king. - Cook. It accords with Homer's representation even of the Greek heroes. They cry like children when they are in trouble; they rend their garments, and roll themselves in the dust in a way that we would deem utterly extravagant. — Tayler Lewis.
We see on an ivory couch, in an ivory house (chap. 22: 39), or in a chamber ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion (Jer. 22: 14), a man whose soul is so vexed and troubled that he can eat no bread, that he has a word for no one, but turns his face sullenly to the wall. Can this be the king of Israel? can this be Ahab, whose recent victories over the Syrians have rung through many lands? It is Ahab indeed. The great conqueror is a slave to himself. We hear his pitiful, almost childish, complaint, that he cannot have the vineyard he so much covets. — Pulpit Com. You may carry an instrument out of tune all over the world, and every breath of heaven and every hand of man that sweep over its strings shall produce only discord. Such a man's trouble is in his temper, not in his place. You can hardly call it “ borrowed” trouble either, for it is mostly made, and so is his own by the clearest of all titles. — Rev. IV m. Crawford.
Scene III.,—The Queen's Plan for Relief. 5. But Jezebel his wife came to him. The scene, however, in Ahab's house suddenly changes when that terrific woman Jezebel, who so much resembles the Clytemnestra of Æschylus and the Lady Macbeth of
on that account. His apparent virtue and moderation were simply cowardice; she gives him nerve and courage for the accomplishment of a purpose to which, before, his spirit was unequal. - Tayler Lewis.
7. Dost thou now govern? This is ironical, a sneer. Are you king? and can you not get possession of this pretty vineyard? - Todd. I will give thee the vineyard. “I” is the emphatic word here: “1, the queen, the weak woman, will give thee the vineyard, if thou, the king, the strong man, wilt do nothing." Compare the words of Shakespeare's parallel character: “Infirm of purpose! give me the dagger.” — Cook.
8. So she wrote letters. The art of writing was well known, and in common use for legal transactions and for business correspondence, as well as for mere monumental inscrip
old Phænician alphabet. - Lewis. And sealed them with his seal Documents of every kind, from a royal decree to a private letter, are never signed with pen and ink in the East, but are simply sealed with a man's signet, which contains his name; a little ink is rubbed upon it, and it is pressed upon the moistened paper. This custom is quite necessary in a country where so few are able to read and write. — Van Lennep. This seal was made of some precious stone, engraven with the chosen device of the owner, and was either set in a ring (Gen. 38:18), or suspended by a string from the neck or arm (S. Song 8:6). The seals of the ancient Assyrian monarchs were small engraved cylinders, set in frames, resem: bling miniature garden-rollers, which were rolled over the clay on which it was desired to make an impression. – Todd. By allowing her the use of his signet ring, Ahab passively consented to Jezebel's proceeding. Being written in the king's name, it had the character