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Elijah’s announcement of God’s judgment 17:1-7

Again God raised up a prophet to announce what He would do. Evidently Ahab’s apostasy had been going on for 14 years before God raised up His prophetic challenge. [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 346.] Normally God gives sinners an opportunity to judge themselves and repent before He sends judgment on them (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:31; 2 Peter 3:9-10).

The three scenes in the Elijah narrative (chs. 17-19) form one story in which we can see the rising powers of the prophet. In each succeeding episode of the story he confronted an increasingly difficult problem. In this way God developed his faith and taught the reader the importance of trust and obedience. [Note: For five helpful, popular messages on incidents in these chapters, see Howard G. Hendricks, Taking a Stand: What God Can Do through Ordinary You.]

". . . cutting across the linear story are parallel patterns which unify the narrative in another way. Specifically, if the narrative is divided into its three major divisions, corresponding basically to the present chapter divisions, one can discern the same sequence of events in each. The corresponding events in each chapter are linked by verbal, thematic, and structural repetitions which create a texture of foreshadows and echoes, of balances and contrasts, of rising and falling action. This parallel patterning gives the narrative a dimension of depth which supports and enriches its linear logic. The following chart outlines the phenomena which we shall proceed to interpret.

"A. Announcement
by Elijah (1 Kings 17:1)by God (1 Kings 18:1)by Jezebel (1 Kings 19:2)
B. Journey
from Israel (1 Kings 17:2-5)to Israel (1 Kings 18:2)from Israel (1 Kings 19:3-4)
C. Two encounters
ravens (1 Kings 17:6-7)Obadiah (1 Kings 18:7-16)an angel (1 Kings 19:5-6)
widow (1 Kings 17:8-16)Ahab (1 Kings 18:17-20)the angel of the Lord (1 Kings 19:7)
D. Miracle
resuscitation (1 Kings 17:17-23)fire (1 Kings 18:21-38)theophany (1 Kings 19:9-18)
E. Conversion
widow (1 Kings 17:24)Israel (1 Kings 18:39-40)Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21)
Ahab (1 Kings 18:41 to 1 Kings 19:1)

"The parallel elements may be briefly summarized. Each act in the narrative begins with an announcement (A) which initiates the action and, thereby, precipitates a crisis. The announcement propels Elijah to a new locale (B). In the new setting he has two successive encounters or confrontations (C). The second encounter results in a challenge which requires Yahweh’s intervention to resolve (D). Finally, in response to this intervention, individuals are ’converted’ and declare or exhibit their loyalty to Yahweh (E)." [Note: Robert L. Cohn, "The Literary Logic of 1 Kings 17-19," Journal of Biblical Literature 101:3 (September 1982):343-44. This article has several good insights into the major motifs and structure of these chapters.]

This dramatic story opens with Elijah bursting onto the scene in Ahab’s palace.

"’Before whom I stand’ (1 Kings 17:1) is his claim to authority: it is a technical phrase used of a king’s first or ’prime’ minister-his confidant and chief executive." [Note: Auld, pp. 109-10.]

Elijah’s name means "Yahweh is my God." He could promise severe drought because God had said this is what He would bring on the land if His people forsook Him (Leviticus 26:18-19; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; Deuteronomy 28:23-24; Deuteronomy 33:28). This would have been a challenge to Baal since Baal’s devotees credited him with providing rain and fertility. Some representations of Baal that archaeologists have discovered picture him holding a thunderbolt in his hand.

"Why choose a drought? Why emphasize that Yahweh lives? Elijah determines to attack Baalism at its theological center. Baal worshipers believed that their storm god made rain, unless, of course, it was the dry season and he needed to be brought back from the dead. To refute this belief Elijah states that Yahweh is the one who determines when rain falls, that Yahweh lives at all times, and that Yahweh is not afraid to challenge Baal on what his worshipers consider his home ground." [Note: House, p. 213.]

God sent Elijah to Cherith (exact site unknown) to provide for his needs, to hide him from Ahab, and to teach him a lesson (cf. 1 Kings 18:10). [Note: See the map "Elijah’s Travels" in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 523.] Ravens do not even feed their own young (cf. Job 38:41). God provided miraculously for Elijah to build the prophet’s faith in view of the conflicts he would face. "Bread" (1 Kings 17:6) is literally "food" (Heb. lehem) and could include berries, fruit, nuts, eggs, etc. Elijah was learning experientially that Yahweh was the only source of food, fertility, and blessing. As God had promised, drought soon began to grip the nation (1 Kings 17:7).

"It is only our ignorance and neglect of Amos and Hosea that keep us from sensing the heart-shattering tragedy of 2 Kings 15:8-31; 2 Kings 17:1-6 in its true proportions. In just under forty years Israel, which had seemed to reach almost Solomonic glory under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25; 2 Kings 14:28), collapsed into nothingness, like the wooden house whose vitals have been devoured by termites." [Note: H. L. Ellison, The Prophets of Israel, pp. 44-45.]

Miracles Involving Elijah [Note: Adapted from The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 541.]
Elijah fed by ravens1 Kings 17:6Water and food
Widow’s food multiplied1 Kings 17:15Flour and oil
Widow’s dead son raised to life1 Kings 17:22Life
Elijah’s altar and sacrifice consumed1 Kings 18:38Water and fire
Ahaziah’s 102 soldiers consumed2 Kings 1:10-12Fire
Jordan River parted2 Kings 2:8Water
Elijah’s transport to heaven2 Kings 2:11Fire and wind

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