8. The prophet, a native of Tishbeh in Gilead, 1Ki 17:1. His parentage and early history are unknown. His bold faithfulness provoked the wrath of Ahab and Jezebel, especially when he threatened several years of drought and famine as a punishment for the sins of Israel, B. C. 908. By the divine direction the prophet took refuge on the bank of the brook Cherith, where he was miraculously fed by ravens. Thence he resorted to Zarephath, in Phoenicia; where one miracle provided him with sustenance and another restored to life the child of his hostess. Returning to King Ahab, he procured the great assembling at mount Carmel, where God "answered by fire," and the prophets of Baal were destroyed. Now too the long and terrible drought was broken, and a plentiful rain descended at the prophet's prayer. Finding that not even these mighty works of God would bring the nation and its rulers to repentance, Elijah was almost in despair. He fled into the wilderness, and was brought to Horeb, the mount of God, where he was comforted by a vision of God's power and grace. Again he is sent on a long journey to Damascus to anoint Hazael as king of Syria. Jehu also he anoints to be king of Israel, and Elisha he summons to become a prophet. Six years later he denounces Ahab and Jezebel for their crimes in the matter of Naboth; and afterwards again is seen foretelling the death of king Ahaziah, and calling fire from heaven upon two bands of guards sent to arrest him. Being now forewarned of the approach of his removal from earth, he gives his last instructions to the school of the prophets, crosses the Jordan miraculously, and is borne to heaven in a fiery chariot without tasting death, leaving his mantle and office to Elisha, 1Ki 17-19; 21:29; 2Ki 1:1-2:18.
9. His translation occurred about B. C. 896. Previously, it is supposed, he had written the letter which, eight years afterwards, announced to king Jehoram his approaching sickness and death, 2Ch 21:12-19.
10. Elijah was one of the most eminent and honored of the Hebrew prophets. He was bold, faithful, stern, self-denying, and zealous for the honor of God. His whole character and life are marked by peculiar moral grandeur. He bursts upon our view without previous notice; he disappears by a miracle. He bears the appearance of a supernatural messenger of heaven, who has but one work to do, and whose mind is engrossed in its performance. His history is one of the most extraordinary on record, and is fraught with instruction. It was a high honor granted to Moses and Elijah, that they alone should appear on the mount of Transfiguration, many centuries after they had gone into heaven-to bear witness of its existence, and commune with the Savior concerning his death, Lu 9:28-35.
whose God is Jehovah. (1.) "The Tishbite," the "Elias" of the New Testament, is suddenly introduced to our notice in 1Ki 17:1 as delivering a message from the Lord to Ahab. There is mention made of a town called Thisbe, south of Kadesh, but it is impossible to say whether this was the place referred to in the name given to the prophet.
Having delivered his message to Ahab, he retired at the command of God to a hiding-place by the brook Cherith, beyond Jordan, where he was fed by ravens. When the brook dried up God sent him to the widow of Zarephath, a city of Zidon, from whose scanty store he was supported for the space of two years. During this period the widow's son died, and was restored to life by Elijah (1Ki 17:2-24).
During all these two years a famine prevailed in the land. At the close of this period of retirement and of preparation for his work (comp. Ga 1:17-18) Elijah met Obadiah, one of Ahab's officers, whom he had sent out to seek for pasturage for the cattle, and bade him go and tell his master that Elijah was there. The king came and met Elijah, and reproached him as the troubler of Israel. It was then proposed that sacrifices should be publicly offered, for the purpose of determining whether Baal or Jehovah were the true God. This was done on Carmel (Illustration: Elijah's Sacrifice, Carmel), with the result that the people fell on their faces, crying, "The Lord, he is the God." Thus was accomplished the great work of Elijah's ministry. The prophets of Baal were then put to death by the order of Elijah. Not one of them escaped. Then immediately followed rain, according to the word of Elijah, and in answer to his prayer (Jas 5:18).
Jezebel, enraged at the fate that had befallen her priests of Baal, threatened to put Elijah to death (1Ki 19:1-13). He therefore fled in alarm to Beersheba, and thence went alone a day's journey into the wilderness, and sat down in despondency under a juniper tree. As he slept an angel touched him, and said unto him, "Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee." He arose and found a cake and a cruse of water. Having partaken of the provision thus miraculously supplied, he went forward on his solitary way for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God, where he took up his abode in a cave. Here the Lord appeared unto him and said, "What dost thou here, Elijah?" In answer to his despondent words God manifests to him his glory, and then directs him to return to Damascus and anoint Hazael king over Syria, and Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha to be prophet in his room (1Ki 19:13-21).
Some six years after this he warned Ahab and Jezebel of the violent deaths they would die (1Ki 21:19-24; 22:38). He also, four years afterwards, warned Ahaziah (q.v.), who had succeeded his father Ahab, of his approaching death (2Ki 1:1-16). (See Naboth.) During these intervals he probably withdrew to some quiet retirement, no one knew where. His interview with Ahaziah's messengers on the way to Ekron, and the account of the destruction of his captains with their fifties, suggest the idea that he may have been in retirement at this time on Mount Carmel.
The time now drew near when he was to be taken up into heaven (2Ki 2:1-12). He had a presentiment of what was awaiting him. He went down to Gilgal, where was a school of the prophets, and where his successor Elisha, whom he had anointed some years before, resided. Elisha was solemnized by the thought of his master's leaving him, and refused to be parted from him. "They two went on," and came to Bethel and Jericho, and crossed the Jordan, the waters of which were "divided hither and thither" when smitten with Elijah's mantle. Arrived at the borders of Gilead, which Elijah had left many years before, it "came to pass as they still went on and talked" they were suddenly separated by a chariot and horses of fire; and "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven, "Elisha receiving his mantle, which fell from him as he ascended.
No one of the old prophets is so frequently referred to in the New Testament. The priests and Levites said to the Baptist (Joh 1:25), "Why baptizest thou, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias?" Paul (Ro 11:2) refers to an incident in his history to illustrate his argument that God had not cast away his people. James (Jas 5:17) finds in him an illustration of the power of prayer. (See also Lu 4:25; 9:54.) He was a type of John the Baptist in the sternness and power of his reproofs (Lu 9:8). He was the Elijah that "must first come" (Mt 11:11,14), the forerunner of our Lord announced by Malachi. Even outwardly the Baptist corresponded so closely to the earlier prophet that he might be styled a second Elijah. In him we see "the same connection with a wild and wilderness country; the same long retirement in the desert; the same sudden, startling entrance on his work (1Ki 17:1; Lu 3:2); even the same dress, a hairy garment, and a leathern girdle about the loins (2Ki 1:8; Mt 3:4)."
How deep the impression was which Elijah made "on the mind of the nation may be judged from the fixed belief, which rested on the words of Malachi (Mal 4:5-6), which many centuries after prevailed that he would again appear for the relief and restoration of the country. Each remarkable person as he arrives on the scene, be his habits and characteristics what they may, the stern John equally with his gentle Successor, is proclaimed to be Elijah (Mt 11:13-14; 16:14; 17:10; Mr 9:11; 15:35; Lu 9:7-8; Joh 1:21). His appearance in glory on the mount of transfiguration does not seem to have startled the disciples. They were 'sore afraid,' but not apparently surprised."
(2.) The Elijah spoken of in 2Ch 21:12-15 is by some supposed to be a different person from the foregoing. He lived in the time of Jehoram, to whom he sent a letter of warning (comp. 1Ch 28:19; Jer 36), and acted as a prophet in Judah; while the Tishbite was a prophet of the northern kingdom. But there does not seem any necessity for concluding that the writer of this letter was some other Elijah than the Tishbite. It may be supposed either that Elijah anticipated the character of Jehoram, and so wrote the warning message, which was preserved in the schools of the prophets till Jehoram ascended the throne after the Tishbite's translation, or that the translation did not actually take place till after the accession of Jehoram to the throne (2Ch 21:12; 2Ki 8:16). The events of 2Ki 2 may not be recorded in chronological order, and thus there may be room for the opinion that Elijah was still alive in the beginning of Jehoram's reign.
("God-Jehovah".) (1Ki 17:1, etc.). "The Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead." No town of the name has been discovered; some explain it as "Converter." His name and designation mark his one grand mission, to bring his apostate people back to Jehovah as THE true God; compare 1Ki 18:39 with Mal 4:5-6. In contrast to the detailed genealogy of Samuel, Elisha, and other prophets, Elijah abruptly appears, like Melchizedek in the patriarchal dispensation, without father or mother named, his exact locality unknown; in order that attention should be wholly fixed on his errand from heaven to overthrow Baal and Asherah (the licentious Venus) worship in Israel. This idolatry had been introduced by Ahab and his idolatrous wife, Ethbaal's daughter Jezebel (in violation of the first, commandment), as if the past sin of Israel were not enough, and as if it were "a light thing to walk in the sins of Jeroboam," namely, the worship of Jehovah under the symbol of a calf, in violation of the second commandment. (See AHAB; AARON.)
Ahab and his party represented Baal and Jehovah as essentially the same God, in order to reconcile the people to this further and extreme step in idolatry; compare 1Ki 18:21; Ho 2:16. Elijah's work was to confound these sophisms and vindicate Jehovah's claim to be God ALONE, to the exclusion of all idols. Therefore, he suddenly comes forth before Ahab, the apostate king, announcing in Jehovah's name "As the Lord God of Israel liveth (as contrasted with the dead idols which Israel worshipped) before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." The shutting up of heaven at the prophet's word was, Jehovah's vindication of His sole Godhead; for Baal (though professedly the god of the sky)and his prophets could not open heaven and give showers (Jer 14:22). The socalled god of nature shall be shown to have no power over nature: Jehovah is its SOLE Lord.
Elijah's "effectual" prayer, not recorded in 1 Kings but in Jas 5:17, was what moved God to withhold rain for three years and a half; doubtless, Elijah's reason for the prayer was jealousy for the Lord God (1Ki 19:10,14), in order that Jehovah's chastening might lead the people to repentance. In "standing before the Lord" he assumed the position of a Levitical priest (De 10:8), for in Israel the Levitical priesthood retained in Judah had been set aside, and the prophets were raised up to minister in their stead, and witness by word and deed before Jehovah against the prevailing apostasy. His departure was as sudden as his appearance. Partaking of the ruggedness of his half civilized native Gilead bordering on the desert, and in uncouth rough attire, "hairy (2Ki 1:8, Hebrew: "lord of hair") and with a girdle of leather about his loins," he comes and goes with the suddenness of the modern Bedouin of the same region.
His "mantle," 'adereth, of sheepskin, was assumed by Elisha his successor, and gave the pattern for the "hairy" cloak which afterwards became a prophet's conventional garb (Zec 13:4, "rough garment".) His powers of endurance were such as the highlands of Gilead would train, and proved of service to him in his after life of hardship (1Ki 18:46). His burning zeal, bluntness of address, fearlessness of man, were nurtured in lonely communion with God, away from the polluting court, amidst his native wilds. After delivering his bold message to Ahab, by God's warning, he fled to his hiding place at Cherith, a torrent bed E. of Jordan (or else, as many think, the wady Kelt near Jericho), beyond Ahab's reach, where the ravens miraculously fed him with "bread and flesh in the morning ... bread and flesh in the evening." (See CHERITH.)
Carnivorous birds themselves, they lose their ravenous nature to minister to God's servant, for God can make the most unlikely instruments minister to His saints. It was probably at this time that Jezebel, foiled in her deadly purpose against Elijah, "cut off Jehovah's prophets" (1Ki 18:4; 19:2). The brook having dried up after a year's stay he retreated next to Zarephath or Sarepta, between Tyre and Sidon, where least of all, in Jezebel's native region, his enemies would have suspected him to lie hid. But apostates, as Israel, are more bigoted than original idolaters as the Phoenicians. From Jos 19:28 we learn Zarephath belonged to Asher; and in De 33:24 Moses saith, "let Asher dip his foot in oil." At the end of a three and a half years of famine, if oil was to be found anywhere, it would be here, an undesigned coincidence and mark of genuineness.
At God's command, in the confidence of faith, he moves for relief to this unpromising quarter. Here he was the first "apostle" to the Gentiles (Lu 4:26); a poor widow, the most unlikely to give relief, at his bidding making a cake for him with her last handful of meal and a little oil, her all, and a few gathered sticks for fuel; like the widow in the New Testament giving her two mites, not reserving even one,: nor thinking, what shall I have for my next meal? (Lu 21:2.) So making God's will her first concern, her own necessary food was "added" to her (Mt 6:33; Isa 33:16; Ps 37:19; Jer 37:21); "the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the oil fail until the day that the Lord sent rain upon the earth." Blessed in that she believed, she by her example strengthened Elijah's faith in God as able to fulfill His word, where all seemed hopeless to man's eye.
Her strong faith, as is God's way; He further tried more severely. Her son fell sick, and "his sickness was so sore that no breath was left in him." Her trial brought her sins up before her, and she regarded herself punished as unworthy of so holy a man's presence with her. But he restored her son by stretching himself upon the child thrice (as though his body were the medium for God's power to enter the dead child), and crying to the Lord; hereby new spiritual life also was imparted to herself, as she said, "by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth." Toward the close of the three and a half years of famine, when it attacked Samaria the capital, Ahab directed his governor of the palace, the Godfearing Obadiah who had saved and fed a hundred prophets in a cave, to go in one direction and seek some grass to save if possible the horses and mules, while he himself went in the opposite direction for the same purpose.
Matters must have come to a crisis, when the king set out in person on such an errand. It was at this juncture, after upward of two years' sojourn at Zarephath, Elijah by God's command goes to show himself to Ahab. Overcoming the awestruck Obadiah's fear, lest, when he should tell the king, Behold Elijah is here, meanwhile the Spirit should carry him away, Elijah, whom Ahab's servants had been seeking everywhere in vain for three years, now suddenly stands before Ahab with stern dignity. He hurls back on the king himself the charge of being, like another Achan, the troubler of Israel; "I have not, troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have spoken the commandments of Jehovah, and thou hast followed Baalim." On Carmel the issue was tried between Jehovah and Baal, there being on one side Baal's 450 prophets with the 400 of Asherah, "the groves"), who ate at Jezebel's table under the queen's special patronage; on the other side Jehovah's sole representative, in his startling costume, but with dignified mien. (See CARMEL; ASHTORETH.)
Amidst Elijah's ironical jeers they cried, and gashed themselves, in vain repetitions praying from morning until noon for fire from their god Baal, the sun god and god of fire (!), and leaped upon (or up and down at) the altar. Repairing Jehovah's ruined altar (the former sanctity of which was seemingly the reason for his choice of Carmel) with 12 stones to represent the tribes of all Israel, and calling upon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to let it be known that He is the Lord God, he brought down by prayer fire from heaven consuming the sacrifice, wood, stones, and dust, and licking up the water in the trench. The idolatrous prophets were slain at the Brook Kishon, idolatry being visited according to the law with the pena
1. Elijah, the weirdest figure among the prophets of Israel, steps across the threshold of history when Ahab is on the throne (c. b.c. 876
This remarkable prophet is introduced abruptly in scripture in the midst of the apostasy of the kingdom of Israel, which was brought to a head in the reign of Ahab. The object of his ministry was to recover the people to the God they had forsaken. This will explain the miraculous displays accompanying his testimony, by which the people were left without excuse. It may be noted however that the miracles had a judicial character. He shut heaven that it did not rain, and he called fire down on the captains and their fifties. They were intended to recall the people to their allegiance and responsibility to God.
He is called "Elijah the Tishbite who was of the inhabitants of Gilead" (1Ki 17:1), and with no further introduction he delivered a message to Ahab of fearful import to Israel, that there should be no rain or dew these years but according to his word. In the Epistle of James we learn that what was pronounced so boldly in public was the outcome of inward exercise and earnest prayer. He forthwith retired from the public eye, and was miraculously cared for at the brook Cherith, being fed with bread and flesh morning and evening by ravens. The brook at length becoming dry, he went to Zarephath belonging to Zidon at the commandment of the Lord, where he lodged with a poor widow, whose faith was tested at the outset by the prophet's request that she should provide for his need first from her slender store of meal and oil, on the assurance of the Lord God of Israel that her barrel of meal and cruse of oil should not waste till He sent rain on the earth. She was further tested by the death of her son, upon which the power of God in resurrection was taught her through the instrumentality of the prophet. The soul of the child came again into him and he revived. This widow is referred to in Luke's Gospel along with the case of Naaman the Syrian, as illustrating the abounding of the grace of God beyond the limits of Israel. 1 Kings 17.
In the third year the time had at length arrived for the rights of Jehovah to be vindicated before all Israel, to the confusion of the followers of Baal. Elijah under the full direction of the Lord came forth from his mysterious retreat, and showed himself to Obadiah, the governor of Ahab's house, who was engaged in searching the land for provender. This man, though in such apostate surroundings, was truly pious, and had befriended Jehovah's prophets when Jezebel had sought to slay them. Assured by Elijah that he was ready to show himself to Ahab (though this latter had in vain sought him in many kingdoms to wreak vengeance on him for the prolonged drought), he reported Elijah's appearance, and the prophet and king were soon face to face. Charged with troubling Israel, the prophet in the power of God rejoined that the guilt of this lay on Ahab and on his house, in forsaking Jehovah for Baal. He directed him to call all the prophets of Baal together to mount Carmel, and there before the assembled throng of Israel he stood alone for God. Nothing can exceed the interest of this moment when the question raised was whether Jehovah or Baal was the God. Sustained by the mighty power of Jehovah, His faithful servant directed everything. The issue is presented: the prophets of Baal offered their sacrifice, and from morning till noon in vain implored the intervention of their god. There was no voice nor any that regarded. Their failure being patent to all, Elijah then invited the people to draw near. He repaired Jehovah's altar that was broken down, building it of twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of Israel, he offered his sacrifice, deluged three times with water the altar, wood, and victim, till the trench around the altar was full; then offered up in the hearing of Israel an affecting prayer to the "Jehovah God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel," upon which the fire of the Lord fell, and all was consumed, the sacrifice, wood, stones, dust, and water. "Jehovah, He is the God" was the twice repeated cry of Israel in view of these things; and, controlled by the power of God in the prophet, they, at his bidding, seized the prophets of Baal, who were to a man slain by him. Upon this he told Ahab that there was a sound of abundance of rain, while he himself retired to the top of Carmel to note the first indications of the approaching blessing; and then, still in the power of God, he ran before Ahab's chariot to the entrance of Jezreel. 1 Kings 18.
Jezebel let him know that her vengeance was at hand; and at the threat of this terrible woman, the prophet, lately so bold, fled the country. We now see Elijah in the wilderness, a weak and timid man, weary of the conflict, occupied with himself rather than the Lord, and asking to be allowed to die. Sustained by miraculous food, he went in the strength of it for forty days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God. Here the Lord dealt most graciously with his poor and feeble servant, who is found pleading his own jealousy for God while interceding against Israel. Wind, earthquake, and fire would have well suited the prophet in his frame of mind, but the still small voice was that of the Lord, and Elijah had to learn that He had not given up His people. He had yet 7000 whose knees had not bowed to Baal. But Elijah was to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, Jehu to be king over Israel, and Elisha to be prophet in his room. Judgement should be executed where necessary and by instruments prepared of God. Elijah thereupon departed, and finding Elisha threw upon him his mantle. 1 Kings 29.
For a time Elijah was in retirement, but he again reappeared on the occasion of Naboth's murder, and with the old energy of faith prophetically announced the doom of Ahab and Jezebel to Ahab's face. Once more the prophet is seen, confronting Ahab's successor and son Ahaziah, who, following closely in his parents' steps, had sent messengers to Baalzebub the god of Ekron to inquire whether he should recover from his sickness. Two captains and their fifties, who had been sent to arrest him, were smitten with fire from heaven at Elijah's word. Accompanying the third, who humbly begged for their lives, the prophet announced to the apostate king the judgement of the God he had despised. 21'>1 Kings 21; 2 Kings 1.
We have now reached the closing scene of this truly remarkable man's long and faithful service for Jehovah. The ordinary lot of man should not be his. Traversing in the close company of Elisha the spots which, however now perverted, told of certain great truths
(my God is Jehovah) has been well entitled "the grandest and the most romantic character that Israel ever produced." "Elijah the Tishbite,... of the inhabitants of Gilead" is literally all that is given us to know of his parentage and locality. Of his appearance as he "stood before" Ahab (B.C. 910) with the suddenness of motion to this day characteristic of the Bedouins from his native hills, we can perhaps realize something from the touches, few but strong, of the narrative. His chief characteristic was his hair, long and thick, and hanging down his back. His ordinary clothing consisted of a girdle of skin round his loins, which he tightened when about to move quickly.
But in addition to this he occasionally wore the "mantle" or cape of sheepskin which has supplied us with one of our most familiar figures of speech. His introduction, in what we may call the first act of his life, is the most startling description. He suddenly appears before Ahab, prophesies a three-years drought in Israel, and proclaims the vengeance of Jehovah for the apostasy of the king. Obliged to flee from the vengeance of king, or more probably of the queen (comp.
he was directed to the brook Cherith. There in the hollow of the torrent bed he remained, supported in the miraculous manner with which we are all familiar, till the failing of the brook obliged him to forsake it. His next refuge was at Zarephath. Here in the house of the widow woman Elijah performed the miracles of prolonging the oil and the meal, and restored the son of the widow to life after his apparent death. 1Kin 17. In this or some other retreat an interval of more than two years must have elapsed. The drought continued, and at last the full horrors of famine, caused by the failure of the crops, descended on Samaria. Again Elijah suddenly appears before Ahab. There are few more sublime stories in history than the account of the succeeding events --with the servant of Jehovah and his single attendant on the one hand, and the 850 prophets of Baal on the other; the altars, the descending fire of Jehovah consuming both sacrifice and altar; the rising storm, and the ride across the plain to Jezreel. 1Kin 18. Jezebel vows vengeance, and again Elijah takes refuge in flight into the wilderness, where he is again miraculously fed, and goes forward, in the strength of that food, a journey of forty days to the mount of God, even to Horeb, where he takes refuge in a cave, and witnesses a remarkable vision of Jehovah.
He receives the divine communication, and sets forth in search of Elisha, whom he finds ploughing in the field, and anoints him prophet in his place. ch. 19. For a time little is heard of Elijah, and Ahab and Jezebel probably believed they had seen the last of him. But after the murder of Naboth, Elijah, who had received an intimation from Jehovah of what was taking place, again suddenly appears before the king, and then follow Elijah's fearful denunciation of Ahab and Jezebel, which may possibly be recovered by putting together the words recalled by Jehu,
and those given in
A space of three or four years now elapses (comp.
before we again catch a glimpse of Elijah. Ahaziah is on his death-bed,
and sends to an oracle or shrine of Baal to ascertain the issue of his illness; but Elijah suddenly appears on the path of the messengers, without preface or inquiry utters his message of death, and as rapidly disappears. The wrathful king sends two bands of soldiers to seize Elijah, and they are consumed with fire; but finally the prophet goes down and delivers to Ahaziah's face the message of death. No long after Elijah sent a message to Jehoram denouncing his evil doings, and predicting his death.
It was at Gilgal --probably on the western edge of the hills of Ephraim-- that the prophet received the divine intimation that his departure was at hand. He was at the time with Elisha, who seems now to have become his constant companion, and who would not consent to leave him. "And it came to pass as they still went on and talked, that, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (B.C. 896.) Fifty men of the sons of the prophets ascended the abrupt heights behind the town, and witnessed the scene. How deep was the impression which he made on the mind of the nation may be judged of from the fixed belief which many centuries after prevailed that Elijah would again appear for the relief and restoration of his country, as Malachi prophesied.
He spoke, but left no written words, save the letter to Jehoram king of Judah.
ELIJAH. Elijah or Elias, a prophet, was a native of Tishbe beyond Jordan in Gilead. Some think that he was a priest descended from Aaron, and say that one Sabaca was his father; but this has no authority. He was raised up by God, to be set like a wall of brass, in opposition to idolatry, and particularly to the worship of Baal, which Jezebel and Ahab supported in Israel. The Scripture introduces Elijah saying to Ahab, 1Ki 17:1-2, A.M. 3092, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." It is remarkable, that the number of years is not here specified; but in the New Testament we are informed that it was three years and six months. By the prohibition of dew as well as ruin, the whole vegetable kingdom was deprived of that moisture, without which neither the more hardy, nor more delicate kinds of plants could shoot into herbage, or bring that herbage to maturity. The Lord commanded Elijah to conceal himself beyond Jordan, near the brook Cherith. He obeyed, and God sent ravens to him morning and evening, which brought him flesh and bread. Scheutzer observes, that he cannot think that the orebim of the Hebrew, rendered "ravens," means, as some have thought, the inhabitants of a town called Oreb, nor a troop of Arabs called orbhim; and contends that the bird called the raven, or one of the same genus, is intended. Suppose that Elijah was concealed from Ahab in some rocky or mountainous spot, where travellers never came; and that here a number of voracious birds had built their nests upon the trees which grew around it, or upon a projecting rock, &c. These flying every day to procure food for their young, the prophet availed himself of a part of what they brought; and while they, obeying the dictates of nature, designed only to provide for their offspring, Divine providence directed them to provide at the same time for the wants of Elijah. What, therefore, he collected, whether from their nests, from what they dropped, or under a supernatural influence, brought to him, or occasionally from all these means, was enough for his daily support. "And the orebim furnished him bread or flesh in the morning, and bread or flesh in the evening." But as there were probably several of them, some might furnish bread and others flesh, as it happened; so that a little from each formed his solitary but satisfactory meal. To such straits was the exiled prophet driven! Perhaps these orebim were not strictly ravens, but rooks. The word rendered raven, includes the whole genus, among which are some less impure than the raven, as the rook. Rooks living in numerous societies, are supposed by some to be the kind of birds employed on this occasion, rather than ravens, which fly only in pairs. But upon all these explanations we may observe, that when an event is evidently miraculous, it is quite superfluous, and often absurd, to invent hypotheses to make it appear mere easy. After a time the brook dried up, and God sent Elijah to Zarephath, a city of the Sidonians. At the city gate he met with a widow woman gathering sticks, from whom he desired a little water, adding, "Bring me, I pray thee, also a morsel of bread." She answered, "As the Lord liveth, I have no bread, but only a handful of meal, and a little oil in a cruse; and I am gathering some sticks, that I may dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die." Elijah said, "Make first a little cake, and bring it me, and afterward make for thee and thy son: for thus saith the Lord, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth." His prediction was fully accomplished, and he dwelt at the house of this widow. Some time after, the son of this woman fell sick, and died. The mother, overwhelmed with grief, intreated the assistance and interposition of Elijah, who taking the child in his arms, laid him on his own bed, and cried to the Lord for the restoration of the child's life. The Lord heard the prophet's petition, and restored the child.
2. After three years of drought, the Lord commanded Elijah to show himself to Ahab. The famine being great in Samaria, Ahab sent the people throughout the country, to inquire after places where they might find forage for the cattle. Obadiah, an officer of the king's household, being thus employed, Elijah presented himself, and directed him to tell Ahab, "Behold, Elijah is here!" Ahab came to meet the prophet, and reproached him as the cause of the famine. Elijah retorted the charge upon the king, and his iniquities, and challenged Ahab to gather the people together, and the prophets of Baal, that it might be determined by a sign from heaven, the falling of fire upon the sacrifice, who was the true God. In this the prophet obeyed the impulse of the Spirit of God; and Ahab, either under an influence of which he was not conscious, or blindly confident in the cause of idolatry, followed Elijah's direction, and convened the people of Israel, and four hundred prophets of Baal. The prophets of Baal prepared their altar, sacrificed their bullock, placed it on the altar, and called upon their gods. They leaped upon the altar, and cut themselves after their manner, crying with all their might. Elijah ridiculed them, and said, "Cry aloud, for he is god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked." When midday was past, Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord; and with twelve stones, in allusion to the twelve tribes of Israel, he built a new altar. He then laid his bullock upon the wood, poured a great quantity of water three times upon the sacrifice and the wood, so that the water filled the trench which was dug round the altar. After this he prayed, and, in answer to his prayer, the Lord sent fire from heaven, and consumed the wood, the burnt sacrifice, the stones, and dust of the place, and even dried up the water in the trench. Upon this, all the people fell on their faces, and exclaimed, "The Lord, he is the God." Elijah then, having excited the people to slay the false prophets of Baal, said to Ahab, "Go home, eat and drink, for I hear the sound of abundance of rain;" which long-expected blessing descended from heaven according to his prediction, and gave additional proof to the truth of his mission from the only living and true God.
3. Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, threatened Elijah for having slain her prophets. He therefore fled to Beersheba, in the south of Judah, and thence into Arabia Petrea. In the evening, being exhausted with fatigue, he laid himself down under a juniper tree, and prayed God to take him out of the world. An angel touched him, and he arose, and saw a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water; and he ate and drank, and slept again. The angel again awakened him, and said, "Rise and eat, for the journey is too great for thee;" and he ate and drank, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights, unto Horeb, the mount of God. Here he had visions of the glory and majesty of God, and conversed with him; and was commanded to return to the wilderness of Damascus, to anoint Hazael king over Syria, and Jehu king over Israel, and to appoint Elisha his successor in the prophetic office. Some years after, Ahab having seized Naboth's vineyard, the Lord commanded Elijah to reprove Ahab for the crime he had committed. Elijah met him going to Naboth's vineyard to take possession of it, and said, "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall they lick thy blood, even thine. And the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." Both of which predictions were fulfilled in the presence of the people. Ahaziah, king of Israel, being hurt by a fall from the platform of his house, sent to consult Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, whether he should recover. Elijah met the messengers, and said to them, "Is it because there is no God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron? Now, therefore, saith the Lord, Thou shalt surely die." The messengers of Ahaziah returned, and informed the king, that a stranger had told them he should certain