I Kings 17



                        ELIJAH AND THE GREAT DROUGHT (vs. 1-24)


The picture which the historian has just drawn of the shameless idolatry and the

gross degeneracy of the earlier part of Ahab’s reign forms a fit prelude to an account

of the ministry of the great prophet Elijah, which occupies this and several succeeding

chapters; for the two stand together in the closest connection. It was only the

unprecedented corruption of that age which necessitated such a mission, and a

mission armed with such credentials as his. It will be obvious to the most cursory

reader that the narratives comprised in the remaining portion of this book and the

earlier part of II Kings are of a very different character from those which have so

far been before us.


The ministry of Elijah and Elisha alike is little more than a series of miracles. Of their

words comparatively few are recorded; we hear of little but the signs and wonders

that they wrought. But without entering upon the question of miracles generally, for

which this is not the place, two remarks may be hazarded here. First, that the

narrative is so sober, so circumstantial, so full of touches which have every

appearance of having been painted from the life, that were it not for its

supernatural element, the most destructive critic would never have thought of

questioning its veracity. If there ever have been occasions in the history of our

race when we might concede to the necessity of varying the so called

order of nature, or of impressing a visible purpose upon its forces, then assuredly

the time of Ahab’s reign, was such  an occasion. It is quite true that no new

revelation was then given to the world. It was the work of Elijah and Elisha, at the

very darkest hour in the spiritual history of Israel, when a determined effort was

being made to stamp out the faith of God’s elect, when the nation chosen

of God to be the depositary of His truth was fast lapsing into heathenism,

and more, into unutterable abominations, it was their work to witness for

God and truth and purity. If God’s purposes of grace to our world, which

had been ripening from age to age, were not now to be frustrated; if the

one lamp which cast a ray on the world’s thick darkness was not to be

utterly extinguished, then, as far as we can see, God must send special

messengers, and arm them, in token of their mission and authority, with

superhuman powers. The age demanded the messenger; the messenger

must have credentials; the credentials could only be miraculous. If it is

objected, therefore, against our history that it contains a mass of miracles,

our answer is that the crisis necessitated them, and that only miracles

would have availed to accomplish the moral and religious reformation

which Elijah wrought; that only signs such as he was commissioned to show

would have sufficed, in that age, to counteract the influences of such a

princess as Jezebel and of such a propaganda as her eight hundred and

 fifty priests;  (compare the spin doctors of today’s media – CY – 2010),

to rescue the world from corruption, and to preserve to distant generations

the treasury of truth and hope with which the Jewish people had been entrusted

by the Most High.  The times were fit for Elijah, and Elijah for the times. The

greatest prophet is reserved for the worst age. Israel had never such an

impious king as Ahab, nor such a miraculous prophet as Elijah. The profusion

of God’s miraculous working in Elijah was due to the exorbitant wickedness

of the rulers of Israel at that time, which required an extraordinary

manifestation of God’s Divine power, in order to recover His people from

the ruin and misery into which they had fallen.


The grandeur of the character of Elijah, however, has been universally

recognized. His highest praise is that in the New Testament.   No prophet

is mentioned and extolled so frequently as Elijah. Nor must it be forgotten here

that he it was who was chosen to appear with Moses in glory at our Lord’s

transfiguration, and to speak of the exodus He should accomplish in Jerusalem

(Luke 9:31).  (And don’t forget, his mission in Revelation at the end of the

world.  Everyone who sins dies but Elijah, having sinned, never died because

he was translated in a whirlwind of fire into heaven [II Kings 2:11].  It seems

that his requirement to die will be in the process of witnessing in the end

times again for God when the evil and jealous powers that be will put him

to death [Revelation 11:3-12] – CY – 2010)


The chapter divides itself into four parts.


  • In v. 1 we see Elijah standing before Ahab and announcing the drought;
  • in vs. 2-7 we find him hiding in the Wady Cherith and fed by the “Orebim;”
  • in vs. 8-19 he is resident at Zarephath, feeding the widow and her house;
  • in vs. 17-24 he restores the widow’s son to life and health.



1  “And Elijah the Tishbite,” – The name Elijah - WhY;liae, - means “my

God is Jehovah” – “who was of the inhabitants of Gilead,” - a rugged,

unsettled, half-civilized, trans- Jordanic region - it gave to the world the

greatest of its prophets. In this respect he was like Moses (Exodus 3:1), and

his antitype John the Baptist (Luke 1:80).  The fact that this mission was

entrusted not to a dweller in royal city or prophetic school, but to a genuine

child of the deserts and forests of Gilead, is in exact accordance with the

dispensations of Providence in other times - “said unto Ahab” - The abrupt way

in which Elijah appears upon the scene without a word of introduction or

explanation is certainly remarkable.  His first entry within the province of the

history seems almost as unique and inexplicable as his final disappearance. Elijah

comes in with a tempest, and goes out with a whirlwind.  This sudden appearance,

however, is thoroughly characteristic of the man. He presently disappears just as

suddenly (v. 5; ch.19:3; II Kings 1:8). It was thought by some in that age that he

was borne hither and thither by the Spirit of God!  (ch.18:12) -  “As the LORD

God of Israel liveth,” - This formula here occurs for the first time, and it is full

of meaning. It asserts first that Jehovah, not Baal, is the God of Israel, and it suggests,

in the second place, that He is the living God, such as Baal was not, and that though

ordinarily He keeps silence, He is one who can make His power felt  - “before

whom I stand,” -  the slaves of the east stood before their masters - “there shall

not be dew nor rain” - Dew is perhaps put first as more essential to  vegetable life.

Elijah only denounces a plague already threatened in the law as the

 punishment of idolatry - (Deuteronomy 11:16-17; 28:23; Leviticus 26:19).

To Eastern and Southern nations, where life and water go always together, where

vegetation gathers round the slightest particle of moisture and dies the moment it is

withdraw, the withholding of rain is the withholding of pleasure, of sustenance, of life

itself  - Elijah came forward as the vindicator and restorer of the law – “these years” –

An indefinite period. Its duration depended on Elijah’s word, and that again on

the penitence of the people. It was because of the obduracy of king and people

that it lasted so long - “but according to my word.  2 “And the word of the LORD

came unto him, saying,  3  Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide

thyself” - his flight  was necessary in order to escape persecution or punishment —

the search which Ahab instituted for him in part explains his disappearance — but to

avoid importunity. It would have been morally impossible for him, though a man of

inflexible will to dwell among the people, while the land groaned under the terrible

burden which he had laid upon it, and which he alone was able to remove. His life

would not have been safe (ch.18:4)  -  ch.19:2 shows that the prophet’s nature had

its weaker side -  “by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.” This was a

watercourse or waddy that was dried up for most of the year.  Cherith means

“separation”.  Solitude was necessary to Elijah’s soul’s health. It is remarkable

how God’s elect messengers, each in his turn, have been sent “apart into a desert

 place to rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). Moses must spend forty years in the great

and terrible wilderness; must spend forty days and forty nights in Horeb,

the Mount of God. Elijah himself only emerges from the Cherith to go to

another hiding place at Zarephath, and from Zarephath he passes almost

directly to the same wilderness and the same mount where Moses was. John

the Baptist’s life was almost divided between the desert and the prison.

Paul must learn his gospel in Arabia. And our Holy Lord, He must begin

His ministry by a forty days’ fast, and from time to time must seek a quiet

place to rest and pray. All men who are much before the world need their

times of retirement. In the “loud stunning tide of human care and crime” it

is difficult to hear the whispers of God in the soul.


4  “And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook;” – there was nothing

miraculous about the water supply.  When it dried up there was no miracle wrought

to continue its supply -  “and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.”

Despite the general agreement of scholars that by μybr[ we must understand

“ravens,” I think probability favors the meaning Orbites, i.e., inhabitants of Orbo.

In support of the received rendering is the very powerful consideration, that it is the

interpretation of all the versions (except the Arabic) and of Josephus, who, beyond

all question, represented the belief current in his own time (Ant. 8:13. 2). It is also

certain that elsewhere in Scripture we find some of the inferior animals supernaturally

constrained to effect God’s purposes, both of mercy and of judgment (ch.13:24;

II Kings 2:24; Daniel 6:22; II Peter 2:16), though never it must be said, in so

 rational and methodical a way. Nor can it rightly be contended that the words

“I have commanded,” ytiwixi, imply human agency, for elsewhere we find the

Almighty commanding (same word) the serpent (Amos 9:3) and the clouds

(Isaiah 5:6; Psalm 78:23). It is not, however, a sufficient account of this narrative

to say that the prophet merely helped himself to the food which the ravens, whose

habitat was in the Wady Cherith, brought, day by day, to their nests and

their young. For, not to insist on the words, wOl μyaiybim], bringing to him

(v. 6), the expressions  “bread (or food, μj,l,) and flesh,” and “morning

and evening” certainly point to something more than such a fortuitous

supply. Whether the Orebim were “ravens” or not, they certainly acted in

an intelligent and rational way: they brought food, that is to say, to the

prophet, and they brought it for months together with unfailing regularity.


But against this view the following considerations may be urged:


  • It is hardly in accord with God’s usual way of working, that He should

            employ birds of the air and those unclean (Leviticus 11:15; Deuteronomy

            14:14) and ravenous birds, to feed and succor His saints, rather than men

            or angels. Of course, no one who does not altogether repudiate the

            supernatural will deny for a moment that the Almighty could, had it

            seemed good to Him, have sustained His prophet by the instrumentality

            of ravens, just as easily as by any other means. But it appears to be

            almost a fixed principle of His dealings with men, not to resort to

            miracles when ordinary means will suffice; or if He does employ

            miracles, they are never bizarre or fantastic; they are not such as to

            suggest the idea of fable or legend; they are invariably the simplest and

            most direct means to the end. And it is submitted that this prolonged

            and methodical ministry of ravens is altogether unlike God’s method

            of procedure on other occasions. It was an angel succored Hagar and

            Ishmael in their need (Genesis 16:7). It was an angel fed Elijah himself,

            a few years later (ch.19:5-6). They were angels who ministered to

            our blessed Lord after His long fast (Matthew 4:11). But God’s,’ chief

            means is man.  And it is to be carefully observed that when, about this

            very time, not one, but one hundred prophets were threatened, just as

            Elijah was, with death, no miracle was wrought to save their lives or to

            supply their wants, but they were fed by human agency, with bread and

            water (v.13). But it is still more significant that elsewhere in this narrative,

            which is characterized by the profoundest sobriety and reticence, there

            is what we may almost call a studied absence of the miraculous element.

            No miracle is wrought to protect Elijah against Jezebel, but he must

            consult for his own safety by flight. He is sent to the brook Cherith,

            because there is water there; in other words, God chose that hiding

            place in order to obviate the necessity for a miracle. And when the

            water of the brook dries up, no miracle is wrought to prolong the supply,

            but the prophet, at the risk of detection, must go forth and seek it

            elsewhere. And at Zarephath he is fed, not by ravens, but by human

            agency, a widow woman. To put the interpretation of “ravens,”

             consequently, on the word μybr[, provided it will yield any

            other meaning, appears to be to do violence to the spirit of the context,

            and to the tenor of Scripture generally.  One would think that this

            would have been referenced in the New Testament.  The absence of

            all reference thereto is remarkable, when we consider how constantly

            the ministry of Elijah and its lessons (Luke 4:25-26; 9:54; James 5:17;

            Revelation 11:5-6) are referred to in the New Testament; but when we

            observe what an admirable and unequalled illustration of God’s

            providential care this incident would have supplied to some of our Lord’s

            discourses, and notably to that of Luke 12:22 sqq., this silence becomes

            almost suspicious.  A very slight change in the vowel points — μyBir]["

       instead of μybir][ — yields the meaning “Arabians.” That a fugitive

            would readily find, not only shelter but sustenance among the Bedouin,

            whose generous hospitality and loyalty to strangers is proverbial, is

            obvious, and we knew that about this time some Arab tribes had dealings

            with the Jews (II Chronicles 17:11); but without any change at all, a sufficient

            meaning may be extracted from the word. For we find that somewhere in the

            Ciccar, or plain of the Jordan, off which the Wady Cherith lay, was a rock

            Oreb (brewO[, Judges 7:25), apparently east of the Jordan (Judges 8:1),

            but in any case, at no great distance from Bethabara (John 1:28). Now

            Beth-abara has been identified, almost to a certainty with the modern

            ‘Abarah (i.e., passage or ferry), “one of the main fords of the Jordan

            just above the place where the Jalud river flowing down the valley of

            Jezreel and by Beisan, debouches into Jordan.” But we learn from an

            ancient and independent source, the Bereshith Rabba (see Dict. Bib.

             ii. 464), that in the neighborhood of Beisan, i.e., Bethshean, there was

            anciently a town named Orbo, wObr][" — a word, it is to be observed,

            which preserves the radicals of brewO[ transposed. We may safely assume

            that these two places, Orbo and Oreb, were identical; that the former was

            the representative at a later day of the latter, or was the shape which the

            name assumed when bestowed on the hamlet, as distinct from the rock.

            The inhabitants of this place would, of course, be called μybir][O, just as

            the in. habitants of Ziph were known as Ziphim (I Samuel 26:1), or the

            men of Zidon as Zidonim (ch. 5:6). We find, consequently, that this word,

            which means “ravens,” also designates the inhabitants of a village near

            Bethshean, and probably east of the Jordan; that is to say, in or near Elijah’s

            native country of Gilead. And with this agree the testimonies of Rabbi Judah

            and Jerome already referred to. The former held that the Orebim were not

            ravens at all, but inhabitants of Orbo or the rock Oreb, while the latter says,

            with equal positiveness, Orbim, accolae villae in fini-bus Arabum, Eliae

            dederunt alimenta. It only remains for us to notice the perfect naturalness and

            consistency of the narrative thus interpreted. Elijah is bidden to go eastward;

            to hide in the Wady Cherith, where he would be among tribesmen or friends.

            For water, there is the brook; for food, the Orbites, whose name would be

            familiar to him, and whom he may have known, are commanded to feed him.

            He goes; he is received with Arab hospitality; the Eastern law of Dakheel,

            by which any man at any time is entitled to throw himself upon the mercy and

            protection of another, ensures his safety. The Orebim minister assiduously

            to his wants. Every morning before the dawn, every evening after dark,

            they bring him bread and flesh.  (Dear reader – I have gone to great length

            to include this – either way, I personally have no problem with how God

            works, whether with birds or men – CY  - 2010)


5  “So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went

and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.  6 And the ravens

brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the

evening;” - It has been objected that this verse is fatal to the view advanced

above — that the μybr[ were not birds but men — that no men would have

come regularly twice a day,., thus giving themselves needless trouble and

increasing the chance of detection, when they might easily have left him a supply

for several days. But if we may believe that the prophet was, if not among

kinsmen or friends, yet among the pastoral, semi-nomadic people of

Gilead, a people, that is to say, like the Bedouin in their instincts and

customs, it is easy to understand that having taken him under their

protection, they would make a point of visiting him regularly, not only to

show him all possible honor, as a person endued with supernatural powers

(ch. 18:7,13), but to afford him some measure of sympathy and companionship.

And we can then see a reason for the morning and evening being mentioned.

Their visits would be made in the twilight, which is really longer in the East

than is generally supposed - “and he drank of the brook.”





  • God will supply that which is lacking.  When we have done our best

            we may justly look to Him to give what we cannot get. And this He will

            do.Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy waters shall be sure”

            (Isaiah 33:16). “Never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed

            begging their bread” (Psalm 37:25). In the barren wilderness, He gave

            bread from heaven (manna). “In the days of famine, they shall be

            satisfied” (Ibid. v.19). What a commentary on these words does this

            history furnish l Elijah had “called for a famine on the land” (ch.18:2;

                        Luke 4:25), and had “broken the whole staff of bread” (Psalm 105:16);

            but he himself had enough and to spare. God spreads for him “a table in

             the wilderness” (Psalm 78:19), and almost “in the presence of his

             enemies” (Psalm 23:5). The stars shall fall from their courses, but he

            shall have enough. It has been thought by some that the ravens brought

            him bread and flesh from Ahab’s own table. It would have been so, had

            it been necessary.  If he was with food by human instrumentality, it was

            none the less by God’s command. And this is God’s ordinary way of

            hearing “the prayer of the poor destitute;He puts it into the hearts

            of others to help. God works by means, and the chief means is man.


7  “And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because

there had been no rain in the land.” – It is unknown how long Elijah

stayed here but he must have been more than two years out of the three and

a half, with the widow at Zarephath.  8  “And the word of the LORD came

unto him, saying,  9  “Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to

Zidon, and dwell there:”  Zarephath was on the road between Tyre and

Sidon – Elijah would still be in the lion’s den, in the very heart of the dominions

of Ethbaal -  “behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain

thee.”  To be sheltered and sustained by a heathen widow woman was a great

trial of Elijah’s faith.  (I can still remember a sermon in the late 1960’s by

Marion Duncan on Elijah and him living one day at a time and one step at a

time – CY – 2010)


10  “So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate

of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks:” Elijah

did not yet know that this was the widow to whom he was sent. Her replies to his

requests first informed him that this was the object of his search.  Her gathering

of sticks was not a promising sign which proved her poverty - “and  he called to

her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may

drink.  11  And as she was going to fetch it,” - The gift of water to the thirsty

is always regarded as a sacred duty in the East. “Never yet during many years’

residence in Syria and many a long day’s travel, have I been refused a draught

of water by a single individual of any sect or race. The Bedouin in the desert has

shared with me the last drop in his waterskin - (Porter). It is clear that the water

supply of Phoenicia had not entirely failed. The fresh streams of Lebanon would

retain their life giving power long after the scantier springs of Palestine had been

dried up - “he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of

bread in thine hand.” -  This request would reveal to Elijah if this was the

widow woman who was to sustain him.


12  “And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth,” - it is noteworthy that the

words “Jehovah thy God,” show that she recognized Elijah, perhaps by his Jewish

face, probably by his prophetic dress (II Kings 1:8) as a worshipper of Jehovah.

 “I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a

cruse:” - We gather from this pitiful disclosure that the famine had already extended

to Phoenicia, as it naturally would do, considering how dependent that country was

on Israel for its breadstuffs; (ch. 5:9,11). Josephus (Ant. 8:13, 2) cites Menander as

attesting to a year’s drought in the reign of Ethbaal - “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.”  The widow was reduced to dire extremities.


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.”  The oil took the place of butter but bread was sometimes

baked in oil.  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.”  It is curious how many miracles of Elijah and Elisha

foreshadowed those of our blessed Lord.  (multiplying of loaves and fishes, raising

of the dead, etc.)


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.  The overall evidence points to this woman being a heathen,

but whether an Israelite or no, she received a prophet in the name of a prophet and

received a prophet’s reward (Matthew 10:41-42)  It is possible that when our Lord

spoke of the “cup of cold water,”  He had this incident in His mind.


17  “And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman,

the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there

was no breath left in him.  18  “And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do

with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to

remembrance, and to slay my son?”  The woman wants to know if she had

done something wrong and that Elijah had called it to the remembrance of the

Almighty.  She, like Elijah, had a great trial of faith


19  “And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her

bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon

his own bed.  20  And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God,

hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by

slaying her son?  21  And he stretched himself upon the child three times,

and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this

child's soul come into him again.”  In this threefold repetition, we recognize

Elijah’s profound conviction that only by the Almighty power of God could the

child be restored.  22  “And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the

soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.  23  And Elijah

took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house,

and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.

24  And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a

man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.”

This last word tm,a’ from which Amittai (Jonah 1:1) is formed, perhaps gave

rise to the tradition that this boy was afterwards known as the prophet Jonah.

Amiitai was held to have been this widow’s husband.


It is said that when the crucible, the fining pot for silver (Proverbs 17:8), is put

into the furnace, the chemist has a sure and ready test of its purity; a means of

knowing when his long processes have accomplished their object. When he sees

his face reflected in the glowing and untarnished metal, he knows that the

purification is complete. It was that Elijah and his hostess might learn to know

God, might be transformed into the image of God, that they experienced

this two years’ purgation in the furnace. It was that the dross might be purely

purged, and the tin taken away (Isaiah 1:25); that they might be changed into

the image of their Creator (Colossians 3:10; II Corinthians 3:18).


Now the historian does not record the results of this assay, except incidentally.

But we can clearly see that the faith of Elijah and the widow alike grew stronger

by the exercise. How much Elijah gained; how the discipline told on his

subsequent career; how the trying of his faith wrought patience (James 1:3), we

cannot now discover. But we can see that it resulted in the widow’s conversion,

or in the confirmation of her faith, and in the glory and praise of God (v. 24).

And that is not all. Its issues are in eternity.



                                    ADDITIONAL NOTES


                        The Mission and Ministry of Elijah (v. 1)


The appearance on the arena of Israel’s history of such a champion as Elijah, armed

with such high credentials, wielding such supernatural powers, marks a crisis in the

history of God’s ancient Church. We have but to see him, to hear him for one moment,

to know that a great struggle is impending. Four points consequently may well engage

our attention, viz., the man, his mission, his message, his ministry.


  • THE MAN.


ü      He was a wild man (Genesis 16:12; Hebrew a wild ass man).

      Abraham has been called an “Arab sheik.” We have in Elijah a

      veritable Bedouin, if not by birth or tribe, by training and in character.

      The rough sheepskin (ch. 19:13), the shaggy hair (II Kings 1:8), the

      marvelous bodily endurance (ch. 18:46), the careful avoidance of the

      city, the flight into the desert (ch. 19:4), the whole bearing of the man

                        suggests to us the child of the wilderness. He, the greatest of the

                        prophets, but has the exterior, the instincts, the heart of an Ishmaelite.

                        He was thus a fit successor of Moses, the shepherd of Horeb, who

                        in the very haunt and home of the Bedouin, was trained for his high

                        vocation; he was meet to be the forerunner and pattern of John the

                        Baptist who was bred in the desert, clad in Arab dress, and fed with

                        Arab food (Matthew 3:1, 4). It is impossible to understand the

                        man and his work unless this be borne in mind. The gaunt dervish who

                        one day strode into the presence of the king and lifted up his sinewy

                        arm and denounced the great drought; the shaggy, long haired sheikh,

                        who singlehandedly  faced the hierarchy of Baal, and knew no fear,

                        his were the asperities, the privations, the scant fare, the primitive,

                        semi-nomadic life of a Gileadite. The sweet uses of adversity had

                        molded this man for the crisis.


ü      He was a man of like passions with ourselves (James 5:17). An

                        “earthen vessel” (II Corinthians 4:7). The Bible never pictures men

                        as perfect. The phronema Sarkos (carnal mind) remains even in

                        the regenerate.


  • HIS MISSION. Consider:


ü      Whence it was derived. He was not taught of men (Galatians 1:12,

                        17). He was ijdiw>thv kai< ajgra>mmatov – unlearned and

                        unschooled - The God who separated him from his mother’s womb

                        called him by His grace (Galatians 5:15). He was an extraordinary

                        messenger for a great emergency. But observe; when God employs

                        such messengers, men whose mission is derived directly from on high,

                        the “signs of an apostle” are wrought by them. We are not to

                        listen to an angel from heaven, unless he shows us his credentials. We

                        have a right to ask of those who run without being sent to show us a

                        sign. When God sends us an Elijah again, He will give us at the same

                        time a sign from heaven.  (Malachi 4:5-6; Revelation 11:3-12)


ü      When it was conferred. It was:


Ø      When iniquity abounded. When Hiel had built Jericho;

      when Ahab had raised a temple for Baal; when Jezebel had

      gathered round her an army of false prophets; when the faith

      of God’s elect was in jeopardy. The darkest hour is ever

      before the dawn.  Israel was sore wounded when God sent

      them this balm from Gilead” (Matthew Henry).


Ø      When ordinary means were insufficient. There were “sons of

      the prophets,” it is probable, in Bethel and Samaria; There

      were seven thousand faithful ones in Israel; but what were these

      against such a queen as Jezebel, against such a propaganda and

      such a system as hers? It was then no longer a question of heresy

      or schism, of calves or cherubim, of Jeroboam’s or Jehovah’s

      priests; the very existence of the Church was at stake. Elijah

      was summoned to the court; he was armed with “power to

                                    shut heaven that it rained not in the days of his prophecy”

                                    (Revelation 11:6), with power to call down fire to devour his

                                    enemies, and the like, because only thus could the elect people

                                    be stayed from throwing themselves into the arms of an

                                    organized prostitution; from yielding themselves, body and soul,

                                    to the whoredoms and witchcrafts of “that woman Jezebel;”

                                    because only thus could the light of truth, the one lamp which

                                    illumined the world’s darkness, be preserved from utter extinction.


  • HIS MESSAGE. It was a denunciation of immediate drought, one of the most

      terrible calamities that can befall an Eastern land. In Palestine, animal as well as

      vegetable life is directly dependent on the rain. Not only do the showers which

      irrigate the land feed the springs, but they are carefully stored up in cisterns for

      daily use. It is only as compared with the arid wastes of Egypt that the Holy Land

      could be called “a land of brooks and waters, of fountains and depths,” etc.

      (Deuteronomy 8:7). And it is also described by the same writer as a land that

      “drinketh water of the rain of heaven” (Ibid. 11:11). Consequently rain,

      everywhere a prime necessity of existence, is doubly indispensable in Palestine.

      The rainfall of Jerusalem is on the average three times as great as that of

            London. It is clear, consequently, that this message threatened a terrible

            plague, that it portended long and protracted suffering. There are some

            who will not hear of the “terrors of the Lord,” (II Corinthians 5:11) who

            would never have them mentioned in the pulpit. Yet pain and privation are

            among the first sanctions of God’s law, and we have the authority of many

            eminent divines for saying that more men are won to God and right by fear than

            by love. - (Deuteronomy 21:21) - It sounds fine and philosophic to speak of

            fear as an unworthy motive, but men forget what an unworthy animal is man.

            Besides, this drought was a part of the punishment, and was admirably adapted

            to serve as a punishment for apostasy. It was meet that men who practically

            denied the living God should be practically reminded of their dependence on Him.

            It was well that those who held Baal to be lord of nature, should be left to

            discover his impotence  (Judges 10:14; Jeremiah 14:22). “Are there any of

            the vanities of the heathen that can give rain?” And it was a punishment

            this, which penitence might avert. Moreover it was the penalty foretold in

            the law (Deuteronomy 28:23). Elijah was not left to scatter plagues at his

            pleasure. Like an earlier prophet, he could not “go beyond the word of

             the Lord to do less or more” (Numbers 22:18). Of himself, he could do

            nothing. His message was, “As the Lord liveth.” If the rain should only

            come “according to his word,” it was because his word was God’s

            word. If his prayer for the drought had been answered (James 5:17), it

            had first been inspired. He speaks here as the minister, not the master.

            He is the willing, patient slave of Jehovah - “Before whom I stand.”


  • His MINISTRY. From this initial message let us turn to his ministry as

            whole. And it presents to our view these broad features:


ü      It was exercised in silence. How few are Elijah’s recorded words,

      and those few are the utterances of but five or six occasions. He

      was not “mighty in word.” He had no sooner delivered his first

      brief message than he disappears, and for three years and a half

      Israel hears him no more. He speaks for a moment: he is dumb

      for a triennium. And when he reappears, it is but for a day. That

      one day’s ministry ended, he is again hidden from our view. Thrice

      more he reappears in the history, but each time it is but for a day,

      and then he goes into the silent heavens, and save on the night of

                        transfiguration, speaks to men no more. How like to the revelations

                        of God to man. He “keepeth silence (Psalm 50:3). He too hideth

                        Himself. “He spake and it was done.” How unlike the everlasting

                        chatter of some of our later prophets. “Ministers,” it is sometimes

                        said, “are mere talkers.” Elijah proclaims the dignity, if not “the

                        eternal duty, of silence.’”


ü      It was a ministry of deed. There was no need for him to speak.

      The works that he did bore witness of him. Declamation, argument,

                        remonstrance, would have been absurd. The time for that was past.

                        And he had actions to speak for him. Surely there is a lesson for

                        Christ’s ministers here. It is true they cannot work wonders like

                        Elijah; and it is also true that they are sent to “preach the Word,

                        …instant in season; out of season; exhort with all long-

                        suffering and doctrine”-  (II Timothy 4) to reprove, rebuke,

                        exhort, etc.; but we are reminded here that a fruitful ministry must

                        be one of action. Words, however eloquent, in the long turn

                        count for less than a holy life.


ü      He was brave and fearless. On three occasions Elijah took

                        his life in his hand (chps. 17:1; 18:2; 21:19). On one occasion he

                        seems to have quailed (ch. 19:3), but even then it does not appear

                        that he fled from any present duty, or, like Jonah, declined any

                        commission. His ministry as a whole was boldly discharged as in

                        the presence of the Eternal, “Before whom I stand.” He saw none

                        other than his Master. Like another preacher before royalty, Massillon,

                        he spoke as if he saw Death standing at his elbow. Like Daniel, he

                        knew that his God could deliver him.  The fear of man is cast out when

                        we realize the presence of God (Isaiah 51:12-13).


ü      It was seemingly a failure. If others did not think so, he did. We

      know that no work, really and truly done for God, can be wasted

      (Isaiah 55:11); but we are often tempted to think it is. But it must be

                        such work as will stand the trial by fire (I Corinthians 3:13). It is for our

                        comfort to remember, in times of depression, that the greatest of the

                        prophets saw little or no fruit of his labors. He was persuaded that

                        even the unexampled miracles that he wrought were of little or no

                        avail (ch.19:10). We find that when there were seven thousand secret

                        followers of the Lord God (Ibid. v. 18), Elijah thought himself left alone.

                        And indeed the state of Israel, even after the ordeal of Carmel, might

                        well lead him to take the gloomiest and most despairing view of the

                        situation. Jezebel pursues her infamous way. The son of Ahab sends

                        to consult a foreign oracle, and ignores the God of Israel. The fire

                        must come down a second time and burn up the idolaters instead of

                        the bullock and the altar. But all the same, we know that his work

                        was not in vain. Nor can ours be, if done like his. We have nothing

                        to do with immediate successes. “One man soweth, another reapeth.”

                        Nor is success in any shape mentioned in our instructions. That is

                        God’s part, not ours. We have but to sow the seed, He must make

                        it grow. The world worships success — or what it calls success —

                        and the greatest of ministries — Elijah’s, Jeremiah’s, Ezekiel’s, our

                        blessed Lord’s — were all failures from a worldly point of view,

                        BUT NOT FROM GOD’S VIEW!





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