The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Kings

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1 Kings 17

1Ki 17:1

1Ki 17: "Without introduction, harsh and uncompromisingly, Elijah appears in the sacred record. His parentage is not known; he leaves no posterity. He suddenly appears and is as suddenly gone, like a slave doing his master's bidding -- his constant expression is that he stands before Yahweh Elohim of Israel (1Ki 17:1; 18:15, etc). Elijah stood opposed to Ahab and his apostate wife Jezebel, daughter of the Phoenician king Ethbaal. Ahab's worldly marriage led to his compromise with the Truth, and brought disaster to his people. But the prophet discovered a widow woman in that same area, whose son was stricken with a fatal disease. To their house Elijah is sent to recover the child of his illness. In a parable, the prophet finds the house of the widow (parabolically the ecclesia), and brings life to those who dwell therein (the believers). Thus in 1Ki 17 is represented the sudden first advent of the Lord, ministering to the house of those sick with sin's flesh, and brings healing to those in need. Then the prophet disappears for a period (1Ki 18:1), until he returns with the message of judgment against the evil house of Ahab -- typical of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus, when judgment begins at the house of God. In Judah, Jehoshaphat reigns, and though he originally opposed Ahab (2Ch 17:1), he later married his son to Ahab's daughter (2Ch 18:1). It was a union of disaster, for though amity thus reigned between the north and south, Ahab's wickedness increased, and the unity proved disastrous for Judah. The circumstances are being reflected in our times (GEM).

ELIJAH: Elijah was a prophet of the LORD; a man sent from God. He appeared out of Gilead to Ahab, the apostate king of Israel, who ruled the ten rebellious tribes that worshipped at Bethel and Dan. Evils covered the Land like a flood. For three and a half years Elijah prayed for no rain; the LORD answered with drought and famine. The Land literally burned during that judgment, for its natural life and livelihood depends on the water from heaven.

Elijah hated Queen Jezebel's promotion of Astarte, the goddess named for the planet Venus. He hated the whoredom of the people who worshipped the goddess of "love" and "queen of heaven" through the religious cult that included sodomy and prostitution. Elijah hated the robbery and oppression condoned by King Ahab. He hated the people's disobedience to the Law given to Israel at Sinai. Ahab also worshiped the calves, the pagan imagery of the worship of the "host of heaven," which dates from even before the time of the exodus from Egypt.

Elijah was one individual among 7,000 who remained faithful to God during Israel's apostasy of the ten tribes. He was very zealous for the one true God, who created the heavens and the earth. A righteous man, Elijah was also a passionate man. Simple, child-like, trusting; at times not fully understanding why, he nevertheless did the bidding of his God. That's all. Because he was hot and not cold to do His work, God will send him [or someone very like him!] to Israel again, before Christ returns to rule from Zion's hill.

The eight miracles of Elijah [Elijah did 16: 2Ki 2:9]: (1) shut up heaven (here; Jam 5:17; Luk 4:25); (2) multiplied widow's meal (vv 14-16); (3) raised widow's son (vv 17-23); (4) fire from heaven (1Ki 18:37,38); (5) rain from heaven (1Ki 18:41-45); (6) fire again (2Ki 1:10); (7) fire again (2Ki 1:12); and (8) divided waters of Jordan (2Ki 2:8).

Political situation in Ahab's day: Ahab has uncertain support from his subjects. A 4-year civil war ending only 8 years earlier (1Ki 16:21-23,29). Dominance of Syria in north: Ben-Hadad I occupied parts of Dan, Naphtali, and Gad in north (1Ki 15:20-22). Antagonism of a strong Judah to south (2Ch 14:6-8; 16:1-6; 17:1,2).

ELIJAH... SAID TO AHAB: This is obviously not their first encounter.

THERE WILL BE NEITHER DEW NOR RAIN...: As Elijah had prayed for: Jam 5:16,17: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years."

WHOM I SERVE: "Before whom I stand" (AV). "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway" (Pro 8:34). So "stand" implies to pray also.

1Ki 17:3

Reason: the great persecution of 1Ki 18:4.

1Ki 17:4

I HAVE ORDERED THE RAVENS TO FEED YOU THERE: Ravens were unclean, symbolizing the Gentiles. This prepares Elijah for acceptance of a Gentile woman (v 9). Cp Act 10: Peter and vision of animals.

1Ki 17:9

ZAREPHATH: Heb "a place of refining". Between Tyre and Zidon on the Mediterranean coast; within scope of Gentile dominions. Elijah was sent to the very heart of "Jezebel" country (1Ki 16:31), while Ahab was combing Israel for him!

I HAVE COMMANDED A WIDOW IN THAT PLACE TO SUPPLY YOU WITH FOOD: "Superficially read, we should conclude from this that a message had been sent to the widow woman on the subject of supporting Elijah. It transpires, however, that nothing of the sort had taken place. When Elijah went to Zarephath, he found the woman in the depth of want from the famine, and arranging for a last meal with her son (1Ki 17:12). How comes it then that Jehovah (Yahweh) should say, 'I have commanded a widow woman to sustain thee,' when in the ordinary sense He had not done so? Because of another sense, more powerful than the ordinary sense. The ordinary sense is to give orders by word of mouth... But with God there is another mode, which is as high above the human mode as heaven is high above the earth. Speaking of the creation, David says, 'He spake and it was done: He commanded, and it stood fast.' If we ask, how? we are informed, 'By His Spirit.' What He wills, He accomplishes by His Spirit. For this reason, the fiat of His will executing itself by the Spirit is described as His word -- His command. What God wills or appoints, He can say, 'I have commanded.' He had arranged that this widow of Zarephath should sustain Elijah. Therefore, in divine language, He commanded her" (WP 226,227).

1Ki 17:10

Elijah (sig "the word of God") comes to a Gentile woman, who is making a final effort to extend a feeble life.

1Ki 17:11

The "word of God" (ie Elijah) makes a demand on her very life.

1Ki 17:12

A HANDFUL OF FLOUR IN A JAR: Earthen jar -- cp pitchers of Gideon (Jdg 7:16). "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (2Co 4:7).

1Ki 17:13

"Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops" (Pro 3:9).

1Ki 17:14

"While Baal was overcome by death [the 'god' Mott] and unable to function like a king, Israel's God demonstrated his sovereignty and superiority to death by providing food for a widow and restoring life to her son. And he did it all in Sidonian territory, Baal's backyard, as it were. The episode demonstrates that Israel's God, not Baal, is the true king who provides food and controls life and death" (NET notes).

God will sustain our meager resources until the Kingdom comes.

1Ki 17:15

Yet the barrel and the jar were never full, only enough to sustain life for a day or two at a time. Cp Gentile ecclesias, fed during times of Jewish "famine".

1Ki 17:16

How much the Gentile widow received for so little output (v 12)!

1Ki 17:18

WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST ME...?: For a moment, she forgets that her son would have died long ago if not for Elijah (v 12).

MY SIN: Some great secret sin, real or imagined, buried in her past?

1Ki 17:21

HE STRETCHED HIMSELF OUT ON THE BOY: As though to give the child his own breath and warmth. Like the Holy Spirit which hovered over the waters in the beginning, to bring forth new life (Gen 1:2; cp Deu 32:11).

1Ki 17:23

// Resurrection of son of widow of Nain: cp Luk 7:12.

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