The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Kings

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1 Kings 19

1Ki 19:1

1Ki 19: "The spirit of Jezebel is promoted against the truth of Yahweh, as she endeavours to guide the nation into the worship of Baal. The priests of Baal had been destroyed, but not those of Astarte. These were under the queen's special protection. But she saw, in the action of the prophet Elijah, a declaration of war and took the initiative immediately. So [1] Jezebel threatens to destroy Elijah: vv 1,2. [2] Elijah flees to Beersheba: v 3. There must have been considerable reaction after the nervous tension of the contest on Carmel. Elijah possibly expected it to result in a spiritual revival in Israel. Instead it merely aroused Jezebel's anger, so that she threatened him, with the support of her weak and vacillating husband. [3] Elijah in the wilderness: vv 4-8. A mood of complete and utter depression fell upon him, so that he could not see any prospect of success in his work, and preferred death. [4] Elijah at Horeb: vv 9-18. It was here, at the rock of judgment, that the prophet was shown the true nature of his work. Though he imagined his voice was the only voice expressing the truth, there were another 7,000 supporters. Many times we may feel isolated in our conflict against apathy, indifference and error. Yahweh always preserves a remnant of faith, and provides a measure of assistance to those upholding His wisdom. [5] The call of Elisha: vv 19-21. The prophet found a successor to his work, and perhaps in that, after his outburst of v 10, he found a gentle rebuke in this young man. Both men prefigure the Messiah, who would be both a man of war and a man of peace, completing the attack against the evil spirit of Jezebel" (GEM).

See article, Elijah on Horeb (1Ki 19).

James calls Elijah "a man of like nature with ourselves" (Jam 5:17, RSV), and nowhere is this more evident than in Elijah's confrontation with God on Mount Horeb (1Ki 19). This austere prophet had just been instrumental in a great victory for the honor of the Lord over Baal, on mount Carmel (1Ki 18). But from the heights of spiritual exaltation Elijah was plunged into the depths of despair when he realized that his great accomplishments had not softened the heart of Ahab, and had served only to intensify Jezebel's hatred for himself. Fleeing for his life, and yet in his despondency losing all desire to live, he came into the wilderness, to Horeb (1Ki 19:8). In a pathetic prayer Elijah reveals that he has given up on Israel, and that he sees himself as the only true believer remaining (1Ki 19:10). We have all heard such laments as this, generally for much less reason than Elijah's. In the circumstances we may understand his pessimism, but God saw fit to dispel the mistaken notions that led to his negative state of mind. A contemplation of this incident might also cure the state of mind of any brother who, more or less self-righteously, isolates himself from 'less worthy' brethren.

God called Elijah forth from his cave, and paraded before him a tremendous panorama of His power -- strong winds, earthquake, and fire. But the Lord was not in these; Elijah saw that something was missing. At last came a still small voice, and Elijah, bracing himself, came out of the cave where he had fled for fear at the previous manifestations. The soft voice had a soothing effect; now at last the frightened prophet felt, when he heard it, the presence of God. Thus was the message driven home to him: God is best known, not in works of judgment, but in the still small voice which calls His people, when properly prepared by adversity, to repentance.

And Elijah was to be that voice! "Go, return on thy way" (v 15). Like Samuel before him, Elijah was carefully taught that wickedness is primarily an affront against God, not against any individual (1Sa 8:7); and consequently no man (no matter how "righteous") has any prerogative to turn his back on his brethren. Elijah must minister to the remnant that remains in Israel; in the midst of gross apostasy he is not to flee in fear, but rather to stand firm for God and provide a rallying point for the sheep of Israel.

"Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" (v 18).

1Ki 19:4

// Jer 20:9; Isa 6:5; Jon 4:3.

1Ki 19:8

FORTY DAYS: Ref Moses (Exo 24:18; 34:28; Deu 9:9,18); Jesus (Mat 4:2; Mar 1:13; Luk 4:2).

HOREB: Sinai (Exo 3:1; 19:18; Mal 4:4,5).

1Ki 19:9

A CAVE: The same cave Moses occupied when he was shown the glory of God: Exo 33:21-23?

"When men stand in the mouths of their caves and declare that they alone are fighting the battle of right, and distress the hearts and weaken the hands of their fellow-warriors by their self-centered declarations based upon ignorance of the true state of affairs, not seeing the faithful attitude of the 7,000, then surely is needed the earthquake, the fire, and the still small voice to purge them of their discouraging fantasies" (GbS 204).

A cave is no place for a prophet. In fact, it's no place for any child of God. Yet many of us have been in the caves of despondency, worry, hopelessness and fretfulness. To all "cave-dwellers", Elijah's God is saying, "What are you doing here?" A cave is no place for a child of God. You belong on the mountaintop. You belong in the surging stream of life, not in a cave. You will never see the Lord as long as you remain in the cave. For God is not a God of the caves, but of the mountaintops. Crawl out of your cave. Climb to the top of God's mountain. There you'll see what Elijah saw. The glory of God! And you will hear what Elijah heard.

1Ki 19:10

Examples of prophetic reluctance: Exo 4:10; Jer 1:6; Eze 3:14; Jon 1:3; 1Ki 19:10; Luk 5:8,10; 9:59; 18:23; Act 13:13; 18:9. Ct Isa 6:8.

1Ki 19:12

A GENTLE WHISPER: "A still small voice" (AV, RSV); "a gentle breeze" (LXX).

The judgments of God (strong wind, earthquake, fire) are actually manifestations of His mercy. They are the prelude, and preparation, for the still small voice calling the nation to repent.

Elijah is being shown that the LORD God -- or Yahweh -- is, of course, the God of the strong wind, the earthquake, fire -- all these were presumed by the pagans to be manifestations of the great "god" Baal, but this was utterly false!

But not only was Yahweh the true and only God of these great and frightening aspects of nature, in contrast to Baal. He was, ESPECIALLY, the God who revealed Himself through the quiet, still, small, and gentle voice speaking to the individual conscience.

An old preacher spoke something in reply to a question from a young man, something so hushed it could not be discerned. The young man stepped across the room. "What did you say?" he asked. The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a whisper. So the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the preacher's chair. "Sorry," he said. "I still didn't hear you." With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once more. "God sometimes whispers," he said, "so we will move closer to hear Him."

We all want God's voice to thunder through the air with the answer to our own particular problem. But God's is the still, small voice... the gentle whisper. Perhaps there's a reason. Nothing draws human focus quite like a whisper.

God's whisper means I must stop my ranting and move close to Him, until my head is bent together with His. And then, as I listen, I will find my answer.

Better still, I find myself closer to God. And there is no better place to be.

Are you close enough to God that you can hear Him whisper? Or are you so far away that you would barely hear Him if His voice boomed like thunder?

Sometimes we say we are believers, residents in God's house, but we expect to feel close to Him by yelling down the hall or using an intercom. The only way to have the BEST relationship with God is to live where He lives... not just in the same house, but in the same room; side by side. We need to draw close to Him... "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). There is no better way to do this than to read His Word, prayerfully and quietly and in a spirit of contemplation, EVERY DAY.

Let's be so close to the LORD that we can feel His presence and hear Him whisper His Word to us.

1Ki 19:13

AND STOOD AT THE MOUTH OF THE CAVE: Elijah had come out when God called him (v 11), but he had fled back into the cave when the strong wind and earthquake came.

1Ki 19:14

Elijah's unrevised answer indicates that, essentially, he does not understand the question!

1Ki 19:16

3 anointings in the OT: Typical of Christ in his 3 capacities: Lev 8:12, as priest; 1Ki 19:16, as prophet; and 1Sa 16:1, as king.

ELISHA: Sig "God's salvation", or "the power of salvation".

SON OF SHAPHAT FROM ABEL MEHOLAH: The mention of Elisha's father and village indicates that he was hitherto unknown to Elijah.

ABEL MEHOLAH: "A meadow of dancing", a joyful, righteous place.

1Ki 19:18

'Forget the fireworks. You must concentrate instead on the scattered remnant, the school of the prophets, etc.'

1Ki 19:19

TWELVE YOKE OF OXEN: A quite wealthy family, who were nevertheless to send away their heir and overseer on a mission for Yahweh.

1Ki 19:20

1Ki 19:20.

GO BACK: 'Return for the moment'...

WHAT HAVE I DONE TO YOU?: 'But do not forget the call I have given you!'

1Ki 19:21

Cp Ornan the Jebusite: 2Sa 24:22.

HE TOOK HIS YOKE OF OXEN AND SLAUGHTERED THEM. HE BURNED THE PLOWING EQUIPMENT...: To signify publicly, by sacrifice, his consecration to a new life. Cp Peter and Andrew (Mar 1:29), and Matthew (Mat 9:9-13).

"Still another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.' Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God' " (Luk 9:61,62).

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