1 KINGS CHAPTER 17.
Elijah Prophet in Israel.
THE FAMINE. — V. 1. And Elijah (“My God is Jehovah”) the Tishbite, a native, so far as can be determined, of Galilee, but having been removed to Gilead, where he lived as a stranger, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, a most solemn oath, emphasizing his position as servant and ambassador of Jehovah, there shall not be dew, which was usually very heavy in Palestine, nor rain these years but according to my word. It was a threat of punishment for the sin of idolatry and at the same time an evidence against the worship of Baal, to whom was ascribed the controlling power of nature. Drought and barrenness were a proof of the impotence of the idol and a direct punishment of God for the sin of idolatry, Lev. 26, 19. 20; Deut. 11, 16. 17. V. 2. And the word of the Lord came unto him, Elijah, saying, v. 3. Get thee hence and turn thee eastward, out of the reach of Ahab’s and Jezebel’s anger, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, apparently a perennial stream and not an arroyo, carrying water only in the rainy season, that is before Jordan, somewhere on the western side, its exact location being unknown. V. 4. And it shall be that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there, who were to be God’s messengers in supplying the prophet with food. While Elijah’s life was to be sustained in this miraculous manner, he was not only to be shut off from all intercourse with men, who might have betrayed his hiding-place to the king, but he was also to be strengthened in his trust in the almighty power of Jehovah, in whose service he was engaged. V. 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. V. 6. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, all the food which he needed to sustain life, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. V. 7. And it came to pass after a while, after some time had elapsed, that the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land, and the springs, in consequence, were no longer fed by the water in the hills. God has wars and means of keeping His children alive in the midst of the greatest plagues which he sends as a punishment upon the unbelieving world.
ELIJAH IN ZAREPHATH. — V. 8. And the word of the Lord came unto him, when the brook no longer furnished him water to drink, saying, V. 9. Arise, get thee to Zarephath, in the Phoenician country, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee, He had made provisions to take further care of His prophet, and would in due time influence her heart to do His bidding. V. 10. So he, Elijah, 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 recognizing her as a widow either by her clothes or by the fact that she was engaged in this lowly task. And he called to her, to find out whether she were the woman of whom the Lord had spoken, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel that I may drink, the vessel being his own drinking-cup, which he had carried with him from the land of Israel. V. 11. And as she, readily complying with his request, was going to fetch it, he called to her and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand, the smallest-sized loaf, in the form of a cake or bun, being understood, as such were baked in hot ashes. V. 12. And she said, As the Lord, thy God, liveth, her oath being in the name of Jehovah, whom she undoubtedly worshiped, although surrounded on all sides by heathen, I have not a cake, such as she understood Elijah to have reference to, but an handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a cruse, the oil being mixed with the flour in baking; and, behold, I am gathering two, that is, a few, sticks that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, bake a last batch, that we may eat it and die, for she saw starvation staring her in the face. V. 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. To the word of comfort was added a demand, which must have been a sore test for the woman’s faith. V. 14. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, not be consumed, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth, whose fruitfulness would thereby be restored and the famine broken. V. 15. And she, with a faith which would scarcely hare been found in Israel, went and did according to the saying of Elijah. And she and he and her house, including not only her son, but such other relatives as partook of her bounty, did eat many days, a long while. V. 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, and with which He had reassured her. The story of this widow is used by Christ Luke 4, 25, in order to warn all men against despising His Word. God is not mocked; when men reject His message of salvation, they have but themselves to blame if they are overlooked in the distribution of spiritual blessings.
THE DEAD BOY RESTORED TO LIFE. — V. 17. And it came to pass after these things, after the widow and her family had been so miraculously preserved, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, the illness took such a severe turn, that there was no breath left in him, the boy died. V. 18. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Her distress was so great that she was inclined to blame Elijah for the unfortunate turn of events. Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, her sensitiveness causing her to believe that her own sinfulness stood out all the more strongly by contrast with the holiness of the prophet, and to slay my son? The woman supposed that in the same degree in which she was learning to acknowledge her sin God was taking account of it in order to punish her. V. 19. And he, instead of arguing with her, said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, as she held him clasped tightly in her arms, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, in the upper room of the house, and laid him upon his own bed, evidently deeply perplexed by this act of Jehovah and yet ready to wrestle for the boy’s life in prayer in the loneliness of his chamber. V. 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? It was a cry of deep distress over the fact that the tribulations of the famine were now increased by this new calamity, but also a prayer of faith that God surely would not permit death to hold the boy in these circumstances. V. 21. And he stretched himself upon the child three times, measuring his full length over him, and cried unto the Lord and said, O Lord, my God, I pray Thee, let this child’s soul come into him again, taking full possession of his entire body once more. V. 22. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived, he came back to life. V. 23. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, into the main part of the house, and delivered him unto his mother. And Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. V. 24. And the woman said to Elijah, who by this miracle had proved himself a type of the great Master and Lord of death, Now, by this I know that thou art a man of God, her conviction was now most assured, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth, to be accepted with implicit faith. The example of the widow of Zarephath shows that the Lord has His elect in the very midst of a reprobate people.