Elijah’s Miracles of Survival & Revival
1 Kings 17 & 18
Eugene Britnell wrote, “Any man whose life, influence and relation to the God of the universe is such that he can turn the rain off and on like a faucet in the kitchen, multiply food, raise the dead, defeat 450 false prophets, call fire from above, …and appear at the glorification of the Son of God is worthy of our investigation, appreciation, and emulation – to the extent that we are able!”
Elijah and Ahab, 1 Kings 17:1
After the reigns of kings Saul, David and Solomon, Jeroboam set up a golden calf at Dan and Bethel. Ahab added to the sin of Jeroboam by leading the children of Israel into the worship of the pagan idols of his foreign wife. Ahab married a Phoenician princess, Jezebel. He permitted her to bring Baal worship into Israel with temples, priests, and altars(16:31–33). She was intent on wiping out God’s prophets. God held the King accountable for what the Queen did. “And Ahab made wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33).
Suddenly Elijah appears upon the pages of Biblical history with little information. “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word’” (17:1). Anyone would have to think twice about killing Elijah. For the next three years he controlled the rain. This was a direct attack on Baal who was the Storm God who supposedly brought fertility through rain.
Elijah & the Ravens, 1 Kings 17:2-7
To protect His prophet, God sent Elijah into a wilderness area. Moses spent forty years in the desert hiding from the wrath of Pharaoh. After his sudden conversion Paul spent three years in Arabia.
Just how was God going to protect Elijah during a long drought? The prophet was told to go to the Cherith brook, where ravens brought him food twice a day (1 Kings 17:5,6). The raven was unclean, however that does not mean the food was unclean (Lev. 11:13–15; Deut. 14:14). After awhile the stream dried up.
Elijah & the Widow, 1 Kings 17:8-24
God sent Elijah to a widow in the city of Zarephath. It was in the Phoenician territory located on the Mediterranean Sea about halfway between the two Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. Ironically, Jezebel was from Sidon (1 kings 16:31). Perhaps God knew they would not think to look for Elijah in the Queen’s home territory and the center of Baal worship.
God had found a widow to take care of Elijah. He first requested water and then her last bit of food. She had been gathering sticks and was prepared to cook one last meal before she and her son died. She had little in the pantry: a small flask of oil and a barrel with only a handful of barley. Yet, Elijah had God on his side who would keep the oil and barley from running out during the drought.
All went as planned until the widow’s son became violently ill and died. The widow blamed Elijah for visiting her with this discipline for her sins. He takes the boy’s body and lays him upon his own bed. He prays to God to send the boy’s soul back into his body. He lays down and breaths on the dead child three times. This would have been an unclean act of touching a dead body. He was not merely trying to revive him. The context indicates clearly the boy was dead. The child stopped breathing and his spirit left the body. Since this is the first instance of resurrection from the dead Elijah did not have a precedence to believe God would. When life returned to the boy, Elijah returned him to his mother (Heb. 11:35). Although she had other evidence from the divine preservation of her food, she saw this as proof that Elijah was a true prophet of God.
Jesus uses this story to rebuke those in the Nazareth synagogue He wanted the proud Jewish congregation to realize that the God of Israel was also the God of the Gentiles. “He said to them, ‘You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ ” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow”(Luke 4:23-26). Jesus healed the daughter of a Phoenician woman (Mark 7:25-26). The message God was showing in both cases was the grace to the Gentiles.
Elijah and Obadiah, 1 Kings 18:1-16
God sends Elijah to face Ahab. On the way he meets Obadiah the superintendent of the palace. Obadiah may have worked for Ahab, but when Jezebel went on a killing spree to wipe out the prophets of God, Obadiah took one hundred and hid them in two caves. And he then gave them water and food.
Obadiah told Elijah that Ahab had sent out search parties to every nation hoping to find the prophet. Elijah told him to tell Ahab that “Elijah is here.” Obadiah fearing for his life refused. Three times Elijah made this request. Finally, Obadiah went but feared the king would kill him.
Elijah and the King with Israel, 1 Kings 18:17-24
True to his word, Elijah did meet with King Ahab. Ahab accused Elijah of being the source of trouble in Israel which was suffering from a severe famine. He asked, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” Both Jesus and Paul would also be called “troublemakers” (Luke 23:5; Acts 16:20; 17:6). Elijah defended himself by calling Ahab the real troublemaker, because he had forsaken the Law of Moses and practiced Baal worship. He commanded the King to send for all Israel with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to gather at Mount Carmel.
Elijah challenged the people to make a choice between Jehovah and Baal. They gave no answer as to whom they would serve as the true God. He then outlines the contest between the 450 prophets of Baal and himself. Elijah knew he was not the only prophet left in the land but the only one to challenge the false prophets on that day. The people of Israel agreed this contest was a good idea.
Elijah and the False Prophets, 1 Kings 18:25-46
After three years of drought it is time for a Showdown at Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged the priests to a duel of sorts. An altar had been erected on the mountaintop. Two bulls were prepared for sacrifice: one for the Baal flock and one for Elijah. It was suggested by Elijah that which ever god answered by sending fire to consume the sacrifice would be the victor. The Baal priest were to go first and take their best shot. For several hours they called upon Baal to no avail. “But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention” (18:29).
Elijah begins to mock the prophets and their god, Baal. “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened” (18:27). What an absurd scene of sincere, grown men dancing, screaming, and cutting themselves in order to gain the attention of their god. Yet their zeal was all in vain. God was laughing at them as well. “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision” (Ps. 2:4).
Next it was Elijah’s turn. Elijah had given the prophets of Baal some advantages, so now he gave himself some handicaps. He took twelve stones to repair the altar. These were to represent the original tribes under the Law of Moses. He set up the wood and the prepared animal, dug a ditch around it, and drenched the entire alter with water till the ditch was full. A spring of water is near Mt. Carmel. It flows even during extremely dry seasons. This is why Elijah can have twelve containers of water.
He prayed, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (18:36-37).
God answered immediately with fire from Heaven. It consumed the entire altar and the bull including the water and the stones.
After witnessing this the people were ready to give Elijah their answer. “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” (18:39).
Next, all 450 prophets of Baal are put to death with the sword. This is in keeping with how the Law of Moses commanded them to deal with false prophets (Deut. 18:20). Baal worship was exceedingly wicked. The temple priestesses were prostitutes for Baal. The young couples who desired to get married would have sex at the temple. The grooms would party with the temple prostitutes and the bride would lose her virginity to a priest of Baal. The temple also featured homosexual prostitutes who were referred to as “dogs” in Deuteronomy 23:18. The sacrifice of the firstborn child was required part of Baal worship. The god of fertility and storms was clearly defeated.
Next, Elijah prays for rain. Seven times he sent his servant to check out the weather on the sea. Then God sent the rain demonstrating his power over Baal. For three years Elijah had been the best, most accurate weatherman the world has ever known.
Elijah and Ahab (in his chariot) leave for the palace at Jezreel. The prophet ran ahead of it for seventeen miles. Arriving there before the king’s chariot.
– Daniel R. Vess