2 Kings 1:10
And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
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(10) And Elijah answered and said.—So Syriac and LXX. Heb., and spake.

If.—Heb., And if a man of the god I (truly be). This “and” closely connects the prophet’s reply with the captain’s demand. All the versions except the LXX. omit it, with some Hebrew MSS.


Let fire come down from heaven.—A phrase found only here and in 2Chronicles 7:1. Ewald considers this a mark of the later origin of this tradition about Elijah. The words “come down” are at any rate appropriate, as repeating the captain’s bidding to the prophet.

Consume.Eat, or devour. (Comp. 1Kings 18:38.) Here, as there, Jehovah is represented as vindicating His own cause by the means most adequate to the necessities of the time, viz., a manifest miracle.

2 Kings 1:10. Elijah said, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down, &c. — This prayer or denunciation of Elijah did not proceed from malice and hatred to his enemies, nor from a desire to secure himself, which he could easily have done some other way; nor to revenge himself, for it was not his own cause he acted in; but from a pure zeal to vindicate God’s name and honour, which were so horribly abused; to prove his mission, and to reveal the wrath of God from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. And therefore Christ does not condemn this act of Elijah, but only reproves his disciples for their perverse inclination to imitate it from another spirit and principle, and in a more unseasonable time. There came down fire, and consumed him and his fifty — It is plain, from the address of this captain to Elijah, that he knew him to be a prophet, for he calls him a man of God; and therefore, he must have known that it was unlawful for him to be in any ways aiding, in obedience to an idolatrous king, in ill-treating a man of this sort: for it was no less than insulting and setting at naught the God of Israel, whose prophet he was. The captain, without doubt, knew that Ahaziah was angry with the prophet, and that he sent for him with no other end but to take an unjust revenge of him for having denounced his death. He, therefore, that would rather obey a tyrant than the laws of nature and revelation, which forbid us to be instruments of injustice, well deserved punishment. He who rather chose to secure his life than put it in any danger by refusing to be the executioner of unjust commands, justly deserved to lose it; and what we have said of the captain is likewise to be thought of the men. But, it may be objected, that both the captain and the soldiers were idolaters, and had forsaken the worship of the God of Israel: if this were the case, which perhaps it was, they deserved death for their idolatry, as well as for attempting to put the unjust orders of the king into execution. And we ought to conclude that Elijah’s calling for fire from heaven upon them, was not merely from the impulse of his own mind; but that a divine prophetic influence prompted him to it, God knowing that they deserved, and that it was fit to inflict this punishment upon them. For the actions of the true prophets, in such cases as these, must not be looked upon as merely springing from themselves, but as the effect of divine influences and impulses, which they could not do otherwise than obey.

1:9-18 Elijah called for fire from heaven, to consume the haughty, daring sinners; not to secure himself, but to prove his mission, and to reveal the wrath of God from heaven, against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Elijah did this by a Divine impulse, yet our Saviour would not allow the disciples to do the like, Lu 9:54. The dispensation of the Spirit and of grace by no means allowed it. Elijah was concerned for God's glory, those for their own reputation. The Lord judges men's practices by their principles, and his judgment is according to truth. The third captain humbled himself, and cast himself upon the mercy of God and Elijah. There is nothing to be got by contending with God; and those are wise for themselves, who learn submission from the fatal end of obstinacy in others. The courage of faith has often struck terror into the heart of the proudest sinner. So thunderstruck is Ahaziah with the prophet's words, that neither he, nor any about him, offer him violence. Who can harm those whom God shelters? Many who think to prosper in sin, are called hence like Ahaziah, when they do not expect it. All warns us to seek the Lord while he may be found.The charge of cruelty made against Elijah makes it needful to consider the question: What was Elijah's motive? And the answer is: Sharply to make a signal example, to vindicate God's honor in a striking way. Ahaziah had, as it were, challenged Yahweh to a trial of strength by sending a band of fifty to arrest one man. Elijah was not Jesus Christ, able to reconcile mercy with truth, the vindication of God's honor with the utmost tenderness for erring men, and awe them merely by His presence (compare John 18:6). In Elijah the spirit of the Law was embodied in its full severity. His zeal was fierce; he was not shocked by blood; he had no softness and no relenting. He did not permanently profit by the warning at Horeb (1 Kings 19:12 note). He continued the uncompromising avenger of sin, the wielder of the terrors of the Lord, such exactly as he had shown himself at Carmel. He is, consequently, no pattern for Christian men Luke 9:55; but his character is the perfection of the purely legal type. No true Christian after Pentecost would have done what Elijah did. But what he did, when he did it, was not sinful. It was but executing strict, stern justice. Elijah asked that fire should fall - God made it fall; and, by so doing, both vindicated His own honor, and justified the prayer of His prophet. 10. let fire come down—rather, "fire shall come down." Not to avenge a personal insult of Elijah, but an insult upon God in the person of His prophet; and the punishment was inflicted, not by the prophet, but by the direct hand of God. Elijah’s desire did not proceed from a carnal and malicious passion; but from a pure zeal to vindicate God’s name and honour, which was so horribly abused; and from the motion of God’s Spirit, as is evident from God’s miraculous answer to his desire. And therefore Christ doth not condemn this fact of Elias, but only reproves his disciples for their perverse imitation of it from another spirit and principle, and in a more unseasonable time, Luke 9:54,55.

And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, if I be a man of God,.... As I am, and thou shalt know it by the following token, though thou callest me so jeeringly:

then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty; this he said not in a passion, and from a private spirit of revenge, but for the vindication of the honour and glory of God, and under the impulse of his spirit, who was abused through the insult on him as his prophet:

and there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty; a flash of lightning, which destroyed them at once; the Lord hearkening to the voice of his prophet, in vindication of him in his office, and of his own glory.

And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. {g} And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

(g) He declares the power God's word has in the mouth of his servants, when they threaten God's judgments against the wicked.

10. If I be a man of God] The spirit of the Law differs from that of the Gospel, and our Lord forbad (Luke 9:55) his disciples the wish to imitate Elijah. But in the light which he had, Elijah felt that the majesty of Jehovah was outraged, when the name ‘man of God’, which should have signified reverence, was used as a term of scorn. And in the spirit of the Law he calls on God to make manifest that His servants and His message may not lightly be despised. And God in His discipline of the world granted the prophet’s prayer. Bp Hall says ‘There are few tracks of Elijah that are ordinary and fit for common feet. His actions are more for wonder than for precedent. Not in his own defence would the prophet have been the death of so many, if God had not, by a peculiar instinct, made him an instrument of this just vengeance’.

Verse 10. - And Elijah answered... let fire come down. The LXX. render, καταβήσεται πῦρ - "fire will come down;" and so some moderns, who are anxious to clear the prophet of the charges of cruelty and bloodthirstiness which have been brought against him. But there is no need of altering the translation, Elijah undoubtedly "commanded fire to come down from heaven" (Luke 9:54), or, in other words, prayed to God that it might come down, and in answer to his prayer the fire fell. The narrative may be set aside as an embellishment of later times, having no historical foundation, by those who (like Ewald) deny that miracles are possible; but, if it be accepted, it must be accepted as it stands, and Elijah must be regarded, not as having merely prophesied a result, but as having been instrumental in producing it. We must judge Elijah, not by the ideas of our own day, but by those of the age wherein he lived. He was raised up to vindicate God's honor, to check and punish idolatry, to keep alive a faithful remnant in Israel, when all the powers of the earth were leagued together to destroy and smother true religion. He was an embodiment of the Law - of absolute, strict, severe justice. The fair face of mercy was not revealed to him. Already, at Carmel, he had executed the Divine vengeance on idolaters after an exemplary fashion (1 Kings 18:40). Now, Ahaziah, the son of the wicked Jezebel, had challenged Jehovah to a trial of strength by first ignoring him, and then sending a troop of soldiers to arrest his prophet. Was Elijah to succumb without an effort, or was he to vindicate the majesty and honor of Jehovah? He had no power of himself to do either good or harm. He could but pray to Jehovah, and Jehovah, in his wisdom and perfect goodness, would either grant or refuse his prayer. If he granted it, the punishment inflicted would not be Elijah's work, but his. To tax Elijah with cruelty is to involve God in the charge. God regarded it as a fitting time for making a signal example, and, so regarding it, he inspired a spirit of indignation in the breast of his prophet, who thereupon made the prayer which he saw fit to answer. The judgment was in accordance with the general tone and tenor of the Law, which assigns "tribulation and anguish to every soul of man that doeth evil" (Romans 2:9), and visits with death every act of rebellion against God. There came down fire. Josephus says that the "fire" was a flash of lightning (πρηστήρ), and so the commentators generally. 2 Kings 1:10After having executed the divine command, Elijah returned to the summit of the mountain, on which he dwelt. Most of the commentators suppose it to have been one of the peaks of Carmel, from 2 Kings 2:25 and 1 Kings 18:42, which is no doubt very probable, though it cannot be raised into certainty. Elijah's place of abode was known to the king; he therefore sent a captain with fifty men to fetch the prophet. To the demand of the captain, "Man of God, the king has said, Come down," Elijah replied, "And if I am a man of God, let fire fall from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty." (The expression ואם, and if, shows that Elijah's words followed immediately upon those of the captain.) This judicial miracle was immediately fulfilled.
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