1 Kings 19
Pulpit Commentary
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
Verse 1. - And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain [Heb. and all which he had slain. The construction, if it were not for the כָּל would be usual enough. As that word is omitted in some MSS. and versions, it is possible it has been inserted by a transcriber, mechanically, from the אֵת כָּלאּאֲשֶׁר preceding] all the prophets, [sc., of Baal, all who were present] with the sword.
Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
Verse 2. - Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah [The prophet, wrapped in his abba, was seemingly about to spend the night in the open air, possibly at the gate, or in the plain. There, in the darkness, the messenger found him, Bahr assumes that this message had Ahab's sanction; i.e., that he must have known of it and was too weak to prevent it. But it is just as likely that it was sent without his privity. On the evening of that day he would be afraid to threaten one vested with such tremendous powers as Elijah had just proved himself to possess], saying [Here the LXX. inserts "If thou art Eliou and I Jezebel"], So let gods [As ךאלֹהִים is here found with a the plural verb, it is rightly assumed that the reference is to the divinities of Phoenicia or of paganism generally. Besides, Jezebel would hardly swear by the one God of Elijah and of Israel. The LXX., however, has ὁ θεὸς], do to me, and more also [Heb. and so let them add. See on 1 Kings 2:23. Stanley appositely recalls to our minds "the tremendous vows which mark the history of the Semitic race, both within and without the Jewish pale, the vow of Jephthah, the vow of Saul, the vow of Hannibal." Rawlinson remarks that this oath was "familiar in the mouths of kings about this time" (1 Kings 20:10; 2 Kings 6:31). But it was a standing formula in Israel at all times. See Ruth 1:17; 1 Samuel 3:17; etc.], if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. ["That queen consort, it seems, was, in effect, queen regent" (Henry). What induced the queen to send this message? For it is obvious that if she really meant to slay Elijah, she took the very means to defeat her purpose by thus forewarning him of her intentions. Some of the older expositors (see, e.g., Hall, vol. 2. p. 396) have seen in the act a proof of her blind infatuation, of that infatuation which God often employs to defeat the machinations of wicked men, and this view is not to be lightly rejected. That she fully meant what she said is hardly to be doubted. But later writers, including Keil, Bahr, and Wordsworth, see in the threat nothing more than a scheme for ridding herself of the presence of Elijah. They argue that, finding herself unable to put him to death, partly because of the impression he had made upon the people, and partly, too, because of the ascendancy he had just gained over the king, she resolved, by threatening him with instant death, to give him an opportunity for flight. But this view hardly takes sufficiently into account the exasperation, the blind unreasoning hate, or the reckless and desperate character of the queen. It must be remembered that this message was despatched, not after she had had time for thought and calculation, but on the spur of the moment, as soon as she had heard of the massacre of the priests of Baal. That night she could do nothing, nor perhaps could she see her way clearly to compass his death on the morrow. But she will have him know that he is not going to escape her, and that, whatever the effect on her husband, she is unconquered and unrelenting. She does not stop to argue that he may take the alarm and flee. But she must gratify her impotent rage forthwith by threatening him with death the next day.]
And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
Verse 3. - And when he saw that [Heb. and he saw and arose, etc. But the LXX. has καὶ ἐφοβήθη, and the Vulgate timuit, and it is to be observed that this meaning, "and he feared," can be extracted from this word וירא without any change of radicals, for the full form יִירָא is occasionally abbreviated into יִרָא; see 1 Samuel 18:12; 1 Samuel 21:13; 2 Kings 17:28. A few MSS. have here וייּרא and it certainly suits the context better. Bahr, who interprets, "he saw how matters stood," i.e., that she meant him to flee, is not justified in asserting that this expression would require an accusative of the person feared. (See, e.g., Genesis 3:10; Genesis 15:1; Genesis 18:15.) Both he and Keil furthermore object to this interpretation that it is contrary to actual fact, neither of them being willing to allow that Elijah was afraid. Bahr says it is inconceivable that the man who had that day faced alone king and priests and the entire people should have become all at once afraid of a bad woman, and he explains Elijah's flight as caused by the discovery that he could not carryon his work of reformation, and by the absence of any intimation (like that of 1 Kings 18:1) that he was to stay and hazard his life. But apart from the fact that we are distinctly told that he "went for his life" (cf. vers. 4, 10), and that his flight seems to have been instant and hurried, history tells of many great souls, hardly less brave than Elijah's, which have succumbed to a sudden panic. Anyhow, it is evident that for the moment Elijah had lost faith in God, otherwise he would certainly have waited for the "word of the Lord," which had hitherto invariably guided his movements (1 Kings 17:2, 8; 1 Kings 18:1). No doubt other emotions besides that of fear were struggling in his breast, and prominent among these was the feeling of profound disappointment and mortification. It is clear that he had hoped that the "day of Carmel" would turn the heart of the entire nation back again (1 Kings 18:37), and the great shout of ver. 39, and the subsequent execution, at his command, of the men who had deceived and depraved the people, might well justify the most sanguine expectations. We can readily imagine, consequently, how, especially after the excitement and fatigues of that day, the threatening and defiant message of the queen would seem the death blow of his hopes, and how, utterly dispirited and broken down, he lost all trust, all faith, and, while fleeing for his life, "requested for himself that he might die" (ver. 4)], he arose, and went for his life [Keil is compelled, by his refusal to allow that Elijah was actuated by fear, to render these words, "went to commit his soul to God in the solitude of the desert." But the men meaning is settled for us by the like expression in 2 Kings 7:7; nor does Jeremiah 44:7 lend any support to Keil's view. Gesenius compares τρέχειν περὶ ψυχῆς. Od. 9:423. The A.V. exactly represents the meaning], and came to Beer-sheba [Genesis 21:31; Genesis 26:33. The southern boundary of Palestine (Joshua 15:28; 2 Samuel 24:7; Judges 20:1; 1 Chronicles 21:2, etc.), allotted to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:2), which tribe, we gather from this passage (see also 2 Chronicles 19:4), was now absorbed in the southern kingdom. (See note on ch. 11:31.) Wordsworth suggests that "perhaps he resorted to Beer-sheba in order to strengthen his faith with the recollection of the patriarchs who had dwelt there," etc. But if that had been his object, a journey to the place was hardly necessary, and it is clear that he only passed through it on his way to Mount Sinai. "Beer-sheba was about 95 miles from Jezreel" - Rawlinson, who adds that Elijah cannot have reached it till the close of the second day. But we must remember that his pace would be regulated by the powers of his servant, probably a mere lad (LXX. παιδάριον), so that it is hardly likely he could travel day and night without stopping to rest], which belongeth to Judah [It is part of Keil's argument in proof that Elijah did not flee from fear of Jezebel, that, had such been the case, he would have remained in the kingdom of Judah, where he would have enjoyed the protection of Jehoshaphat. But it is by no means certain that this prince, considering his close alliance with Ahab (1 Kings 22:4; cf. 18:10; 2 Kings 8:18; 2 Chronicles 18:1), would have sheltered the prophet. Indeed, it is remarkable, as Blunt has well pointed out (Coincid. pp. 183, 184), that the prophet never took refuge in the southern kingdom. At one time he found a sanctuary beyond the Jordan; at another in the kingdom of Tyre, but never in the realm of Jehoshaphat. When he does come in haste to Beer-sheba, "it is after a manner which bespeaks his reluctance to set foot within that territory, even more than if he had evaded it altogether." The reason partly was, no doubt, as Wordsworth says, that his mission was to idolatrous Israel. Judah had both priests and prophets of its own], and left his servant [There is no warrant for the assertion (Stanley) that "one only of that vast assembly remained faithful to him, the Zidonian boy of Zarephath." The identity of this boy with the servant is by no means certain; nor is the defection of the people at all proven] there. [Probably because he wished to be alone with God; possibly because the boy was then too exhausted to go further, and there was no reason why he should be subjected to the uncertainties and privations of desert life; hardly for the security of both (Blunt). It is perhaps implied, however, that the kingdom of Judah, though not a safe abode for him, would be for his servant. When we remember that this servant never rejoined him, but that presently Elisha took his place, we can scarcely help wondering whether he was afraid to accompany Elijah any longer (cf. Acts 15:38).]
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
Verse 4. - But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness [Cf. Genesis 21:14, 21; Jeremiah 9:2; Revelation 12:6. Beer-sheba stands on the fringe of the desert of Et-Tih. It was not for the sake of security alone that the prophet plunged into the "great and terrible wilderness." It is probable that from the first, "Horeb, the mount of God," was in his thoughts. He may well have seen that he was destined to be a second Moses; that he was raised up to assert and enforce the covenant of which Moses was the mediator. We have seen already that he cites the words spoken to Moses at the bush (1 Kings 18:36); that to him as to Moses there was granted an apparition of fire; we now find him rejected as Moses had been before him (Acts 7:25, 35). How natural that, like Moses, he should flee into the land of Midian, to the place where God had spoken With Moses face to face. Wordsworth reminds us that the Jewish Church, by its cycle of lessons, suggests a comparison between the Law Giver and the Law Restorer], and came and sat down under a [Heb. one; see note on 1 Kings 13:11] juniper tree [The רֹתֶם, here found with a feminine numeral (Keri, masculine), in ver. 5 with a masculine, is not the juniper, but the plant now known to the Arabs as retem, i.e., the broom (genista monosperma, or G. raetam), "the most longed for and most welcome bush of the desert, abundant in beds of streams and valleys, where spots for camping are selected, and men sit clown and sleep in order to be protected against wind and sun" (Robinson, Pal. vol. 1. p. 203). It does not, however, afford a complete protection (Thomson, L. and B. vol. 2. pp. 436, 437). Every traveller remarks on its abundance in the desert; it gave a name, Rithmah, to one of the stations of the Israelites (Numbers 33:18. Cf. Stanley, S. and P. pp. 20, 79). Its roots are still used by the Bedouin, for the manufacture of charcoal (cf. Psalm 120:4, "coals of rethern"), which they carry to Cairo]: and he requested for himself [Heb. asked as to his life, accusative of reference] that he might die [Again like Moses, Numbers 11:15; Exodus 32:32]; and said, It Is enough [or, Let it be enough. LXX. ἱκανούσθω. See note on 1 Kings 12:28]; now, O Lord, take away my life ["Strange contradiction! Here the man who was destined not to taste of death, flees from death on the one hand and seeks it on the other." Kitto]; for I am not better than my fathers. [These words clearly reveal the great hopes Elijah had formed as to the result of his mission, and the terrible disappointment his banishment had occasioned him. Time was when he had thought himself a most special messenger of Heaven, raised up to effect the regeneration of his country. He now thinks his work is fruitless, and he has nothing to live for longer. Keil concludes from these words that Elijah was already of a great age, but this is extremely doubtful.]
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
Verse 5. - And as he lay and slept ["While death was called for, the cousin of death comes unbidden" (Hall)] under a [Heb. one] Juniper tree, behold, then [Heb. זֶה this; "behold here," siehe da, Gesen.], an angel [Heb. messenger; the same word as in ver. 2, but explained in ver. 7 to be a messenger of God. Cf. Genesis 16:9; Genesis 21:17] touched [Heb. touching] him and said unto him, Arise and eat. [Probably he had eaten little or nothing since leaving Jezreel. Food was now what he most needed. This circumstance suggests that the profound depression betrayed in his prayer (ver. 4) was largely the result of physical weakness.]
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
Verse 6. - And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake [same word as in 1 Kings 17:13] baken on the coals [Heb. a cake of stones, or coals. LXX. ἐγκρυφίας. The thin, flat bread of the East, especially among the nomadic desert tribes, is constantly baked in a rude oven, constructed in the sand or soft. A little hollow is made; sometimes it is lined with stones to retain the heat; fuel, often the root of the genista, is placed upon it and kindled, and when the sand or stones are sufficiently hot, the embers are raked to one side, and the dough is placed in the oven, where it is sometimes covered with the ashes. Hence the Vulgate calls it sub-cinericius panis], and a cruse of water at his head [i.e., the place of his head. Marg. bolster. The word is almost used as a preposition. Cf. 1 Samuel 19:13; 1 Samuel 26:7]. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. [Heb. returned and laid down.]
And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
Verse 7. - And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him [i.e., to awaken him. It was the food was to strengthen him], and said, Arise and eat [Probably he had eaten but little the first time, for sorrow and weariness]; because the journey is too great for thee. [The LXX. ὅτι πολλὴ ἀπὸ σοῦ ἡ ὁδός and the Vulgate grandis enim tibi restat via, which Bahr follows, seem hardly so true to the Hebrew idiom as the A.V. rendering. Keil cites Vatablus, iter est majus quam pro viribus tuis. It is very improbable that (Rawlinson al.) the journey to Horeb was now suggested to him for the first time by the angel.]
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
Verse 8. - And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights [Cf. Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 25; Jonah 3:4; Matthew 4:2; Acts 1:3. But the primary reference is perhaps to the "forty days and forty nights" which Moses spent in Horeb, during which he "neither did eat bread nor drink water" (Deuteronomy 9:9), or to the forty years during which Israel was sustained in this same desert with "angels' food" (Psalm 78:25). It is noteworthy how both Moses and Elias were precursors of our Lord in a forty days' fast. "The three great fasters met gloriously on Tabor" (Hall). It is not implied that it took the prophet the whole of this time to reach Horeb, which is only distant from Beer-sheba some 130 miles. "There are eleven days' journey from Horeb, by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnes" (Deuteronomy 1:2). It is of course possible that he wandered aimlessly hither and thither during this period, but it seems better to understand the words of the whole of his desert sojourn] unto Horeb the mount of God. [See note on 1 Kings 8:9. It is just possible that Horeb was already known as "the mount of God" at the time God appeared to Moses there - the whole of the Sinaitic peninsula was sacred in the eyes of the Egyptians; but it is more probable that this designation is used in Exodus 3:1 prophetically, and that it was Bestowed on the Mount of the Law because of the special revelation of the Godhead there (Exodus 3:6; Exodus 19:3, 11, 18; Deuteronomy 1:6; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 5:2, etc.)]
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
Verse 9. - And he came thither unto a cave [Heb. the cave. LXX. τὸ σπήλαιον. Many commentators identify this with "the cliff of the rock" where Moses was concealed while the Lord "passed by" (Exodus 33:22), and the use of the same word, עבֵר in ver. 11 certainly favours this view. But is it clear that the clift (נִקְרָה fissure) was a cave? Ewald understands "the cave in which at that time travellers to Sinai commonly rested." It is perhaps worth remembering that a part of the desert, though at some distance from Horeb; boars at this day the name of Magharah, or cave. But there is a "narrow fret" pointed out by tradition as the abode of Elijah, on the side of Jebol Muss. "There is nothing to confirm, but there is nothing to contradict, the belief that it may have been in that secluded basin, which has long been pointed out as the spot No scene could be more suitable for the vision which follows" (Stanley). There is, however, one formidable difficulty in the way of this identification, viz., that the cave is only just large enough for a man's body, which does not agree with ver. 18], and lodged [לוּן means strictly to pass the night. It is possibly connected radically with לַיְלָה] there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him [Not "in vision as he slept" (Rawlinson). He could not "go forth" in his sleep. That he was to go forth "on the morrow" is equally unlikely see ver. 11, note], and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? [Many writers, Bahr and Keil among them, will not allow that there is aught of reproof in this question, or that Elijah had in any way erred in his hasty flight. The former asks how it comes to pass that the angel, instead of reproving him, succoured and strengthened him (vers. 6, 7), if he was acting in faithlessness or disobedience. But surely it does not follow that God denies all grace and sustenance to His elect servants even if they do, in a moment of despair, forget or distrust Him. Elijah may have been strengthened for this very journey, Because God would meet with him and teach him the lessons of patience and trust he needed to learn, at the "mount of God" itself. And his answer, especially when contrasted with that of ver. 14 (where see note), certainly betrays, not only irritation and despair, but a "carnal zeal which would gladly have called down the vengeance of the Almighty upon all idolaters" (Keil). The question in itself, it is true, does not necessarily impart censure - it might merely mean, "What wouldst thou learn of me?" But when it is remembered that the prophet had been sent to every other destination by the "word of the Lord," and that he had left Jezreel without any such word - left it in terror and bitter disappointment and sheer distrust of God - it does look as if the words conveyed a gentle reminder that he had deserted the post of duty, and had no right to be there. So Clerieus, "Quasi Deus diceret nihil esse Eliae negotii in solitudine, sed potius in locis habitatis, ut illic homies ad veri Dei cultum adduceret."]
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
Verse 10. - And he said, I have been very jealous [Cf. Numbers 25:11, which the prophet may have had in his mind. But the jealousy of Phinehas was in harmony with that of God (ver. 13)] for the Lord God of hosts ["The title of Lord God of hosts is first heard in the mouth of Elijah the prophet, who had been very jealous for Jehovah in opposition to Baal and Ashtaroth [Ash-toreth?] the Phoenician deifies; cf. 2 Kings 23:5, 'Baal, the sun, and moon, and planets, and all the host of heaven'" (Wordsworth)]: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant [he had memories of the covenant all around him], thrown down thine altars [cf. 1 Kings 18:30, note. It is clear that many altars, similar to that on Carmel, had been built, and had been overturned], and slain thy prophets with the sword [If the "hundred prophets" of 1 Kings 18:4 escaped, of which we cannot be certain, others did not]; and I, even I only, am left [See note on 1 Kings 18:22. It must be confessed that the prima facie view is that the prophets had been well nigh exterminated. But we must take into account the deep despondency with which Elijah spoke, and remember the correction which his words received (ver. 18)]; they seek my life, to take it away. [The commentators are hopelessly divided as to the spirit and temper with which these words were spoken. Bahr, as before, is very positive that there is no complaint or murmuring against God on Elijah's part. He contends that the prophet has been led to Sinai simply by the earnest longing for a disclosure concerning the dealings of God, and for instructions as to his future conduct; and this view has the support of other weighty authorities. But it is extremely difficult to resist the conclusion that we have here at the least a "tacit reproof that God had looked on so quietly for such a length of time, and had suffered things to come to such an extremity" (Keil). St. Paul speaks of him as pleading with God against Israel (ἐντυγχάνει τῷ θεῷ κατὰ τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ. Romans 11:2), said certainly represents the χρηματισμός he received as a connection. And the idea which this verse, taken in connexion with the prophet's flight (ver. 3) and his prayer (ver. 4), leaves on the unbiassed mind certainly is that in his zeal for God he resented not only the growing corruption of the age, but above all the frustration of his efforts to stay it. What burdened and vexed his righteous soul was that in the very hour of victory, when the people had confessed that Jehovah alone was God, he, the one solitary witness for the truth, should be driven from his post to escape as best he might, and to leave the covenant people to the baneful influence of Jezebel and her army of false prophets. It is the cry which we hear over and over again in the Old Testament, the complaint of the silence and apparent indifference of God, of the persecution of the righteous, and the impunity of evil doers.]
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
Verse 11. - And he said, Go forth [The LXX. inserts αὔριον, which, however, is destitute of authority, and was probably inserted from Exodus 34:2, to explain the difficulty which the prophet's apparent disregard of this command creates], and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed, by [Heb. passeth by. Only used here and in Exodus 33:22; Exodus 34:6 of the Divine Being. The beatific vision must be transient. An abiding presence, a שֹׁכֵן, was more than man could bear. So Bahr. As Elijah does not seem to have gone forth from the cave until he heard the still small voice (ver. 13), some would take the participle עבֵר which is probably employed as more graphic, as a future, i.e., "the Lord will pass by," and this is the interpretation of the LXX.; ἰδοὺ παρελεύσιται κύριος καὶ ἰδοὺ πνεῦμα μέγα κ.τ.λ. The effect of this rearrangement of the text would be that the words, "And behold the Lord passing by," must be taken as a part of the message, "Go forth," etc., and not as a statement of what happened. That statement would then begin with the next words, "And a great and strong wind," etc. But in that case we might have expected "For behold," etc., or the "And behold" would have come before "a great and strong wind," etc. It is also to be considered - and this seems to me decisive - that the words "rent," "break," etc., are also participles, which it would be unnatural to divorce from the participle preceding], and a great and strong wind [Such as was net uncommon in that region. The approach to Sinai from the west is known as Nukb-Hawy, "the pass of the winds." Elsewhere we find the Wady-el-Burk, or "valley of lightning." These phenomena - the tempest, fire, etc. - would be all the more awful and impressive because of the surrounding desolation and the utter solitude] rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind [Heb. not in the wind Jehovah]: and after the wind an earthquake [Once before (Exodus 19:18) an earthquake accompanied the descent of God upon the same mountain. The desert of Sinai, with the exception of the Hammam Pharoun and other hot springs, affords no traces of volcanic action. "Everywhere there are signs of the action of water, nowhere of fire" (Stanley). But רַעַשׁ properly means (compare rauschen, rush) a crashing noise (Job 39:24; Isaiah 9:4), and the mysterious sounds of Jebel Musa have often been remarked (see Stanley, S. and P. pp. 13, 14)]; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
Verse 12. - And after the earthquake a fire [For the association of tempest, earthquake, fire, etc., as punishments of God, see Isaiah 29:6, and Psalm 18:7, 8. "Fire" may well signify lightning (Job 1:16; Exodus 9:23). For a vivid description of a thunderstorm at Sinai, see Stewart's "Tent and Khan," pp. 139, 140; ap. Stanley, "Jew. Ch.," vol. 1. p. 149]: but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. [Heb. a voice of gentle silence. דְּמָמָה an onomatopoetic word, is allied to our word dumb. Very similar expression Job 4:16. What was the object and meaning of this succession of signs? First, let us remember that Elijah was the prophet of deeds. He taught his contemporaries not by word but by act. He is here taught in turn by signs. There passes before him in the mountain hollow, in the black and dark night, a procession of natural terrors-of storm, and earthquake, and fire. But none of these things move him; none speak to his soul and tell of a present God. It is the hushed voice, the awful stillness, overpowers and enchains him. He is to learn hence, first, that the Lord is a God "merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6); and secondly, that as it has been with himself, so it will be with others; the name of the Lord will be proclaimed in a voice of gentle silence (ib., ver. 5). The weapons of His warfare, the instruments of religious progress, must be spiritual, not carnal. Not in fire and sword and slaughter, but by a secret voice speaking to the conscience, will God regain His sway over the hearts of Israel. (See Homiletics.) The striking similarity between this theophany and that which Moses saw in the same place, or at no great distance from it, must not be overlooked, for this constitutes another link between law giver and law restorer. The proclamation of Exodus 34:3, 7 is the best exponent of the parable of vers. 11, 12. To each was the vision of God granted after a faithful witness against idolatry, and after a slaughter of idolaters; each was in a clift of the rock; in either case the Lord passed by; the one was taught by words, the other rather by signs, but the message in each case was the same - that judgment is God's strange work, but that He will by no means clear the guilty (cf. ver. 17).]
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
Verse 13. - And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle [Like Moses, Exodus 3:6; cf. 33:20; 34:33; 2 Corinthians 3:13; Isaiah 6:1, 2. This mantle (see note on 1 Kings 18:46) was probably a sheepskin. The LXX. calls it νηλωτή (cf. Hebrews 11:37). In Zechariah 13:4 we find that the prophets wore a mantle of hair], and went out, and stood [Same words as in ver. 11. It was the still small voice, apparently, that first brought him to obey the command there given. He would perhaps be afraid to issue from the shelter of his cave during the tempest and the earthquake, which may have followed directly after the instruction to go forth was given. Possibly there was a lesson for him here also, viz., that amid the din and excitement and torture of drought and famine and fire and blood the commands of God are less likely to be heard in the soul and obeyed, than in the hour of peace and stillness. The drought and famine and sword have their work to do, even as the tempest and the earthquake have theirs; but it is by the voice of mercy and love that the hearts of men are turned back again. "Not in the strong east wind that parted the Red Sea, or the fire that swept the top of Sinai, or the earthquake that shook down the walls of Jericho would God be brought so near to man as in the still small voice of the child of Bethlehem" (Stanley)] in the entering in of the cave. [He hardly obeyed the letter of the command of ver. 11 even then. Does not this point to a rebellious and unsubdued heart? Is it not a confirmation of the view taken above, that he fled to Horeb, full of bitter disappointment and murmuring against God; and that the purpose of this revelation was not only to teach him as to God's dealings with men, but also to school and subdue his own rebellious heart?] And, behold, there came a voice unto him [The expression is different from that of ver. 9. There we read of the "word of the Lord," here of a "voice." But this is not to be identified with the "still small voice" of ver. 12], and said, What doest, thou here, Elijah? [As in ver. 9.]
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
Verse 14. - And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. [Verbatim as in ver. 10. What are we to understand from this repetition of the former answer? Has the lesson of this theophany been lost upon him? Has he failed to grasp its significance? It is probable that he only partially understood its meaning, and it certainly looks as if he still felt himself an injured and disappointed man; as if the recollection of the way in which his work had been frustrated still rankled in his soul. But though the words are the same, it is possible, and indeed probable, that the tone was entirely different; that instead of speaking, as he had spoken before, querulously and almost defiantly, he now, catching his inspiration from the still small voice, speaks with bated breath and profound self humiliation. The facts are the same. He repeats them, because they and they alone explain why he is there, and because he cannot see as yet how they are to be remedied. But he is now conscious of a misgiving as to the wisdom and piety of his course. He feels he has acted hastily and faithlessly, and has wanted to do God's work in his own rough way. He will go back, if it be God's will; he will be content to wait God's time, and to follow His leading. The commission which is straightway given him almost proves that he had experienced a change. It implies that he is now fitted for his high ministry.]
And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
Verse 15. - And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way [Heb. to thy way, as in Genesis 19:2; Genesis 32:2; Numbers 24:25, etc.] to the wilderness of Damacus [The construct case with ה local. Keil refers to Deuteronomy 4:41; Joshua 12:1; and Ewald 216 b. This cannot mean "through the desert to Damascus," for he could not possibly go any other way, nor yet "to the desert (through which he had just come) to Damascus," for he was then in the heart of the desert. He was to find a hiding place - we find the king of Damascus at war with Ahab, ch. 20. - or possibly a sphere for work, - he would be near Hazael - in the rugged desert which stretches south and east of the Syrian capital. (See Stanley, "Sinai and Palestine," p. 410; Porter's "Five Years in Damascus," vol. 2. p. 254 sqq.) Here, too, the prophet would be at no great distance from his own country. See on 1 Kings 17:3]: and Wheel thou comest, anoint [Heb. and thou shalt come and anoint. LXX. καὶ ἥξεις καὶ χρίσεις. The A.V. increases the difficulty. In the Hebrew the time of the anointing is indefinite. This commission has long been a crux interpretum. For neither Hazael, nor Jehu, nor Elisha, so far as we have any record, was ever anointed by Elijah. Elisha was called by him to the prophetic office. Hazael, it is barely possible, may have been anointed secretly, like David (1 Samuel 16:2, 13), but all that we gather from Scripture is, that he was called in an indirect way, and certainly not anointed, by Elisha (2 Kings 8:12-15). Jehu was certainly anointed, but it was neither by Elisha nor Elijah (2 Kings 9:1, 6), but by one of the sons of the prophets. All we can say, consequently, is that the command was obeyed in the spirit, and no doubt in the best possible time and way. There may have been good reasons, of which we know nothing, why Elijah should devolve the appointment of the two kings upon his successor, and we can readily understand that the word "anoint" was, as in Judges 9:8, Isaiah 61:1, never meant to be construed literally. For in the first place, we have no record elsewhere of the anointing of any prophet; and secondly, it is remarkable that when Elijah might so easily have anointed Elisha, he did nothing of the kind. It is clear, therefore, that he understood the word to mean "appoint." And the root idea of anointing, it must be remembered, was the setting apart for the service of God (Exodus 29:6). Hence it was (Bahr) that vessels (Exodus 30:26 sqq.), and even stones (Genesis 28:18), were anointed. And when we find that these three persons were set apart sooner or later, and in different ways, to fulfil the high purposes of God, that ought to suffice us. The author of this history clearly found no difficulty in reconciling this account and that of 2 Kings 8:9. It has also been objected to this charge (Rawlinson) that it is no "explanation or application of the preceding parable." But this is precisely what it appears to have been intended to be. The prophet is here taught by word much the same lesson that had been conveyed by signs, in the preceding vision. No doubt there are additional particulars - the vision dealt only with principles, the charge descends to details and prescribes duties - but still the great lesson that souls are to be won, that God's kingdom is to be advanced, not by wrath and vengeance, by fire and sword, but by meekness and gentleness, through the reason and the conscience, is proclaimed. Hazael and Jehu, each was God's instrument to punish; each was like the sweeping siena or the devouring fire, each was an engine of destruction; but by neither of these were the hearts Of men turned to the Lord. It was the sword of Elisha, the sword of his mouth (cf. Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 49:2; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:16), should constrain men to hide their faces and humble themselves before God] Hazael [the seer of God. This name, viewed in connection with Elijah's vision of God, is noticeable] to be king over Syria:
And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
Verse 16. - And Jehu [Jehovah is he. The name was as appropriate as Elijah's] the son [i.e., descendant, probably grandson (2 Kings 9:2, 14). Nimshi may have been a person of more importance than Jehoshaphat] of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel [The prophet thus learns that the house of Omri is to share the fate of the dynasties which had preceded it. Jezebel's triumph is not to endure]: and Elisha [My God is salvation. This name, berne by the successor of Elijah, "My God is the Lord," looks like a fresh revelation of God's nature and purpose of grace] the son of Shaphat [Judge] of Abel-meholah [The mention of his abode, Abel-meholah, "the meadow of the dance" (cf. 1 Kings 4:12; Judges 7:22), a town in the Jordan valley, at no great distance from Beth-shean, almost implies that he was hitherto unknown to Elijah. It is to be observed that no such addition follows the mention of Hazael or Jehu] shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room [So far from Elijah's work being fruitless, or from the prophetic order being extinguished, provision is now made for his successor.]
And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
Verse 17. - And it Shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael [See 2 Kings 8:12, 28; 2 Kings 10:32; 2 Kings 13:3, 22] shall Jehu slay [2 Kings 9:24-33; 2 Kings 10. passim. Cf. Isaiah 66:16]: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. [Elijah might reasonably interpret the commission to "anoint" Hazael, etc., as a figure, seeing there is an undoubted figure of speech here. Elisha was a man of peace. His sword was the "sword of the Spirit, the word of God." It was by "the breath of his lips he slew the wicked" (Isaiah 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Hosea 6:5). Not only are vers. 16, 17 an interpretation, in some sort, of the vision, but they are an answer to Elijah's complaint (vers. 10, 14). The "children of Israel" who had forsaken the covenant should be punished by Hazael (cf. 2 Kings 8:12, "I know what thou wilt do unto the children of Israel," and cf. 1 Kings:32); the king and queen who had thrown down the altars and slain the prophets should be slain, one by the sword of Syria, the other at the command of Jehu; while to his allegation that the prophets were extinct and he was left alone is opposed the ordination of a successor, and the mention of the "seven thousand" in ver. 18.]
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.
Verse 18. - Yet I have left me [So St. Paul, Romans 11:4, κατέλιπον; but the LXX. (καταλείψεις) and all the versions translate the word as future, as in the margin, 1 will leave, and so the ו conversive seems to require. See Gesen., Gram. § 124-26] seven thousand [not so much a round as a symbolical number - "the ἐκλογή of the godly" (Keil). "The remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5). It is like the 144,000 and the 12,000 of Revelation 7:4-8. The prominent idea is perhaps this: Though the children of Israel have forsaken My covenant, yet I have kept and will keep it. It also suggests how the still small voice had been speaking in the silence] in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. [We gather from Job 31:26, 27 that it was customary to kiss the hand to the idol, or object of worship, and from Hosea 13:2 to kiss the image itself. Most of the commentators adduce Cicero in Verrem 4:43, where he speaks of the statue of Hercules at Agrigentum, the lips and chin of which were a little worn by the kisses of devotees.]
So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.
Verse 19. - So he departed thence, and found [Nothing can be concluded from this word as to previous acquaintance] Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing [It was in the winter, consequently (Proverbs 20:4. See Condor, p. 328). "Elisha is found not in his study, but in the field: not with a book in his hand, but the plough" (Hall). with twelve yoke of oxen [Heb. ploughing twelve yoke, from which Ewald gathers that he was ploughing twelve yoke of land - צֶמֶד like jugum, is used as a measure of land in 1 Samuel 14:14, Isaiah 5:10 - and was then at work on the twelfth and last. But the meaning of the "twelve yoke" here is surely settled by the "yoke of oxen;" cf. ver. 21 and see below] before him [This word also points to animals, not land. The twelve pair of oxen, it is generally thought, are mentioned to show that Elisha was a man of substance. It is not certain, however, that all the twelve belonged to him. See next note], and he with the twelfth ["I have seen more than a dozen ploughs thus at work. To understand the reason of this, several things must be taken into account. First, that the arable land of nearly all villages is cultivated in common; then that Arab farmers delight to work together, partly for mutual protection, and partly from their love of gossip," etc. Thomson, L. and B. 1:208]: and Elijah passed by him [Heb. to him. The idea that he may have "crossed the stream of the Jordan" (Rawlinson) is extremely improbable. The current is strong, and it is not everywhere fordable, especially in winter], and cast his mantle upon him. [Heb. to him ךאלָיו. But LXX. ἐπ αὐτόν. Already, it would seem, the rough hairy mantle had come to be recognized as the garb of a prophet (cf. Zechariah 13:4). "The prophet's cloak was a sign of the prophet's vocation" (Keil). To cast the cloak to or upon Elisha was therefore an appropriate and significant way of designating him to the prophetic office. "When Elijah went to heaven Elisha had the mantle entire" 2 Kings 2:13 (Henry). The Germans use the word mantel-kind of an adopted child.]
And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?
Verse 20. - And he left the oxen [As, being the last in the line, he could do, without stopping the others. It is probable too that, Elisha being the last, Elijah's action would not have been observed by the rest], and ran after Elijah [It is clear that Elisha both understood the act, and made up his mind at once. No doubt he too had long sighed and prayed over the demoralization of his country and the dishonour done to his God. Elijah, after casting the mantle, strode on, leaving it for Elisha to take or reject it. The latter soon showed his choice by running after him], and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him; Go back again [Heb. go, return]: for what have I done to thee? [There is not a word of reproof here, as Wordsworth and Rawlinson imagine. Indeed, it would have been strange if there had been. A greater readiness to obey the prophetic summons, Elisha could not well have showed. Forthwith, as soon as he realized his call, "he left the oxen and ran after" his newmaster. True, he asks permission - and why should he not? for "grace is no enemy to good nature" - to give a parting embrace to the father and mother to whom he owed his life, and whom he had been required by God to honour. But there is no proof of "a divided heart" here. If he had begged to be allowed to stay and bury his mother and father (St. Luke 9:59-61) it might have been otherwise. But he suggests nothing of the kind. He says: "One kiss, one farewell, and then I will follow thee." It is a complete mistake, consequently, to interpret Elijah's words to mean, "Go, return to thy ploughing, for why shouldst thou quit it?... Thou canst remain as thou art" (Rawlinson). Their true meaning, as evidenced by the sequel (ver. 21), clearly was, "Go back and kiss them; why shouldst thou not? For what have I done to thee? I have summoned thee to follow me. But I have not required thee to repudiate thine own flesh and blood."]
And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.
Verse 21. - And he returned back from him [Wordsworth is not warranted in affirming that Elisha "did not go back and kiss," etc. The text rather implies that he did], and took a yoke [Heb. the yoke; Cf. ver. 19] of oxen, and slew them [Heb. sacrificed; LXX. ἔθυσε. But the word, though generally restricted to sacrificial acts, primarily means, to slay" simply, as here, and in Genesis 31:54; 1 Samuel 28:24; 2 Chronicles 18:2; Ezekiel 39:17. There was no altar there, and the flesh of a sacrifice was never boiled], and boiled their flesh [Heb. boiled them, the flesh] with the Instruments of the oxen [the plough, yoke, etc. The plough of the East is extremely rude and slender, but the yoke, shaft, etc., would afford a fair supply of wood. The scarcity of timber may have had something to do with this application of the "instruments of the oxen;" but it is much more important to see it in a symbolical act, expressive of Elisha's entire renunciation of his secular calling. He would henceforth need them no longer. Cf. 1 Samuel 6:14; 2 Samuel 24:22], and gave unto the people [Not only the servants or peasants who had been ploughing with him, but possibly his neighbours and friends. This was a farewell, not a religious feast. Cf. Luke 5:29, where Levi makes a "great feast" on the occasion of his call], and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him [i.e., became his attendant, as Joshua had been the minister of Moses (Exodus 24:13; Joshua 1:1), and as Gehazi subsequently became servant to him. See 2 Kings 3:11: "Elisha... which poured water on the hands of Elijah;" and cf. Acts 13:5.]

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