And Elijah took twelve stones, one for each tribe of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come and said, "Israel shall be your name."
As the time of the evening sacrifice approached, Elijah left the priests of Baal prophesying in despair. Satan, if permitted, could have brought fire down (see Job 1:12, 16
; Revelation 13:13, 14
); but God restrained him. The people were now convinced that Baal was not able to hear his priests; so they drew round Elijah, and observed the order in which he proceeded with his preparation.
I. HE REPAIRED THE ALTAR OF THE LORD.
1. Then there had been an altar of the Lord on Carmel.
(1) Some great man, as Abraham or Samuel, had built an altar there. Its relies remained a memorial of the piety of earlier times. Influence for good or evil is posthumous.
(2) This mount was, in consequence, reputed as holy. Perhaps this determined Elijah in his choice. Holy places were formerly more important than they are under this spiritual dispensation (see Malachi 1:11; John 4:20-24; 1 Timothy 2:8).
2. But this altar had been "broken down."
(1) Not only had it fallen into decay, but it had suffered from the hand of violence. Probably this was one of the sad evidences of the wicked zeal of Jezebel It was significant of the apostasy of the times (see 1 Kings 19:14; Romans 11:2, 8). Idolatry was in favour at court; courtiers therefore favoured it; so did the multitude who followed the fashions.
(2) Such influences still are potent. Idolatrous fashions in dress. In furniture. Even in religion.
3. Elijah would not use the altar used by the priests of Baal.
(1) The service of Jehovah must be pure. It must not be contaminated by the remotest connection with idolatrous abominations. Let us search our hearts (see 2 Corinthians 6:15-18).
(2) In repairing the disused altar of Jehovah, Elijah showed that his was no new religion, but that of the fathers of the nation. So he significantly rebuked the apostasy.
4. Twelve stones were employed in the repairs.
(1) This was "according to the number of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name." This was done to show that, though ten of the tribes had separated from the house of David, still, in worship there should be no division (see Genesis 32:28; Exodus 24:4; Joshua 4:5, 20).
(2) "The twelve stones being for the twelve tribes were the mystical body of Him who was their sacrifice and altar both, or who offered His own body, and suffered in it, and who was promised to be accepted in the name (ישראל) Israel, i.e. (ישר) pleasing to, right with, or upright before (אל) the Lord (see Matthew 3:17). But
(3) It was also prophetic of the healing of all schisms in the mystical body of Christ in the happy time to come (see Ezekiel 37:21, 22).
(4) All this the prophet did "in the name of the Lord" (ver. 32). By His direction; therefore with notable significance. For His glory. And since God so expressly authorized such a deviation from the Levitical law, does it not indicate that that law had its principal value in its typical teaching, and that when the antitypes came it should pass away? (See Colossians 2:22; Hebrews 8:18.)
II. HE PREPARED THE SACRIFICE.
1. "He put the wood in order."
(1) Why did he not dispense with the wood? The celestial fire certainly did not need it, for it fell upon the sacrifice before it touched the wood, and was so fervent that nothing could stand before it. Stones and dust could no more resist it than wood. Had the wood been intended for fuel, would the prophet have overflowed it with water?
(2) The order was usual in sacrifices. It was observed for typical purposes. The holocaust was a type of Christ, our Sacrifice, who, when consumed in the holy fires of the Godhead on the altar of Calvary, was laid on the wood of the Cross.
2. He poured writer upon the sacrifice.
(1) He poured it in great quantity and with much deliberation, for in preparing the altar he dug a trench to receive the overflow (vers. 32-35). The water probably came from a deep well-spring in the mountain side rather than from the Kishon. The Mediterranean seems out of the question. Josephus states the well to have been the source (Ant. 8:13).
(2) It was conveyed in four barrels, and these were filled and emptied three times, thus making twelve. Here again we meet with the number of the tribes of Israel. The order, viz., in sets of four three times repeated, was that of the stones in the high priest's breastplate, upon which were engraven the names of the tribes.
(3) Could this sign be intended to show that a plentiful rain would shortly come upon all Israel? And further, that it should come through the repentance of the people for whose sin it had been withholden? That it should come through the return of the people from the altar of Baal to that of Jehovah? If so, then in this sign the gospel also is preached to us. We too must be saved from spiritual drought and death through repentance towards God and faith in Christ. - J.A.M.
He repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down.
The altar, the sacred possession of all the twelve stones which Elijah rebuilt to represent the whole of Israel. Broken down and deserted. Apply to practical desertion of worship.
I. WHEN WORLDLINESS OR ANY OTHER SIN ABSORBS THE SOUL AND PRAYER IS ABANDONED. Scepticism as to reality and answer to prayer allows the fires to go out and the altar to go to decay. When even preaching usurps the place of worship, so monopolising time and attention that worship is reduced to a minimum.
II. RESTORATION — EFFECTED BY CALLING TO REPENTANCE, AND VINDICATION OF THE HONOUR OF GOD, Fire must come from heaven to rekindle, and special descent of the Holy Spirit of prayer and supplication will be the answer to diligent seeking.
III. RESTORATION OF THE FAMILY ALTAR A SPECIAL DEMAND OF OUR TIME. General decay thereof. Sad results. Blessed effects of restoring.
An eminent worldling wrote to a learned professor a letter in which he said: "It has been proved in the Colonies that rapid social deterioration follows upon local inability to go to church. If the settlers' 'grant' be so remote that churchgoing becomes an impossibility he gradually ceases to miss it, abandons the weekly burnishing and outside decorum, and the rest rapidly follows." Oliver Wendell Holmes, far from an Evangelical — but a man of keen insight into the human heart says, "I have in the corner of my heart a plant called reverence, which I find needs watering at least once a week."
PeopleAhab, Elijah, Isaac, Jacob, Jezebel, Jezreel, Obadiah
PlacesJezreel, Kishon River, Mount Carmel, Samaria, Zarephath
TopicsDescended, Elijah, Eli'jah, Jacob, Saying, Sons, Stones, Taketh, Tribes, Twelve
Outline1. In the extremity of famine Elijah, sent to Ahab, meets good Obadiah
9. Obadiah brings Ahab to Elijah
17. Elijah, reproving Ahab, by fire from heaven convinces Baal's prophets
41. Elijah, by prayer obtaining rain, follows Ahab to Jezreel
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 18:31
5096 Jacob, patriarch
1 Kings 18:16-40
5541 society, negative
1 Kings 18:17-40
8747 false gods
1 Kings 18:19-40
7774 prophets, false
1 Kings 18:20-39
1 Kings 18:30-38
1 Kings 18:30-39
1416 miracles, nature of
8625 worship, acceptable attitudes
To the Young '... I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth.--1 KINGS xviii.12. This Obadiah is one of the obscurer figures in the Old Testament. We never hear of him again, for there is no reason to accept the Jewish tradition which alleges that he was Obadiah the prophet. And yet how distinctly he stands out from the canvas, though he is only sketched with a few bold outlines! He is the 'governor over Ahab's house,' a kind of mayor of the palace, and probably the second man in the kingdom. But …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Trial by Fire
'And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose yon one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. 26. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. 27. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Elijah's Appeal to the Undecided
Now, we have these three classes here this morning. We have, I hope, a very large number who are on Jehovah's side, who fear God and serve him; we have a number who are on the side of the evil one, who make no profession of religion, and do not observe even the outward symptoms of it; because they are both inwardly and outwardly the servants of the evil one. But the great mass of my hearers belong to the third class--the waverers. Like empty clouds they are driven hither and thither by the wind; …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857
Obadiah; Or, Early Piety Eminent Piety
The Lord does not love that his servants, however great they are, should think lightly of their lesser comrades, and it occurs to me that he so arranged matters that Obadiah became important to Elijah when he had to face the wrathful king of Israel. The prophet is bidden to go and show himself to Ahab, and he does so; but he judges it better to begin by showing himself to the governor of his palace, that he may break the news to his master, and prepare him for the interview. Ahab was exasperated …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 30: 1884
The Prophet Hosea.
GENERAL PRELIMINARY REMARKS. That the kingdom of Israel was the object of the prophet's ministry is so evident, that upon this point all are, and cannot but be, agreed. But there is a difference of opinion as to whether the prophet was a fellow-countryman of those to whom he preached, or was called by God out of the kingdom of Judah. The latter has been asserted with great confidence by Maurer, among others, in his Observ. in Hos., in the Commentat. Theol. ii. i. p. 293. But the arguments …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament
But Some one Will Say, Does He not Know Without a Monitor Both what Our...
But some one will say, Does he not know without a monitor both what our difficulties are, and what is meet for our interest, so that it seems in some measure superfluous to solicit him by our prayers, as if he were winking, or even sleeping, until aroused by the sound of our voice?  Those who argue thus attend not to the end for which the Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for his sake as for ours. He wills indeed, as is just, that due honour be paid him by acknowledging that all which …
John Calvin—Of Prayer--A Perpetual Exercise of Faith
Selfishness and Prayer. A Contrast.
"So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees."--1 KINGS xviii. 42. WHAT A CONTRAST! And yet, both men were perfectly consistent. It is in each case what you would expect, and yet how differently it might have been. What a different story it would have been if only Ahab had listened to the teaching of God! How often we see men having chances of turning round and beginning a new …
Thomas Champness—Broken Bread
The West Coast of Galilee-Carmel.
The people of Issachar had "Carmel and the river for their bounds in length": the people of Zabulon, "Carmel and the sea." Carmel was not so much one mountain as a mountainous country, containing almost the whole breadth of the land of Issachar, and a great part of that of Zabulon. It was, as it seems, a certain famous peak among many other mountain tops, known by the same name, lifted up and advanced above the rest. The promontory Carmel, in Pliny, and in the mountain a town of the same name, heretofore …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
Ninth Sunday after Trinity. How Long Halt Ye Between Two Opinions? if the Lord be God, Follow Him; but if Baal, Then Follow Him.
How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him. Was kinket ihr betrognen Seelen Lehr. 1733. trans. by Catherine Winkworth, 1855 Why halt thus, O deluded heart, Why waver longer in thy choice? Is it so hard to choose the part Offered by Heaven's entreating voice? Oh look with clearer eyes again, Nor strive to enter in, in vain. Press on! Remember, 'tis not Caesar's throne, Nor earthly honour, wealth or might Whereby God's favour shall be …
Catherine Winkworth—Lyra Germanica: The Christian Year
Fall of the Western Empire (Ad 451-476)
The empire of the West was now fast sinking. One weak prince was at the head of it after another, and the spirit of the old Romans, who had conquered the world, had quite died out. Immense hosts of barbarous nations poured in from the North. The Goths, under Alaric, who took Rome by siege, in the reign of Honorius, have been already mentioned (p 93). Forty years later, Attila, king of the Huns, who was called "The scourge of God," kept both the East and the West in terror. In the year 451, he advanced …
J. C. Roberston—Sketches of Church History, from AD 33 to the Reformation
Will the Knowledge that Some of Our Own are Lost, Mar Our Happiness in Heaven?
This is a difficult question to answer satisfactorily, on account of our instinctive feelings of natural affection, which arise, and, like a mist, obscure our judgment. Nevertheless, the difficulty is much lessened, and even entirely removed from some minds, at hast, by the following considerations. 1. Our happiness, even in this world, does not depend on the happiness of those who are bound to us by the ties of kindred or of friendship. This is especially the case when their unhappiness proceeds …
F. J. Boudreaux—The Happiness of Heaven
Of Prayer --A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It.
1. A general summary of what is contained in the previous part of the work. A transition to the doctrine of prayer. Its connection with the subject of faith. 2. Prayer defined. Its necessity and use. 3. Objection, that prayer seems useless, because God already knows our wants. Answer, from the institution and end of prayer. Confirmation by example. Its necessity and propriety. Perpetually reminds us of our duty, and leads to meditation on divine providence. Conclusion. Prayer a most useful exercise. …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
This was Antony's First Struggle against the Devil...
7. This was Antony's first struggle against the devil, or rather this victory was the Saviour's work in Antony  , Who condemned sin in the flesh that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.' But neither did Antony, although the evil one had fallen, henceforth relax his care and despise him; nor did the enemy as though conquered cease to lay snares for him. For again he went round as a lion seeking some occasion against him. But Antony …
Athanasius—Select Works and Letters or Athanasius
Upon Our Lord's SermonOn the Mount
Discourse 7 "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:16-18. 1. It has been the endeavour of Satan, from the beginning of the world, …
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions
Subterraneous Places. Mines. Caves.
Thus having taken some notice of the superficies of the land, let us a little search into its bowels. You may divide the subterraneous country into three parts: the metal mines, the caves, and the places of burial. This land was eminently noted for metal mines, so that "its stones," in very many places, "were iron, and out of its hills was digged brass," Deuteronomy 8:9. From these gain accrued to the Jews: but to the Christians, not seldom slavery and misery; being frequently condemned hither by …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
The First Commandment
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' Exod 20: 3. Why is the commandment in the second person singular, Thou? Why does not God say, You shall have no other gods? Because the commandment concerns every one, and God would have each one take it as spoken to him by name. Though we are forward to take privileges to ourselves, yet we are apt to shift off duties from ourselves to others; therefore the commandment is in the second person, Thou and Thou, that every one may know that it is spoken to him, …
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments
But I give myself unto prayer.' Psa 109: 4. I shall not here expatiate upon prayer, as it will be considered more fully in the Lord's prayer. It is one thing to pray, and another thing to be given to prayer: he who prays frequently, is said to be given to prayer; as he who often distributes alms, is said to be given to charity. Prayer is a glorious ordinance, it is the soul's trading with heaven. God comes down to us by his Spirit, and we go up to him by prayer. What is prayer? It is an offering …
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments
Of Passages from the Holy Scriptures, and from the Apocrypha, which are Quoted, or Incidentally Illustrated, in the Institutes.
TO THE AUTHORS QUOTED IN THE INSTITUTES PREFATORY ADDRESS TO HIS MOST CHRISTIAN MAJESTY, THE MOST MIGHTY AND ILLUSTRIOUS MONARCH, FRANCIS, KING OF THE FRENCH, HIS SOVEREIGN;  JOHN CALVIN PRAYS PEACE AND SALVATION IN CHRIST.  Sire,--When I first engaged in this work, nothing was farther from my thoughts than to write what should afterwards be presented to your Majesty. My intention was only to furnish a kind of rudiments, by which those who feel some interest in religion might be trained to …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
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