Elijah (1 Kings 18:19-46; 19:1-18)

The Prophets of Baal

Elijah devised a challenge in order to prove who was the true God - Baal or the real God. (King Ahab's wife, Queen Jezebel, had persecuted many followers of the true God, as well as introducing hundreds of prophets of Baal from her hometown of Sidon.) Elijah asked Ahab to mobilise four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and four hundred prophets of Asherah, and lead them up Mount Carmel.  The prophets of Baal chose a bull, cut it in pieces, and placed it on wood on their altar in order to sacrifice it. They then had to call upon their god to light the fire for them, to prove his power. They all cried Baal's name from morning until noon. Elijah mocked them, suggesting that their god was asleep, was relieving himself, or gone on a journey. So they continued crying out, and even cut themselves with swords and spears in their agitation. But they had still received no sign from Baal by mid afternoon.

Then Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord (which had been torn down) by using twelve stones, which symbolised the twelve tribes of Israel. He dug a trench around the altar (large enough to hold almost fourteen litres of water), then he prepared the bull on the wood. Next, he asked the people to fill four jars with water, and tip it over the sacrifice and the wood - they did this three times over, and the trench was filled with water. Then Elijah prayed to God, who sent fire which not only burnt the bull and the wood, but also the stones, as well as consuming the water in the trench! The people all cried, "The Lord - he is God". Then Elijah ordered that the prophets of Baal should be seized, and they were put to death at the brook of Kishon.

Elijah then went to the top of Mount Carmel and sent his servant to look out towards the sea, seven times. Until the final attempt the servant saw nothing. But the seventh time, he saw a small cloud rising out of the sea, and soon there were many rain clouds, signalling the end of the drought. He sent a message to Ahab telling him to return to his palace in Jezreel before the rain could stop him. Strengthened by God's power, Elijah ran ahead of Ahab all the way.


Themes

  • Drought - the drought symbolised God's anger; it passed only when the people turned away from Baal and acknowledged faith in the one true God.
  • Faith - Elijah showed great faith in standing up to the 450 prophets of Baal, as well as challenging Ahab and Jezebel.
  • Peace - Elijah did not need noise and commotion in order to call on God.
  • Punishment - the prophets of Baal were put to death for their beliefs.

Contemporary Issues

  • False gods/influences in today's world.
  • Standing up for what you believe to be right.
  • Courage.

*  *  *  *  * 

The Still Small Voice

Queen Jezebel was angry with Elijah because he had put so many of her prophets of Baal to death. She vowed to kill him. So Elijah fled south to the land of Judah. He went into the wilderness, and prayed that God would take his life from him. He slept under a tree, and was twice woken by an angel who gave him bread and water, then told him to journey on. He travelled for 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb. Elijah then took shelter in a cave. He was angry because the people of Israel had been disobedient to God, and he was the only prophet left.

While he was there, a great and powerful wind blew past Elijah, which shattered the rocks, but God was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. After that there was fire, but God was not in the fire. But then there was a gentle whisper - and this was the voice of God. Elijah stood at the mouth of the cave and spoke with God. God told him that there were others who worshipped him as the true God, and would not turn to Baal. He then told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor, who would continue to convey God's message to the people. He promised that there were at least seven thousand people in Israel who were still loyal to him.


Themes

  • Escape - Elijah was fleeing from Queen Jezebel.
  • The nature of God - the powers of nature bombarded the mountain where Elijah was sheltering, but the true God was to be found in the peace of the gentle whisper of a voice.
  • The forgiveness of God - despite the fact that Elijah had run away to hide, God sought him out, reassured him and looked after him.
  • Mountains - Moses and Elijah both talked to God on holy mountains.
  • Biblical numbers - Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness; Elijah travelled for 40 days; Jesus will fast in the wilderness for 40 days. 

Contemporary Issues

  • Often, one finds what one is really looking for in the least predictable places. 

 

Revision


Was there any significance in the fact that Elijah built his altar using twelve stones?



Compare and contrast the ways in which Elijah and the Prophets of Baal called for fire.

 



What can you learn about the character of Elijah in these two stories? Give examples.

 

 

God provided for Elijah. Is there any evidence that God provides for people today? Give reasons to support your answer.




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