1 Kings Chapter 17  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: 1 Kings 17
1Ki 17:1

“there will not be dew or rain these years except by my word.” Why would God call for a famine upon Israel? It caused a huge amount of hardship for the people. The answer is to be found in understanding how the people of Israel had turned away from Yahweh and were worshiping Baal. The word baal (pronounced baa-al) means “lord, master, owner, and husband,” and it is used many different ways in the Old Testament. As a god, “Baal” sometimes referred to a local god who was the lord of an area or people. However, here in 1 Kings, Baal refers to the great Canaanite storm god who controlled the rain, winds, and clouds, and thus fertility, and was known throughout the Middle East. A tablet found at Ras Shamra depicts Baal holding a lightning bolt.

Queen Jezebel obviously worshiped Baal, and supported 450 prophets of Baal with public funds (1 Kings 18:19). Also, apparently, many of the people of Israel worshiped Baal as well, and prayed to him for rain and abundant crops. So as long as the rain came and the crops grew, there would be no reason for the people to doubt Baal or turn away from him. The most effective way to get the people of Israel to turn away from Baal and turn back to Yahweh was to show that Baal did not have power over the rain and fertility, Yahweh did. Thus Elijah’s statement that unless he said so, there would be no rain or even dew. The reason for mentioning dew is that dew produced a lot of fertility in the dry months, from May until October. It was only when the people could clearly see that Baal was powerless to bring rain or fertility that their hearts were inclined to turn back to Yahweh and get rid of the prophets of Baal.

It is a sad commentary on humanity that often the only way God can get people to pay attention to Him is when the other things that people depend on for success or prosperity fail. However, that is the way life is, and because of that God’s prophets, like Elijah, sometimes had to pray for people’s idols to fail, so they would be humble and return to God. James 5:17 mentions the prayer of Elijah, and sin is mentioned both before it, in James 5:15, and after it, in James 5:19-20. Elijah’s prayer of faith caused a lot of temporary hardship, but it also caused many people to turn back from the error of their ways, and saved their souls from death. For more on God using problems to turn people from evil, cp. Deut. 4:25-30; Isa. 31:1-2, 6-7; Jer. 5:1-9 and 36:3.

1Ki 17:2(top)
1Ki 17:3

“east of the Jordan.” The literal Hebrew is “upon the face of the Jordan.” But what that means is unclear and debated, including if Elijah was to go east of the Jordan or stay west of it. It likely was a place east of the Jordan, thus the REV translation. The phrase “the face of the Jordan” has the idea of being near to the Jordan, connected to it, so it seems even if Elijah went east of the Jordan he was not far from where the Cherith Ravine ran into the Jordan River (see a discussion in Concordia Commentary: 1 Kings 12-22, by Walter Maier III).

“Wadi Cherith.” A “wadi” is an Arabic word (Hebrew is “nahal” #05158) that refers to anything from a deep canyon or ravine to a quite shallow riverbed. It likely most often refers to a valley or ravine that had a river or brook that ran wet during the rainy season but would dry out in the dry season.

1Ki 17:4(top)
1Ki 17:5(top)
1Ki 17:6

“bread and flesh.” The use of “bread and flesh” here in 1 Kings 17:6 is interesting wording in light of John 6, where Christ said that his followers would eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6:53-58). God temporarily sustained Elijah with bread and flesh, but the bread and flesh of Jesus Christ results in everlasting life.

1Ki 17:7(top)
1Ki 17:8(top)
1Ki 17:9

“that belongs to Sidon.” Zarephath was in the territory controlled by Sidon. Here we see another parallel between Elijah and Jesus Christ, because Jesus went there (Luke 4:26).

1Ki 17:10(top)
1Ki 17:11(top)
1Ki 17:12

“Yahweh your God.” The woman would have known Elijah was an Israelite by the way he spoke and the way he was dressed. She may have also noticed more specific things than that as well.

“two sticks.” It was not necessary to have a huge fire to cook on—a couple of sticks would be enough wood to bake the little dough that she had.

1Ki 17:13

“loaf.” The “loaf” would have been like a small pancake—a piece of flatbread.

1Ki 17:14

“For this is what Yahweh the God of Israel says.” Yahweh may be the God of Israel, but His power extends over Phoenicia, the territory of Baal. Yahweh, not the storm-god Baal, sends the needed rain.

“until the day that Yahweh sends rain.” Here Yahweh speaks of Himself in the third person.

1Ki 17:15

“for many days.” The Bible does not give the amount of time, but it was likely quite a long time because it did not rain in Israel for over three years. It would have likely taken a year or perhaps—but less likely—even two for the Wadi Cherith to run dry, but that would still leave a year or more for the flour and oil to be multiplied.

1Ki 17:16(top)
1Ki 17:17

“there was no breath left in him.” A euphemism for the fact that the child died.

1Ki 17:18

“What have I to do with you.” An idiomatic phrase that in essence means “What do we have in common.” The woman now saw herself as very different from the man of God, who in her mind has brought the wrath of God upon her house.

“bring my sin to mind.” The specific sin or sins the woman had in mind is not important. The point is the humble people are aware of their sins and shortcomings, and this woman was too. Everyone sins, but humble people take responsibility for their sins and try to rectify them.

1Ki 17:19(top)
1Ki 17:20

“also.” Elijah loved Israel and was acutely aware of the pain and suffering there that the famine was causing, and now he is distressed by the death of the child of the woman with whom he was staying.

1Ki 17:21

“please let this child’s life return within him.” Elijah prayed for Yahweh to give the child life again. Elijah did not believe he had the authority of life and death, but knew that power came from God. The life had left the child’s body and he was dead. Elijah was simply asking for his life to return; for the boy to be alive again. When the child was dead he was dead in every way, he was not alive somewhere else in some incorporeal form. [For more on dead people being dead in every way, see Appendix 4, “The Dead are Dead.” For more on the soul, see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul’”].

1Ki 17:22

“And Yahweh listened to the voice of Elijah.” Verses such as this show how important our prayers are. As the Bible says, believers are fellow-workers with God.

1Ki 17:23(top)
1Ki 17:24

“Now indeed.” The Hebrew adds a word that can be translated “indeed,” and which indicated that although the woman had proof from the flour and oil that Elijah was a man of God, when he raised her son back to life she had even more proof, and definitive proof, that he was a man of God, and as the agent of God could raise a person from the dead.


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