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 worshipping 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 worshipped Baal, and supported 450 prophets of Baal with public funds (1 Kings 18:19). Also, apparently, many of the people of Israel worshipped 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

“before the Jordan.” This reflects the custom in biblical times of life being oriented to the East. In the USA, we are oriented to the North, and all the maps point north. In the biblical times people were oriented to the East, so “before the Jordan,” meant on the east side of the Jordan River. [For more on the East orientation of the biblical world, see commentary on Gen. 14:15).

1Ki 17:4(top)
1Ki 17:5(top)
1Ki 17:6(top)
1Ki 17:7(top)
1Ki 17:8(top)
1Ki 17:9(top)
1Ki 17:10(top)
1Ki 17:11(top)
1Ki 17:12

”Yahweh your God.” The woman would have known Elijah was a prophet of Yahweh by the way he was dressed.

”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(top)
1Ki 17:15(top)
1Ki 17:16(top)
1Ki 17:17(top)
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.

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(top)
1Ki 17:22(top)
1Ki 17:23(top)
1Ki 17:24(top)

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