Sunday, November 29, 2009



Key Facts: Prophet, Elijah's successor, performed several miracles (2 Kings 3-8; 1 Kings 19:16)

Father: Shaphat of Abel-meholah (1 Kings 19:16)
Total Bible References: 58
Key References: 2 Kings 3-8; 1 Kings 19:16-21

became the attendant and disciple of Elijah (1Ki 19:16-19).

His name first occurs in the command given to Elijah to anoint him as his successor (1Ki 19:16).

Elijah, on his way from Sinai to Damascus he found Elisha at his native place engaged in the labours of the field, ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen. He went over to him, threw over his shoulders his rough mantle, and at once adopted him as a son, and invested him with the prophetical office (Compare Luke 9:61, 62).

Elisha accepted the call thus given (about four years before the death of Ahab), and for some seven or eight years became the close attendant on Elijah till he was parted from him and taken up into heaven.

During all these years we hear nothing of Elisha except in connection with the closing scenes of Elijah's life. After Elijah, Elisha was accepted as the leader of the sons of the prophets, and became noted in Israel. He possessed, according to his own request, "a double portion" of Elijah's spirit (2Ki 2:9);

This is indicative of the property inheritance customs of the time, where the oldest son received twice as much of the father's inheritance as the younger sons. For example, if a man had 3 sons, his property was divided into fourths. Each son received one-fourth, with the oldest receiving two-fourths (twice as much as the others). In this instance with Elijah, Elisha is not asking to become twice as powerful as Elijah, but that he may be seen as the "rightful heir" to the work of the Lord that Elijah had done.

and for the long period of about sixty years (B.C. 892-832) held the office of "prophet in Israel" (2Ki 5:8).

In almost every respect Elisha presents the most complete contrast to Elijah. Elijah was a true Bedouin child of the desert. If he enters a city it is only to deliver his message of fire and be gone. Elisha, on the other hand, is a civilized man, an inhabitant of cities. His dress was the ordinary garment of an Israelite, the beged (behg'-ed, Covering or clothing), probably similar in form to the long abbeyeh of the modern Syrians. 2 Kin 2:12 His hair was worn trimmed behind, in contrast to the disordered locks of Elijah, and he used a walking-staff, 2 Kin 4:29 of the kind ordinarily carried by grave or aged citizens. Zech 8:4

Key Verse
"When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, 'What can I do for you before I am taken away?' And Elisha replied, 'Please let me become your rightful successor' " (2 Kings 2:9).

Elisha and Eighteen Exciting Events

Parting the waters at Jordan (2 Ki. 2:14).

When Elijah had disappeared from view, Elisha picked up his master’s cloak and returned to the Jordan River bank to see if his request for power had been granted. Striking the river with Elijah’s cloak, he thundered out, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" Immediately the Jordan waters parted. This marked the third time such a miracle had happened in Israel’s history. (Compare Josh. 3:17; 2 Ki. 2:8, 14.) Today, in our desperate world, the cry is: "Where are the Elijahs of the Lord God?"

All this was watched by the students from the j.b.i. (Jericho Bible Institute), but these pessimistic prophets found it difficult to believe Elijah really went all the way to heaven and therefore suggested that some of their best athletes form a search party; "Lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley" (2 Ki. 2:16). After repeated urging, Elisha agreed to the search. After the fifty men combed the entire area for three days, the hunt was called off (2 Ki. 2:17, 18).

Elisha now employed his supernatural powers to their greatest extent. No other Old or New Testament individual (apart from the Savior), with the possible exception of Moses, could match the sheer number of his miracles.

Purifying the waters at Jericho (2:19-22).

At Jericho Elisha purified a polluted city well, which was believed by the citizens to be causing miscarriages, by pouring a bowl of salt into the noxious water (2 Ki. 2:19-22). Moses did a similar miracle at Marah centuries before. (See Ex. 15:23-25.)

Judging some hoodlums at Bethel (2:23, 24).

En route to Bethel he was surrounded by a gang of young hoodlums from that city who ridiculed his bald head and mocked the recent translation of Elijah. Elisha caused two female bears to appear, and forty-two of these arrogant rebels were clawed as a divine punishment (2 Ki. 2:23-25). The Hebrew word yeled, translated "little children," should doubtless be rendered "young lads." The same word is found in 1 Samuel 16:11, referring to David, and by then David had already established a reputation as "a mighty man of valor" (1 Sam. 16:18), having killed a lion and a bear (1 Sam. 17:34-37). Note their taunt, "Go up, thou bald head," an obvious effort to ridicule the rapture of Elijah. (See Lev. 26:21, 22.)

Causing some empty ditches to fill with water (2 Ki. 3:16-27).

This took place during the days of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Jehoshaphat was again tricked by the Ahab dynasty into an unholy alliance. This time (the fourth and final), King Jehoram, Ahab’s youngest son, persuaded him into a fighting alliance to defeat the Moabites, who had rebelled against Israel by refusing to pay their tribute after Ahab’s death (3:1-8).

The two allied armies met in the wilderness of Edom and immediately were faced with the problem of water. In desperation both kings turned to Elisha when it was discovered he was secretly traveling with them. Elisha utterly spurned the pleas of wicked Jehoram, but agreed to help for Jehoshaphat’s sake. At his order, great trenches were dug and the next day God had filled them all with water (3:9-20).

The Moabites were now aware of the impending attack and began to marshal their forces along the frontier. On the day of the battle, the Moabites mistook the rays of the sun shining across the water-filled trenches for blood, and immediately attacked, concluding that their enemies were fighting a bloody battle among themselves (3:21-23).

This reckless action led them into a trap which resulted in their total defeat. The Moabite king made one last effort to break through the siege by leading an attack of 700 swordsmen. When this failed, he took his oldest son and, to the horror of the watching allied armies, killed and sacrificed him as a burnt offering to his pagan god (3:22-27).

Creating oil in empty vessels (4:1-7).

At Samaria he rescued a poverty-stricken widow of a God-fearing man from her creditor, who was threatening to enslave her two sons for non-payment. Elisha ordered the woman to borrow every possible container from her neighbors and then pour her remaining jar of olive oil into these vessels. She did this and every container was supernaturally filled, thus solving her indebtedness problem (2 Ki. 4:1-7). God loves to use little things.

Raising a dead boy at Shunem (4:18-21, 32-37).

In Shunem he was given a sleeping room by a prominent woman of that city and her husband. To reward her kindness for his prophet’s chamber, Elisha promised she would have a son. The son was born, but fell sick some years later and died. In desperation the mother found Elisha and begged him to do something. He then sent his carnal servant Gehazi who laid the prophet’s staff upon the dead child’s face, but all in vain. Elisha then arrived and stretched his body across the child. The lad became warm, sneezed seven times, and opened his eyes (2 Ki. 4:8-37). Elisha would later advise this woman to leave the land during a divinely sent seven-year famine. Upon return, she went to the northern king (Jehoram) to get her land back. Gehazi happened to be there and was relating to the king how Elisha had once raised a boy from the dead. At that very moment she walked in. The king was so impressed he restored all her land (2 Ki. 8:1-6).

Purifying a poisonous stew at Gilgal (4:38-41).

In Gilgal a student prophet had unknowingly prepared some harmful stew for the students’ lunch hour by adding some poisonous wild gourds. Upon discovering this, Elisha purified the soup by throwing some meal into it (2 Ki. 4:38-41).

Feeding 100 men by supernaturally increasing twenty loaves of bread and a sack of corn (4:42-44).

Near Baal-shalishah he fed one thousand men supernaturally from a sack of fresh corn and twenty loaves of barley bread. Again the prophet’s servant Gehazi displayed his carnality by doubting this could be done. He acted here as Philip and Andrew would later respond prior to the feeding of the 5000 performed by our Lord in John 6:5-13. (See 2 Ki. 4:42-44.)

Healing of Naaman (5:1-19).

The Syrian king at this time had an army commander whose name was Naaman. This general was honorable, brave, and successful, but he had a problem, for he was also a leper (2 Ki. 5:1). A little Israeli slave girl who was serving in the Naaman household told her master about the miraculous power of the prophet Elisha in Israel. Acting upon her testimony, the Syrian king sent Naaman to Jehoram (Israel’s ruler) carrying $20,000 in silver, $60,000 in gold, and ten units of clothing, along with a personal royal letter requesting healing (5:2-6).

Jehoram was filled with both wrath and fear at this impossible request and concluded Syria demanded this as an excuse to invade the land again. However, Elisha soon learned the purpose of Naaman’s visit, and bid the leprous general to visit him (5:7, 8). Naaman arrived and waited outside Elisha’s home where he was instructed by a servant to wash seven times in the Jordan River, which would cure his leprosy. The Syrian soldier was furious at such "impersonal treatment" but finally was persuaded by his own servants to obey. This he did and was immediately healed (5:9-14).

Naaman arrived back at Elisha’s home and was this time greeted by the prophet, but his offered reward was refused. Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, coveted the money and later told Naaman that his master had changed his mind. Naaman gave him $4,000 and two expensive robes. Elisha discovered this, and Gehazi was divinely punished by being afflicted with the kind of leprosy of which Naaman was cured (5:15-27).

Predicting the judgment of leprosy upon Gehazi (2 Ki. 5:15-27).

Recovering a lost axehead (6:1-7).

At the river Jordan, Elisha caused an axehead which had accidentally fallen into the water to float on top (2 Ki. 6:1-7).

Revealing the secret war plans of Syria (6:8-12).

Elisha the prophet, who had once refused to help Jehoram, the northern king, now aided him by warning the monarch of several planned Syrian ambushes (2 Ki. 6:8-10).

The Syrian king concluded a traitor in his camp must be informing Israel of their plans, but was told by one of his officers that Elisha was supernaturally revealing these plans (6:11, 12). Syrian troops were immediately dispatched to arrest Elisha at Dothan. The prophet awakened the next day and found himself surrounded by a great army of chariots and horses (6:13-15).

Praying that his servant could see an invisible angelic army and blinding the Syrian army (6:15-23).

His servant, Gehazi, was terrified, but was soon reassured by Elisha.

"And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha" (6:16-18).

Elisha then led these sightless Syrian soldiers into Samaria, where their eyes were opened. King Jehoram (the northern king) determined to slay his helpless enemies, but was forbidden to do so by Elisha (6:19-23). This little account by itself totally refutes the devilish claim of liberals and unbelievers that the Old Testament is one huge bloody "eye-for-an-eye" slaughter story. Here an entire Syrian army was defeated by sheer kindness. (See Rom. 12:20, 21; Prov. 25:21, 22; Mt. 5:43-45.)

Blinding the entire Syrian army (2 Ki. 6:18-23).

Predicting the salvation of Samaria from starvation (2 Ki. 7).

Some years later (perhaps after Naaman’s death) the Syrians invaded Israel and besieged the city capitol of Samaria, causing a great famine. This must have been indescribably horrible, for even a donkey’s head sold for $50.00 and a pint of dove’s dung brought $3.00. Things became so desperate that even cannibalism was practiced (6:29).

All this was tragically prophesied over five centuries before by Moses. (See Lev. 26:27-29.) The southern kingdom of Judah would later be reduced to this same pit of despair during the destruction of Jerusalem. (Compare Deut. 28:53 with Lam. 4:10; see 2 Kings 6:25-29.) The northern king, Jehoram, bitterly remembered how Elisha had once refused to allow him to kill the blinded Syrian soldiers some years back, and vowed to execute the prophet, blaming him for the present terrible situation (6:31). The unruffled Elisha ignored the king’s threats and predicted that within twenty-four hours food would be so plentiful that two gallons of flour and four gallons of barley grain would only bring a dollar in the Samaritan market. He also prophesied that the king’s chief officer, an especially arrogant man, would see this food but never live to eat it (7:1, 2).

Outside the gate of the city sat four starving lepers who decided in desperation to surrender to the Syrians and began walking toward their camp (7:3, 4). But God caused their very footsteps to resemble the clatter of speeding chariots and horses. In panic, the Syrians fled, concluding that Samaria must have hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack them (7:5-7).

God had employed this method before. (See 2 Sam. 5:23, 24; Jdg. 7:16-21; 2 Chron. 20:20-25.) After looting the camp, the four lepers reported the good news to Samaria. Soon thousands of frantically happy men and women were rushing out from the main gate to gather food. In their mad drive, the king’s official, attempting to control the traffic, was knocked down and crushed to death, just as Elisha had predicted. That very day two gallons of flour and four gallons of barley grain did indeed sell for a dollar (7:8-20).

Predicting the death of Ben-hadad, King of Syria, and the subsequent reign of Hazael over Syria (2 Ki. 8:7-15).

Elisha went to Damascus to visit Ben-hadad, the ailing Syrian king. En route he was greeted by Hazael, an important Syrian official who presented the prophet with forty camel loads of the best products of the land. Hazael was instructed to inquire whether Ben-hadad would recover from his illness. Elisha gave the strange answer that he would indeed get well, but would still die (2 Ki. 8:7-10).

Elisha then predicted that Hazael would become the next king of Syria and that his reign would shed much Israelite blood. Hazael denied this, but the very next day he smothered to death his master, Ben-hadad (8:11-15).

Hazael would later oppress Israel without mercy. (See 2 Ki. 13:22.) Elisha instructed one of his young prophets to locate a professional charioteer in Ramoth-gilead named Jehu and anoint him the next king over Israel. This was done and Jehu was ordered by God to execute the dynasty of Ahab, including Jezebel, whom the dogs would later eat (2 Ki. 9:1-10). Note: The anointing of both Hazael and Jehu was ordered by God to be performed by Elijah, but for some reason he did not accomplish this. (See 1 Ki. 19:15, 16.)

Predicting Israel’s three victories over Syria (2 Ki. 13:14-19).

On his deathbed Elisha was visited by Jehoash, a wicked northern king of Israel. In spite of his evil ways he did apparently have some affection for Elisha. Jehoash visited the dying prophet and wept over his impending death. Following Elisha’s strange command, the king shot an arrow from his bedroom window. This was to symbolize Israel’s victory over the Syrians. He was then instructed to strike the floor with some arrows, which he timidly did three times, thus angering Elisha, who told him he should have hit the ground five or six times, for each strike assured him of a victory over Syria (2 Ki. 13:14-19).

During the period that followed, Jehoash reconquered the cities his father had previously lost, and defeated the Syrians on three specific occasions, just as Elisha had predicted (13:22-25).

We do not again read of him till we find him on his death-bed in his own house (2Ki 13:14-19). Joash, the grandson of Jehu, comes to mourn over his approaching departure, and utters the same words as those of Elisha when Elijah was taken away: "My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof."
Afterwards when a dead body is laid in Elisha's grave a year after his burial, no sooner does it touch the hallowed remains than the man "revived, and stood up on his feet" (2Ki 13:20-21).

Raising a man from the dead years after the prophet himself had died (13:20, 21).

Elisha died and was buried. After some years, a corpse was being buried near the prophet’s grave and was accidentally allowed to touch the bones of Elisha. The dead man suddenly revived and jumped to his feet (13:20, 21).

We do not again read of him till we find him on his death-bed in his own house (2Ki 13:14-19). Joash, the grandson of Jehu, comes to mourn over his approaching departure, and utters the same words as those of Elisha when Elijah was taken away: "My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof."

Resemblance to Elijah.

There is a striking resemblance between the life of Elisha and that of Elijah. Not only do their names sound alike, but the main events of their lives run in much the same channels. They are twin figures in Hebrew history. The Two Prophets in Parallel. Both...

In spite of the points of resemblance between the miracles performed by the two prophets, Elisha was not a mere echo of his fiery predecessor. There was a marked difference between the temperaments of the two men, and their general attitude toward society.

Elijah was a solitary figure like John the Baptist. His life was largely spent in an unavailing struggle with the evils of his times, and he had his periods of great depression.
Not so Elisha. His gift of "a double portion of the Spirit" enabled him to lead a triumphant life as he mingled with his fellow men.

We have no record that he ever complained of his lot, fled from his enemies, or lost his courage.
Even on his death bed he seemed to be full of power as he gave commands to a king.

His reception of a double portion of the Spirit is demonstrated by the fact that he lived a victorious life and also that he performed a greater number of miracles than any other prophet except Moses.

Elisha Speaks
I can only hope they're prepared by now to minister without me. I've done my best to provide proper instructions for these young prophets. I've also purified their water and food, fed their hungry, recovered their lost tools, and provided oil for their widows! (2 Kings 2:3-5, 19-22; 2 Kings 4:1-7, 38-44; 2 Kings 6:1-7)

Well, at least they won't be running around looking for this old bald head as they once did when they were trying to find Elijah. (2 Kings 2:15-16, 23-24)
I only hope I have been half the teacher to them that Elijah was to me. What a remarkable man! There I was, plowing with oxen, when he suddenly threw his coat on my shoulders and announced that I would be his successor! Frankly, I think he had his doubts about me, considering how I hesitated. But what could he do? God himself had commanded it! (1 Kings 19:16-21)
Funny, Elijah's final miracle was identical to my first miracle—the parting of the Jordan. We also both raised young men from the dead. (2 Kings 2:7-8; 2 Kings 13-14; 2 Kings 4:8-37; 1 Kings 17:17-24)

But in other ways our ministries differed. He could pray down fire from heaven, while God would allow me to feed a starving city and heal a leper. (2 Kings 5:10-14; 2 Kings 7:1, 18; 1 Kings 18:38)

Death approaches, but I feel no fear. God once sent his angels to protect me. I know he will now commission them to comfort and reassure! (2 Kings 6:8-18)

Spiritual Lessons from Elisha
  • Seeking and following God's purpose for our lives should take precedence over family and friendship ties (compare 1 Kings 19:19-21 with Matthew 6:33; Matthew 8:21-22).
  • We should live our lives in such a way that others will know we believe in God and stand for the truth. Elisha knew that if Naaman were to come to him for healing, he would become convinced "that there is a true prophet here in Israel" (2 Kings 5:8, 15).
  • People of faith need have no fear, even when surrounded by their physical, spiritual, or financial enemies, knowing that "there are more on our side than on theirs!" (2 Kings 6:16; see Psalm 27:3; Psalm 34:7; Hebrews 1:14).
  • The influence of a godly person continues after his or her death, imparting life to others (2 Kings 13:20-21).

Outstanding Lesson of His Life: The Power of Divine Grace.

Sources: H.L Willmington, Dr. David C. Brown, Clarence O. Staggs, A.T. Worley, Easton's Dictionary, Smiths Bible Dictionary, Thompson Chain Reference, Wikipedia

Friday, November 6, 2009

Northern Kingdom Prophets: Elijah

Northern Kingdom Prophets: Elijah

The prophets were close students of political as well as religious problems, and as the advisers of kings, they often wielded a decisive influence in the affairs of state.

Elijah, who prophesied in Israel during the dark days of Ahab and his successors, battled mightily against the Baal worship which Ahab and Jezebel had introduced into Israel.
Elijah, a Gileadite of picturesque grandeur, suddenly appeared before Ahab’s court and denounced the prevailing idolatry. By stern word and mighty miracle he did much to restore the worship of Jehovah.

As notable among the events of his life may be mentioned:

  1. Elijah's challenge to the priests of Baal and Ashtoreth and Jehovah’s signal vindication on Mt. Carmel

  2. Elijah's subsequent failure and flight

  3. Elijah's denunciation of Ahab in connection with the murder of Naboth, and his prediction of the overthrow of that wicked king.

  4. Elijah and the chariot of fire

(People to remember from 2 Kings)

Key Facts: Prophet, taken up to heaven without dying (2 Kings 2:1-11)
Key Events in His Life:
Total Bible References: 95

The ministry of Elijah, one of the most colorful and courageous prophets who ever lived, will be considered first in outline subject-matter form, and then presented in actual chronological fashion.
An outline, subject-matter consideration of his life:

  • Elijah and King Ahab:

  1. announcing the three-and-a-half year drought (1 Ki. 17:1)
  2. challenging him to a contest on Mt. Carmel (18:17-20)
  3. predicting the end of the drought (18:41-46)
  4. pronouncing the death sentence upon him and his wife (21:17-24)
  • Elijah and the ravens at Cherith (17:2-7)
  • Elijah and the widow at Zarephath (17:8-15)
  • Elijah and Obadiah (18:1-16)
  • Elijah and the people of Israel (18:20-24)
  • Elijah and the priests of Baal (18:25-40)
  • Elijah and God (19:1-18)
  • Elijah and Elisha
  1. calling him to special service (1 Ki. 9:19-21)
  2. preparing him for special service (2 Ki. 2:1-10)

A chronological consideration of his life:

"Like a meteor suddenly flashing across the darkened sky, [the mighty tishbite] Elijah appears on the scene without historical background, and without warning!" (Dr. John Whitcomb, Solomon to the Exile, p. 50)

  • He announces to wicked King Ahab that a long drought can be expected as a punishment for sin (1 Ki. 17:1). The New Testament writer James refers to this terrible drought as an example of the tremendous power of prayer (Jas. 5:17). James says the drought lasted three-and-a-half years. The lack of rain was a divine punishment for sin. (See Deut. 11:13-17; 28:24; 2 Chron. 7:12-15.)

  • God then orders his prophet to hide himself (from the king’s wrath) by the Brook Cherith at a place east of where it enters the Jordan (17:2). Here he would be fed supernaturally by some ravens.
  • Elijah is now ordered to proceed to a city in Jezebel’s own backyard, called Zarephath, where God has commanded a widow to feed him. After what must have seemed an eternity (possibly a year or longer), Elijah finally graduates from the d.b.i. (Drying Brook Institute). The brook experience almost always precedes the Mt. Carmel challenge in the plan of God for his chosen servants. Paul spent three years in the a.b.i. (Arabian Bible Institute, Gal. 1:18) and Moses passed some forty years on the campus of the s.b.i., Sinai Bible Institute. (See Ex. 3:1; 1 Ki. 17:8, 9.)

  • Again God does the unexpected thing. His prophet who has been fed by some ravens now has his needs met by a lonely and poverty-stricken old widow. Elijah asks the starving widow and her son to share their last available meal with him and promises them that God himself will see to it that their oil and flour containers will always be full until it rains and the crops grow again. By faith the widow shares with him and finds God’s promise to be true (17:10-16).
  • Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, the widow’s son dies. In her grief-stricken statement at this time, the widow brings out two significant things (1 Ki. 17:18):
  • The testimony of Elijah. Note her phrase, "O thou man of God." Here was a woman who had seen the prophet out of his pulpit and before he had drunk his first cup of coffee in the morning. She saw him as he really was, and still could call him a man of God. The acid test of a man’s true religion is the home test.
  • Her own uneasy conscience. She asks him if he was sent to call her sin to remembrance. Perhaps some shameful and secret deed in her past had constantly plagued her conscience.
  • Elijah carries the lad upstairs, stretches himself upon the lifeless body three times, and prays that God will raise the boy. God hears his prayer. This marks the first of eight body resurrections in the Bible (not counting the resurrection of Christ). These are:
  1. Elijah raises the widow’s boy (1 Ki. 17:22).
  2. Elisha raises the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Ki. 4:35).
  3. Elisha’s bones raise a man whose dead body touches them during a graveyard burial (2 Ki. 13:21).
  4. Christ raises the daughter of Jairus (Mt. 9:25).
  5. Christ raises the son of a widow (Lk. 7:14).
  6. Christ raises Lazarus (Jn. 11:43, 44).
  7. Peter raises Dorcas (Acts 9:40, 41).
  8. Paul raises Eutychus (Acts 20:12).

1. Elijah's challenge to the priests of Baal and Ashtoreth and Jehovah’s signal vindication on Mt. Carmel

  • Elijah is promised by God that he will soon send rain and orders his prophet to confront Ahab again. En route to the palace, Elijah is met by Obadiah, a backslidden believer, who served as household administrator under Ahab. Obadiah attempts to impress Elijah with his good works (he has hidden 100 prophets in a cave from the murderous wrath of Jezebel) and reluctantly and fearfully agrees to inform Ahab of Elijah’s presence (1 Ki. 18:1-16).
  • At their summit meeting, Ahab blames Elijah for all Israel’s trouble.
  • Elijah, however, refuses to accept Ahab’s stupid accusation and challenges Ahab and pagan priests of Baal to a "fire-consuming sacrifice" contest on Mt. Carmel, with the following rules:
  1. Two bullocks would be sacrificed and laid upon two altars, one dedicated to Baal, the other to God.
  2. Both deities would be prayed to, and the real god could prove himself by sending down fire from heaven to Consume his sacrifice (1 Ki. 18:23-25).
  • The priests of Baal pray first, agonizing, screaming, dancing, and even cutting themselves to attract their god’s attention, but all in vain. During this time Elijah mocks them. We read that about noontime, Elijah began mocking them.
  • "‘You’ll have to shout louder than that,’ he scoffed, ‘to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be awakened’" (1 Ki. 18:27, The Living Bible).
  • Then it was evening, and Elijah’s turn. He took twelve stones and rebuilt an old torn-down altar of God in that very area. He then dug a three-foot wide trench around the altar and dumped twelve barrels of sea water into it. Finally, he stepped back and prayed (18:36, 37).
  • The fire immediately fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. Note the order in which the things at the altar were consumed:
  1. The burnt-sacrifice. This speaks of ourselves! (See Rom. 12:1-3.)
  2. The wood. This speaks of our efforts. It is tragically possible for a pastor on a Sunday morning to experience either fire without wood or wood without fire. The first occurs when he isn’t studied up, and the second when he isn’t prayed up.
  3. The stones. This speaks of the difficult things in our lives.
  4. The dust. This speaks of the useless things in our lives.
  5. The water. This speaks of the impossible things in our lives (18:38).
  • Elijah then executed the prophets of Baal.
  • Finally, after a sevenfold prayer meeting, there was a great rain (18:45). God often works in a roundabout way, but he does so to accomplish certain specific things. Thus, through all this:
  1. Elijah received valuable training for his future ministry.
  2. A disrespectful king learned the fear of the Lord.
  3. A heathen woman believed on the name of the Lord.
  4. A young man was raised from the dead.
  5. A backslidden believer was restored to fellowship.
  6. The nation Israel experienced a temporary revival.
  7. A large number of God’s enemies were destroyed.

2. Elijah's subsequent failure and flight

  • Upon hearing of Elijah’s action, Jezebel vowed to kill him in twenty-four hours, and Elijah ran for his life (19:2). This points out two important spiritual truths:
  1. The infallibility of the Word of God. No mere human author would have included the sad account we read here. This part in the life of a fearless man of God would have simply been denied or ignored.
  2. The fallibility of the man of God. Elijah, like David, was a man who failed God in what was supposedly his strongest point. In David’s case it was his purity and in Elijah’s situation it was his courage. But both fell on their faces. They needed the lesson God taught Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.
  • Elijah fled eastward and after a day’s journey he fell exhausted under a juniper tree, praying that God would kill him (19:4). This was prayed some twenty-eight centuries ago and God had yet to answer it. Elijah, like Enoch, participated in God’s first and second space shot. (Compare Gen. 5:24 with 2 Ki. 2:11.) But someday the Lord will allow his prophet to lay down his life for Jesus. (Compare Mal. 4:5, 6 with Rev. 11:3-12.) Both Moses (Num. 11:15) and Jonah (4:3) had also prayed this despondent prayer.
  • As he slept, an angel touched him and fed him (19:5). God often allows his angels to participate in his dealing with man. (See Heb. 1:14; 1 Pet. 1:12.)
  • Elijah was by now totally exhausted, having traveled 150 miles from Jezreel to Beersheba. But now he desperately needed food. Our spiritual and physical natures are so closely entwined that one automatically affects the other. Part of his terrible soul depression was due to the mistreatment of his body. The stomach can affect the soul. (See Ps. 127:2.)
  • God himself finally spoke through a still, small voice to Elijah in a cave, perhaps the same one where Moses had viewed God’s glory some five centuries before. (Compare 19:9 with Ex. 33:21-23.) In spite of his objections to the contrary, Elijah was ordered immediately to perform four tasks:
  1. Get back and start preaching again. Besides, he was not alone as he claimed, for God still had 7000 followers in Israel who had not bowed to Baal (19:15, 18).
  2. Anoint a man named Hazael to be king of Syria (19:15).
  3. Anoint a man named Jehu to be king of Israel (19:16).
  4. Begin training Elisha to succeed him (19:16). In passing, it should be noted (19:10) that Elijah’s prayer here is the only example of an Israelite believer making intercession against his own beloved nation Israel. Paul specifically states that this was indeed the case. (See Rom. 11:1-4.) Needless to say, God has never and will never honor this kind of praying. James and John later expressed the same vindictive spirit concerning some unbelieving Samaritans. (See Lk. 9:55.)
  • Elijah returned and found Elisha plowing in a field. Elijah went over to him and threw his coat across his shoulders.. Elisha thereupon prepared a farewell feast for his family and servants and followed Elijah (19:19-21).

3. Elijah's denunciation of Ahab in connection with the murder of Naboth, and his prediction of the overthrow of that wicked king.

  1. Ahab attempts unsuccessfully to purchase a choice vineyard near his palace owned by a man from Jezreel named Naboth. Years back Samuel had warned against land grabbing by Israel’s kings. (See 1 Sam. 8:14.) Even had Naboth wanted to sell his vineyard, the Levitical law would have forbidden him. (See Lev. 25:23; Num. 36:7; Ezek. 46:18.)
Ahab returns home in a sullen mood. Jezebel is told of Naboth’s refusal and informs her pouting potentate to cheer up, as he will soon possess that vineyard. She then writes letters in Ahab’s name, seals them with his seal, and addresses them to the civic leaders of Jezreel where Naboth lives. She commands them to call the citizens together for prayer and fasting. They are then to summon Naboth and pay two lying witnesses to accuse him of cursing God and the king. He then is to be taken out and murdered. This horrible order is carried out to the letter (1 Ki. 21:4-14). His sons are also stoned. (See 2 Ki. 9:26.) Wicked Jezebel, herself a rabid worshiper of Baal, now cleverly appeals to the Mosaic law in obtaining two witnesses against the accused (Lev. 24:17).
This mock trial would have its ultimate counterpart some nine centuries later on an early Friday morning in April as the mighty Creator is judged by his miserable creatures. (See Mt. 26:59-68.) Jezebel is told the news, and Ahab gleefully goes down to the vineyard to claim it (1 Ki. 21:15, 16).

  • God now orders Elijah to confront Ahab in Naboth’s vineyard and pronounces heaven’s curse upon him and his household for their part in the cold-blooded murder of godly Naboth.
  • An angry and doubtless fearful Ahab then hears Elijah’s stern words of judgment (21:19, 21-24). All this literally came true.
  1. The dogs did lick Ahab’s blood, as they had done with Naboth’s blood (1 Ki. 22:38).
  2. His descendants were destroyed. Ahaziah, his oldest son, died in a fall (2 Ki. 1:17), and Jehoram, his youngest son, was murdered by Jehu (2 Ki. 9:24), and his body thrown in the same field where Naboth was buried.
  3. His wicked wife Jezebel was eaten by the wild dogs of Jezreel (2 Ki. 9:30-36).

  • Sometime later, King Ahaziah, wicked northern ruler (and eldest son of Ahab) suffered a severe fall off the upstairs porch of his palace in Samaria. Fearing the worst, he sent messengers to the Philistine temple dedicated to Baalzebub at Ekron to ask this pagan god whether he would recover (2 Ki. 1:1-3). This ungodly son of Ahab was apparently unaware of Israel’s history, for had he been aware, he certainly would not have trusted in a pagan god who was utterly powerless to save his own worshipers against the wrath of the Ark of God (in 1 Samuel 5:10-12). Elijah was instructed by God’s angel to intercept these messengers and send them back to Ahaziah with his prophecy, that due to the king’s idolatry, he would indeed soon die (1:3-6).
  • Ahaziah correctly guessed the identity of this fearless hairy man with the wide leather belt and sent out a captain with fifty men to arrest him. As the soldiers approached him, Elijah called down fire from heaven and they were consumed. Another fifty were sent out and suffered the same fate. The captain of the third group fell to his knees and begged Elijah to spare their lives and come with them. The prophet agreed and soon stood before the king where he repeated similar words he had once said to Ahab, Ahaziah’s father. Shortly after this, Ahaziah died and was succeeded by his younger brother Jehoram (2 Ki. 1:7-17). He had reigned for but two short years.

4. Elijah and the chariot of fire

  • Elijah’s magnificent ministry had now come to a close and he would soon be taken heavenward by means of a whirlwind, without dying. He quickly traveled his circuit for the final time, moving rapidly from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan River. At the first three stops he tested the determination of Elisha by suggesting that he might want to drop the hectic life of the prophet and return to his quiet farm. But on each occasion (2:2, 4, 6) he refused by uttering these five fearless words: "I will not leave thee!" Elisha, like Ruth, thus proved worthy for the blessings of God! (See Ruth 1:15-17.) Both at Bethel and Jericho Elisha spoke with the sons of the prophets living in those areas. These men may have been able to trace their heritage back to the prophetic schools of Samuel’s day (1 Sam. 19:20). But what a sorry lot they were.
  1. They were cowardly (1 Ki. 18:4).
  2. They attempted to discourage Elisha (2 Ki. 2:3, 5)
  3. They lacked faith (2 Ki. 2:16-18).
  • When they came to the Jordan River, Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it; and the river divided, allowing them to cross on dry ground (2:8).
  • Elijah then asked Elisha what wish he would have granted before his heavenly departure. Elisha asked for a double portion of his master’s power. He was told this was a hard thing, but that if he were present at Elijah’s translation the request would be granted (2:9, 10).
  • Suddenly a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire, appeared and drove between them, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven (2:11). He thus became the second of two individuals who saw glory without the grave. (See Gen. 5:24 for the other person.)

Elijah Speaks:

I've often wondered just how Enoch might have felt. Now I know! Did God remove him in such spectacular fashion as I am experiencing? Amazing! Who would have anticipated in their wildest dreams leaving this earth in a chariot of fire, pulled by horses of fire! (2 Kings 2:11; Genesis 5:24)

In a way it's fitting, though, for fire seems to have accompanied my ministry. It was God's fire that fell from heaven to consume the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. Then, who could forget witnessing that mighty wind, fearful earthquake, and roaring fire on Mount Horeb? Of course, God spoke to me in his still, small voice. Finally, I prayed down great sheets of fire to consume my enemies who were trying to arrest me. And now this, my fiery ride to glory! (2 Kings 1:10-12; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Kings 19:12-13)

I see Elisha standing below with open mouth, taking this all in. Good! This will qualify him for that double anointing from God he requested. (2 Kings 2:9-12)

How ironic to remember I once rather envied that young widow's son whom God allowed me to raise from the dead, wondering if someone might do this for me when I died. He was the first person in history to be raised, you know! But now, miracle of miracles, here I am, only the second person in history to leave this life without dying! Not bad at all for a prophet who once sat beside a dried-up brook, having to depend on ravens to feed him! (1 Kings 17:1-7, 17-24)

Spiritual Lessons from Elijah
  • Elijah learned, as we must learn, that the lowly "drying-brook experience" (1 Kings 17:1-7) is often necessary to prepare us for the lofty "Mount Carmel event" (1 Kings 18:20-40).
  • God's provision will never fail for those who give their all to him (1 Kings 17:8-16; Matthew 6:33).
  • God expects us to build the altar, gather the wood, and prepare the sacrifice (as Elijah did literally in 1 Kings 18:30-37). Then, and only then, will he send the fire of his blessings (1 Kings 18:38).
  • We are never closer to defeat than following our moments of greatest victory. On Mount Carmel, Elijah stood alone against 450 priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:22). Immediately following this, however, he experienced deep despair (1 Kings 19:1-10).
  • God expects us to take care of our physical needs. An empty stomach can sometimes discourage one's soul (1 Kings 19:4-7).
  • God speaks more often in persistent whispers than in loud shouts (1 Kings 19:11-12).
Key Verses
"At the customary time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, 'O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. . . .' Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the ditch!" (1 Kings 18:36, 38).

Miscellaneous notes:

Non-writing prophets
  • Jehu - prophet of Israel who pronounced God's curse upon king Baasha
  • Urijah - Predicted Judah's destruction during Jeremiah's ministry
  • Shemaiah - Forbade Rehoboam (King of Judah) to battle against Israel
  • Elisha - The succe'Ssor of Elijah who prayed for and received a double portion of God's power
  • Ahijah - A prophet from Shiloh who told Jeroboam of the coming rebellion after Solomon's death
  • Huldah - A prophetess whoattested to the genuiness of the law of Moses' book found by Hilkiah, the priest in the temple
  • Elijah - The most famous Old Testament prophet who was a bone in the throat of Ahab king of Israel
  • Micaiah - The prophet who predicted the death of Ahab in a battle with Syria
  • Azariah - The prophet who supported king Asa In his reform efforts
  • Zedekiah - A spineless prophet in the pay of Ahab and the mouthpiece for the 400 prophets whom Ahab consulted to learn the outcome of his proposed battle with Syria.