1 Kings 19


‘Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’ Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.’ 1 Kings 19:1-9

Elijah Flees To Horeb

When Ahab finally met up with Jezebel and told her everything Elijah had done, it appears that Jezebel had a more domineering character than Ahab. After hearing the report, Jezebel is now determined that she wants to kill Elijah.

It’s incredible to think that after everything that God had done through Elijah, most of Israel repented and turned back to God, 1 Kings 18:30-40, but Jezebel totally refuses to repent. She is so blinded by the truth, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and instead of repenting, she takes her anger out on Elijah.

We must understand that Elijah thought he was the only true prophet of God at this time, he didn’t know that 7000 others didn’t bow down to Baal, 1 Kings 19:18, and so, it’s understandable that Elijah ran for his life from Jezebel at this time. He, therefore, ran away to Beersheba for several days.

He is obviously feeling very low and very tired, 1 Kings 18:46, and because of this, he almost contradicts himself with his prayer request. He had just ran for his life from Jezebel but now he’s asking God to take his life. Notice that Elijah came to a ‘broom bush and prayed that he might die’, this is what Jonah did too, Jonah 4:3, and just like the case of Jonah God didn’t grant Elijah’s request to die.

After being prompted to eat twice by an angel, and after the angel miraculously makes and supplies food for him, Elijah took the forty-mile trip from Hebron to Mount Sinai.

It appears that God always sends great men of faith to deserts to enjoy the tranquillity the desert offers but also to prepare them for a great movement which is coming up. He did this with Moses, Exodus 2:11-15 / Exodus 2:16-25 / Exodus 3:1-15 / Exodus 3:19-20, Jesus, Matthew 4:1-11, and Paul, Galatians 1:11-18.

The LORD Appears To Elijah

‘And the word of the LORD came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The LORD said to him, ‘Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.’ 1 Kings 19:9-18

After spending some time in the desert, being prepared by God for what was coming up, God asked him, what he is doing there? This tells us that Elijah has a mission ahead of him but that mission wasn’t to be in the desert. Elijah explains to God how he was zealous for the Lord but Israel has gone from bad to worse.

He again feels that he is all alone, and he’s possibly thinking that the restoration of Israel should happen straight away, but as we all must learn, great things often take a great deal of time, and in God’s timetable, Ecclesiastes 3:1 / Habakkuk 2:3.

Notice that a voice spoke to Elijah, some translations use the words, a ‘still small voice’. We learn here that God doesn’t need to appear in great physical events such as earthquakes and fires in order to start His work. His power can be concealed behind a whisper.

God wanted Elijah to know that while force and spectacular demonstrations are sometimes necessary, God’s real work is accomplished by the ‘still small voice’ calling men to do God’s will.

Coffman in his commentary says the following.

‘It appears that another instruction to be derived from the contrast of the wind, the earthquake and the fire with the ‘still small voice’, is that many of the problems related to God’s dealings with his rebellious human children cannot be solved quickly. Elijah demanded an immediate solution to the problem of idolatry.’

‘He demanded of the people, much the same prompt decision as did Joshua, who said, ‘then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve’, Joshua 24:15, but neither Joshua nor Elijah could force the issue to a conclusion in one day, or even in one generation. The nearly infinite patience with man’s sins is a mark of God’s love of the human creation.’

There’s no to waste sulking around in the desert, God has work for Elijah do to and it begins with anointing three people to be anointed, Hazael, Jehu and Elisha.

There is now a great change coming but sadly it wouldn’t come in Elijah’s lifetime. The time was coming when all the kings of Israel and Judah would change, there’s a time coming when God’s leading prophet would change from Elijah to Elisha.

God tells Elijah that He ‘reserve seven thousand in Israel’, later in the New Testament the apostle Paul referred to this passage as proof that despite the general apostasy of the whole of Israel, God still retained the loyalty of seven thousand persons who had not bowed the knee to Baal, Romans 11:4.

Coffman says the following about this verse.

‘Seven thousand is a perfect number and probably should be understood as a larger but indefinite multitude. This is the beginning of the doctrine of the ‘Righteous Remnant’ which receives so much attention in Isaiah, Isaiah 6:13 / Isaiah 10:20-23.’

The worship of Baal not only included throwing kisses at the idol but also included literally kissing the idol itself, Hosea 13:2.

The Call Of Elisha

‘So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was ploughing with twelve yokes of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,’ he said, ‘and then I will come with you.’ ‘Go back,’ Elijah replied. ‘What have I done to you?’ So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the ploughing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.’ 1 Kings 19:19-21

After leaving Hebron, Elijah finds Elisha who was ploughing with twelve yolk of oxen. Interestingly, God didn’t send Elijah to a city but to a field to find his successor. It appears that Elisha was a farmer, who knew how to work and prepare the fields. If anyone knows about patience and preparation work it’s the farmers, Ecclesiastics 3:1-2.

Elijah approaches Elisha and throws his cloak around him, this was symbolic of Elijah anointing Elisha to come to follow him. It appears Elisha knew exactly what was happening, as he asks to say goodbye to his mother and father by kissing them, Luke 9:61-62 / Luke 14:25-35.

When Elijah tells him to go back and asks, what have I done to you, he’s basically giving Elisha permission to go back to his parents. He’s telling Elisha that he doesn’t want to put any pressure on him, it’s his choice to do so, in order to fulfil his calling as a prophet.

Notice that Elisha became Elijah’s servant, Galatians 6:6, although we read more about Elijah in 2 Kings 2:1-12, this in effect was the end of Elijah’s ministry as God’s prophet.

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