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Jezebel's relentless vengeance. Both met unexpectedly in the land of Samaria. The interview probably took place in the vicinity of Jezreel; for Ahab had commanded the faithful Obadiah to go forth in all parts of the country and find some plot of fresh grass where the starving cattle might graze. Obadiah fell on his face before the prophet, exclaiming, Art thou that my lord Elijah ?' 'I am,' was the answer; 'go, tell thy master, Behold, Elijah is here.' Obadiah trembled at this command, and he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldst deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the Lord thy God lives, there is no nation nor kingdom, whither my lord has not sent to seek thee; and when they said, He is not there, he took an oath of the kingdom and nation that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy master, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he will slay me: but I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. Yet at last, urged by the prophet, he returned and told the king of his interview with Elijah. Ahab set forth at once to meet him. As he saw the prophet, he exclaimed, “Art thou he that troubles Israel ?' Elijah answered, 'I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now, therefore, send and gather to me all Israel to Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of Ashtarte four hundred, who eat at Jezebel's table.' Ahab complied with the request. Upon one of the eminences of Mount Carmel, where the eye wanders over a mass of sea and sand, of wood and plain, near an ancient altar of Jehovah, an extraordinary scene was to be enacted.
Thither thronged the Israelites, the inhabitants of the northern kingdom; there were gathered the prophets of Baal and the priests of the high places, and Ahab the king appeared in his royal splendour, and there came the prophet Elijah, the messenger and servant of the Lord. Towering above all others, he faced the people, and asked sternly, 'How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, then follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him!' The people heard these words in remorseful silence. Again rang forth the voice of Elijah : ‘I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them, therefore, give us two bullocks, and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood and put no fire under it; and I will dress the other bullock, and put no fire under it. And call ye on the name of
your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God that answers by fire, let him be God.' And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.' Then Elijah bade the prophets of Baal choose the bullock and prepare it for the sacrifice. So the animal was slain, cut in pieces, and laid on the altar. The priests called upon their god Baal. From early morning until the heat of the midday they cried continually, O Baal, hear us ! But there was no sign of an answer. As was their custom on similar occasions, they leaped round the altar while repeating their prayers and invocations. Elijah could not refrain from bitter irony. "Cry aloud,' he said, " for he is a god! Either he is meditating, or he is gone aside, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleeps and must be awaked.' Then the priests cried louder and louder, and in their frantic excitement they cut themselves with knives until the blood gushed forth from their wounds; and they shouted and called and leapt wildly from the hot noon until the day faded into evening. But there
was yet no sign of an answer. Then Elijah said to the eager people, 'Come near to me. Taking twelve stones, according to the number of the Hebrew tribes, he erected an altar, round which he ordered a wide trench to be made. Then he arranged the wood on the altar, and, slaying the bullock, he prepared it for the sacrifice. Thrice were four barrels of water poured out, so that the offering, and the altar, and the deep trench were completely filled with the water. It was in the last glow of the waning daylight that Elijah drew near to the sacrifice, and pronounced this prayer : ‘Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God, and thus turn Thou their hearts back again.'
He had hardly uttered these words when the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. At that sight the amazed multitude prostrated themselves, and exclaimed, “The Lord He is God, the Lord He is God.' But terrible was Elijah's vengeance on the false priests of the idol. Take the prophets of Baal,' he commanded the people, and let not one of them escape!' The people rushed upon them, and at the bidding of Elijah they led them down to the brook Kishon, which runs winding at the foot of Mount Carmel, and there they slew them all.
Then Elijah said to the king, 'Get up, eat and drink, for there is the noisy sound of rain.' So Ahab went up to one of the heights of Carmel, where the repast was spread, while the prophet Elijah went to a solitary place on the mountain for meditation and prayer. Meantime his servant stood upon the ridge of the elevation, and looked forth over the blue waters of the Mediterranean. As at
the prophet's request he gazed up into the pure evening sky, he said, “There is nothing. Again and again Elijah bade him look out; but it was only the seventh time that he saw a little cloud rising over the sea'no bigger than a man's hand.' Then Elijah knew that the storm and the rain were coming, and he said to his servant, 'Go up and say to Ahab, Prepare thy chariot and get down, lest the rain stop thee.' The whole heaven was black with clouds, and the wind rose and drove the rain down in torrents. Ahab filed before the storm, and rode into Jezreel ; but the breath of the Lord seized Elijah, and carried him on before Ahab to the entrance of the city.
113. FLIGHT OF ELIJAH; ELISHA APPOINTED AS
[1 KINGS XIX.] When the king related to Jezebel the story of the wonderful sacrifice on Mount Carmel and of the massacre of the priests, her wrath knew no bounds. She sent at once a messenger to Elijah with these words : So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of any one of them by to-morrow about this time.' Elijah, who had calmly faced the king and a host of priests, took alarm at this message, and fled from Jezebel out of the land of Israel to Beersheba, at the southern frontier of Judah. There he left his servant and wandered away alone into the wilderness. In a moment of despondency and deep disappointment, he cast himself down on the ground beneath a juniper tree, and, wearied by flight, he prayed, as so many sufferers have prayed in their agony, that he might die. "It is enough now, O Lord,' he cried, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers.' As he lay down and fell asleep exhausted under the juniper tree, an angel touched him
and said, “ Arise and eat.' He looked and saw beside him a cake and a cruse of water. Then he ate and drank, and laid himself down again to sleep. For the second time the angel touched him and bade him arise and eat, because 'a very great journey was before him.' Again he took food, and in the strength of that meal he went forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, the mount of God.' There he took refuge in one of the mountain
The next day the word of God came to him with this question: What doest thou here, Elijah ? And he said, I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thy altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword ; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away. And then again, as on the heights of Carmel, the Lord manifested Himself to Elijah. First came a great and strong wind which rent the mountains and broke the rock in pieces, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. When Elijah heard this, he wrapped his face in his mantle, and he went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then again came the voice, saying, What doest thou here, Elijah ?' And Elijah gave the same answer as before. Then the Lord, raising the oppressed spirit of the prophet, commanded him to do his appointed work. "Go,' He said to him, "return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus ; and when thou comest there, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu, the son of Nimshi, shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha, the son of Shaphat, of Abel-meholah, shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapes the sword of Hazael, shall Jehu slay, and him that escapes from the