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ELIJAH AND THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH.
B.C. 910.–1 KINGS xvii.
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom i stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. · And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,
Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
"And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse : and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house did eat many days.
And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the
mistress of the house, fell sick ; and his sickness was so sore that there was no breath left in him.
And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?
And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.
And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son ?
And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.
And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.
And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.
COMMENT.—God left not Himself without a witness. There had been idolatries, His worship had been conducted so against His commands as to be a mere mockery, and shrines of false deities had been adored; but never till Ahab brought the proud Jezebel from Samaria had His own chosen people attempted to give themselves away from Him and choose another national god. Miracles had ceased almost entirely since the days of the Judges, for they are signs not to those grounded in faith, but to unbelievers; and miserable Israel had lapsed into such a state of ignorance that they were ready to fall away to a new power, a rival to, or even greater than, JEHOVAH, as they thought,-Baal, the lord, the Sun or power of Nature ; and therefore it had become needful to prove that Nature was only the servant of JEHOVAH, the Lord of heaven and earth.
And as His messenger, He sent the greatest and most wondrous of all the prophets, Elijah, whose parents' name we do not know. He came from among the people of Gilead, but the word Tishbite seems to mean “a stranger," and we hear of him suddenly and awfully. A man of the desert, with long hair, bare feet, and rough camel's-hair garment, he stood before Ahab in the midst of the palace inlaid with ivory, and with couches covered with cushions
of Tyrian purple, and announced that for three years the Lord would withhold all rain or dew.
Then he withdrew himself to the place God had appointed for him during the terrible famine that must needs ensue. The brook Cherith, one of the streams flowing into the Jordan, gave him drink, and God caused the birds of the air—the ravens—to provide him with food. Then, when the brook dried up, he was sent-let us mark and wonder--not to pious Jehoshaphat, but into a village belonging to Jezebel's own father, Ethbaal, and suffering under the same famine ; for the drought under Ithobal was recorded by Phænician historians. There was the poor widow, gathering sticks to dress her last food for herself and her child. What wonderful charity it was to share that last morsel with the stranger! What wonderful faith to trust his word! Thus was she the great example that to give freely, even to the last, is the sure way to receive freely and be sustained ; and no doubt it was because God saw in her this power of loving faith that He sent the prophet to her. For our Lord Himself says
But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.-(LUKE iv. 25, 26.)
Israelite women would not thus have acted, and so the blessing went away to the Gentile, as it was to go in after-times.
Nor was the never failing of the food the only wonder worked in that Zidonian household. There for the first time did God permit man to recall life to a dead body, showing Himself to be Lord of life and death. But observe how unlike our Lord's miracles of raising the dead to life was this. He had but to speak the word, and the dead revived in full health and vigour. Here Elijah stretched himself on the child, and prayed long and earnestly, before he won from God the restoration of the soul. It was not by power of his own, but yet through his touch, through his prayer, God permitted the work to be done, even as He still works through the ministry of His Church in calling back the dead soul to life.
ELIJAH'S MEETING WITH AHAB.
B.C. 906.--I KINGS xviii. 1-19.
And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab ; and I will send rain upon the earth.
And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:
For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)
And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.
So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another by himself.
And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah ?
And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?
As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath 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 lord, 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 shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.
Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD's prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?
And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me.
And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to-day.
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
And it came to pass when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.*
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves + four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.
COMMENT.—It is plain that while Elijah had been hidden first by the brook Cherith, and then at Zarephath, his rebuke and the drought that followed it had caused Jezebel not to repent, but to take vengeance upon all the prophets of the Lord on whom she could lay hands. She had induced Ahab to cause search to be made everywhere in all the kingdoms round for Elijah himself, and to exact an oath from every king that the prophet was not hidden in his territories; and as to all the scholars who still dwelt in the schools of the prophets, keeping up the worship of the Lord, she had slain them ruthlessly, except such as the good Obadiah, the steward of Ahab's household, could save by hiding them in the great caves either of Mount Ephraim or of the hills of Gennesareth. She seems to have viewed it as a struggle between two great powers, Jehovah and Baal, and she had set all the fierce pride of her heart in making her Zidonian god prevail, and conquer, as it were, the land of Israel.
Meantime the drought lasted. For three years the burning sun had scorched on, without a cloud, without a veil of mist, or drop of rain. As Moses had foretold, the heaven was like brass above, the earth like iron below, and the misery of man and beast was such as Jeremiah in a later poem described :
And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters.
Their eyes did fail, because there was no grass. Indeed, not only had the nobles sent their little ones for water, but the king himself set out in quest of some spring not yet dry, * Other gods,