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Ahab and Elijah (1 Kings 17) January 19

The great prophet Elijah is now introduced. Halley's Bible Handbook states: "Six chapters are given to Ahab's reign, while most of the kings have only a part of one chapter. The reason: it is largely the story of Elijah…. Elijah's 'rare, sudden and brief appearances, his undaunted courage and fiery zeal, the brilliance of his triumphs, the pathos of his despondency, the glory of his departure, and the calm beauty of his reappearance [in a vision] on the Mt. of Transfiguration, make him one of the grandest characters Israel ever produced'" (1965, note on 1 Kings 17). It is noteworthy that only two prophets appeared in the vision with Jesus in the transfiguration—Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-9).

Elijah's ministry would be the pattern for later important ministries. Elijah's successor, Elisha, received Elijah's mantle with a mandate to carry on the same type of ministry—even completing some of the tasks given to Elijah. John the Baptist went "before [Jesus Christ] in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17). The rest of Luke 1:17 adds further understanding of the overall perspective of the original ministry of Elijah. And in Malachi 4:5, God says: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." Apparently, John the Baptist was the forerunner of an end-time Elijah figure, who would preach in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way for Christ's second coming (compare Matthew 17:10-12).

In marrying Jezebel and accommodating her religion, Ahab allowed Baal worship to be reintroduced in a big way into Israel (1 Kings 16:31-33). Prior to this time, the Kingdom of Israel's apostasy had apparently been confined to the sin of Jereboam son of Nebat, who built the golden calves and established new worship centers in Dan and Bethel. Near the end of the wilderness wanderings under Moses, there had been a brief encounter with Baal of Peor in connection with the Balaam incident (Numbers 25:3-9; compare Revelation 2:14). And some Baal and Ashtoreth worship had taken place in the rather disorganized period of the judges (Judges 2:11-19; 3:7; 6:25-32; 8:33; 10:6-16; 1 Samuel 7:3-4; 12:9-11). Solomon had built altars to various pagan deities, some of which were equated at times with Baal (1 Kings 11:1-8). But since the days of Samuel, through the period of the kings up until Ahab (about 200 years), there is no specific mention of Israelite Baal worship taking place.

Now, however, Jezebel not only brings in Baal worship but attempts to destroy all of the prophets of God, 100 of whom are protected by the God-fearing governor of Ahab's house, as we will see in our next reading (1 Kings 18:3-4). So God sends one of the most famous prophets of the Bible, Elijah, to pronounce judgment on Ahab, beginning with a three-and-a-half-year drought (Luke 4:25; James 5:17-18) and its resulting famine. The drought was apparently a forerunner and type of a future drought referred to in the book of Revelation (11:3, 6). However, the end-time drought will be much greater in scope—as the dire events preceding Christ's return will be worse than any that have ever happened (Matthew 24:21).

Amazingly, in the growing sparseness of the land, God wonderfully provides for His servant via special delivery from the birds of the air!

Ironically, Zarephath—Elijah's place of refuge during the latter years of the drought, where God miraculously provides for the widow and her son who take him in—was in the region of Sidon (see Luke 4:26), the same territory that Jezebel came from (1 Kings 16:31).

God's provision through the multiple miracles we see here should encourage our faith. He can take care of our needs even when it looks like it's impossible to meet them (see Matthew 6:25-34).

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