1 Kings 19


Elijah Flees to Horeb

      • Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying, “May the gods do so to me and more if I do not take your life as your did theirs by this time tomorrow!”

        • As we’ve mentioned in previous chapters, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible gives us a reminder regarding phrases similar to the one above, “May the gods do so to me and more…”, “This is a common Near Eastern oath formula, indicating that a horrible fate awaits one who breaks a covenant or acts in treachery against another. In effect, Jezebel is making a treaty with herself.”

      • Elijah was afraid and immediately ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he continued on going a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he would die, saying, “I’ve had enough. Now, O Yahweh, take my life because I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and slept.

Broom Tree (Bush)

        • Guzik remarks, “We cannot say for certain if this was led of God or not. It is clear that God wanted to protect Elijah, but we cannot say if God wanted to protect him at Jezreel or protect him by getting him out of Jezreel. Nevertheless, Elijah went about 80 miles south to Beersheba.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “…The shock of Jezebel’s resistance after Mount Carmel has led Elijah to forget to think theologically, so he flees from Jezreel in the north to Beersheba in the far south of the Promised Land- as far away from Jezebel as he can get. The distance from the top of Mount Carmel to Beersheba was about 120 miles, which would have taken an ordinary single traveler around six days, but less if he ran part of the way.”

      • On the broom tree (or technically, broom bush), NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Retama raetum can grow to a height of 10 feet. It produces small white flowers in spring. To this day broom bushes in the arid Negev and northern Sinai offer much-needed shade. Because vegetation is so sparse in the great wilderness, this particular bush may have been the only shade available to Elijah for several miles.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “God’s refugee prophet felt that he had accomplished little and would be better off dead.”

      • Suddenly, an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a loaf of bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and then lay down again. Then the angel of Yahweh came back a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Then, on the strength from that food, he traveled for 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. He went into a cave there and spent the night.

        • Is this messenger (angel) from Yahweh an angel, or the Angel of the Yahweh (as in, the pre-incarnate Christ)? Opinions seem to vary. However, the HCSB, which capitalizes the Angel of Yahweh in passages where it is clear that the pre-incarnate Christ is intended, does not capitalize the angel of Yahweh in this instance. I have followed their lead here.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai, where God first spoke the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel (Exodus 19-20). The forty days and forty nights of Elijah’s travels recall Israel’s own wandering in the wilderness (Num 14:33-34) and Moses’ own sojourn on this same mountain (Ex 24:18; see also Ex 3:1; 19:3)…This journey from near Beersheba to Mount Horeb was about 250 miles, unless Elijah went by a more circuitous route. The last part of the journey would have been much longer than the air distance because of rugged terrain.”

Elijah’s Encounter with Yahweh

      • Suddenly, the word of Yahweh came to him and He said, “What are you doing here Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for Yahweh, the God of hosts. But the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I am the only one left and they are looking for me to kill me too.” Then he said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before Yahweh.”

        • Guzik says, “God knew the answer to this question, but it was good for Elijah to speak to the LORD freely and to unburden his heart. Elijah protested to God, ‘I have faithfully served You and now look at the danger I am in.’ To Elijah – and many servants of God since – it seemed unfair that a faithful servant of God should be made to suffer.” On Elijah’s statement that he is the only prophet left, Guzik continues, “This was not accurate, but it reflected how Elijah felt. Even back at the confrontation at Mount Carmel, Elijah said I alone am left a prophet of the LORD (1 Kings 18:22). Discouraging times make God’s servants feel more isolated and alone than they are.”

      • Suddenly, Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before Yahweh, but Yahweh was not in the wind. And after the wind there was an earthquake, but Yahweh was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but Yahweh was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a still, gentle voice. When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his robe and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for Yahweh, the God of hosts. But the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I am the only one left and they are looking for me to kill me too.” Then Yahweh said to him, “Go back the way you came and head to the wilderness of Damascus. When you get there, you are to anoint Hazael as king over Syria. You are to anoint Nimshi’s grandson Jehu as king over Israel, and Shaphat’s son Elisha, from Abel Meholah, to take your place as prophet. Jehu will kill whoever escapes Hazael’s sword, and Elisha will kill whoever escapes Jehu’s sword. But I will reserve 7,000 in Israel- all the knees that haven’t bowed to Baal, and every mouth that hasn’t kissed him.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “The wind, earthquake, and fire (vv. 11b-12) are recognizable elements of theophany in the ancient world…Some of these same features are evident in Yahweh’s theophany on Mount Sinai (Ex 19:16-19). Yahweh also approaches Job in the whirlwind (Job 38:1)…” However, on the still, gentle voice, the same source remarks, “This is unusual and without parallel in the ancient world…In a theophany, the voice of the god usually thunders, but in all the destructive emanations there had been no message from Yahweh…Rather, it identities that Yahweh speaks in the reverberating silence that follows the tumultuous disasters. Here this indicates that Yahweh has not just been about judging Ahab and Jezebel…he has also been transitioning to a new era in which new leadership will take control (vv. 15-16).”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “…God gives Elijah new instructions: whereas he has run south in despair to the desert of Beersheba, he must now return to the very north of Syria-Palestine in obedience and anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha. A new political and religious order is to succeed the old, and this order will bring about the final victory over Baal worship. Total victory will come as a result of ordinary political process…as God removes certain kings and sets up others; it will not come as a result of obviously spectacular demonstrations of divine power…as at Carmel…God has ways of working other than the spectacular (though he is always free to work in supernatural ways).”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “The Lord corrected Elijah’s thinking; the prophet was not alone…Now he learned that there were 7,000 others who remained faithful to the Lord.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible includes this interesting information on Hazael, “…Hazael was the most powerful king Aram [Syria] would ever know. He ruled during the last four decades of the ninth century BC. For most of his reign he campaigned tirelessly against the kindom of Israel that had been weakened by an unstable dynasty after the house of Omri was obliterated through Ahab’s demise in 852 BC. Hazael’s descructive attacked on sites such as Rehov in Galilee and Gath and Zeitah in Philistia are seen in excavated destruction layers that are dated securely by radiocarbon dating…Hazael successfully cut off Israel and Judah on three sides and reopened his own trade links to the Mediterranean Sea..This anointing would still carry weight in Aram even though the prophet was an Israelite. Any endorsement from a deity could be exploited for one’s political ambitions.”

King Hazael of Damascus framed by a lotus flower. Carved ivory plaque, 8th BCE. From Arslan Tash, ancient Hadatu, Northern Syria 17.8 x 5.6 cm AO 11488 Louvre, Departement des Antiquites Orientales, Paris, France” via Bible History Online

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out that Jehu is actually a “descendant of Nimshi,” and this Bible version renders him the “grandson of Nimshi” on the basis of 2 Kgs 9:2, 14. I have followed their example above.

The Call of Elisha

      • So Elijah left there and found Shaphat’s son Elisha. He was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen and he was with the 12th yoke. Elijah passed by him and threw his robe over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, then I will follow you.” Elijah replied, “Go back. What have I done to you?” So Elisha went back, took the yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the wooden yoke and plow to cook the meat, gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he left, followed Elijah, and became his assistant.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The anointing of Elisha is an epilogue to the Lord’s charge to Elijah. The two other anointings that God assigned to Elijah (19:15-16) were carried out by Elisha instead (2 Kgs 8:7-15; 9:1-10)…Twelve teams of oxen would indicate that Elisha came from a wealthy family. Elisha understood that Elijah’s power from God would come upon him with the prophet’s cloak. Elisha burned his plow and slaughtered his oxen to signal a complete break from the past in his present calling. From now on, he would serve the Lord. His meal with family and friends may have been a thanksgiving sacrifice to God capped by a communal meal in joyful celebration of God’s claim upon Elisha’s life. Elisha would first serve as Elijah’s assistant. Great leaders often begin as good learners. Joshua was Moses’ assistant (Exod 24:13) before becoming his successor (Num 27:18-23; Deut 34:9) and assuming command of the forces of Israel (Josh 1:1-9). Later, Elijah had an assistant named Gehazi (2 Kgs 4:12).”

      • On Elijah’s response to Elisha asking if he could kiss his parents goodbye, Guzik cites Wiseman, “This question ‘Could mean, “Go back, but remember what I have done to you.” It might be a rebuke at any delay in following.’”

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