1 Kings 17

Who was Elijah the Tishbite?
A. He was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. He was “the most important leader of the true worship of Yahweh since Moses and Samuel.” (Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 3)

B. He is referred to as “the Tishbite.” It is believed that Tishbe was a place in Gilead (“of the settlers of Gilead”) east of the Jordan River. Some believe that Elijah was a Gentile thus further accentuating that there was none in Israel to speak for God.

C. He is described in 2 Kings 1:8 – “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.”

D. His name means “God-Jehovah” or “Jehovah is my God.”

Why did he appear on the scene so suddenly?
A. This is the first mention of Elijah in the Bible.

B. He is introduced as though he were already a well-known prophet.

C. His abrupt entrance into the scene was most likely due to the increasing national apostasy under Ahab. The worship of God was in danger of being completely supplanted by the worship of Baal. Elijah appears on the scene as a new Moses to deliver Israel out of the bondage of idolatry.

What message did Elijah deliver to Ahab?
“As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

Note: The use of the phrase “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives” must have reminded Ahab that the dead and dumb idols which he served were not living and of no comparison to the living God.

What is the significance of this prediction of drought?
It is a direct challenge to Baal who was the Canaanite god in charge of storms and rain. Elijah’s prediction was meant to accentuate Baal’s impotence as a god. The drought was also to become an instrument in God’s hands to punish Israel for turning to other gods (see Deuteronomy 11:16-17).

What did Elijah do after announcing the drought?
God instructed Elijah to hide himself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan (17:2-3). The fact that Elijah was told to “hide” himself implies that it may have been necessary in order to escape any retaliatory action on the part of the Ahab. God protected and provided (“I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” [17:4]) for Elijah by the brook Cherith. He had water to drink and the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and evening (17:6). This retreat to the brook Cherith would also give Elijah’s prediction time to come to pass.

What did Elijah do when the brook dried up because of the drought?
God instructed Elijah to go to the Phoenician coastal city of Zarephath (located between the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon) in the homeland of Jezebel. God told Elijah, “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you” (17:9). Notice that God made provision for Elijah in Zarephath before he commanded him to leave the brook Cherith.

Elijah did as God instructed and met the (Gentile) widow gathering sticks for a cooking fire on which to prepare a final meal for herself and her son (17:10-12). Elijah asked the woman for water and then for bread. The woman told the prophet that she had “only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar” (17:12). Certainly not enough for an extra guest.

Elijah instructed the woman to prepare a cake of bread for him “first” and then afterwards to prepare one for herself and her son (17:13). Elijah then promised the woman that God would bless her kindness and obedience. God would not allow her bowl of flour and jar of oil to be exhausted until after the drought. God would sustain them through the difficult days of the drought.

Why do you think God sent Elijah to a Phoenician city for assistance rather than to a city in Israel?
Luke 4:25-26 records the words of Jesus in reference to this incident in the life of Elijah: “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” Jesus uttered these words when telling the people of Nazareth that a prophet is not welcome in his hometown.

Some feel that Elijah was sent to Zarephath because that would be the last place anyone would suspect him of hiding because it was in the homeland of Jezebel, a hotbed of Baal worship.

What happened to the widow’s son?
He became ill and died (17:17).

How did the widow respond to this event?
As a mother overwhelmed with grief, she blamed Elijah for the boy’s death (17:18).

What then, did Elijah do?
He took the boy from his mother’s bosom to the upper room where he was living and laid the boy on his own bed (17:19). Elijah then earnestly cried out to the Lord in prayer asking God to “let this child’s life return to him” (17:21). The Lord answered Elijah’s prayer by reviving the boy (17:22). Nothing is too difficult for the Lord! This is the first recorded instance of an individual being revived from the dead. This convinced the widow that Elijah was truly a man of God (17:24).

One scholar stated, “The design of miracles is not for display, or to excite wonder, but for the confirmation of truth.” What truths about God are stressed by the miracles in 1 Kings 17?

A. God is in control of nature. He caused the heavens to be shut up, for birds to provide food for his prophet, and for a widow’s pantry to remain inexhaustible through a drought.

B. God is in control of life and death. He caused the widow’s son to be revived after he had died of a severe illness.

What instruction did Elijah receive from the Lord after three and one-half years?
God instructed Elijah to go “show” himself to Ahab because He was going to end the drought (18:1). Elijah promptly obeyed (18:2). This was a courageous thing to do in light of the severity of the drought that Elijah had proclaimed (17:1). The severe physical drought was also paralleled by a great spiritual drought. There was a famine of spiritual values and a drought for God’s Word.

Practical Considerations

Faithful men are needed in the worst of times.
God can raise up faithful men to do the most difficult tasks during the darkest days. God had been preparing Elijah in the rough region of Gilead for the task of confronting Ahab and Jezebel. When the time came for the evil rule of Ahab to be challenged, he sent Elijah to trouble (see 1 Kings 18:17) Ahab and the northern kingdom of Israel.

God will not allow sin to go unchallenged or unpunished.
God sent Elijah to Ahab to hold him accountable for his sin. The sin of Ahab and the nation was punished by a severe drought (see Deuteronomy 11:16-17). If we persist in our sin God will hold us accountable. He will send a Nathan or an Elijah into our lives to get us to face our sin. God will also punish us if we persist in our sin. God’s efforts are redemptive in purpose.

God is interested in meeting our needs.
God was interested in protecting Elijah and providing for his needs. God was also interested in providing for the needs of the widow and her son. God is interested in meeting our needs as well. He invites us to cast our burdens upon Him (Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7) and to find rest in Him when we are weary and heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28-30).

Verse by Verse NIV

1 Kings 17:1-18
17:1 Now Elijah [this is the first mention of Elijah in the Bible; name means “God-Jehovah” or “Jehovah is my God”; the dominant religious figure in first half of 9th century BC; he is described in 2 Kings 1:8] the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead [it is believed that Tishbe was a place in Gilead (“of the settlers of Gilead”) east of the Jordan River], said to Ahab [(874-853 BC) king of Northern Kingdom of Israel whose reign was marred by religious failure; married Jezebel, a devout worshiper of Baal; cult of Baal became most popular religion in Northern Kingdom], “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives [in contrast to the dead and dumb idols which Ahab and the people served], whom I serve [Elijah publically and courageously declared his allegiance to God], there will be neither dew nor rain [a direct challenge to Baal who was the Canaanite god in charge of storms and rain; drought was also an instrument in God’s hands to punish Israel for turning to other gods (see Deut. 11:16-17)] in the next few years [three and a half years (cf. 1 Kings 18:45; Jas. 5:17-18)] except at my word.”

17:2 Then [after he had delivered God’s message to Ahab] the word of the LORD came to Elijah:

17:3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide [it may have been necessary to hide in order to escape any retaliatory action on the part of the Ahab and Jezebel; this retreat to the Kerith Ravine would also give Elijah’s prophecy time to come to pass] in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.

17:4 You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered [expresses God’s authority] the ravens [cf. Ps. 119:91b] to feed you there [a very important word; where God guides He provides].”

17:5 So he did what the LORD had told him [Elijah was obedient to God’s instructions]. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there.

17:6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

17:7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.

17:8 Then the word of the LORD came to him:

17:9 “Go at once to Zarephath [coastal city located between the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon in the homeland of Jezebel] of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food [notice that God made provision for Elijah in Zarephath before he commanded him to leave the Kerith Ravine].”

17:10 So he went to Zarephath [perhaps God sent Elijah to Zarephath because that would be the last place anyone would suspect him of hiding and because it was in the homeland of Jezebel, a hotbed of Baal worship]. When he came to the town gate, a widow [a Gentile woman; read Lk. 4:25-26 re: what Jesus said about this woman when telling the people of Nazareth that a prophet is not welcome in his hometown] was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?”

17:11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

17:12 “As surely as the LORD your God lives [the widow acknowledged that the Lord lives even as she was preparing to die],” she replied, [note the hopelessness of the widow’s situation…] “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

17:13 Elijah said [Elijah told woman to take a big step of faith] to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and [Elijah’s instructed the woman to feed him first and then her son (these instructions were contrary to her parental instinct)] bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.

17:14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’”

17:15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her [the widow exercised faith]. So [as a result of her obedience the woman experienced the truth of Elijah’s assurance of provision from God] there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.

17:16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

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