KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of 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.” (1 Kings 18:36)
Nothing is recorded about Elijah before he suddenly appeared before King Ahab, as recorded in 1 Kings 17:1. As one of the first in a long line of important prophets God sent to Israel and Judah, Elijah was a Tishbite of the land of Gilead, a mountainous area located on the eastern side of the Jordan River.
King Ahab was Israel’s seventh king, reigning from 874 B.C. to 853 B.C. He was influenced by his wife, Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Zidon, and introduced Baal worship to Israel (1 Kings 16:31-32).
Baal was worshiped for two reasons: generosity and anger. In generosity he supposedly gave light, warmth, and rain, but his anger was manifested in the fierce summer heat that destroyed the vegetation he had brought. Human victims, usually the firstborn of the sacrificer, were burnt alive to appease his anger in time of plague or other troubles. Such sacrifice is figuratively termed “passing” the victim “through the fire” (Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 16:3). Ordinary offerings to Baal consisted of incense and burnt sacrifices.
God directly confronted Ahab’s false religion with the appearance and message of Elijah. Since the name Elijah means, “Jehovah is my God,” the prophet’s very name pointed to the true and only God. Elijah announced, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth . . . ,” drawing attention to the ever-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful God. He then exposed Baal as a lifeless and powerless idol by declaring there would be no “dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”
During the three-and-a-half year drought, God sustained Elijah. Provisions were first supplied at the brook Cherith, a torrent-bed or wady, possibly located on the east side of the Jordan River. Elijah was then sent to a widow woman in Zarephath, the same area that Jezebel came from. During this time there was severe famine in Samaria where King Ahab dwelt.
Before Elijah prayed to end the drought, he called on the people to choose between God and Baal. Ahab gathered the Children of Israel, 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of the groves. The Hebrew translation for groves is asherah (or Astarte), which was a Phoenician goddess (see “Pagan Gods” supplement). It was this idolatrous crowd that Elijah challenged to see whether Baal or God would consume a sacrifice using fire not created by man.
Following Elijah’s tremendous victory and the execution of the prophets of Baal, Elijah fled for his life from Jezebel’s wrath. He traveled over 300 miles in 40 days to Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai), where the Lord instructed him to anoint Hazael to be the King of Syria, Jehu to be the King of Israel, and Elisha to be his successor — instructions which Elijah followed. God later used these two kings to execute judgment on Ahab’s family and the idolatrous people of Israel.
The prophet Elijah confronted Ahab one last time to pronounce final judgment against him after the death of Naboth. Naboth the Jezreelite had refused to sell his property to Ahab because it had belonged to his family for some time. Therefore, Jezebel found two men (“sons of Belial” meaning evil, lawless, and wicked men) to falsely accuse him of blasphemy and he was stoned to death. Elijah told Ahab that, “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood.” Ahab was later killed in a battle, and as they washed his chariot in the pool of Samaria the dogs licked his blood, fulfilling Elijah’s prophecy.
Elijah’s example of faithfulness and obedience to God in difficult and wicked times should encourage all Christians to cultivate and maintain a close and personal relationship with the Lord.