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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Kings 18

Elijah sends Ahab notice of his coming. (1-16) Elijah meets Ahab. (17-20) Elijah’s trial of the false prophets. (21-40) Elijah, by prayer, obtains rain. (41-46)

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Elijah sends Ahab notice of his coming

1 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.

2 And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.

3 And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:

4 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.)

5 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.

6 So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 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?

8 And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.

9 And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?

10 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.

11 And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.

12 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.

13 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?

14 And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me.

15 And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

17 And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?

18 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.

19 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.

20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.

Elijah’s trial of the false prophets

21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.

23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:

24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.

25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.

26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.

27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

30 And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.

31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:

32 And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.

33 And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.

34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.

35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.

36 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.

37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.

40 And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

Elijah, by prayer, obtains rain

41 And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.

42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,

43 And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.

44 And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down that the rain stop thee not.

45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.

46 And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Year of his sojourning at Sarephta. As other six months elapsed before the drought was removed, it is probable that Elias had spent them at Carith. S. Jam. v. 17. C. — Earth. God is pleased to withdraw his chastisement, though the guilty were not yet reclaimed. Salien.

Ver. 2. Samaria, and the vicinity. The people could procure corn from a distance. But Achab is solicitous to find grass, v. 5.

Ver. 3. Abdias. Some suppose that he was the fourth of the minor prophets, or the husband of the Sunamitess, (4 K. iv.) or the third of the captains, who were ordered by Ochozias to seize Elias, 4 K. i. 13. T. — But this is uncertain. He took care of the persecuted prophets, (ver. 4. 13,) judging it better to obey God than man. C.

Ver. 6. Himself. So Providence ordered it, that the prophet might declare his sentiments to him freely. H. — Achab would go in person, another way, that he might not be imposed upon. He was more solicitous for his cattle than for his subjects. M.

Ver. 7. Face, to shew him a religious veneration, due to the servant of God. W.

Ver. 9. Kill me, as an impostor, or an accomplice of thy escape, if afterwards thou shouldst disappear, v. 12. C.

Ver. 10. An oath of every kingdom, adjuring all his neighbours to tell if they knew any thing about Elias. H. — Achab wished to make him restore rain, or to punish him for the refusal. C. — How stupid he must have been, not to perceive that God was punishing him! H. — Elias must have kept himself very retired, not to be discovered at Sarephta, which was so near, (C.) and where Jezabel’s father reigned. But God could render him invisible, even upon the high road, when he went thither. H.

Ver. 12. Spirit. Abdias supposed that the prophet had been transported to some unknown country, (C.) as he was afterwards to paradise. His disciples imagined, by a violent wind. 4 K. ii. 16. H. — Thus the spirit of the Lord took away Philip, (Acts viii. 39,) and conducted Jesus into the desert. Mat. iv. 1. Mar. i. 12. C. — Infancy. This he mentions, that the prophet might take pity on him. M.

Ver. 13. A hundred. Hence we may judge how numerous they were. These prophets were not perhaps all inspired: but they had such at their head; and spent their time in working and in the divine praises. They were the salt and light of the earth, the pillars of the true religion, against whom Jezabel bent all her fury, during the first years of the drought. C.

Ver. 14. Kill me. He had expressed this fear twice before. Elias perceiving how much he was agitated, confirmed him with an oath. H.

Ver. 16. Meet Elias, out of respect, (Abulensis) or rather to upbraid him.

Ver. 17. Troublest Israel? Thus the wicked esteem those disturbers of the public repose, who will not suffer them to go on in their wickedness unmolested. Thus the Jews complain of Jesus Christ. Luke xxiii. 5. Such a war is better than a false peace: and Achab, in fact, proclaims the praise of Elias, who strove by easy means to make the people open their eyes and return to their God. C.

Ver. 18. House. Your impiety has brought on this scourge. I only denounced it. Salien.

Ver. 19. Fifty, attached to Baal, and fed by the king; while the prophets of the groves, or of Astarte, lived at the queen’s expense. They imitated the lives of the true prophets, to delude the people. — Carmel was long after famous fo the worship of Apollo, who was the same with Baal, or the sun. Jos. xix. 26. C. — No mention is made of rain: but it was understood that it would be given, when the people should assemble to hear God’s determination. M. — Achab durst not therefore refuse to convoke them. H.

Ver. 21. Sides: sometimes adoring God; at other times the devil. C. — Such an expostulation ought to be made to those who are indifferent about religion. W. — You cannot serve two masters. C. — They wished to unite the service of both, foolishly supposing that there might be many gods; as some, at present assert that many religions may be pleasing to heaven. H. — A word, not knowing the drift of his proposal. But, as they might perhaps rely that they considered Baal also as a god, Elias puts this to the test of a miracle; being convinced that God would never suffer the devils to prevail on this occasion. Salien. — They might otherwise have brought down fire, as they will do in the days of Antichrist. Apoc. xiii. 13. M.

Ver. 22. I. Heb. repeats “I,” to make the contrast more striking. Elias alone was present, in this assembly, as the prophet of the Lord. H. — He knew that Abdias had preserved 100: but they were concealed. — Men. The other 400 of Jezabel did not appear.

Ver. 24. Call ye. He does not order them to invoke idols; but challenges them to prove their divinity, if they can. — By fire. On such trying occasions, it is not tempting God to ask for a miracle. God had given this proof of fire repeatedly. Gen. xv. 17. Lev. ix. 24. 2 Par. vii. 1. He will restrain the devil’s power, to confirm the truth. Mark ult. W.

Ver. 26. That they. Heb. “which he (Achaz) had made;” (C.) or, “which was made.” H. — The altar of Elias was erected afterwards, v. 30. The prophets of Baal acted in a foolish manner, (C.) as if in jest, but really despairing of success. H. — The pagans were accustomed to dance around their altars: — Pingues spatiatur ad aras. Æneid iv. — and some would translate, “near the altar.” We might apply to these prophets, the verses of Horace:—

Dedit risusque jocosque,

Dum, flamma sine, thura liquescere limine sacro

Persuadere cupit: credat Judæus Apella

Non ego. Sat. i. 5.

Ver. 27. Talking to some of his prophets, (C.) or in deep contemplation. Mon. — An inn. Sept. “giving oracles;” or, “he is pursuing.” Pagnin.

Ver. 28. Blood. Strange infatuation! which has nevertheless prevailed in many pagan mysteries and countries. Thus were Bellona, Cybele, the Syrian goddess, &c. honoured and appeased. C. — God prohibits this fury. Deut. xiv. 1. The devil always endeavours to destroy or to injure man. M.

“Ipsa bipenne suos cædit violenta lacertos,

Sanguineque effuso spargit inepta deam.” Tibullus.

Ver. 29. Prophesying, “acting like fools;” (Chal.) performing their superstitious rites, and singing the praises of their god, &c. C. — Sacrifice, by Elias, who had assigned all the morning to Baal’s prophets. Perhaps he waited till the time of the evening sacrifice. Ex. xxix. 38. M.

Ver. 30. Down, by the false prophets, whose fury the people now repressed. T. — The altar might have been erected, under the judges, lawfully. C.

Ver. 31. Twelve stones, (as Ex. xxiv. &c.) intimating that he acted in the name of all; (M.) and in order that all Israel might return with one heart to the service of God. H. — The prophet did not follow his own spirit in erecting this altar. C.

Ver. 32. Furrows. Heb. “of two (sathayim) measures of seed.” These furrows Elias filled with water, to impede the natural activity of fire, and to shew the miracle in a more striking light; (H.) as also to convince all that there was no deceit. An author quoted, under the name of S. Chrysostom, says that the pagans had sometimes subterraneous passages, by which they kindled the wood on the altar, as if by miracle, ita ut multi decepti ignem illum cœlestem esse existiment. ap. Surium iv.

Ver. 34. Time. So that the wood was less disposed to catch fire. M.

Ver. 37. Again. This effect he hoped for from the miracle.

Ver. 38. Trench, as if it had been of an inflammable nature. Julian himself was forced to acknowledge this miracle. “This, says he, once happened under Moses, and, a long while after, again under Elias, the Thesbite.”

Ver. 40. Cison, at the foot of Carmel. Adrichomius. — Achab durst not protect his prophets, being confounded by the evidence of the miracle, (M.) and the unanimity of the people’s cry. H. — Killed them, by God’s inspiration, (C.) as impostors, who had deluded the people, and were worthy of death.

Ver. 41. Sound. It will as surely come, as if you heard it falling. H.

Ver. 42. Knees, in fervent and humble prayer. God made his servant wait some time before he granted his request, that he might not give way to vanity. The people were not present, so that there was no danger of their being scandalized. M.

Ver. 44. Sea, the Mediterranean, which could be seen from Carmel. H. — Hence the rain commonly came in that country. Luke xii. 54.

Ver. 45. Jezrahel, where Achab had a palace. C. xxi. 1. C. — He stopped for shelter, as he had not time to reach Samaria. M.

Ver. 46. Before Achab, notwithstanding the king was drawn by horses, (C.) and Elias was advanced in years. C. xix. 4. M. — The invigorating spirit gave him such strength and agility, (H.) as Jezrahel was 12 or 15 leagues, (C.) or about 36 miles, from Carmel. In the Levant, impostors still run very swiftly before the chariots of princes, to imitate Elias. C.