King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Kings 19

Elijah flees to the wilderness. (1-8) God manifests himself to Elijah. (9-13) God’s answer to Elijah. (14-18) The call of Elisha. (19-21)

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Elijah flees to the wilderness

1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.

2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.

3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.

6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.

7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.

8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

God manifests himself to Elijah

9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

God’s answer to Elijah

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

15 And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:

16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.

17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.

18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

The call of Elisha

19 So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.

20 And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?

21 And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 3. Afraid. Heb. “he saw, arose, and went for his life.” H. — He was aware of a woman’s anger. Ecclei. xxv. 23. Though he goes intrepidly to meet Achab, he flees before a woman, God being desirous that he should exercise humility, (Theod. q. 57, &c.) though some think that he had given way to a secret fault; (C.) which is a groundless assertion. H. — He must confess that all his strength is from above. T. — Mind, to escape notice. M. — Bersabee, at the southern extremity of the kingdom of Juda, perhaps fifty leagues from Samaria, and five more from Jezrahel. C. — Servant, the boy whom he had raised to life. Abulensis.

Ver. 4. Desert. It seems, towards Horeb. C. — Tree. Heb. Rothem, which term the Sept. retain, “Rathmen.” Sym. has, “a shade.” H. — Die. Elias requested to die, not out of impatience or pusillanimity, but out of zeal against sin; and that he might no longer be witness of the miseries of his people, and the war they were waging against God and his servants. See v. 10. Ch. — He does not wish to fall into the hands of Jezabel, lest the idolaters should triumph: but he is willing to die, if God so order it. C. — Mathathias entertained the like sentiments. 1 Mac. ii. 7. — Fathers: that I should live longer than they did. M. Eccli. xxx. 17. — If he had been weary of life, why did he flee? His answer to Achab shews that he was by no means timid. C.

Ver. 6. Cake, baked in a hollow stone, covered with fire. The Arabs call such cakes, Ridpha. An angel brought this nourishment. C.

Ver. 7. Go. Heb. “the journey is too great for thee,” without this support. H. — He spent forty days in this journey, as he did not follow the straitest road. Horeb is only about fifty leagues from Bersabee. C. — He might have travelled thither in four or five days. M.

Ver. 8. In the strength of that food, &c. This bread with which Elias was fed in the wilderness, was a figure of the bread of life, which we receive in the blessed sacrament: by the strength of which we are to be supported in our journey through the wilderness of this world, till we come to the true mountain of God, and his vision in a happy eternity. Ch. — Horeb signifies “a rock, or dry wilderness.” C.

Ver. 9. Here. Thy presence is necessary in Israel. T. — Elias had been guided by a natural fear. M. — “With how great familiarity is he received by God!” Tert. c. Psychic. vi.

Ver. 10. Zeal; ordering the idolatrous prophets to be destroyed, (M.) which has enkindled the rage of Jezabel against me. I cannot bear to see the general corruption. C. — Covenant; neglecting circumcision, (Rabbins) and almost the whole law. H. — Altars. Some had been erected by the prophets, (E.) as the king would suffer none to go to Jerusalem. H. — The idolaters there them down. C. xviii. 30. Such altars would have been unlawful in Juda. C. — I alone am left; viz. of the prophets in the kingdom of Israel, or of the ten tribes; for in the kingdom of Juda, religion was at that time in a very flourishing condition, under the kings Asa and Josaphat. And even in Israel there remained several prophets, though not then known to Elias. See C. xx. 13, 28, 35. Ch. W. — Heb. repeats I, as v. 14, and C. xviii. 22. He might justly fear that those had been destroyed at last, whom Abdias had protected. At any rate, none durst appear in public to assist Elias. H. — God informs him (v. 18.) that all is not yet lost.

Ver. 11. Lord; the angel, his representative. M. — God had formerly granted the like favour to Moses, in the same place. Ex. xxxiii. 21.

Ver. 12. Air. Something similar happened at the giving of the law, and at the propagation of the gospel. Ex. xix 9, 16. Acts ii. 2. The Lord was pleased to shew his prophet the difference between the two laws: the own was full of terror, the other of mildness. Grotius — He insinuated likewise, that he could easily exterminate the offenders, but he chose to bear patiently with them; (T.) and taught his prophet to moderate his zeal, and, after terrifying sinners, to being them to a sense of their duty by gentle means. Sanctius. C. — “His spirit is most indulgent and mild.” ….est teneræ serenitatis, apertus et simplex. Tert. c. Marcion xxiii.

Ver. 13. Mantle, out of respect, like Moses. Ex. iii. 6. So the cherubim veil their faces with their wings. Isai. vi. 2. M. — Among the Orientals, to cover the face has the same import as when we pull of our hats. C.

Ver. 15. Desert, avoiding the towns as much as possible, (C.) and travelling through the country of Ammon to Damascus. M. — God does not send Elias again into the midst of danger, at Achab’s court. H. — Hazael. God exercises his authority over all nations, and disposes of crowns. He appoints Hazael to punish his people. It does not appear that Elias performed this commission in person, but by the hand of Eliseus. 4 K. viii. 12. Neither do we find that Hazael was anointed, but he was “declared king;” in which sense the term is used. Judg. ix. 8. Salien. C. — Yet Torniel believes, that Elias really anointed both Hazael and Jehu. He foretold, at least, (H.) that they should reign. W.

Ver. 16. Jehu, the son of Jospahat, (4 K. ix. 2.) and grandson of Namsi. M. — Eliseus sent one of his disciples to anoint him, (4 K. ix. 1. C.) with common oil; the sacred was reserved for priests and the kings of Juda, according to the Rabbins. — Anoint, or call to the ministry, perhaps by placing a mantle on his head, v. 19. No mention is made of unction. C. — Yet the Fathers have hence inferred that prophets received it, as well as priests and kings. Sanctius — Elias had complained that he was left alone. God appoints him a coadjutor, and successor; a person who seemed to have yet made no immediate preparation for the office. His parents were probably known for their probity, and had taken no part in the worship of idols. C. — Abelmeula was in the great plain, ten miles south of Scythopolis. Eus.

Ver. 17. Shall be slain by Eliseus. Eliseus did not kill any of the idolaters with the material sword; but he is here joined with Hazael and Jehu, the great instruments of God in punishing the idolatry of Israel, because he foretold to the former his exaltation to the kingdom of Syria, and the vengeance he would execute against Israel, and anointed the latter by one of his disciples to be king of Israel, with commission to extirpate the house of Achab. Ch. — They left nothing imperfect in the vengeance. 4 K. viii. and ix. Eliseus sent bears to destroy forty-two children of Bethel; (4 K. ii. 23. C.) and Abulensis (q. 23.) thinks that he might put many false prophets to death, as the Scripture does not mention every thing, (M.) and as Elias had done himself. H. — Eliseus may also be the name of some general. D.

Ver. 18. Will leave. Heb. also, “I have left,” as Rom. xi. 4. Sept. “thou shalt leave.” H. — After answering the first part of the prophet’s complaint, and informing him that the guilty should not pass unpunished, God lets him know that he is not left alone, but that many thousands (C.) even in Israel still continue faithful; so far was the true Church from being in danger of perishing entirely. H. — Seven is often put for a great number. Prov. xxiv. 16. Yet some suppose, (C.) that only this number served God out of 1,110,000 men in Israel. 1 Par. xxi. 5. Grotius, &c. — Hands. To this custom the word adore owes it rise. H. — The pagans kissed their right-hand, or the statue itself, when they could reach it, to testify their veneration. Inter adorandum, dexteram ad osculum referimus. Pliny xxviii. 2. Cicero (in Ver. 4.) mentions a beautiful statue of Hercules, the cheeks and beard of which had been rather worn with kissing; non solum id venerari, sed etiam osculari solent. See Gen. xviii. 2. C. — Job xxxi. 27. M.

Ver. 19. Mantle, perhaps to signify that he must change his manner of living. M.

Ver. 20. Kiss, and bid them adieu. M. — To thee. I have no farther orders. Obey the Spirit of God. Hoc age. Heb. “for what have I done to thee?” Did I require thee to follow me? Act as God may direct thee. Yet remember the ceremony which thou hast seen, and do not turn back (C.) to neglect thy office. H. Matt. viii. 22. Luke ix. 62.

Ver. 21. Oxen, to shew that he had relinquished his profession. M. — “He makes a vow of them.” S. Jerom, ep. xxviii. — Elias waited for him in the field, while he made a feast for his fellow-citizens, at parting. C. — Then both probably retreated to Carmel, (Salien) to watch over the instruction of the college of prophets. H.