Elijah proposes the sacrifice contest at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-18:25)

“King Ahab sent to all the Israelites. He assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people. He said. ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow him. But if Baal, then follow him.’ The people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people. ‘I, even I only, am left as a prophet of Yahweh. But Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. Let two bulls be given to us. Let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers by fire is indeed God.’ All the people answered. ‘Well spoken!’ Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal. ‘Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many. Then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.’”

This gathering of the Israelites was called by King Ahab. He agreed to invite the prophets of Baal in a contest with Elijah, the sole remaining prophet of Yahweh. Elijah said that it was time to end the dispute between Yahweh and Baal. Let’s go with either one or the other. Let us see which one is the most powerful. Each of prophets would prepare a bull to be sacrificed on wood at an altar. However, they would call on their respective gods to ignite the fire and the sacrifice burning. This is a head to head battle to see whose god is right. Everyone seems to think that this is a good idea, even the prophets of Baal. This is somewhat reminiscent of the Egyptian magicians against Moses and Aaron with their magic snakes in Exodus, chapter 7. Everything is presented in terms of a contest of my god is stronger than you god. This great dramatic play takes place with the prophets on each side. You might guess who is going to be the winner here.

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