“But Elijah himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die. ‘It is enough. Now, O Yahweh, take away my life. I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him. ‘Go up and eat.’ He looked. There at his head was a cake baked on hot stones with a jar of water. He ate and drank. Then he lay down again. The angel of Yahweh came again a second time. He touched him and said. ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up. He ate and drank. Then he went with the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.”
Elijah went a day into the wilderness by himself. He almost seemed to despair since he asked that he might die. Then he fell asleep under a broom tree. An angel of Yahweh, not Yahweh himself, told him to get up and eat, twice. This angel of Yahweh came to tell him of his mission. He had to eat and drink to sustain him on his journey. Thus Elijah got up twice and ate and drunk. He will become like the new Moses. He went to Horeb, which is another name for Sinai. He will do the reverse of Moses and go to Horeb from Judah. Instead of taking 40 years, it will only take him 40 days and 40 nights. Still the parallel of 40 sets him up as special like Moses.
“King Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done. He told her how Elijah had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying. ‘So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then Elijah was afraid. He got up and fled for his life. He came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah. He left his servant there.”
King Ahab went and told his wife Jezebel what Elijah had done, especially the fact that he had killed all her prophets of Baal. She immediately said that she planned to put Elijah to death by the same time tomorrow because of what he had done to her Baal prophets. Elijah was afraid so that he fled for his life by going south to Judah. There he left his servant at Beer-sheba, which was about 130 miles south of Samaria. All of a sudden, Elijah is not so brave.
“Elijah said to King Ahab. ‘Go up, eat and drink. There is a sound of rushing rain.’ So King Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. There he bowed himself down upon the earth. He put his face between his knees. He said to his servant. ‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ He went up and looked. He said. ‘There is nothing.’ Then he said. ‘Go again seven times.’ At the seventh time he said. ‘Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.’ Then he said. ‘Go say to King Ahab. ‘Harness your chariot. Go down before the rain stops you.’ In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind. There was a heavy rain. King Ahab rode out and went to Jezreel. But the hand of Yahweh was on Elijah. He girded up his loins and ran in front of King Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
Elijah told King Ahab to go home and eat and drink, because the rain was coming. Elijah himself went to the top of Mount Carmel. There he bowed himself to the earth with his head between his knees. He sent his servant to look at the sea 7 times. On the 7th time he could see a cloud rising in the sea. Then there was a heavy rain. However, King Ahab was heading towards Jezreel. Elijah ran in front of him. Thus the story continues with Elijah and King Ahab now that the drought is over.
“Elijah said to them. ‘Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let one of them escape!’ Then they seized them. Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon. They killed them there.”
To the victorious belong the spoils. Having shown the superiority of Yahweh over Baal, Elijah added insult to injury. He had all the Baal prophets killed near a brook so that their blood flowed into the Wadi Kishon. That was some sacrificial contest. Winners take all! Loser dies!
“At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said. ‘Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, Yahweh answer me, so that this people may know that you, Yahweh, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’ Then the fire of Yahweh fell. It consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces. They said. ‘Yahweh indeed is God. Yahweh indeed is God.’”
Elijah the prophet prayed to Yahweh, the God of his ancestors. He wanted all the assembled to know that he was Yahweh’s servant and did everything according to Yahweh’s will. Thus he asked Yahweh to answer him. The answer, of course, was the fire of Yahweh that consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, the dust and even the water. Yahweh burnt everything. When the people saw what happened, they fell on their faces proclaiming that Yahweh was God indeed.
“Then Elijah said to all the people. ‘Come closer to me.’ All the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of Yahweh that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of Yahweh came, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name.’ With the stones he built an altar in the name of Yahweh. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. Next he put the wood in order. He cut the bull in pieces. Then he laid it on the wood. He said. ‘Fill four jars with water. Pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.’ Then he said. ‘Do it a second time.’ They did it a second time. Again he said. ‘Do it a third time.’ They did it a third time. The water ran all around the altar. It filled the trench also with water.”
Elijah wanted everyone to come closer to see what he was doing. First of all he repaired the altar of Yahweh. He erected 12 stones to symbolize the 12 sons of Jacob. However, in fact, Judah and Benjamin were not part of Israel at this time, because they were separated into Judah and Israel. Yahweh had said that Israel was to be the name of Jacob. When the altar was completed, he made a trench around the altar so that 3 times they poured 4 jars of water on the wood that had been prepared for the sacrifice of the cut up bull. Thus there was water all around the altar and on top of it. Clearly he was pointing out that this lighting of a fire would not be easy with the wet wood.
“The prophets of Baal took the bull which was given them. They prepared it. They called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice and no one answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them, saying. ‘Cry aloud! Surely he is a god. Either he is meditating or he has wandered away. Maybe he is on a journey or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ Then they cried aloud. As was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out over them. As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.”
First up were the prophets of Baal, all 450 of them. They were not able to start the fire. Meanwhile, Elijah was mocking them. In a very strong satire, he said that Baal was mediating or wandering around. Perhaps he went on a journey of fell asleep. The prophets of Baal tried as hard as they could, but there was no fire. They cried out. They danced the limp dance. They cut themselves, as was their custom, but to no avail. There was no answer to their prayers. By evening time, they had failed.
“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.
“Obadiah went to meet King Ahab. He told him what had happened. King Ahab then went to meet Elijah. When King Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him. ‘Is it you, you trouble maker of Israel?’ He answered. ‘I have not troubled Israel. However, you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of Yahweh and followed the Baals. Now therefore, have all Israel assemble for me at Mount Carmel, with the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.’”
When Obadiah met King Ahab he told him what had happened. How Elijah wanted to meet with him. When they finally met, King Ahab called Elijah a trouble maker. Elijah turned the tables on King Ahab calling him and his father’s house the trouble maker in Israel. They had forsaken Yahweh and followed the Baal. Elijah proposed that all the various prophets should meet at Mount Carmel. He wanted all the prophets from Jezebel and King Ahab there.
“As Obadiah was on his way, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him. He fell on his face and said. ‘Is it you, my lord Elijah?’ He answered him. ‘It is I. Go tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ Obadiah said. ‘How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to King Ahab, to kill me? As Yahweh your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you. When they would say, ‘he is not here,’ he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. But now you say. ‘Go tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ As soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of Yahweh will carry you I know not where. So, when I come and tell KIng Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered Yahweh from my youth. Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of Yahweh, how I hid a hundred of Yahweh’s prophets, fifty to a cave. I provided them with bread and water? Yet you now say. ‘Go tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ He will surely kill me.’ Elijah said. ‘As Yahweh of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.’”
Obadiah and Elijah met. Immediately Obadiah showed reverence to Elijah by prostrating before him. Obadiah was reluctant to have his king meet with Elijah. King Ahab had been looking for Elijah near and far. King Ahab would kill Obadiah if he went to the king, since the Spirit of Yahweh would protect Elijah by bringing him elsewhere. He reminded Elijah about how he had helped the prophets of Yahweh when Jezebel had tried to kill them. Despite all this, Elijah wanted Obadiah to go tell King Ahab that he wanted to meet with him.