“Now the famine was severe in Samaria. King Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Now Obadiah revered Yahweh greatly. When Jezebel was killing off the prophets of Yahweh, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them in two separate caves of fifty each. He provided them with bread and water. Then King Ahab said to Obadiah. ‘Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys. Perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.’ So they divided the land between them to pass through it. King Ahab went in one direction by himself. Obadiah went in another direction by himself.”
King Ahab and his chief palace officer, Obadiah, wanted to find grass for their animals to live. They went in separate directions. Obadiah was a God fearing man who protected the prophets of Yahweh from destruction when the wife of Ahab, Jezebel, was killing the Yahweh prophets because she preferred Baal. The difference between the 2 men is highlighted here.
“After many days the word of Yahweh came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying. ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab. I will send rain on the earth.’ Elijah then went to show himself to Ahab.”
This is the simple message between Yahweh and Elijah, just as in the preceding chapter. They communicate freely with each other because he is a man of God. He does what Yahweh asks him to do. The drought was continuing during the reign of Ahab, the king of Israel at Samaria.
“After this miracle of the bread and oil, the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. His illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah. ‘What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance. You have come to cause the death of my son!’ But he said to her. ‘Give me your son.’ He took him from her bosom. He carried him up into the upper chamber, where he was lodging. He laid him on his own bed. He cried to Yahweh. ‘Yahweh my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?’ Then he stretched himself upon the child three times. He cried to Yahweh. ‘Yahweh my God let this child’s life come into him again.’ Yahweh listened to the voice of Elijah. The life of the child came into him again. He revived. Elijah took the child. He brought him down from the upper chamber into the house. He gave him to his mother. Then Elijah said. ‘See, your son is alive.’ So the woman said to Elijah. ‘Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of Yahweh in your mouth is truth.’”
The widow felt that the Elijah was the reason that her son got sick and died. Actually Elijah had just helped both of them by preventing them from starving to death. Nevertheless, Elijah also asked Yahweh why he had killed the widow’s young son. Elijah asked Yahweh to renew the child’s life. He repeated it 3 times. Yahweh listened to Elijah and the child revived. This is the first instance of a rising from the dead. In fact, the story of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus in the evangelical times has some of the same overtones. Jesus was reprimanded for not being there when he was sick to help him. Once again, the power of Yahweh came through. The widow was now a believer that Elijah was truly a man of God who spoke the truth about Yahweh.
“Then the word of Yahweh came to Elijah. ‘Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon. Live there. I have commanded a widow there to feed you.’ So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and said. ‘Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.’ As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said. ‘Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.’ But she said. ‘As Yahweh your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug. I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son. We may eat it, and die.’ Elijah said to her. ‘Do not be afraid. Go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me. Afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says Yahweh the God of Israel. ‘The jar of meal shall not be emptied. The jug of oil will not fail until the day that Yahweh sends rain upon the earth.’ She went and did as Elijah said. Thus she and he, and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of Yahweh which he spoke by Elijah.”
Then Elijah gets another command from Yahweh. Elijah was to go to the northern town of Zarephath, near Sidon, probably a Phoenician town. There a widow would take care of him. When he got there, he saw a widow gathering sticks. He asked for water and got that. However, when he asked for a morsel of bread, she said that her and her son were about to die after they finished eating what they had in a jar and a jug. Elijah told her to make a cake for him with the meal and the oil. He said that the jar and jug would feed them since they would never be empty. That is exactly what happens. The never ending jar and jug provided meal and oil for the widow and her household until the drought came to an end. Everything happened the way that Elijah speaking for Yahweh said it would.
“The word of Yahweh came to Elijah, saying. ‘Go from here and turn eastward. Hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook. I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So he went and did according to the word of Yahweh. He went and lived by the Wadi Cherith that is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening. He drank from the brook. After a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.”
Elijah, like all the prophets and men of God, received the word of Yahweh. Yahweh told him to go to the Wadi Cherith, a brook on the east side of the Jordan River. Ravens, commanded by Yahweh, brought him bread and meat every morning and evening. Of course, he could drink the water from the brook or Wadi Cherith. Then the brook dried up due to lack of rain.
“Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to King Ahab. ‘As Yahweh the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.’”
Suddenly Elijah from Tishbe in the Gilead, which is on the east side of the Jordan River, appears on the scene, without much indication of his background. Elijah is a major almost romantic prophet whose name appears more than 100 times in the biblical literature. His influence on the evangelical authors was also important. Thus this cycle of stories with him and King Ahab of Israel plays an important role. He went to King Ahab to tell him that Yahweh controlled the rain. This would be in opposition to those who think that the god Baal controlled the rain. The idea that God or a higher power controls the rain is a common religious theme throughout the world.
“In days of King Omri, Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his first-born. He set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of Yahweh, which he spoke by Joshua son of Nun.”
More than that, King Omri allowed the rebuilding of Jericho. As that town was being rebuilt, the 2 sons of its builder Hiel died, so that he buried his children at the gates to the city. This is the only mention of him in the biblical literature. This was the idea that burying the bodies of young children would bring good luck to the project. This text is also a reference to the curse given by Joshua, chapter 6, concerning the fall of Jericho, and about anyone who would try to rebuild Jericho. “Cursed before Yahweh is anyone who tries to rebuild this city! This Jericho! At the cost of his first-born he shall lay its foundation, At the cost of his youngest he shall set up its gates.” This is the exact fulfillment. You can see the connection between the two, perhaps because of the same biblical author.
“As if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, he took as his wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians. They went and served Baal, and worshiped him. King Ahab erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. He made a sacred pole. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of Yahweh, the God of Israel, than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”
What made matter worse for King Ahab was his marriage to a non-Jewish person, Jezebel. I guess that is where we get the connotation of an evil woman as a Jezebel. He married this Philistine woman who was the daughter of the King of Sidon. It is obvious from the time of King Solomon, outside Hebrew marriages were common. King Ahab constructed a temple for Baal. He and his wife worshipped Baal in Samaria. This follows the line of King Solomon also, who made non-Yahweh temples for his wives. They also made those sacred totem poles that keep cropping up all over the place.
“In the thirty-eighth year of King Asa of Judah, Ahab son of Omri began to reign over Israel. Ahab son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of Yahweh more than all that were before him.”
There is a slight misunderstanding since this section puts Ahab’s ascension to the throne while Asa is still alive. However, that would cut 7 years out of the reign of King Omri. Dating people 3,000 years ago is not an exact science. King Ahab, whose influence on Moby Dick is apparent, ruled all of his 22 years from Samaria. However, like his predecessors, he did evil even worse than the earlier kings of Israel. Things are getting worse and worse.
“King Omri did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. He did more evil than all who were before him. He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and in the sins that he caused Israel to commit, provoking Yahweh the God of Israel, to anger by their idols. Now the rest of the acts of King Omri that he did, and the power that he showed, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? King Omri slept with his ancestors. He was buried in Samaria. His son Ahab succeeded him.”
Notice that King Asa of Judah has lived through 6 different kings in Israel, Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri, with at least 4 different families Jeroboam and his son, Baasha and his son, Zimri, and now Omri with his son Ahab. You can compare the stability of Judah with the instability of Israel. King Omri walked in the evil ways of Jeroboam. He, of course, was worst than all who went before him. Notice that King Omri is the first king to be buried in Samaria. He perhaps was more famous at his time than the biblical writer indicated. Extra biblical sources indicate he ruled over Moab.