1 Kings 18:1-40
New English Translation
Elijah Meets the King’s Servant
18 Some time later, in the third year of the famine,[a] the Lord’s message came to Elijah, “Go, make an appearance before Ahab, so I may send rain on the surface of the ground.” 2 So Elijah went to make an appearance before Ahab.
Now the famine was severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who supervised the palace. (Now Obadiah was a very loyal follower of the Lord.[b] 4 When Jezebel was killing[c] the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah took 100 prophets and hid them in two caves in two groups of fifty. He also brought them food and water.) 5 Ahab told Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grazing areas[d] so we can keep the horses and mules alive and not have to kill[e] some of the animals.” 6 They divided up the land between them to search it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went the other way by himself.
7 As Obadiah was traveling along, Elijah met him.[f] When he recognized him, he fell facedown to the ground and said, “Is it really you, my master, Elijah?” 8 He replied, “Yes,[g] go and say to your master, ‘Elijah is back.’”[h] 9 Obadiah[i] said, “What sin have I committed that you are ready to hand your servant over to Ahab for execution?[j] 10 As certainly as the Lord your God lives, my master has sent to every nation and kingdom in an effort to find you. When they say, ‘He’s not here,’ he makes them[k] swear an oath that they could not find you. 11 Now you say, ‘Go and say to your master, “Elijah is back.”’[l] 12 But when I leave you, the Lord’s Spirit will carry you away so I can’t find you.[m] If I go tell Ahab I’ve seen you, he won’t be able to find you and he will kill me.[n] That would not be fair,[o] because your servant has been a loyal follower of[p] the Lord from my youth. 13 Certainly my master is aware of what I did[q] when Jezebel was killing the Lord’s prophets. I hid 100 of the Lord’s prophets in two caves in two groups of fifty and I brought them food and water. 14 Now you say, ‘Go and say to your master, “Elijah is back,”’[r] but he will kill me.” 15 But Elijah said, “As certainly as the Lord of Heaven’s Armies[s] lives (whom I serve),[t] I will make an appearance before him today.”
Elijah Confronts Baal’s Prophets
16 When Obadiah went and informed Ahab, the king went to meet Elijah.[u] 17 When Ahab saw Elijah, he[v] said to him, “Is it really you, the one who brings disaster on[w] Israel?” 18 Elijah[x] replied, “I have not brought disaster on[y] Israel. But you and your father’s dynasty have, by abandoning the Lord’s commandments and following the Baals. 19 Now send out messengers[z] and assemble all Israel before me at Mount Carmel, as well as the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah whom Jezebel supports.”[aa]
20 Ahab sent messengers to all the Israelites and had the prophets assemble at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long are you going to be paralyzed by indecision?[ab] If the Lord is the true God,[ac] then follow him, but if Baal is, follow him!” But the people did not say a word. 22 Elijah said to them:[ad] “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but there are 450 prophets of Baal. 23 Let them bring us two bulls. Let them choose one of the bulls for themselves, cut it up into pieces, and place it on the wood. But they must not set it on fire. I will do the same to the other bull and place it on the wood. But I will not set it on fire. 24 Then you[ae] will invoke the name of your god, and I will invoke the name of the Lord. The god who responds with fire will demonstrate that he is the true God.”[af] All the people responded, “This will be a fair test.”[ag]
25 Elijah told the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls for yourselves and go first, for you are the majority. Invoke the name of your god, but do not light a fire.”[ah] 26 So they took a bull, as he had suggested,[ai] and prepared it. They invoked the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us.” But there was no sound and no answer. They jumped[aj] around on the altar they had made.[ak] 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, “Yell louder! After all, he is a god; he may be deep in thought, or perhaps he stepped out for a moment or has taken a trip. Perhaps he is sleeping and needs to be awakened.”[al] 28 So they yelled louder and, in accordance with their prescribed ritual,[am] mutilated themselves with swords and spears until their bodies were covered with blood.[an] 29 Throughout the afternoon they were in an ecstatic frenzy,[ao] but there was no sound, no answer, and no response.[ap]
30 Elijah then told all the people, “Approach me.” So all the people approached him. He repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down.[aq] 31 Then Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of tribes that descended from Jacob, to whom the Lord’s message had come, “Israel will be your name.”[ar] 32 With the stones he constructed an altar for the Lord.[as] Around the altar he made a trench large enough to contain two seahs[at] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut up the bull, and placed it on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four water jars and pour the water on the offering and the wood.” 34 When they had done so,[au] he said, “Do it again.” So they did it again. Then he said, “Do it a third time.” So they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed down all sides of the altar and filled the trench. 36 When it was time for the evening offering,[av] Elijah the prophet approached the altar[aw] and prayed: “O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, prove[ax] today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are the true God[ay] and that you are winning back their allegiance.”[az] 38 Then fire from the Lord fell from the sky.[ba] It consumed the offering, the wood, the stones, and the dirt, and licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and said, “The Lord is the true God![bb] The Lord is the true God!” 40 Elijah told them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Don’t let even one of them escape!” So they seized them, and Elijah led them down to the Kishon Valley and executed[bc] them there.Read full chapter
- 1 Kings 18:1 tn The words “of the famine” do not appear in the original text but are supplied for clarification.
- 1 Kings 18:3 tn Heb “now Obadiah greatly feared the Lord.” “Fear” refers here to obedience and allegiance, the products of healthy respect for the Lord’s authority.
- 1 Kings 18:4 tn Heb “cutting off.”
- 1 Kings 18:5 tn Heb “grass.”
- 1 Kings 18:5 tn Heb “to cut off.”
- 1 Kings 18:7 tn Heb “look, Elijah [came] to meet him.”
- 1 Kings 18:8 tn Heb “[It is] I.”
- 1 Kings 18:8 tn Heb “Look, Elijah”; or “Elijah is here.”
- 1 Kings 18:9 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Obadiah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Kings 18:9 tn Heb “to kill me.”
- 1 Kings 18:10 tn Heb “he makes the kingdom or the nation swear an oath.”
- 1 Kings 18:11 tn Heb “Look, Elijah”; or “Elijah is here.”
- 1 Kings 18:12 tn Heb “to [a place] which I do not know.”
- 1 Kings 18:12 tn Heb “and I will go to inform Ahab and he will not find you and he will kill me.”
- 1 Kings 18:12 tn The words “that would not be fair” are added to clarify the logic of Obadiah’s argument.
- 1 Kings 18:12 tn Heb “has feared the Lord” (also see the note at 1 Kgs 18:3).
- 1 Kings 18:13 tn Heb “Has it not been told to my master what I did…?” The rhetorical question expects an answer, “Of course it has!”
- 1 Kings 18:14 tn Heb “Look, Elijah”; or “Elijah is here.”
- 1 Kings 18:15 tn Traditionally, “the Lord of Hosts.”
- 1 Kings 18:15 tn Heb “(before whom I stand).”
- 1 Kings 18:16 tn Heb “Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.”
- 1 Kings 18:17 tn Heb “Ahab.”
- 1 Kings 18:17 tn Or “brings trouble on.”
- 1 Kings 18:18 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Elijah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Kings 18:18 tn Or “brought trouble on.”
- 1 Kings 18:19 tn The word “messengers” is supplied in the translation both here and in v. 20 for clarification.
- 1 Kings 18:19 tn Heb “who eat at the table of Jezebel.”
- 1 Kings 18:21 tn Heb “How long are you going to limp around on two crutches?” (see HALOT 762 s.v. סְעִפִּים). In context this idiomatic expression refers to indecision rather than physical disability.
- 1 Kings 18:21 tn Heb “the God.”
- 1 Kings 18:22 tn Heb “to the people.”
- 1 Kings 18:24 tn Elijah now directly addresses the prophets.
- 1 Kings 18:24 tn Heb “the God.”
- 1 Kings 18:24 tn Heb “The matter [i.e., proposal] is good [i.e., acceptable].”
- 1 Kings 18:25 tc The last sentence of v. 25 is absent in the Syriac Peshitta.
- 1 Kings 18:26 tn Heb “and they took the bull which he allowed them.”
- 1 Kings 18:26 tn Heb “limped” (the same verb is used in v. 21).
- 1 Kings 18:26 tc The MT has “which he made,” but some medieval Hebrew mss and the ancient versions have the plural form of the verb.
- 1 Kings 18:27 sn Elijah’s sarcastic proposals would have been especially offensive and irritating to Baal’s prophets, for they believed Baal was imprisoned in the underworld as death’s captive during this time of drought. Elijah’s apparent ignorance of their theology is probably designed for dramatic effect; indeed the suggestion that Baal is away on a trip or deep in sleep comes precariously close to the truth as viewed by the prophets.
- 1 Kings 18:28 tn Or “as was their custom.”
- 1 Kings 18:28 tn Heb “until blood poured out on them.”sn mutilated…covered with blood. This self-mutilation was a mourning rite designed to facilitate Baal’s return from the underworld.
- 1 Kings 18:29 tn Heb “when noon passed they prophesied until the offering up of the offering.”
- 1 Kings 18:29 tc The Old Greek translation and Syriac Peshitta include the following words here: “When it was time to offer the sacrifice, Elijah the Tishbite spoke to the prophets of the abominations: ‘Stand aside for the time being, and I will offer my burnt offering.’ So they stood aside and departed.”sn In 2 Kgs 4:31 the words “there was no sound and there was no response” are used to describe a dead boy. Similar words are used here to describe the god Baal as dead and therefore unresponsive.
- 1 Kings 18:30 sn Torn down. The condition of the altar symbolizes the spiritual state of the people.
- 1 Kings 18:31 sn Israel will be your name. See Gen 32:28; 35:10.
- 1 Kings 18:32 tn Heb “and he built the stones into an altar in the name of the Lord.”
- 1 Kings 18:32 tn A seah was a dry measure equivalent to about seven quarts.
- 1 Kings 18:34 tn The words “when they had done so” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
- 1 Kings 18:36 tn Heb “at the offering up of the offering.”
- 1 Kings 18:36 tn The words “the altar” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
- 1 Kings 18:36 tn Heb “let it be known.”
- 1 Kings 18:37 tn Heb “the God.”
- 1 Kings 18:37 tn Heb “that you are turning their heart[s] back.”
- 1 Kings 18:38 tn The words “from the sky” are added for stylistic reasons.
- 1 Kings 18:39 tn Heb “the God” (the phrase occurs twice in this verse).
- 1 Kings 18:40 tn Or “slaughtered.”