1 Kings 18-20
Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
18 During the third year that no rain fell, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go meet with King Ahab, and I will make it rain.” 2 So Elijah went to meet with Ahab.
The famine was very bad in Samaria. 3 So King Ahab told Obadiah to come to him. Obadiah was the man in charge of the king’s palace. (Obadiah was a true follower of the Lord. 4 One time when Jezebel was killing all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah hid 100 prophets in two caves. He put 50 prophets in one cave and 50 prophets in another cave. Then he brought them food and water.) 5 King Ahab said to Obadiah, “Come with me. We will look at every spring and every stream in the land. We will see if we can find enough grass to keep our horses and mules alive. Then we will not have to kill our animals.” 6 They decided where each of them would go to look for water. Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself. 7 As Obadiah was walking along the road by himself, he looked up, and there was Elijah. Obadiah recognized him and bowed down to show his respect. He said, “Elijah? Is it really you, master?”
8 Elijah answered, “Yes, it is me. Now, go and tell your master, the king, that I am here.”
9 Obadiah said, “If I tell Ahab that I know where you are, he will kill me! I have done nothing wrong to you. Why do you want me to die? 10 As surely as the Lord your God lives, the king has been looking for you everywhere. He has sent people to every country to find you. He even made the rulers of those countries swear that you were not there. 11 Now you want me to go and tell him that you are here! 12 If I go tell King Ahab that you are here, the Spirit of the Lord might carry you away. Then when King Ahab comes here and cannot find you, he will kill me! I have followed the Lord since I was a boy. 13 Surely you have heard what I did when Jezebel was killing the Lord’s prophets. I hid 100 of the Lord’s prophets in caves. I put 50 prophets in one cave and 50 in another. I brought them food and water. 14 Now you want me to go and tell the king that you are here. The king will kill me!”
15 Elijah answered, “I serve the Lord All-Powerful. As surely as he lives, I promise that I will stand before the king today.”
16 So Obadiah went to King Ahab and told him where Elijah was. King Ahab went to meet Elijah.
17 When Ahab saw Elijah he said, “Is that really you, the troublemaker of Israel?”
18 Elijah answered, “I have not made trouble for Israel. You and your father’s family caused all the problems when you stopped obeying the Lord’s commands and began following the false gods. 19 Now tell all the people of Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel. Also bring the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah, who get their support from Queen Jezebel.”[a]
20 So Ahab called all the Israelites and those prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came to all the people and said, “You must decide what you are going to do. How long will you keep jumping from one side to the other? If the Lord is the true God, follow him. But if Baal is the true God, then follow him!”
The people said nothing. 22 So Elijah said, “I am the only prophet of the Lord here, but there are 450 prophets of Baal. 23 So bring us two bulls. Let the prophets of Baal have one bull. Let them kill it, cut it into pieces, and then put the meat on the wood. But don’t start the fire. I will do the same with the other bull, and I will not start the fire either. 24 Prophets of Baal, pray to your god, and I will pray to the Lord. Whichever god answers the prayer and starts the fire is the true God.”
All the people agreed that this was a good idea.
25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “There are many of you, so you go first. Choose a bull and prepare it, but don’t start your fire.”
26 So the prophets took the bull that was given to them and prepared it. They started praying to Baal and prayed until noon. They said, “Baal, please answer us!” But there was no sound. No one answered. Then they began jumping around on the altar they had built.
27 At noon Elijah began to make fun of them. He said, “If Baal really is a god, maybe you should pray louder! Maybe he is busy. Maybe he is thinking about something, or maybe he stepped out for a moment! He could be sleeping! Maybe you should pray louder and wake him up!” 28 So the prophets prayed louder. They cut themselves with swords and spears. (This was the way they worshiped.) They cut themselves until they were bleeding all over. 29 The afternoon passed but the fire still had not started. The prophets were out of control and continued to act this way until the time came for the evening sacrifice. But nothing happened—there was no answer from Baal. There was no sound. There was no one listening.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Now come here.” So they gathered around Elijah. The Lord’s altar had been torn down, so Elijah repaired it. 31 Elijah found twelve stones. There was one stone for each of the twelve tribes. These twelve tribes were named for the twelve sons of Jacob, the man who the Lord had named Israel. 32 Elijah used these stones to repair the altar to honor the Lord. He dug a small ditch around the altar. It was wide enough and deep enough to hold about 4 gallons[b] of water. 33 Then Elijah put the wood on the altar. He cut the bull into pieces and laid the pieces on the wood. 34 Then he said, “Fill four jars with water. Pour the water on the pieces of meat and on the wood.” Then Elijah said, “Do it again.” Then he said, “Do it a third time.” 35 The water ran down off the altar and filled the ditch.
36 At about the time for the afternoon sacrifice, the prophet Elijah approached the altar and prayed, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I ask you now to prove that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant. Show these people that it was you who commanded me to do all these things. 37 Lord, answer my prayer. Show these people that you, Lord, are God and that you are the one who is bringing them back to you.”
38 Then fire came down from the Lord and burned the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the ground around the altar. Then it dried up all the water in the ditch. 39 All the people saw this happen and bowed down to the ground and began saying, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!”
40 Then Elijah said, “Get the prophets of Baal! Don’t let any of them escape!” So the people captured all the prophets. Then Elijah led them down to Kishon Creek and killed them all.
The Rain Comes Again
41 Then Elijah said to King Ahab, “Now go eat and drink. A heavy rain is coming.” 42 So King Ahab went to eat. At the same time Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel. At the top of the mountain, Elijah bent down. He put his head between his knees. 43 Then Elijah said to his servant, “Go up higher and look toward the sea.”
The servant went and looked. He came back and said, “I saw nothing.” Elijah told him to go look again. This happened seven times. 44 The seventh time, the servant came back and said, “I saw a small cloud the size of a man’s fist that was coming in from the sea.”
Elijah told the servant, “Go tell King Ahab to get his chariot ready and go home now. If he does not leave now, the rain will stop him.”
45 After a short time the sky was covered with dark clouds. The wind began to blow, and a heavy rain began to fall. Ahab got in his chariot and started back to Jezreel. 46 The power of the Lord came to Elijah. He used his belt to hold up the bottom of his robe away from his feet. Then he ran ahead of King Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
Elijah at Mount Horeb (Sinai)
19 King Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah did and how Elijah had killed all the prophets of Baal with a sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah and said, “I swear that by this time tomorrow, you will be just as dead as those prophets. If I don’t succeed, may the gods do the same or worse to me.”
3 When Elijah heard this, he was afraid. So he ran away to save his life. He took his servant with him, and they went to Beersheba in Judah. Then Elijah left his servant in Beersheba 4 and walked for a whole day into the desert. Then he sat down under a bush and asked to die. He said, “I have had enough, Lord! Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.”
5 Then Elijah lay down under the bush and went to sleep. An angel came to him and touched him. The angel said, “Get up and eat!” 6 Elijah looked around, and by his head there was a cake that had been baked over coals and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then went back to sleep.
7 Later the Lord’s angel came to him again, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat! If you don’t, you will not be strong enough to make the long trip.” 8 So Elijah got up. He ate and drank and felt strong. Then Elijah walked for 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There Elijah went into a cave and spent the night.
Then the Lord said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”
10 Elijah answered, “Lord God All-Powerful, I have always served you the best I can, but the Israelites have broken their agreement with you. They destroyed your altars and killed your prophets. I am the only prophet left alive, and now they are trying to kill me!”
11 Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go, stand in front of me on the mountain. I, the Lord, will pass by you.”[c] Then a very strong wind blew. The wind caused the mountains to break apart. It broke large rocks in front of the Lord. But that wind was not the Lord. After that wind, there was an earthquake. But that earthquake was not the Lord. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But that fire was not the Lord. After the fire, there was a quiet, gentle voice.[d]
13 When Elijah heard the voice, he used his coat to cover his face and went to the entrance to the cave and stood there. Then a voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”
14 Elijah said, “Lord God All-Powerful, I have always served you the best that I can, but the Israelites broke their agreement with you. They destroyed your altars and killed your prophets. I am the only prophet left alive, and now they are trying to kill me.”
15 The Lord said, “Go back. Take the road that leads to the desert around Damascus. Go into Damascus and anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel. Next, anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah. He will be the prophet who takes your place. 17 Jehu will kill anyone who escapes Hazael’s sword, and Elisha will kill anyone who escapes from Jehu’s sword. 18 I still have 7000 people in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed that idol.”
Elisha Becomes a Prophet
19 So Elijah left that place and went to find Elisha son of Shaphat. Elisha was plowing 12 acres of land and was working on the last acre when Elijah came.[e] Elijah went to Elisha and put his coat[f] on Elisha. 20 Elisha immediately left his oxen and ran after Elijah. Elisha said, “Let me kiss my mother and father goodbye. Then I will follow you.”
Elijah answered, “You can do that. I will not stop you.[g]”
21 Elisha turned away from him and went back. He killed the oxen and used the yoke for firewood. He boiled the meat, gave it to the people, and they all ate together. Then Elisha went to follow Elijah and became his helper.
Ben-Hadad and Ahab Go to War
20 King Ben-Hadad of Aram gathered his army together. There were 32 kings with him and many horses and chariots. They surrounded Samaria and attacked it. 2 The king sent messengers to King Ahab of Israel who was inside the city. 3 The message was, “Ben-Hadad says, ‘Your silver and your gold are mine, and so are the best of your wives and children.’”
4 The king of Israel answered, “Yes, my lord and king, I am yours now, and everything I have belongs to you.”
5 Then the messengers came back to Ahab. They said, “Ben-Hadad says, ‘I told you before that all of your silver and gold and your wives and children belong to me. So give them to me! 6 Tomorrow I will send my men to search through your house and through the houses of your officials. Give my men all of your valuables, and they will bring them back to me.’”
7 So King Ahab called a meeting of all the elders of his country and said, “Look, Ben-Hadad is looking for trouble. First he told me that I must give him my wives and children and my silver and gold. I agreed to give them to him.”
8 But the elders and all the people said, “Don’t obey him or do what he says.”
9 So Ahab sent a message to Ben-Hadad that said, “I will do what you said at first, but I cannot obey your second command.”
King Ben-Hadad’s men carried the message to the king. 10 Then they came back with another message from Ben-Hadad that said, “I will completely destroy Samaria. I promise that there will be nothing left of that city! There will not be enough of that city left for my men to find any souvenirs[h] to take home. May the gods destroy me if I don’t do this!”
11 King Ahab answered, “Tell Ben-Hadad that the man who puts on his armor should not boast as much as the man who lives long enough to take it off.”
12 King Ben-Hadad was drinking in his tent with the other rulers when the messengers came back and gave him the message from King Ahab. King Ben-Hadad commanded his men to prepare to attack the city, so the men moved into their places for the battle.
13 Then a prophet went to King Ahab and said, “King Ahab, the Lord says to you, ‘Do you see that great army? I will defeat that army for you today. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
14 Ahab said, “Who will you use to defeat them?”
The prophet answered, “The Lord says, ‘The young men who carry the weapons for the government officials.’”
Then the king asked, “Who should command the main army?”
The prophet answered, “You will.”
15 So Ahab gathered the young helpers of the government officials. There were 232 of these young men. Then the king called together the army of Israel. The total number was 7000.
16 King Ahab began his attack at noon, while King Ben-Hadad and the 32 kings were drinking and getting drunk in their tents. 17 The young helpers went out first. King Ben-Hadad’s men told him that some soldiers had come out of Samaria. 18 So Ben-Hadad said, “They might be coming to fight or they might be coming to ask for peace. Capture them alive.”
19 The young men of King Ahab were the first to come out, but the rest of the army of Israel was following them. 20 Each of the men of Israel killed the man who had come against him. So the men from Aram began to run away and the army of Israel chased them. King Ben-Hadad escaped on a horse with the chariots. 21 King Ahab led the army and attacked all the horses and chariots. So King Ahab made the Arameans suffer a great defeat.
22 Then the prophet went to King Ahab and said, “The king of Aram will come back to fight again next spring. So go back and strengthen your army and make careful plans to defend yourself against him.”
Ben-Hadad Attacks Again
23 King Ben-Hadad’s officers said to him, “The gods of Israel are mountain gods. We fought in a mountain area, so the Israelites won. If we fight them on level ground, we will win. 24 Also, don’t let the 32 kings command the armies. Put your commanders in charge of the armies. 25 Let’s gather an army like the one that was destroyed. Gather as many men, horses, and chariots as before, and fight the Israelites on level ground. Then we will win.” Ben-Hadad followed their advice and did what they said.
26 So in the spring, Ben-Hadad gathered the men of Aram and went to Aphek to fight against Israel.
27 The Israelites also prepared for war and went to fight the army of Aram. They made their camp opposite the camp of Aram. The Aramean soldiers filled the land, but Israel’s army looked like two small flocks of goats.
28 A man of God came to the king of Israel with this message: “The Lord said, ‘The people of Aram said that I, the Lord, am a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys. So I will let you defeat this great army. Then all of you will know that I am the Lord, wherever you are!’”
29 The armies were camped across from each other for seven days. On the seventh day the battle began. The Israelites killed 100,000 Aramean soldiers in one day. 30 The survivors ran away to the city of Aphek. The wall of the city fell on 27,000 of those soldiers. Ben-Hadad also ran away to the city and hid in a room. 31 His servants said to him, “We heard that the kings of Israel are merciful. Let’s dress in rough cloth with ropes on our heads.[i] Then let’s go to the king of Israel. Maybe he will let us live.”
32 They dressed in rough cloth with ropes on their heads. They came to the king of Israel. They said, “Your servant, Ben-Hadad, says, ‘Please let me live.’”
Ahab said, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.[j]”
33 Ben-Hadad’s men wanted King Ahab to say something to show that he would not kill King Ben-Hadad. When Ahab called Ben-Hadad his brother, the advisors quickly said, “Yes! Ben-Hadad is your brother.”
Ahab said, “Bring him to me.” So Ben-Hadad came to King Ahab. King Ahab asked him to get in the chariot with him.
34 Ben-Hadad said to him, “Ahab, I will give you the towns that my father took from your father. And you can put shops in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.”
Ahab answered, “If you agree to this, I will let you go free.” So the two kings made a peace agreement. Then King Ahab let King Ben-Hadad go free.
A Prophet Speaks Against Ahab
35 One of the prophets told another prophet, “Hit me!” He said that because the Lord had commanded it. But the other prophet refused to hit him. 36 So the first prophet said, “You did not obey the Lord’s command. So a lion will kill you when you leave this place.” When the second prophet left, a lion killed him.
37 The first prophet went to another man and said, “Hit me!”
This man hit him and hurt the prophet. 38 So the prophet wrapped his face with a cloth. This way no one could see who he was. The prophet went and waited for the king by the road. 39 The king came by and the prophet said to him, “I went to fight in the battle. One of our men brought an enemy soldier to me. The man said, ‘Guard this man. If he runs away, you will have to give your life in his place or you will have to pay a fine of 75 pounds[k] of silver.’ 40 While I was busy doing other things, the man ran away.”
The king of Israel answered, “You admitted that you are guilty, so you know the answer. You must do what the man said.”
41 Then the prophet quickly took the cloth from his face, and the king of Israel saw that he was one of the prophets. 42 Then the prophet said to the king, “The Lord says to you, ‘You set free the man I said should die. So you will take his place—you and your people will die!’”
43 Then the king went back home to Samaria. He was worried and upset.
- 1 Kings 18:19 who get … Jezebel Literally, “who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
- 1 Kings 18:32 about 4 gallons Literally, “2 seahs of seed” (14.6 l).
- 1 Kings 19:11 Go, stand … you This is like the time God appeared to Moses. See Ex. 33:12-23.
- 1 Kings 19:12 voice Or “sound.”
- 1 Kings 19:19 Elisha was plowing … came Or “Elijah was plowing. There were 11 pair of oxen before him, and he was on the twelfth.”
- 1 Kings 19:19 coat A special robe that prophets wore. Elijah put his coat on Elisha to show that Elisha would take his place as a prophet.
- 1 Kings 19:20 I will not stop you Literally, “What have I done to you?” or “What will I do to you?”
- 1 Kings 20:10 souvenirs Things that help people remember places they have been. Literally, the Hebrew text has “handfuls of dust.”
- 1 Kings 20:31 rough cloth … heads This showed that they were being humble and that they wanted to surrender.
- 1 Kings 20:32 brother People who signed peace agreements often called each other “brother.” It was as if they were one family.
- 1 Kings 20:39 75 pounds Literally, “1 talent” (34.5 kg).