1 Kings 18-20
Contemporary English Version
Elijah Proves He Is the Lord’s Prophet
18 1-2 For three years no rain fell in Samaria, and there was almost nothing to eat anywhere. The Lord said to Elijah, “Go and meet with King Ahab. I will soon make it rain.” So Elijah went to see Ahab.
3-4 At that time Obadiah was in charge of Ahab’s palace, but he faithfully worshiped the Lord. In fact, when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah hid one hundred of them in two caves and gave them food and water.
Ahab sent for Obadiah 5 and said, “We have to find something for our horses and mules to eat. If we don’t, we will have to kill them. Let’s look around every creek and spring in the country for some grass. 6 You go one way, and I’ll go the other.” Then they left in separate directions.
7 As Obadiah was walking along, he met Elijah. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down, and asked, “Elijah, is it really you?”
8 “Yes. Go tell Ahab I’m here.”
9 Obadiah replied:
King Ahab would kill me if I told him that. And I haven’t even done anything wrong. 10 I swear to you in the name of the living Lord your God that the king has looked everywhere for you. He sent people to look in every country, and when they couldn’t find you, he made the leader of each country swear that you were not in that country. 11 Do you really want me to tell him you’re here?
12 What if the Lord’s Spirit takes you away as soon as I leave? When Ahab comes to get you, he won’t find you. Then he will surely kill me.
I have worshiped the Lord since I was a boy. 13 I even hid one hundred of the Lord’s prophets in caves when Jezebel was trying to kill them. I also gave them food and water. 14 Do you really want me to tell Ahab you’re here? He will kill me!
15 Elijah said, “I’m a servant of the living Lord All-Powerful, and I swear in his name that I will meet with Ahab today.”
16 Obadiah left and told Ahab where to find Elijah.
Ahab went to meet Elijah, 17 and when he saw him, Ahab shouted, “There you are, the biggest troublemaker in Israel!”
18 Elijah answered:
You’re the troublemaker—not me! You and your family have disobeyed the Lord’s commands by worshiping Baal.
19 Call together everyone from Israel and have them meet me on Mount Carmel. Be sure to bring along the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.
20 Ahab got everyone together, then they went to meet Elijah on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you try to have things both ways? If the Lord is God, worship him! But if Baal is God, worship him!”
The people did not say a word.
22 Then Elijah continued:
I am the Lord’s only prophet, but Baal has four hundred fifty prophets.
23 Bring us two bulls. Baal’s prophets can take one of them, kill it, and cut it into pieces. Then they can put the meat on the wood without lighting the fire. I will do the same thing with the other bull, and I won’t light a fire under it either.
24 The prophets of Baal will pray to their god, and I will pray to the Lord. The one who answers by starting the fire is God.
“That’s a good idea,” everyone agreed.
25 Elijah said to Baal’s prophets, “There are more of you, so you go first. Pick out a bull and get it ready, but don’t light the fire. Then pray to your god.”
26 They chose their bull, then they got it ready and prayed to Baal all morning, asking him to start the fire. They danced around the altar and shouted, “Answer us, Baal!” But there was no answer.
27 At noon, Elijah began making fun of them. “Pray louder!” he said. “Baal must be a god. Maybe he’s day-dreaming or using the toilet or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.”
28 The prophets kept shouting louder and louder, and they cut themselves with swords and knives until they were bleeding. This was the way they worshiped, 29 and they kept it up all afternoon. But there was no answer of any kind.
30 Elijah told everyone to gather around him while he repaired the Lord’s altar. 31-32 Then he used twelve stones to build an altar in honor of the Lord. Each stone stood for one of the tribes of Israel, which was the name the Lord had given to their ancestor Jacob. Elijah dug a ditch around the altar, large enough to hold about thirteen quarts. 33 He placed the wood on the altar, then they cut the bull into pieces and laid the meat on the wood.
He told the people, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it over the meat and the wood.” After they did this, 34 he told them to do it two more times. They did exactly as he said 35 until finally, the water ran down the altar and filled the ditch.
36 When it was time for the evening sacrifice, Elijah prayed:
Our Lord, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Now, prove that you are the God of this nation,[a] and that I, your servant, have done this at your command. 37 Please answer me, so these people will know that you are the Lord God, and that you will turn their hearts back to you.[b]
38 The Lord immediately sent fire, and it burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones. It scorched the ground everywhere around the altar and dried up every drop of water in the ditch. 39 When the crowd saw what had happened, they all bowed down and shouted, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!”
40 Just then, Elijah said, “Grab the prophets of Baal! Don’t let any of them get away.”
So the people captured the prophets and took them to Kishon River, where Elijah killed every one of them.
It Starts To Rain
41 Elijah told Ahab, “Get something to eat and drink. I hear a heavy rain coming.”
42 Ahab left, but Elijah climbed back to the top of Mount Carmel. Then he stooped down with his face almost to the ground 43 and said to his servant, “Look toward the sea.”
The servant left. And when he came back, he said, “I looked, but I didn’t see anything.” Elijah told him to look seven more times.
44 After the seventh time the servant replied, “I see a small cloud coming this way. But it’s no bigger than a fist.”
Elijah told him, “Tell Ahab to get his chariot ready and start home now. Otherwise, the rain will stop him.”
45-46 A few minutes later, it got very cloudy and windy, and rain started pouring down. So Elijah wrapped his coat around himself, and the Lord gave him strength to run all the way to Jezreel. Ahab followed him.
Elijah Runs Away from Ahab and Jezebel
19 Ahab told his wife Jezebel what Elijah had done and that he had killed the prophets. 2 She sent a message to Elijah: “You killed my prophets. Now I’m going to kill you! I pray that the gods will punish me even more severely if I don’t do it by this time tomorrow.”
3 Elijah was afraid when he got her message, and he ran to the town of Beersheba in Judah. He left his servant there, 4 then walked another whole day into the desert. Finally, he came to a large bush and sat down in its shade. He begged the Lord, “I’ve had enough. Just let me die! I’m no better off than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down in the shade and fell asleep.
Suddenly an angel woke him up and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 Elijah looked around, and by his head was a jar of water and some baked bread. He sat up, ate and drank, then lay down and went back to sleep.
7 Soon the Lord’s angel woke him again and said, “Get up and eat, or else you’ll get too tired to travel.” 8 So Elijah sat up and ate and drank.
The food and water made him strong enough to walk forty more days. At last, he reached Mount Sinai,[c] the mountain of God, 9 and he spent the night there in a cave.
The Lord Appears to Elijah
While Elijah was on Mount Sinai, the Lord asked, “Elijah, why are you here?”
10 He answered, “Lord God All-Powerful, I’ve always done my best to obey you. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you. They have torn down your altars and killed all your prophets, except me. And now they are even trying to kill me!”
11 “Go out and stand on the mountain,” the Lord replied. “I want you to see me when I pass by.”
All at once, a strong wind shook the mountain and shattered the rocks. But the Lord was not in the wind. Next, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 Then there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
Finally, there was a gentle breeze,[d] 13 and when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat. He went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.
The Lord[e] asked, “Elijah, why are you here?”
14 Elijah answered, “Lord God All-Powerful, I’ve always done my best to obey you. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you. They have torn down your altars and killed all your prophets, except me. And now they are even trying to kill me!”
15 The Lord said:
Elijah, you can go back to the desert near Damascus. And when you get there, appoint[f] Hazael to be king of Syria. 16 Then appoint Jehu son of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and Elisha son of Shaphat[g] to take your place as my prophet.
17 Hazael will start killing the people who worship Baal. Jehu will kill those who escape from Hazael, and Elisha will kill those who escape from Jehu.
18 But seven thousand Israelites have refused to worship Baal, and they will live.
Elisha Becomes Elijah’s Assistant
19 Elijah left and found Elisha plowing a field with a pair of oxen. There were eleven other men in front of him, and each one was also plowing with a pair of oxen. Elijah went over and put his own coat on Elisha.[h]
20 Elisha stopped plowing and ran after him. “Let me kiss my parents good-by, then I’ll go with you,” he said.
“You can go,” Elijah said. “But remember what I’ve done for you.”
21 Elisha left and took his oxen with him. He killed them and boiled them over a fire he had made with the wood from his plow. He gave the meat to the people who were with him, and they ate it. Then he left with Elijah and became his assistant.
Syria Attacks Israel
20 King Benhadad of Syria[i] called his army together. He was joined by thirty-two other kings with their horses and chariots, and together they marched to Samaria and attacked. 2 Benhadad sent a messenger to tell King Ahab of Israel, 3 “Ahab, give me your silver and gold, your wives,[j] and your strongest sons!”
4 “Your Majesty,” Ahab replied, “everything I have is yours, including me.”
5 Later, Benhadad sent another messenger to say to Ahab, “I already told you to give me your silver and gold, your wives, and your children. 6 But tomorrow at this time, I will send my officials into your city to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will take everything else that you[k] own.”
7 Ahab called a meeting with the leaders of Israel and said, “Benhadad is causing real trouble. He told me to give him my wives and children, as well as my silver and gold. And I agreed.”
8 “Don’t listen to him!” they answered. “You don’t have to do what he says.”
9 So Ahab sent someone to tell Benhadad, “Your Majesty, I’ll give you my silver and gold, and even my wives and children. But I won’t let you have anything else.”
When Benhadad got his answer, 10 he replied, “I’ll completely destroy Samaria! There won’t even be enough of it left for my soldiers to carry back in their hands. If I don’t do it, I pray that the gods will punish me terribly.”
11 Ahab then answered, “Benhadad, don’t brag before the fighting even begins. Wait and see if you live through it.”
12 Meanwhile, Benhadad and the other kings had been drinking in their tents. But when Ahab’s reply came, he ordered his soldiers to prepare to attack Samaria, and they all got ready.
13 At that very moment, a prophet ran up to Ahab and said, “You can see that Benhadad’s army is very strong. But the Lord has promised to help you defeat them today. Then you will know that the Lord is in control.”
14 “Who will fight the battle?” Ahab asked.
The prophet answered, “The young bodyguards who serve the district officials.”
“But who will lead them into battle?” Ahab asked.
“You will!” the prophet replied.
15 So Ahab called together the two hundred thirty-two young soldiers and the seven thousand troops in Israel’s army, and he got them ready to fight the Syrians.
Israel Defeats the Syrians
16-17 At noon, King Ahab and his Israelite army marched out of Samaria, with the young soldiers in front.
King Benhadad of Syria and the thirty-two kings with him were drunk when the scouts he had sent out ran up to his tent, shouting, “We just now saw soldiers marching out of Samaria!”
18 “Take them alive!” Benhadad ordered. “I don’t care if they have come out to fight or to surrender.”
19 The young soldiers led Israel’s troops into battle, 20 and each of them attacked and killed an enemy soldier. The rest of the Syrian army turned and ran, and the Israelites went after them. Benhadad and some others escaped on horses, 21 but Ahab and his soldiers followed them and captured[l] their horses and chariots.
Ahab and Israel’s army crushed the Syrians.
22 Later, the prophet[m] went back and warned Ahab, “Benhadad will attack you again next spring. Build up your troops and make sure you have some good plans.”
Syria Attacks Israel Again
23 Meanwhile, Benhadad’s officials went to him and explained:
Israel’s gods are mountain gods. We fought Israel’s army in the hills, and that’s why they defeated us. But if we fight them on flat land, there’s no way we can lose.
24 Here’s what you should do. First, get rid of those thirty-two kings and put army commanders in their places. 25 Then get more soldiers, horses, and chariots, so your army will be as strong as it was before. We’ll fight Israel’s army on flat land and wipe them out.
Benhadad agreed and did what they suggested.
26 In the spring, Benhadad got his army together, and they marched to the town of Aphek to attack Israel. 27 The Israelites also prepared to fight. They marched out to meet the Syrians, and the two armies camped across from each other. The Syrians covered the whole area, but the Israelites looked like two little flocks of goats.
28 The prophet went to Ahab and said, “The Syrians think the Lord is a god of the hills and not of the valleys. So he has promised to help you defeat their powerful army. Then you will know that the Lord is in control.”
29 For seven days the two armies stayed in their camps, facing each other. Then on the seventh day the fighting broke out, and before sunset the Israelites had killed one hundred thousand Syrian troops. 30 The rest of the Syrian army ran back to Aphek, but the town wall fell and crushed twenty-seven thousand of them.
Benhadad also escaped to Aphek and hid in the back room of a house. 31 His officials said, “Your Majesty, we’ve heard that Israel’s kings keep their agreements. We will wrap sackcloth around our waists, put ropes around our heads, and ask Ahab to let you live.”
32 They dressed in sackcloth and put ropes on their heads, then they went to Ahab and said, “Your servant Benhadad asks you to let him live.”
“Is he still alive?” Ahab asked. “Benhadad is like a brother to me.”
33 Benhadad’s officials were trying to figure out what Ahab was thinking, and when he said “brother,” they quickly replied, “You’re right! You and Benhadad are like brothers.”
“Go get him,” Ahab said.
When Benhadad came out, Ahab had him climb up into his chariot.
34 Benhadad said, “I’ll give back the towns my father took from your father. And you can have shops in Damascus, just as my father had in Samaria.”
Ahab replied, “If you do these things, I’ll let you go free.” Then they signed a peace treaty, and Ahab let Benhadad go.
A Prophet Condemns Ahab
35 About this time the Lord commanded a prophet to say to a friend, “Hit me!” But the friend refused, 36 and the prophet told him, “You disobeyed the Lord, and as soon as you walk away, a lion will kill you.” The friend left, and suddenly a lion killed him.
37 The prophet found someone else and said, “Hit me!” So this man beat him up.
38 The prophet left and put a bandage over his face to disguise himself. Then he went and stood beside the road, waiting for Ahab to pass by.
39 When Ahab went by, the prophet shouted, “Your Majesty, right in the heat of battle, someone brought a prisoner to me and told me to guard him. He said if the prisoner got away, I would either be killed or forced to pay seventy-five pounds of silver. 40 But I got busy doing other things, and the prisoner escaped.”
Ahab answered, “You will be punished just as you have said.”
41 The man quickly tore the bandage off his face, and Ahab saw that he was one of the prophets. 42 The prophet said, “The Lord told you to kill Benhadad, but you let him go. Now you will die in his place, and your people will die in place of his people.”
43 Ahab went back to Samaria, angry and depressed.
- 18.36 this nation: Hebrew “Israel.”
- 18.37 will turn. . . to you: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 19.8 Sinai: Hebrew “Horeb.”
- 19.12 a gentle breeze: Or “a soft whisper” or “hardly a sound.”
- 19.13 The Lord: Hebrew “A voice.”
- 19.15 appoint: This would have included a ceremony in which olive oil would be poured on his head to show that he was now king.
- 19.16 Shaphat: Hebrew “Shaphat from Abel-Meholah.”
- 19.19 put. . . Elisha: This was a sign that Elijah wanted Elisha to follow him and become a prophet.
- 20.1 King Benhadad of Syria: This is probably not the same Benhadad mentioned in 15.18-21.
- 20.3 wives: Having more than one wife was allowed in those times.
- 20.6 you: Hebrew; three ancient translations “they.”
- 20.21 captured: One ancient translation; Hebrew “attacked.”
- 20.22 the prophet: See verse 13.