Elijah and the Priests of Baal

The Stage is Set

Elijah says for Ahab to gather all 450 prophets of Baal and all 400 prophets of the groves at Mount Carmel. Where is Mount Carmel? I know I have read the entry before but I cannot remember. Time to hit it up again! Found it! Ok, here we go. Mount Carmel is actually a HILL. Only 1742 ft. high. Forms the headland of the coast of Palestine. I found it on map 10 under label two.

Map labels of the Holy Land

The top of Mount Carmel from my trip to Galilee

It is actually quite far from Samaria. But remember, this event isn’t taking place in Samaria. At least, not the city Samaria but land of, yes. Elijah met Obadiah on his way to Samaria (city) from Zarephath.

I wonder what prophets of the groves are? Not enough info but I could try the bible dictionary. Nothing. I looked up prophets and though and it did inform me about what they do. Based off the entry, I can say 100% that the professed prophets talked about by Elijah aren’t real prophets. Maybe prophets of Satan but not of God. Prophets of Baal probably worked their way up to prophet rather than being called by God. Maybe they accomplished certain deeds and met specific requirements. But again, I don’t know. I don’t know the religious and cultural information of Phoenician cults.

Anyway, 450 prophets! That’s a lot of people! 450 False prophets vs. 1 true prophet! Who will win? Elijah of course! It’s reminiscent of when Moses showed his staff/snake to the priests of Pharaoh.

They all gather at Mount Carmel. Everyone is probably wondering what Elijah has in mind. He (Elijah) asks those gathered how long they have been between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. If Baal, then follow him. The people don’t answer him. He says that he is himself a prophet of God. Just one. There are 450 prophets of Baal. Let’s find out who is real. This competition would be so exciting! As a follower of Jehovah or even for Elijah. If I was in Elijah’s spot, I wouldn’t be able to hold back my excitement for the false prophet’s reaction and frustration when they realize their God is nothing. And the anticipation of showing forth God’s power unto the hopeful convincing of one person of the reality of God.  I would be like, “These prophets are going to get their butt whooped and it will be a great missionary opportunity.”

A Challenge Issued

Elijah issues a challenge. He says to gather two bullocks (one for each side) and put them on wood. Call upon the name of your God and whatever God answereth with fire is God. Those present accept the challenge. Elijah has a lot of faith in the Lord. That’s good! I mean, he is a prophet! Of course he has faith! Anyway, I wonder how Elijah is feeling right now. If I were him, I would be happy, probably beaming. Not only because I was going to win and the prophets of Baal would make fools of themselves but also just loving at how cool God is. The competition was probably God’s idea.

The Priests of Baal

The competition commences. the prophets of Baal call on Baal from morning to noon. But nothing happens. There is no voice and no answer. It gets better. Elijah starts mocking them at noon. I’m going to copy in what he says in here because it is so good.

“Cry aloud; for he is god; either he is talking, or pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awakened.”

Pretty good huh? I can just imagine this. Elijah being like, “Come on guys! You need to talk louder! This is Baal, he is far away! He can’t hear you! You need to wake him up! Come on, louder!!!” Nothing is happening though. Elijah must be getting more and more happy. Cross reference footnote 27a, pursuing means gone outside or withdrawn.

The prophets listen to Elijah and start crying louder. They cut themselves with knives and lancets till the blood gushed out of them. This would have been hard to watch. Remember from the beginning that we learned that Jezebel introduced the worst of Phoenician cults into Israel. These prophets are probably doing all sorts of self maiming rituals. Scary stuff. Cutting and all. I just had a thought. Satan doesn’t have a body. It’s the one thing he wishes he could have. It’s no surprise then that cults, while associated with Phoenicians (at least in this case), are authored by Satan and include destruction of the body in the name of religion and communicating with supposed Gods. Cross reference Leviticus 19:28. This scripture is the Lord flat out saying that you should not make any cuttings of your body. Flat out says it. That means any religion that does that is not of God. I would go so far even to say that anything that entices you to cut yourself, be it physical or mental is not of God. Our bodies are a gift from God. We ought not to destroy and maim them. We are temples. Don’t abuse yourself.

They prophecy all morning until the time of the evening sacrifice. No voice or answer is heard in the heavens. Elijah is probably tired of them trying. Nothing is happening. He probably tells them to stop because it is his turn. He tells the people to come near unto him. He then repairs the altar of the Lord that was broken down. STOP! I can see some parallels here. Just like Elijah said unto the people to come near him, so to has the Lord said that unto all of us. In likeness of this story, he calls us to stop our foolish worship of false gods and foolish activities. Lay those aside and come near unto Him. Elijah is preparing to show forth the power of God unto a miracle. So too will the Lord do this as we come near unto Him. He will show forth his power in our lives and like the altar of the Lord Elijah repaired, so too will the Lord rebuild our lives so that it can be an altar in which we can lay all that we are and have unto Him. That was a pretty boss analogy.

Elijah Builds an Altar

Elijah takes 12 stones (representing the 12 tribes of Israel) and builds an altar in the name of the Lord. I’m trying to figure out the significance of the 12 stones. I have some ideas. The footnote for 12 stones, Joshua 4:1-9 is pretty cool. The Israelites has just crossed the Jordan river, Joshua commands the placing of 12 stones where the priests who carried the ark stepped. All to commemorate that the Lord has helped them cross the Jordan. How did the Lord help them cross the River? Oh he just stopped it. It became a giant heap and they crossed it on dry ground! Like there was an invisible dam holding the water back. Like the Israelites placing the 12 stones in remembrance of the Lord, Elijah did the same thing as a reminder that the Lord had continued to bless the tribes.

My other theory for why he used 12 stones was that the 12 tribes constitute all of God’s chosen people. Everything related to this church, has reference to the tribes. God makes a promise to Abraham that his posterity would be as the sands of the beach and that all the people of the Earth would be blessed by them. Naturally, the 12 tribes are woven closely into God’s plan and it seems natural that sacrifice to God would be supported by an altar of 12 stones.

One thing I think that is interesting is the fact that he is using 12 stones. Elijah is working in the Northern Kingdom or Israel. Only 10 of the 12 tribes are present. The Kingdom is divided and the people of the north dislike the people of the south and vice versa. Logically speaking he ought to use 10 stones because there are 10 tribes in the north. But that isn’t how it works. that would be man’s way. This is God’s work. Elijah is working for God. Despite the fallacies of man that resulted in the division, 12 tribes are still present and they are God’s chosen people. The standards of men may change but if God hath decreed it, it does not change. You can’t bend eternal principles. I’m not an expert in sacrifices but I think the using of the 12 stones could also serve as a reminder that the tribes would one day be united again. This would probably help any faithful worshipper of Jehovah, especially during this time of tension between the tribes. But at the same time helpful if they were together. thus serving as a reminder that they were united and were to strive to stay that way. 12 tribes under one God, Jehovah.

Random side note before I go on. Do you think the twelve tribes that Joshua had placed in the Jordan river in a line have been discovered? It says in verse nine of Joshua 4 that they remain there till this day. It also says they heaved the stones of considerable size. Enough that the children of Israel would ask why there are 12 stones lined up in the Jordan river. If they haven’t been found, it would make for another great Indiana Jones movie! you could give them magical power and that the Nazis wanted them. Kind of like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Elijah is such a boss! he builds the altar and then says to fill four jars (see footnote 33a) with water and pour it on his altar. All to make sure he ain’t cheating. Then he tells them to do it again and again. Twelves jars of water is poured on this altar! This thing is soaked to the core! He is going to rock their world and ensure there is no logical way they can disbelieve.

Random tangent that applies. Evening sacrifice, what kind is it? It’s a burnt offering to be offered twice a day, morning and evening. The priests of Baal must have done the morning sacrifice and Elijah is doing the evening sacrifice. But that wouldn’t make sense because these sacrifices are according to Mosaic Law and priests of Baal don’t follow that. Unless they share a same practice or Baal and Jehovah worship practices have been combined.

Elijah’s Prayer

Ok, here is what our contester, Elijah, said before he won the competition:

“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that i have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may known that thou art the Lord God and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

Cross reference 1 Nephi 2:16 and Alma 5:7. Elijah wants God to suffer their hearts that they rebel no more. He wants God to illuminate the darkness in their soul that they may awake from their deep slumber. If you break down his prayer, it’s very good and could help saying our own prayers to Heavenly Father in asking for things. I’ll attempt to break it down.

  • He establishes who he is talking to and his authority. This being “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel.”  I suppose the people have enough background in history that they are aware of that God and what he is capable of. For example, because of their historical knowledge, saying “Lord God, who directed Moses out of the land of Egypt with the children of Israel.” Is not necessary. Just saying God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel encompasses so much and everyone already knows the history. Because  everyone knows the history, it is not necessary to establish one specific points or person whom God help. I hope that makes sense.
  • He asks for his request. In this case it is to let it be known that thou art God, I am thy servant and that everything I have one, has been at your command.
  • Gives his reason. His reason for calling is that the people may known thou art God and that it is him who is softening their hearts. His closing is also his reason. In reality, you could put an “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” on there and it would fit perfectly.

To review, address who you are talking to. Elijah was eloquent. Usually, “Dear Heavenly Father, Heavenly Father, or Father in Heaven. ” will work. He asked for blessings in his prayer. To help them believe. And finally, perhaps more importantly, he told Heavenly Father the reason why he wanted him to do these things. I think Heavenly Father is more inclined to bless us with things if we can justify him doing it. You don’t have to be a practicing lawyer or even prepare a lengthy reason. I feel like something as simple as, “I’ve been feeling a little down and I want to know why…,” or “I lack knowledge and I want to know,” is sufficient. I think Heavenly Father is eager to bless us if we ask for righteous things. But we have to remember, the Lord will give them in his own time.

Fire From Heaven

The fire of the Lord falls and consumes not only the burnt offering but the wood, stones the dust and water around it. How cool would this be! Fire comes down from Heaven and completely consumes everything! The Lord not only answers Elijah’s prayer but goes beyond and burns everything else. The Lord, if we are righteous, will answer our prayers and make of our life more than we ever could. I like the imagery of the fire licking up the water.

The Death of the Priests of Baal

The people see this, fall on their faces and exclaim that the Lord is their God. It appears that many people were there other than the prophets of Baal. It’s the people, not the prophets, who concede and come before a remembrance of the Great Jehovah. As a result, Elijah says for the people to take the prophets of Baal (which they do) to the brook Kishaw and kill them.

Statue commemorating Elijah killing the false prophets I took at Mount Carmel

That’s a violent scene. Gives you an idea of how may people had come out to see the spectacle. There were at least 400 prophets. In addition, most likely all the king’s court, probably another 100 people or so. And if there were enough people to grab the prophets, there must have been at least two people per prophets. So 400 prophets + 100 court people (including Ahab and Jezebel) + 800 spectators. There are a lot of people at this mount. Can you imagine 400 people died? How fast do you think the killing happened? Just at the riverbanks, slit their throats of all and let them fall into the brook? Or line them up them one by  one? Too gruesome to think about. Why would this happen? God allows the wicked to die to bring about his righteous purposes. These prophets obviously had a tangible effect upon the people. Leading them away from worship of Jehovah, which, if continued, would lead to their eventual destruction.

Cross reference map 10 at the back of the bible. The brook Kishon is at the base of the mount they are on. Judging from the map the brook appears as a river.

That’s it for this week. Tune in on Monday for the next article!

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