Elijah tells Ahab to get up because he hears the sound of abundant rain. Elijah retires to Mount Carmel again and kneels down, face between his knees. He (Elijah) tells his servant to go up and look toward the sea. His servant goes, but returns, having seen nothing. Elijah tells him to go back seven times. He does, and on the seventh time, he sees a small cloud, like a man’s hand. He runs to Elijah and reports. Elijah tells him to return to Ahab and tell him to prepare his chariot. Go quickly about it, so the rain doesn’t stop you. What is the significance of going up into the mount, or higher up, seven times? I know, a lot probably. Perhaps this is a discussion for another time. In future I want to do a notebook on eternal symbols.
On the way down to tell Ahab, the heavens become black with clouds and wind. There was a great rain. Probably like in Malaysia. Such a rainstorm that it’s like jumping into a swimming pool with your clothes on. Elijah then runs off.
Ahab returns to Jezreel and tells Jezebel, his wife, all that Elijah had done. Jezebel is pretty angry I imagine. She sends a messenger to Elijah saying:
“So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. “
Oh snap! Jezebel is flat out sending a threat to Elijah saying he has 24 hours to live or the gods will kill her and do worse if she doesn’t kill him. Well we know who is wearing the pants in this marriage–not Ahab! Jezebel seems to be the one really in power in this kingdom. Ahab is just a formality and a means to an end. She has full control over him because he’s probably goo-goo gah-gah for her. He’ll do anything she says. But again, I can’t back that up. Just a personal thought.
When Elijah saw the message, he arose, and went for his life and came to Beersheba and left his servant there.
Before I dive fully into this, I want to know how the messenger found Elijah. If Jezebel wants to kill Elijah, wouldn’t he be in hiding? Or does he live in Jezreel? It says that he beat Ahab to the entrance of that city. Maybe Jezebel had people on the lookout for him? They followed him to his house and then told Jezebel who then sent him a message. Thus implying that she knew where he lived. I can see it. Or maybe everyone knew where he lived and Ahab and Jezebel kept a close eye on him to make sure he didn’t stir up trouble? I don’t know. It doesn’t say.
Exodus into Exile
Regardless of how it happened, Elijah gets the message (pun intended). Beersheba is quite a walk! If Elijah was in Jezreel, that’s close to a 110 mile walk! Beersheba is the southernmost city in Judah. Elijah fled quite a bit then. He wasn’t content even with staying in the northern kingdom. He left the northern kingdom, and headed south. It’s the opposite side of Israel! Some cool things about Beersheba, Abraham lived there and dug a well there. Isaac saw the Lord there and Jacob lived there.
It’s interesting to think that the fact that geographically speaking, it is about as far away a you can get from Ahab and Jezebel, may not be the only reason he went there. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all did stuff there. Not only safe geographically speaking but also spiritually speaking? Maybe some sort of pilgrimatic retreat? Not in the sense of relaxing but of trying to find solace and direction in a place that was well known to three prophets? I don’t know. I think it’s a definite possibility.
I also want to know who this unnamed servant is and how long he had been with Elijah. I know Elijah picks up a new servant, Elisha. I want to know about this old one though. Obviously he did things for Elijah to help him out but did Elijah do anything in return? Maybe teach him the mysteries of God? Teach him how to do stuff? Was he more like an apprentice than a servant? I feel like the answer to these questions will be found in the relationship between Elijah and Elisha after they join teams at the end of this chapter. He leaves his servant in Beersheba and then leaves? Is this the last time he’ll see Elijah?
In the Wilderness
After leaving his servant in Beersheba, Elijah walks a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sits under a juniper tree and requests of God that he might die, believing he is not better than his fathers. How fast do you think he was walking? And for how long? A 10 hour journey seems reasonable. Average pace for walking is around 4mph. If I had to make an educated guess about where he was, I would say a 35-50 radius surrounding Beersheba. With that in mind, look at map 10. That leave south, south east, or south west as possible directions. All those areas are strictly desert. If I wanted to narrow it down a bit, I would research where junipers grew.
The other idea I had about this was talking about the fact he wants to die, not feeling worthy. In my mind, I imagine that the event of the Lord consuming the burnt offering was supposed to be a lot more convincing than Elijah thought it was. Here he is, having straight up confronted the cult of Baal and disproved it, he was probably expecting a great turnaround as far as worship of Jehovah is concerned. While a lot of people did turn around, probably 800 (the people that slew the 800 prophets. Unless they were already Jehovah worshipers). That isn’t much when the queen sends out death threats and tries to kill you. It’s a small victory swallowed up by a war of wickedness. Elijah probably feels like he has given it his best and nothing has come of it. As a result of this and queen Jezebel trying to kill him, he goes to Beersheba. He takes this opportunity to go to the land of his fathers, a land of the great patriarchs, and requests for death in a dignified land. I think God has better plans for him.
While sleeping one night, an angel appears and wakes him up. The angel tells him to eat the cake and water that has appeared. He does and the angel bids him to continue eating because he has a great journey ahead of him. The angel touches him again. What is the purpose of the angel touching him? Is it merely to get his attention? Elijah continues in strength from that food for 40 days and nights. A long fast that is.
The Mount of God
Elijah travels to mount Horeb, the mount of God. I’m starting to think mount Horeb is a very special place. It’s mount Sinai! Mount Horeb was where Moses received the ten commandments. Plus, Moses went up there multiple times. Elijah is now visiting.
Holy Moly! Look at map 2! Look at where Beersheba is and where mount Horeb are!
That is a really far journey! If my finger measuring is right, it’s about 180 mile journey as the crow flies. To take 40 days to get there, he would have to go 4.5 miles a day. That’s doable I suppose. It would be pretty miraculous since you are living off energy you received from food you got from an angel many days ago. Elijah is a boss.
I had noticed something. Elijah went to Beersheba, the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to die. He wanted to pass away somewhere significant. But God doesn’t let him. Instead, he tells him to go to mount Sinai, another significant place. Mount Sinai is where Moses was told he was going to be a prophet, it’s where he received the ten commandments and he visited other times too. In summary, mount Sinai is a place of instruction. A place that seems God is able to talk and visit with man on a personal basis. If God is going to follow in suite of what usually happens there, Elijah is going to receive clear instructions and help about what he must do.
Mount Sinai is like a temple. Temples are places of instruction, just like mount Sinai was for old prophets. that’s really cool to think about. I want to visit mount Sinai. I bet the spirit still abides there. Indeed as was told Moses, “You are on holy ground.” How cool would it be to go up towards the top with your wife or small group of people and be where prophets of old walked and talked with God? Even more cool, what would it be like if God visited you? Or you received some sort of revelation. How cool!
A Prophet’s Lamentation
He lodges in a cave there. The word of the Lord comes to him and says, ” What doest thou here Elijah?” Cave first. What if it was the same place Moses saw the burning bush? That would be awesome! Imagine visiting mount Sinai and going into a cave. You could be in the very cave Elijah was in when he talked with God! As for what God said to him, I would have been like, “Well, you sent the angel to me, what am I doing here?” But I think it’s more than that. God knows everything already. He knows why Elijah is there. But I think he wants Elijah to find out why he’s here. Rather than a direct question, I think it’s one to make him think. Here is Elijah’s reply:
“I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain the prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
At first I could not understand this verse because of the us of the word “jealous”. But I think I have it figured out. Jealous means to want something. Elijah is wanting the Lord God of Hosts. Is that why he retreated to Beersheba? That was the closest place he could go where he thought he could seek the Lord. Since that was where Isaac saw the Lord. Maybe he thought the same would happen? But instead an angel tells him to go to mount Horeb to find God.
What Elijah tells tells God is pretty sad. The children of Israel have pretty much gone down the drain and all the prophets have been killed except him. But even now, the soldiers of queen Jezebel and king Ahab are seeking Elijah’s life. Life as he know it seems as if it is going to end. Do you think Elijah witnessed the killing of the other prophets? Obadiah knew Elijah beforehand. Elijah may have been one of the one hundred prophets Obadiah hid from the king. Maybe the soldiers found them anyway and only Elijah escaped or maybe they all escaped and over the next few years, Elijah witnessed or heard about his prophet buddies getting killed. That would be hard. It would add another personal layer of sorrow, knowing that all your friends died.
This next part is a little confusing. The Lord tells him to go up upon the mount before the Lord. Then the Lord passes by him. A great and strong wind rends the rocks of the mountain. But the Lord was not in the rocks or the wind. After that, an earthquake. But the Lord was not in that either. Then a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after that, a still small voice. The part that confuses me is whether he is on mount Horeb or close by. If he’s close by, going up on the mount makes sense. Maybe at the foothills in a cave. I thought he was already up in the heights thereof. When the Lord tells him to you go up on the mount, I thought it meant that he would go higher up. I don’t think it makes sense though, what follows this is more important and besides, he never gets there.
As Elijah is leaving, there are rocks falling, an earthquake, a fire and then a still small voice. What do you think Elijah learned from this? Probably nothing immediately (I’d be way too scared to learn!) Perhaps a better question is, what can we learn from this experience as intelligent 21st century beings?
I think we learn that while God is capable of such great thing as wind, fire, and earthquakes, he doesn’t use those thins to talk to us. God wasn’t in them. Rather, he’s in a still small voice that will penetrate us if we listen well. Let’s look at the footnotes one scripture at a time. Job 4:15-16. It is talking about the spirit talking in a voice. It doesn’t have visible form but you can still feel it. I like that he (Job) says it made his hair stand on end. Everyone feels the Holy Ghost differently. Everyone has different reactions when they receive revelations from God. Also cross reference Helaman 5:30. It says a similar thing to what is said in kings but it adds to it that it pierces us to the very soul. I really like that. I know that I have already written that you feel the Holy Ghost when your heart is telling you things that your mind doesn’t know. You are pierced to the center and your brain, being the logical side can’t comprehend it at first. People say the truth hurts. It’s true. God is truth. His truth pierces us to the very center and call us to repentance. I don’t know if this is true but I think this may be the first reference to the spirit as a still small voice (in kings). If so, that would be cool. The only reason I think that is because all the cross references in the footnotes that are for still small voice come after the book of kings.
Lamentation Turns to Faith
Elijah hears the voice and wraps his face in his mantle. he goes by the entrance of the cave and the voice says to him, “What doest thou here Elijah?” Why did the Lord say the same questions twice? I’ll offer an explanation. I feel like the second time the question was asked, it wasn’t directed as a question or even an indirect question of “Why are you here?” I feel like this time, God is asking a, “what did you learn or what are you going to to?” Like, “I have given you direction and taught you so why are you here? What have you learned?” Does that make sense?
Elijah’s answer is interesting and of note. He says the exact same thing he did the last time with all the same punctuation-everything. But! There is a difference! There are more cross references at the bottom. Let me tell you why this is significant. Footnote 14a changes “jealous” to “zealous.” That one word changes the meaning of the verse completely. Also at the same time, it makes sense the first time he gives this reply more meaningful. In verse 10, the footnote says rejection of the prophets. This making the first time seem like a lamentation. The second time he says it, changing the jealous to zealous make it a declaration of faith.
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars and slain thy prophets with the sword and I, even I only, am left. And they seek my life to take it away.”
See how much more powerful that is? What a boss thing to say!
The Lord tells Elijah to return to the wilderness of Damascus and anoint Hazael king over Syria. And that is where we will pick up next time!