1 Kings 17

The Protecting of Elijah

The Prophecy of Elijah (1)

The book is going to turn and center on the clash between King Ahab of Israel and the prophet Elijah. Elijah was a prophet who came from the east side of the Jordan River. As with all kings of Judah and Israel, their goal was to expand their power and wealth. The concern of the prophets of Yahweh was to turn the hearts of the nation back to wholeheartedly following Yahweh. The clash between Ahab and Elijah was legendary.

Without introduction to the narrative Elijah appeared before Ahab—the text mentioning only that he was raised in rugged terrain east of the Jordan. According to Moses, when the nation drifted, Yahweh promised He would send prophets who were going to show up and call Israel to return and the nation would ultimately be judged by how they responded to those prophets (Deuteronomy 18:18-21).

Elijah did show up and announce to Ahaz the suspension of the rainy season from December and March and an end to the heavy dew season the rest of the year until he spoke an end to the drought (1).  

Elijah Hides at Cherith (2-7)

As soon as Elijah delivered his prophecy to Ahab, God directed him to a brook, east of the Jordan, back toward his home. He likely needed to flee to escape the anger of Ahab and the petition of a people who would grow thirsty and hungry as the famine continued (2-3). At the brook, Elijah was miraculously fed by ravens at the command of the Lord (4-6) and drank from the brook until one day the brook dried up (7).

Elijah Hides at Zarephath (8-16)

Once the brook dried up, the Lord directed Elijah to cross back over the Jordan River and travel to a village in Sidon called Zarephath. There he was told God's provision would continue to be under the radar as he would have a widow care for him (8-9). While being cared for under the radar, God did take Elijah to the home area of Jezebel, Ahab's wife, into the heart of Baal worship, just north of Tyre.

a) Elijah Asks for Water (10)

When Elijah came to the city's gate, there was a widow gathering sticks for her oven to cook the last of her bread. She was without husband, thus a means of income; she was gathering sticks, thus poor; and she was out of bread, thus the famine in Israel was affecting grain surplus among the Phoenicians. Elijah asked for some water, and as was customary, the widow considered it her sacred duty to fetch some (10).  

b) Elijah Asks for Bread (11-14)

As Elijah was drinking the water, he asked for a small piece of bread (11). The woman, recognizing him to be an Israelite, swore by Elijah's God, Yahweh, that she had just enough bread and oil to cook a last meal and she was planning on cooking it that day and then her and her son would prepare for death (12).

Elijah challenged her faith and called upon her to use the last of her flour and oil to make him a cake first and let him eat, and then Elijah promised by the Word of Yahweh that if she obeyed, her jar of flour would not empty and her jar of oil would not go void until the rain returned (13-14).

c) The Miracle of Provision (15-16)

The widow received the challenge and made Elijah the bread, and for many days the widow and her son, her relatives, and Elijah ate from the flour tin and the oil jar.

The Resurrection of the Widow's Son (17-24)

In time, the child grew so severely ill and weak that he could no longer breathe (17). The widow was certain that Elijah had brought her home to the attention to God and especially made Yahweh remember her past sins. She saw no other explanation for the death of her son except God was repaying her for her past (18). Elijah did not attempt to correct the woman's poor theology but asked for her son to be brought to him. He carried him to his room and laid him on his own bed (19). Once in the room, Elijah asked God why He had brought such a trial upon the woman who had shown him such hospitality. Oddly, the prophet himself was caught up in the deception of the death of the widow’s son being an act of God (20). We have no idea what the Lord said to Elijah, but we do know he moved him to lay across the child three times and cry out, "O Lord God, let this child's life come into him again."

It would seem Elijah was certain, no matter why the son had died and no matter how he thought God to be involved, the boy would be given his life back and the woman's sin had not been the cause or source of death within her home (21).  

Yahweh listened to Elijah, the boy was revived, and Elijah returned him to his mother wanting her to notice her son lived at the hand of merciful Yahweh (22-23). The widow did not express her full devotion to Yahweh but she did confess she believed Elijah to be a man sent from Yahweh as His spokesman and she also noted Elijah to be a man of truth (24).