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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on 1 Kings

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18.1–46 : Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

Ahab, like Baal, is powerless: He can find neither Elijah(v. 10 ) nor grass to keep his animals alive (v. 5 ). All the initiative must come from God and his prophet.The drought is soon to end, but it must be clear before then to all Israel (not only to the widow of Zarephath) who is truly God. There must be a public test of strength.

12 :

Similar transport of prophets is found in Ezek 3.14; 11.1; Bel 1.34–36; cf. 2 Kings 2.11.

17–24 :

Ahab holds Elijah responsible for what has happened: He is the troubler of Israel (v. 17; cf. Josh 6.18; 7.25 , where Achan's sin brings God's judgment on Israel). Elijah holds that it is Ahab's apostasy (the worship of the Baals, the various local manifestations of Baal) that has brought the “trouble.”

19 :

As the identity of the true troubler of Israel in Josh 7 was settled in public before “all Israel,” so also here all Israel is gathered on Mount Carmel (on the coast, about 35 km [22 mi] northwest of Jezreel) to resolve the matter. Asherah, see 14.5n.

21 :

Cf. Josh 24.15 .

22 :

Elijah apparently exaggerates for effect (cf. 18.4,13; 20.35–43; 22.1–28 ).

24 :

The LORD's association with fire (perhaps lightning) is well attested in the Bible (see Lev 9.24; 10.2; Num 16.35 ), and Baal was also thought of as a god who controls fire and lightning.

25–29 :

The prophets of Baal fail to get a god to answer them, and Elijah taunts them with some disrespectful suggestions for that failure (including the idea that he had wandered away—probably a euphemism for attending to bodily functions, relieving himself). They respond by slashing themselves with swords and lances (spears)—the kind of violent, prophetic frenzy also attested by the Egyptian traveler Wen‐Amon (around 1100 BCE) in Byblos, a city on the Phoenician coast to the north of Jezebel's hometown of Sidon.

29 :

They raved, lit. “they prophesied.” The time … of the oblation was sunset.

30–40 :

The twelve stones remind the people of their true identity as the LORD's people (vv. 30–31; cf. Gen 35.10 ); the pouring of water is designed to dispel any suggestion of spontaneous combustion here. Elijah's simple prayer stands in stark contrast to the dancing, shouting, and self‐mutilation of the prophets of Baal.

39 :

The words of the people, not of the prophet, are the climactic utterance.

40 :

Wadi Kishon, at the eastern base of Mount Carmel.

41–46 :

Ahab survives, for the moment, to join in the postsacrificial meal (v. 41 ).

42 :

The significance of Elijah's action is unclear; he may be exhausted, or praying for rain.

44 :

The cloud, although no bigger than a person's hand, is enough to assure Elijah that the drought is over.

45–46 :

He leaves for Jezreel, in the valley to the southeast, where Ahab and Jezebel had a palace ( 21.1 )—presumably because he thinks that the war is over.

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