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Deeper Commentary

1Ki 19:1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword-
We wonder whether Elijah personally presided over the genocide of 450 priests. Ahab had made no protest, and I suggested on 1 Kings 18:46 that he did in fact repent. The coming of rain in response to Elijah's prayer and the peoples' rejection of Baal surely urged him to accept that it was 'game over' for Baal worship. At least, at that time.

1Ki 19:2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I don’t make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time!-
Elijah had returned with Ahab to Jezreel. So he was there in the city, apparently hoping that Ahab would stand up to Jezebel, and perhaps she too would realize that Baal worship was now a hopeless cause.


1Ki 19:3 When he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there-
The Elijah who fearlessly came before Ahab and the thousands of idolaters at Carmel... now flees before an angry woman. I suggested on 1 Kings 18:46 that the exhilarating run to Jezreel, in the power of the Spirit, set Elijah up for the devastating news that Jezebel had not repented and Ahab was apparently supporting her, or at least not asserting his kingship against her. And thence he crashed into the depression we now read of. The history here has absolute psychological credibility, even though Elijah's faith should have been more resolute. He fled to the very south of Judah, territory not under Ahab's control.


1Ki 19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, It is enough. Now, O Yahweh, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers-
By walking out alone into the desert he was effectively attempting suicide. If Elijah was a Gentile (see on 1 Kings 17:1), he would be feeling that he was no really better than a Gentile idolater (see on :5)- because he had failed to convert or see judgment upon Jezebel. Perhaps he had some particular complex of feelings and histories with her which led him to this manic state once she tried to kill him.

“Enough” is the same Hebrew word picked up and used by the Angel- “the way is too great [‘enough’] for you” (1 Kings 19:7), and he does eventually eat and not die, living life now only thanks to the provision of food by Angels, going on a 40 day wilderness journey towards Sinai. All this of course is replete with reference to Israel’s wilderness journey, during which they only survived by eating “Angel’s food”, the food provided by Angels (Ps. 78:25). And as Elijah well knew, that generation were sinful and worshipped the idols they had smuggled out of Egypt with  them. To stay alive, he had to eat that food and go in that miraculously provided strength. And so he was forced to see the similarity between himself and rebellious Israel in the wilderness. Likewise earlier God had fed him through the medium of the unclean raven, and the unclean Gentile woman. But Elijah had had enough of these pointed digs, and he asks God to take his life away- alluding to how Jezebel wanted to do this, as if trying to pressurize God into taking away his life rather than Jezebel (1 Kings 19:4, 10).


1Ki 19:5 He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, Arise and eat!-
The situation is allusive to the Gentile, spiritually weak Hagar being found at the point of death and preserved by an Angel in the same wilderness (Gen. 16:9; 21:17). Elijah in his rebellion against God's intended ministry for him was no better than her. Perhaps that is what he refers to being no better than his (Gentile) fathers; see on :4. And we will see on :6 that he is taught that the Gentile widow whom he had earlier despised was also on God's side more than he was.    


1Ki 19:6 He looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on the coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again-
The woman “gathering sticks” (1 Kings 17:10) would likely have stimulated his Bible-steeped mind to think of the illegal gathering of sticks in Num. 15:32,33. But she gave him meal cake and water. Later, the Angel gave Elijah cake and water (1 Kings 19:6 LXX "a cake of meal") just as the unclean ravens and Gentile widow woman had done- to teach Elijah that God works through those people. There were two occasions in which God fed Elijah with a cake when he was hungry. Once when the widow woman baked him one (1 Kings 17:13), and once when the Angel did (1 Kings 19:6). Surely God was trying to show Elijah that He was manifested through that desperately poor, weak, sick, starving widow woman who was at the point of death from starvation. It was the same message- that God wasn’t in the earthquake and fire, but in the still small voice.


1Ki 19:7 The angel of Yahweh came again the second time, and touched him and said, Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you-
He had been empowered by the Spirit to run all the way from Carmel to Jezreel, running at the speed of horses (1 Kings 18:46). But now the Spirit had been withdrawn from him. The journey was too great for him in his own strength. God would indeed give him food for the journey, but in a manner reminiscent of the Gentile widow who had earlier sustained him (see on :6). He had not learned the lessons from that, and they had to be repeated here; see on :8.


1Ki 19:8 He arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the Mount of God-
Elijah goes in the strength of a little food just as the widow’s flour didn’t run out. He is being paralleled with the Gentile widow woman- either to reinforce the lesson taught, or because he had failed to learn the lesson that he truly was no better in essence than a Gentile woman; see on :7. One wonders whether he not only despised Gentiles but women too... hence the way God sought to teach him the parallel between Himself and that woman.

God 'set up' Elijah's experience at Horeb / Sinai to compare and contrast with that of Moses. There are so many intended similarities between Elijah's meeting God at Horeb and Moses' meetings with God at Sinai- the same place, it seems. In both records it is called "the mount of God" (Ex. 3:1; 18:5; 24:13); there was a journey through the desert both before and after the meeting; the use of the number forty (Ex. 34:28; Num. 14:34 cp. 1 Kings 19:8); miraculous provision of food by God; an accompanying Angel; a cave, standing on a rock, Yahweh passing by, covering the face (Ex. 33:21-23; 34:5,6), earthquake, wind and fire (Ex. 19). Moses met with God there, and received the words of God. Elijah was all set up for the same. But it doesn't happen. Yahweh Himself doesn't appear; and instead of words of command, there is a deafening silence- for I understand the "still small voice" to actually be silence, and that silence was in itself a voice / word to Elijah. And then when God finally does say something, it is simply: "What are you doing here, Elijah?". Surely Elijah saw himself as Moses, and was looking forward to being given a covenant, and seeing a special manifestation of Yahweh. But instead, silence. No appearance of God, and finally, the great anticlimax of being asked what exactly he's doing there. The similarities with the Moses history were arranged by God, but surely they played along with Elijah's assumption that he was the next Moses. Perhaps he idolized Moses, as men today idolize heroes, e.g. from earlier days of their denomination. Elijah was being taught that actually, he was not Moses; God had no such message or covenant or special revelation to give him. And there is a type of believer who needs this same lesson; that God speaks through silence and insignificance to us. We are to be ourselves, and not to ever seek to replicate the experiences or spiritual path of faithful men who have gone before us. Such desires are really a running away from our personal responsibilities.


1Ki 19:9 He came there to a cave, and lodged there-
Heb. "the cave", referring to the cave Moses entered in Ex. 33:12, from where he viewed the great theophany. Moses too was an upright man. But he had to be humbled, until he cowered in the rock as sinners will do before the excellence of God’s glory (Is. 2:21), before he could appreciate Yahweh’s glory. And Elijah too had to go through the same experience (1 Kings 19:9-12). Eliphaz likewise recounted how an Angel had passed before him, as the Angel passed before Moses and Elijah, and through this he came to realize the essential truth of man’s sinfulness and desperate need for repentance and God’s gracious acceptance (Job 4:16).

And behold, the word of Yahweh came to him, and he said to him-
This personification of “the word of the Lord” surely refers to an Angel who spoke to Elijah. When we read that the Lord was not in the fire etc., but was in the “still small voice”, perhaps the idea is that the Angel was not visible in the fire, earthquake, wind etc.- but He simply stood there at the end in front of Elijah and quietly spoke to him. The Angel, in a magnificent manifestation of the ‘humility’ of God, was quietly spoken and calm (“still”). The Angel was inviting Elijah to be like Him, to be God manifest by following the pattern of his guardian Angel. 

What are you doing here, Elijah?-
Literally the text reads: “Elijah, Elijah, Elijah”. The three repeats of his name in the Hebrew text connect with the earthquake, wind and fire, and Elijah’s triple repeating of the same prepared statement. In his bitterness, Elijah sought to cut himself off from all consideration of his possibility of being wrong, or sensibly dialoguing with the Father. He just repeats the same words three times, as meaninglessly as the earthquake, wind and fire. Elijah hid his face in his mantle rather than face up to the true glory of God, the true fire from Heaven. The only other time Elijah sees the glory of God he threw away his mantle- as if he finally recognized he had been shielding himself from the real reality of it so that he could seek his own glory? The glory of God is His Name and character. To face up to this, believing it rather than merely knowing it, will bring us to repentance and a real facing up to the reality that we are truly not better than anyone else, in the light of the surpassing excellence of His glory. And Elijah just didn’t want to face up to it, just as we can not want to face up to the realities of what we know.  

Elijah was in "the cave" (Heb.) where Moses had been, and he had rather fancied himself as Moses when he bad the people draw near to him (1 Kings 18:30). Now he was being told that he was not as Moses. For Moses was the meekest man, and Elijah had not allowed himself to be humbled as Moses did. 


1Ki 19:10 He said, I have been very zealous for Yahweh, the God of Armies; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars and slain Your prophets with the sword. I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away-
Elijah's focus on Israel's sinfulness may have been tainted with the syndrome of pulling others down to make yourself look taller. He says repeatedly: "I have been very zealous for Yahweh... for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant... and I, even I only, am left". It's as if he felt that his zeal [s.w. "jealous" ] was in the fact they were apostate and he wasn't. His zeal for the Lord was, he reasoned, in being the only one left when they had all quit. And this basic mistake has hamstrung us- you are righteous, zealous, a defender of the Faith, if you merely hold on to a certain academic proposition of truth which others are rumoured or assumed to have apostatized from. Zeal for the Lord surely involves infinitely more than this. Elijah prayed his prayer from the cave mouth, protesting his own righteousness as he cowered before the glory of the Lord. Yet the same word occurs in Is. 2:12,13, where apostate Israel will hurl away their idols and then cower in a cleft / cave of the rock before the presence of Yahweh’s glory. The connection perhaps shows that although Elijah was so proudly not an idolater, yet his pride and arrogance was essentially the same. On one hand Elijah may have gloried in the similarities between his position and that of Moses, when God’s glory passed by him in the cleft of the rock; and yet Moses too was effectively being rebuked and humbled for his pride.

God tried to correct Elijah’s despising of the other prophets of the Lord. Elijah was in a cave, and was also fed bread and water- just as the other prophets were (1 Kings 18:4). And yet Elijah didn’t see, or didn’t want to see, that connection- after having been reminded of this experience of the other prophets, he claims that “I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:22)- he wrongly believed that all other valid prophets had been slain. In fact the record shows how that during Elijah’s lifetime there were other prophets of Yahweh active in His service (1 Kings 20:13,35), as well as the schools of the prophets mentioned at the time, and the 100 prophets whom Obadiah hid. And yet the lesson is that God still works through the conceited, the spiritually superior, those who despise their brethren. God didn’t give up on Elijah because he was like this, and neither should we give up in our relationship with such brethren.

Rom. 11:2,3 interprets this as Elijah actually interceding with God against Israel, asking for Him to destroy them all, apart from himself. This is a feature of many prayers: not to crudely, directly ask for the obvious; but to simply inform the Almighty of the situation, in faith. Examples include: Gen. 19:24; 2 Chron. 14:11; Ps. 3:1-4; 142:1,2; Jn. 11:21,22;  Ps. 106:44 cp. Is. 64:3. Elijah's real motives were read, and understood as a prayer to God. And yet his ministry had been intended to reform Israel. But he just wants to see sinner judged. Therefore his ministry was removed from him.


1Ki 19:11 He said, Go out, and stand on the mountain before Yahweh. Behold, Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before Yahweh; but Yahweh was not in the wind. After the wind an earthquake; but Yahweh was not in the earthquake-
The Angel tells Elijah to actually go and stand before the Lord and learn what it really meant to stand before the Lord, as he had said he did in 1 Kings 17:1; so he had to literally stand before the Angel as He passed by. Yet Elijah hid his face; he was no longer so happy to be before the Lord once he realized the humility and breaking in pieces of a proud man’s spirit that it really implies. 

When Elijah was told to go and stand upon mount Horeb [i.e. Sinai] before the Lord, this was evidently seeking to invite him to understand how Moses felt (Ex. 24:12; 34:12). Yet as noted on :9, he was being told that because he had not humbled himself as Moses, he could not be Moses. But he had potentially been set up as a new Moses, but he wasted the potential by his own pride. Consider the following parallels:
Confronted Ahab (1 Kings 17:1) - Confronted Pharaoh (Exod. 5:1)
Fled into the wilderness fearing for his life (1 Kings 19:3) - Fled into the wilderness fearing for his life (Exod. 2:15)
Miraculously fed “...bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening...” (1 Kings 17:6)-Miraculously fed “...meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning...” (Exod. 16:8, 12)
Spoke authoritatively for the Lord in his own name (1 Kings 17:1) - Spoke authoritatively for the Lord in his own name (Deut. 5:1)
Gathered all Israel to Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:19) - Gathered all Israel to Mount Sinai (Exod. 19:17)
Combated the prophets of Ba’al (1 Kings 18:20-40) - Combated the magicians of Pharaoh (Exod. 7:8-13, 20-22; 8:1-7)
Successful in his intercession for Israel to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (1 Kings 18:36-39) - Successful in his intercession for Israel to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Exod. 32:11-14)
Elijah took twelve stones at Carmel “...according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob...” (1 Kings 18:30-32) - Moses had twelve pillars set up at Sinai “...corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel...” (Exod. 24:4)
The Lord accepted Elijah’s offering by sending fire from heaven and consuming it completely. The people threw themselves down on their faces. (1 Kings 18:36-39)- The Lord accepted Moses and Aaron’s offering by sending fire from heaven and consuming it completely. The people threw themselves down on their faces. (Lev. 9:22-24)
By Elijah’s authority 3 000 idolatrous prophets were slain (1 Kings 18:40) - By Moses’ authority 3 000 idolaters were slain (Exod. 32:25-29)
After killing the prophets of Ba’al Elijah climbed Carmel to pray. (1 Kings 18:42) - After killing the idolaters Moses climbed Sinai to pray (Exod. 32:30)
Went without food for forty days and forty nights (1 Kings 19:8) - Went without food for forty days and forty nights (Exod. 34:38; Deut. 9:9)
Elijah (re)commissioned at Horeb (=Sinai) (1 Kings 19) - Moses commissioned at Sinai (Exod. 3)
Elijah was in “the cave” on Horeb (=Sinai) when the Lord “passed by” (1 Kings 19: 9-11) - Moses was hidden “in the cleft of the rock” when the Lord passed by Sinai. (Exod. 33:21-23)
Elijah saw storm, wind, an earthquake and fire upon Horeb (=Sinai). (1 Kings 19:11-12) - Moses saw storm, wind, an earthquake and fire upon Sinai. (Exod. 19:16-20; 20:18; Deut. 4:11; 5:22-27).
Prayed that he might die. (1 Kings 19:1-4) - Prayed that he might die. (Num. 11:10-15).
The Lord brought down fire from heaven upon his enemies. (2 Kings 1:9-12) - The Lord brought down fire from heaven upon those who rebelled against him. (Num. 16; cf. Lev. 10:1-3)
Elijah parted the waters of the Jordan by striking the waters with his cloak and passed over on dry ground. (2 Kings 2:8) - Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea by stretching out his staff and passed over on dry ground. (Exod. 14:16, 21-22)
His successor was one who had served him and came to resemble him in many ways, parting the waters of the Jordan as he had. ( 2 Kings 2) - His successor was one who had served him and came to resemble him in many ways, parting the waters of the Jordan as he had the Red Sea. (Josh. 3)
Was taken away in the Transjordan. (2 Kings 2:9-11) - Died in the Transjordan. (Deut. 34:5)
Mysteriously translated  (2 Kings 9-18) - Died mysteriously and buried in a valley, but his burial place was unknown. (Deut. 34:6).


The point of these similarities was that the Angel wanted Elijah to be like Moses; to pray for the peoples’ salvation, to return to the people and lead them and teach them. Moses had begged for God’s mercy for His people; but Elijah was so full of self-justification that he prayed against Israel. And so with us, we are potentially led into situations where we are to discern the similarities between us and Bible characters; we are set up with opportunities to respond in a way that reflects how we have learnt the lessons from them. The way the Lord Jesus perceived this in His wilderness temptations is a great example. In 2 Kings 2:8, at the very end of his public ministry, he smites the waters of Jordan and they open for him to pass over on dry ground, just as Moses did. Perhaps he was trying still to assert himself as Moses; or maybe he had finally arrived at the required humility, and so was permitted to act as Moses. And that is why he is given a role parallel to Moses  at the transfiguration.

When the Lord passed by, there was a whirlwind which broke “in pieces the rocks before the Lord” (1 Kings 19:11). Yet it was Elijah who described himself as the one who stood before the Lord- and even prided himself on this (1 Kings 17:1). He was the rock being broken in pieces by the display of God’s glory. And insofar as we too meditate upon the glory of His character, the attributes outlined in, e.g., Ex. 34:4-6, we likewise will be broken men and women. The “earthquake” is the same word found in Ez. 3:12,13 about a theophany / passing of the cherubim chariot. That whole display of God’s physical glory was intended to stop Elijah just repeating his prepared statement [he says the same thing 3 times]. Grasping the wonder of who God really and essentially is can and must shake us from the mediocrity of entrenched positions, of forms of expressing and understanding our faith which are mere set formulas... See on 1 Kings 21:29.


1Ki 19:12 After the earthquake a fire passed; but Yahweh was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice-
God Almighty spoke to the man Elijah in a still [Heb. whispering] small [s.w. "thin" Lev. 13:30; "beaten small" Lev. 16:12; "dwarf" Lev. 21:20] voice. The awesome God of Sinai spoke in the whispering voice of a dwarf, which compared to Elijah’s loud voice. This is not only an essay in the humility of God. It is an essay in how God so earnestly seeks to persuade His children that He works in the small, humble way. And this is contrasted with the loud, booming voice and personality of Elijah. And it isn’t what God wants. Here there is a lesson for any loud mouthed, self-confident, razzamatazz way of presenting the Gospel; it just isn’t to be done. For this is not how God works.

The word was and is God. Dt. 4:12 [Heb.] says that Israel heard God's voice and saw no similitude save a voice. To hear the word is to in that sense see God; for the word was and is God. There are other connections between seeing God and hearing His word in Ex. 20:21 and 1 Kings 19:12-14. Observe the parallelism in 2 Chron. 20:20: "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper". Our attitude to God is our attitude to His word. Because the word is so pure, therefore we love it (Ps. 119:140). John Carter rightly observed: "Upon our understanding of what the Bible is, our attitude to it will be determined".


1Ki 19:13 It was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. Behold, a voice came to him, and said, Why are you still here, Elijah?-
"Still here" suggests Elijah should have repented of his pride, and realized that he was not like Moses, and should not be standing in "the cave" where Moses had stood. But Elijah insisted on still standing before Yahweh in his won strength. He wrapped his face [s.w. “before” the Lord] in his mantle and “stood” [s.w. ‘stand’ before the Lord] in the cave mouth before the Angel. In Hebrew, the words for ‘face’ and ‘before’ are the same. Too ashamed to really stand before the Lord, Elijah therefore wrapped his face. Earlier, he had been so keen to use this phrase of himself (1 Kings 17:1; 18:15); he had prided himself on the fact that he stood before the Lord. But now he hid his face, a common idiom often used by God for withholding fellowship. The fact we too are God’s covenant people can initially be a source of pride to us as we do our theological gladiatorship with others. But the implications are so far deeper; and through Angelic work in our lives, we too are brought to see this.

The word for “mantle” is translated “glory” in Zech. 11:3; Elijah wrapped his presence in his own glory, rather than face up to the implications of God’s glory. A desire for our own glory prevents us perceiving God’s glory. Perhaps Elijah was being pseudo-humble, misquoting to himself a Biblical precedent in all this, namely that the cherubim wrapped their faces (Is. 6:2). In this case. Elijah was doing a false impersonation of the cherubim, manifesting himself before God’s manifestation of Himself. Only at the very end does Elijah cast away his mantle (2 Kings 2:13), his human strength, allowing himself to merge with God’s glory. He should have cast away his mantle earlier, when he stood before the still small voice on Horeb.

The question “Why are you still here, Elijah?” may imply that Elijah should have allowed himself to be carried away by the cherubim, he should have surrendered himself to the progress of God’s glory, rather than so obsessively insist upon his own personal rightness and the wrongness of others. And this was why God’s ultimate response to Elijah’s attitude on Horeb was to dismiss him from his prophetic ministry and instate Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). Elijah seems to have finally learnt his lesson, for he calls Elisha to the ministry by ‘passing by’ Elisha as in a theophany, taking off his mantle and throwing it upon Elisha (1 Kings 19:19). He realized that he had hidden behind that mantle, using it to resist participating in the selfless association with God’s glory [rather than his own] to which he was called. But he got there in the end; hence the enormous significance of Elijah giving up his mantle when he finally ascends to Heaven in the cherubim chariot (2 Kings 2:13). 


The question implies that it was wrong for Elijah to have been still in the cave of Moses on Horeb / Sinai. He ought to have realized he was not Moses now, his pride had precluded it. It seems from 1 Kings 19:8 that he himself chose to go there; dwelling in a cleft / cave of the rock is reminiscent of Moses in Sinai in Ex. 34. But Moses was praying for Israel, whereas Elijah was interceding against them, Paul tells us (Ron. 11:2,3). Could it even be that Elijah went down there to Sinai with the idea of somehow asking that a new Israel be formed out of him, as God had offered Moses? Whether this be so or not, the clear implication is that  God was not pleased with what Elijah was doing there. When asked what he was doing, he just repeats verbatim his prayer of intercession against Israel. So on one hand, he shouldn't have been praying that prayer. On the other, he was heard- for God's response is to tell him to anoint Jehu, Hazael and Elisha to destroy apostate Israel, even though He would preserve the 7,000 remnant. So again we see the same theme with Elijah- his undoubted faith in prayer is recognized; he prays for judgment on Israel in a way that is not altogether wrong, and yet sadly differs from the higher spirit of grace which there is in Christ.


1Ki 19:14 He said, I have been very zealous for Yahweh, the God of Armies; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down your altars and slain Your prophets with the sword. I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away-
He laments that Israel had “thrown down” Yahweh’s altars, perhaps pointing the contrast with the way he threw himself down in prayer to Yahweh. The same word is used in Ex. 23:24 about throwing down pagan altars. Elijah was saying that they treated Yahweh’s altars as if they were pagan. But is there any evidence they ever rejected Yahweh like this? Is not Elijah imputing motives to them? Derelict altars of Yahweh- the “high places” which they were repeatedly criticized for- Elijah interpreted as thrown down. To throw them down was a good thing if done from the right motives. But Elijah was in a mindset of seeing and imagining the very worst of his brethren.

The triumph on Carmel involved making an offering on an altar of Yahweh which was in one of the “high places” (1 Kings 18:30)- whereas Israel were repeatedly criticized for offering on these “high places” and not in Jerusalem. Elijah even criticizes Israel for throwing down these “high places” altars of Yahweh (1 Kings 19:10,14). Surely Elijah knew that the use of the high places was not what Yahweh ideally wanted; and yet he was driven to use a high place in this way. And with us, God will work through circumstances to remove from us the crutches of mere religion, to challenge the essence of our faith and relationship with Him. The way Ezekiel had to eat unclean food and defile himself is another such example. 


1Ki 19:15 Yahweh said to him, Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria-
God was indeed going to judge Israel, but not by such a judgmental, angry, bitter person like Elijah. And even now, Elijah doesn't actually do what he is told; he doesn't anoint Jehu nor Hazael to destroy Israel (2 Kings 9:3). It's hard to decide whether this was disobedience or rather an awkward realization that he had been praying with too harsh a spirit for something that would have been best left to God. It's such a warning. It is interesting to compare Elijah's attitude with how Elisha weeps tears over Hazael, knowing how much damage he is going to do to Israel in response to Elijah's prayer (2 Kings 8:12).


1Ki 19:16 You shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah to be prophet in your place-
Remember that Elijah considered that he alone was faithful in Israel. If he knew Elisha or Shaphat (and the immediate response of :19 suggests he did), he would likely have wanted to protest 'But he's not sincere, his dad's not a genuine believer, it's all just words with him!', or something similar. But he was being taught that those whom he had written off spiritually, such as Obadiah and the Gentile widow, were in fact just as much God's children as he was. We note that Elijah is not recorded as anointing any of these men.


1Ki 19:17 It shall happen, that he who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and he who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill-
This was largely a prophesy of potentials. There is no record that Elijah anointed Hazael nor Jehu; nor that Elisha killed anyone. It was a potential scenario, perhaps precluded from the start by Elijah's refusal to be obedient to the command to anoint Hazael and Jehu. Perhaps he finally realized that he had been far too judgmental, and didn't want more judgment to flow. And he recognized his unworthiness and failure in his ministry by anointing Elisha to replace him.


1Ki 19:18 Yet will I leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which has not kissed him-
Elijah, as many an isolated preacher, felt that he alone was faithful. Yet he was reminded that Yahweh had left Himself 7,000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. It is easy to assume that this means that those 7,000 were out there in Israel but unknown to Elijah. However it is possible to read the Hebrew text as meaning ‘I have marked off 7,000 potentially, now Elijah, stop moaning, go out there and find them and convert them’. This would be why Elijah prayed that the people would see that God had already turned their heart back (1 Kings 18:37)- He had potentially enabled their conversion. Something similar may be hinted at in Jn. 1:7, where we read that all of Israel could have believed due to the work of John. It was potentially possible.

The Hebrew for “left” can imply that God had preserved potentially the 7,000- or, that there simply were 7,000 faithful right then in Israel. Yet Elijah clearly discounted them. The more God sought to teach Elijah that he really was not alone, that his view of others was far too dismissive, the more Elijah became almost bitter with God. The conversion of Israel on Carmel turned out, I suggest, a surprise for Elijah. He wasn’t expecting them to start chanting “El is Yah”, “The Lord, He is the God”. They were chanting his name- Elijah. But he turns and runs to Jezreel, and then goes out into the desert and becomes suicidal. Effectively he preferred the life of the lonely spiritual hero, with the people in apostasy; and there are many such examples of brethren who prefer a life of self-imposed exile because of the supposed errors of God’s people- no matter what good there is amongst their brethren. And actually, deny it as we may, we all have an element of this deep within us.

There is such a thing as feeling lonely when we needn’t. Elijah is an example of this; he felt that he was “left alone” faithful in Israel- even though there were another 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (Rom. 11:3). The Hebrew in 1 Kings is hard to translate. It could mean that God reserved 7,000 of Elijah’s brothers and sisters who potentially would not bow the knee to Baal. Yet Elijah didn’t want to see the potential of his brethren. He set himself in a league above them, like the Psalmist, saying in his haste that all men are liars (Ps. 116:11).

 

The one hundred prophets of 1 Kings 18:4 were presumably part of the 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. And maybe they weren’t that strong- they are set up as representative of those who will only be saved by grace, not their works (Rom. 11:4-6). But, by implication, Elijah, for all his love of Israel, did not look upon them through the eyes of grace. Elijah insisted that he alone was “left”; yet God says that He has “left” Himself the 7,000 (1 Kings 19:18). The preservation of the people of God, or ‘the truth’, can be done, and is done, by God Himself; yet the likes of Elijah consider that it is they who ‘preserve the truth’. Again, Elijah had to learn that we are all saved by grace. God will leave for and to Himself His people, without requiring the help of man. Elijah struggled with this issue of accepting others and not thinking he was the only one who could do the job right up to the end of his ministry; for he ascends to Heaven clutching his mantle, the sign of his prophetic ministry. It seems to me that he took it with him because he felt that not even Elisha was really fit to do the job and take his place; but perhaps in what were possibly the last seconds of his mortal life, he learnt his lesson and let go of it, allowing it to fall to the earth to let another man take it up. 

Some manuscripts and LXX say that Elijah was leaving 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal, which would imply that his ministry was being ended because he had not ministered to them. He had considered them apostate and himself as the only true Yahweh worshipper left in the land. This is a powerful warning to the tendency toward spiritual elitism which seems such a common human temptation.

 

1Ki 19:19 So he departed to there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing, with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed over to him, and threw his mantle on him-
God’s rejection of Elijah as prophet was because he didn’t recognize his brethren. See on :13. Perhaps the 12 yoke was to keep alive the prophetic hope that Judah and Israel would be united in repentance toward the prophetic message. Elijah had built an altar of 12 stones and offered an acceptable sin offering upon it, speaking of the same prophetic intention. Elijah apparently didn't anoint Hazael and Jehu as commanded; but he did give his ministry over to Elisha to replace him. I take that as humility from him, in the very end, although too late for God to continue to use him in ministry as initially intended.

However, "twelve yoke of oxen" could refer to an area of land known as a twelve yoke, or to 12 parcels of land.


1Ki 19:20 He left the oxen, and ran after Elijah-
Possibly implying that Elijah walked on immediately, as a test as to whether Elisha would respond immediately. Immediate response, "yes straight away", is what God so looks for. We see it in the call of the disciples.

And said, Let me please kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you. He said to him, Go back again; for what have I done to you?-
See on :16. The Lord Jesus makes an allusion here when He says that if anyone wants to follow Him but firstly must go home, then such a person is unworthy of Him (Lk. 9:61,62). He shows by this that He expects more of us than Elijah did; He is a more demanding Lord than Elijah, precisely because He is the more gracious. Elijah allowed him to return home first; "for what have I done to you?" is hard to understand, but it seems to mean to the effect that 'I am not myself being unreasonable; this call is not of me, I have not done this to you, but God has by calling you'. There could be there a possible hint of bitterness at his replacement by Elisha; see on :16. There is no record that Elijah ever anointed Elisha as he was commanded to.

1Ki 19:21 He returned from following him, and took the yoke of oxen, killed them and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave to the people and they ate. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and served him-
We have here an example of servant leadership. He had been given Elijah's mantle already (:19) and presumably Elijah had explained to him the Lord's word about transferring the ministry to Elisha. But Elisha begins by serving Elijah (2 Kings 3:11 implies in quite a menial way). His destruction of so many oxen and their yoke was really burning all his bridges to return home. His family may well have seen it as an unnecessary waste, as that may have represented a large part of their family wealth.