New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


1Ki 18:1 It happened after many days, that the word of Yahweh came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show yourself to Ahab; and I will send rain on the earth-
Elijah said that there would be no rain "but according to my word" (1 Kings 17:1). His faith was undoubtedly based upon being attune to the will of God and His ways of working with His people, to the extent that he knew that because the word abided in him, he could ask what he wanted and it would be heard, because he asked according to God's will. But when the time comes for rain, we read that "the word of Yahweh [not Elijah's word] came to Elijah... saying... I will send rain upon the earth" (1 Kings 18:1). It seems Elijah was more interested in judging the people for their sins, than seeing their repentance. And he failed to recognize the repentance when it came. He will later insist that he alone is faithful to Yahweh. He discounted the 7000 who had not bowed to Baal, and the 100 prophets hidden by Obadiah; as well as Obadiah and the widow woman of 1 Kings 17. But perhaps all these faithful ones were those who had responded to the three years of drought. Even if Elijah discounted them.  

1Ki 18:2 Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria-
This was a risky thing to do, as Ahab and Jezebel had been searching everywhere for Elijah with a view to killing him. But Elijah is to be commended for obeying God's word.

1Ki 18:3 Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared Yahweh greatly-
We naturally wonder how he could have retained his responsible post at the palace of Baal worshippers. He presumably like Naaman must have gone through some motions of Baal worship. But his heart was "greatly" with Yahweh. Elijah will later state that he alone is faithful in Israel. Obadiah's surface level failure was enough for Elijah to write him off completely. And there is strong warning to us here.   

1Ki 18:4 for it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of Yahweh, that Obadiah took one hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water)-
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. 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 (1 Kings 19:10). 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). 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.

The fact Elijah was hidden by God meant that he was forced into fellowship with the prophets of Yahweh whom Obadiah hid in a cave. Elijah was thus intended to see a link between Obadiah and God, and himself and the other prophets of Yahweh. But Elijah’s pride didn’t let himself make the connection, just as ours often doesn’t. For he continued doubtful of Obadiah’s sincerity, and still insisted that he alone remained a faithful prophet of Yahweh- even though Obadiah had hidden one hundred other prophets from Jezebel’s persecution. Those one hundred prophets were presumably part of the 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

1Ki 18:5 Ahab said to Obadiah, Go through the land, to all the springs of water, and to all the brooks. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, so that we don’t lose all the animals-
This reflects the pitiful selfishness of Ahab. He like Solomon was obsessed with his horses, which a true king of Israel ought not to have had (Dt. 17:16,17). For Ahab, the worst thing about the famine was that there was no fodder for his prized herd of horses, and he personally is so concerned about it that he and the master of his household go around Israel searching for grass to feed them with, lest he have to slay them. 

1Ki 18:6 So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself-
As noted on :5, Ahab personally went out in search of fodder for his beloved but unlawful herd of horses, because they meant so very much to him. He was far less concerned about the fate of his people. If Obadiah had been a literalist, he would have challenged Ahab about the matter, citing the words of Dt. 17:16,17 as to how Israel's king shouldn't have horses; and arguing that he should accept the loss of them as a quite legitimate punishment for breaking the covenant. Obadiah didn't do this; instead he assisted in the search for fodder for the illegal horses. Yet he "feared Yahweh greatly"- that is the Divine comment upon him. We do indeed have the example of Daniel in Babylon, not defiling himself with the king's meat, and insisting on publically praying toward Jerusalem when this was forbidden. But the Bible also brings before us the example of Obadiah, who was not like that. And of Elijah, who condemned him as not really genuine, and was himself condemned for judging in that way.

1Ki 18:7 As Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, Is it you, my lord Elijah?-
Elijah must have been known as a prophet for Obadiah to recognize him. Presumably he had advertised the fact that the drought was because of his word (1 Kings 17:1), and was an invitation for Israel to accept that they were receiving the consequences of breaking the covenant and needed to repent.

1Ki 18:8 He answered him, It is I. Go, tell your lord, ‘Behold, Elijah is here!’-
Elijah is mocking Obadiah's addressing of him as "my lord" (:7). He is saying that Ahab is Obadiah's lord, and he did not accept Obadiah as one of his servants, nor a servant of Yahweh. Because Elijah considered himself the sole remaining Yahweh worshipper.

1Ki 18:9 He said, Wherein have I sinned, that you would deliver your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me?-
Again, Obadiah insists that he is Elijah's servant, and not that of Ahab. See on :8. We note that the widow woman likewise considered that Elijah was treating her as a sinner (1 Kings 17:18). Elijah came over as so spiritually superior that he made people feel bad about themselves. No wonder his ministry was taken away from him.

1Ki 18:10 As Yahweh your God lives-
This is exactly the language of the widow woman in 1 Kings 17:12. Elijah is being made to see the similarity between these two faithful people, who lived in totally different situations. But it seems he considered neither of them to be sincere worshippers of Yahweh; he later says that he alone was left faithful.

There is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you. When they said, ‘He is not here’, he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they didn’t find you-
As noted on :7, Elijah was known to be the one who had caused the famine. And Ahab wrongly assumed he had fled Israel so as not to have to endure the famine himself. 

1Ki 18:11 Now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, Behold, Elijah is here’-
Elijah evidently didn’t have too positive a view of anyone apart from himself- and that included faithful Obadiah. Obadiah repeatedly calls Elijah “my Lord” and describes himself as “your servant”; but Elijah responds to this by calling Obadiah the servant of Ahab- he tells him to go and tell “your Lord”, i.e. Ahab (1 Kings 18:7-14). Elijah is insisting that he and Obadiah have nothing in common- Obadiah serves Ahab, and he is nothing to do with Elijah. ‘Obadiah’ means ‘servant of Yahweh’- the name surely reflects very faithful parents to have called him that at the time of the Baal cult. But Elijah insists that Obadiah is really a servant of Ahab, not of Yahweh.

1Ki 18:12 It will happen, as soon as I am gone from you, that the spirit of Yahweh will carry you I don’t know where; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he can’t find you, he will kill me. But I, your servant, have feared Yahweh from my youth-
It seems it was a common occurrence for Elijah to be snatched away by the Spirit. His snatching away into the sky when Elisha replaces him needs to be read in this context. Which is why after that, the sons of the prophets go out looking for him, assuming he has been dropped down in some remote location. We should not therefore read that incident as meaning that Elisha was snatched up into Heaven. For no man has ascended to Heaven (Jn. 3:13).

1Ki 18:13 Wasn’t it told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of Yahweh, how I hid one hundred men of Yahweh’s prophets with fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water?-
Obadiah faithfully hid Yahweh's prophets, at the risk of his life; but when tested again in this matter, he was fearful to appear to Ahab to have been hiding Elijah's location (1 Kings 18:10-12). We can pass the test at one stage in our lives, and yet when the same test repeats later, we may still fail.

Elijah felt he was the only faithful man left in Israel. Yet 1 Kings 18:4 records how he was reminded that Obadiah had fed Yahweh’s prophets in a cave with bread and water. Elijah also had been hidden in a cave and fed with bread and water. 1 Kings 17:4,9; 18:4,13 all use the same Hebrew word for feed / fed / sustain. The connection was to try to teach him his linkage with the prophets, whom he felt were still apostate. God tries to teach us things but we often fail to grasp the potential understanding made possible; be aware that He is trying! Elijah was fed by both ravens and a widow, as the prophets were fed by Obadiah. The raven and the Gentile widow woman were both ‘commanded’ [s.w.] to feed Elijah by God. Both would have been seen by him as unclean. God repeatedly tried to teach Elijah that true spirituality is about doing what is counter-instinctive in terms of personal self-control- rather than about blasting others for their apostacy, hard words when provoked, etc. Hence God begins by making Elijah's very life depend upon being fed by unclean birds bringing him food. Those ravens had to avoid bringing him dead meat- which is their usual food. They had to surrender their food to him, when there was little food around; and they had to come up to a man and give him their food, all of which was counter-instinctive for ravens. And thus Elijah was shown that life itself, especially spiritual life, depends upon counter-instinctive behaviour. And within Elijah's personality type, to criticize and condemn others was instinctive behaviour.


1Ki 18:14 Now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, Behold, Elijah is here!’- and he will kill me-
If Ahab would have killed Obadiah for reporting a false sighting of Elijah, then how much more likely would he have been to have killed Obadiah for hiding the prophets in :13. So Obadiah is volunteering very personal information to Elijah, so desperate was he for Elijah to accept him as sincere. But for all that sacrifice and risk in sharing the information, Elijah would not accept him as genuine. For he considered only himself as genuine. 

1Ki 18:15 Elijah said, As Yahweh of Armies lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today-
To stand before Yahweh implied Elijah was a prophet, and he seems to love to emphasize this to Obadiah, considering Obadiah not at all the 'servant of Yahweh' which he claimed to be and which his name meant. Elijah implies that Obadiah was disbelieving the prophetic word by raising the concern he had.

1Ki 18:16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah-
We are invited to imagine what were Ahab's feelings. He had searched high and low for Elijah, seeking to kill him being responsible for the drought. And now he was invited to go and meet him.

1Ki 18:17 It happened that when Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, Is that you, you troubler of Israel?-
LXX "the perverter". Ahab justified his persecution of Elijah by reasoning that Elijah was perverting the true Israelite religion. See on :18.

1Ki 18:18 He answered, I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father’s house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of Yahweh, and you have followed the Baals-
One of Elijah’s problems was that because he spoke the truth, God confirmed his words; but this didn’t mean that Elijah himself was always morally acceptable to God. Thus Ahab accuses Elijah of being the one who troubles Israel, like Achan (Josh. 7:25), for whose sake many of the people suffered. Elijah replies that it is Ahab who is the troubler of Israel, the Achan character. And he lived up to this, for in his days they sought to rebuild Jericho, and the curse associated with Achan came true at that time (1 Kings 16:34). Elijah’s words were justified, just as the truth we speak to those around us may be- because it is the truth of God. But this doesn’t of itself mean that we are right before God personally, nor does it mean that we can in any way presume to ‘play God’.  

1Ki 18:19 Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel to Mount Carmel, and four hundred and fifty of the prophets of Baal, and four hundred of the prophets of the Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table-
Although these prophets were to be slain later in this chapter, we read again of Ahab having 400 false prophets later in his reign (1 Kings 22:6). So it seems that he didn't learn his lesson, and raised up another such group. This fits with the common theme of purges and repentances at the time of the kings needing to be repeated. For the purges were only surface level, despite all the evidence for them at the time.

1Ki 18:20 So Ahab sent to all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together to Mount Carmel-
Ahab is not recorded as saying anything further. He apparently doesn't accuse Elijah of anything else, and obeys what Elijah asks him to do. We wonder why Ahab and Jezebel allowed this great showdown. Perhaps the plan was to not only kill Elijah, but to destroy his religious credibility before all Israel. Perhaps they were to set up various bogus schemes for creating fire to consume the sacrifices, but they failed at the last minute.

1Ki 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you waver between the two sides? If Yahweh is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. The people answered him not a word-
When Elijah demands that the people chose which lord they will serve- Baal [=’lord’] or Yahweh, he is really getting to the very crux of spirituality- for truly, there can be no halting between the two opinions of serving Baal and serving Yahweh. The Lord Jesus surely based His words of Lk. 16:13 on those of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”. So although on one hand the Lord Jesus Himself quotes Elijah’s ‘truth’ approvingly, there is evidence galore that at the very same time, Elijah’s attitudes were far from Christ-like, as we will show below. At the very same time, Elijah mocks the Baal worshippers, teasing them to shout louder, because maybe their god has gone ‘in a journey’- a Hebraism for ‘gone to the toilet’ (1 Kings 18:27). This kind of mockery and crudeness is surely not how the Father and Son would have us act. Yet Elijah did this whilst at the same time deeply believing the fire would come down, and bringing it down by his faith. And saying other words which were alluded to with deep approval by the Lord.

Your own example of making clear choices, doing what is right before God rather than what is wise and smart in human eyes, will reveal a sense of clarity about you which will become inspirational to your brethren. Yours will not be one of those many lives that is paralyzed by constantly postponing the choices, by indecision, like Israel on Carmel, hopping backwards and forwards between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21), between your persona and your true person, which is Christ in you. Ultimately, the choice is not one of principles or doctrines or interpretations; it is between Christ and all the other things which would lead us away from Him. The essential choice is always between “Christ in you” and… her mother, your instincts, their self-perception imposed upon you, your self-interest. And in those choices there is no third road; we are at a T-junction, hour after hour. We chose either life or death (Dt. 30:19); we cannot serve two masters (Mt. 6:24). Insofar as you at least live a life that reflects this recognition, you will be a challenge to those around you.

How long will we halt between the two paths, never facing up to the choice? It's an agony to God, as was Laodicea's " neither hot nor cold" attitude. I sometimes wonder if say 90% of our prayer, our Bible reading, our spiritual activities, are all wasted because we are only half hearted about it. We don't (often) pray the prayer of dominant desire, or (often) read or (often) break bread with that spirit of total, total dedication and concentration. You must have, as I do, those all too fleeting moments of grasping the logic, the wonder, the imperative urgency of the fact there's no third way; that total devotion is the only choice. Cling on to those moments. Organize your life decisions around this spirit.

1Ki 18:22 Then Elijah said to the people, I, even I only, am left a prophet of Yahweh; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men-
Again we sense how arrogant and condemnatory is Elijah. Obadiah had recently reminded him of the 100 faithful prophets, and there were 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. There were also schools of the prophets operating (2 Kings 2:3,5,7) and various known prophets of Yahweh (1 Kings 22:8). But Elijah seems to be revelling here in standing with his back to the world. There are times when that is necessary, but it seems to have appealed to Elijah's personality type to set up a situation like this. And there are those within the body of believers who take an inappropriate encouragement from Elijah's attitude. Because he did indeed have faith and boldness, this didn't mean he had the hope and love without which even the faith to move mountains is of "no profit".   

135000 Midianites had faced Gideon's 300 men (Jud. 8:10). That works out at precisely 450 of the enemy for every one of Gideon's men. And it cannot be coincidence that Elijah describes himself as facing off as one man of God against 450 prophets of Baal on Carmel (1 Kings 18:22). Despite his arrogance and spiritual weakness, Elijah learned the lesson from Gideon's courageous example. This is how the Bible becomes a living word, the history is not dead but alive, because it has been carefully selected by God to show us that man is not alone, God is with us, no circumstance we face is in essence unique; others have trodden this path before.  


1Ki 18:23 Let them therefore give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under it; and I will dress the other bull, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under it-
The bull was offered as a sin offering, as bulls were at several points in the Mosaic legislation. Elijah's idea was that his sin offering would be accepted by God, and their offering rejected, making them as Cain to his Abel. But because of the acceptance of his sin offering, Israel's sin would be purged and therefore the rain would come. God went along with this plan, indeed all this may have been of His commanding. In which case we see that He was willing to accept sin offering offered by a third party, without the repentance of the people. For they only apparently repented (and even then, not for very long) after He had accepted the sin offering Elijah offered. We see here His prevenient grace, not simply responding to human repentance and spirituality, but taking huge initiatives. 

1Ki 18:24 You call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers by fire, let him be God. All the people answered, It is well said-
Elijah almost seems to have revelled in assuming all Israel were apostate when he met them on Carmel. He assumes they will all call on the name of their god Baal, whilst he alone would call on Yahweh. It definitely sounds as if he was setting himself up against them. And thus he asks God to make all Israel know Him (1 Kings 18:37), as if none of them did at that time- except himself. Elijah takes the language of God 'answering by fire' from the account of David's intercession for the plagued, sinful people in 1 Chron. 21:26 (same Hebrew words). Elijah saw himself as David, interceding to gain the forgiveness of impenitent third parties as a result of his sacrifice. And indeed there was an element of that. And in the final synthesis and unknowable equation of salvation, there is still a great role played by third parties in our salvation.

1Ki 18:25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, Choose one bull for yourselves, and dress it first; for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it-
Elijah purposefully set up the contest with the Baal worshippers so that he was alone against so many Baal worshippers; he rejoices almost that “you are many”. He didn’t invite any other worshippers of Yahweh; he was convinced that it was him against the world / the rest of the ecclesia. When we read Elijah inviting all the prophets of Baal to be gathered to Carmel, we expect him to match this by inviting the prophets of Yahweh- for we have just read that Obadiah hid 100 of them in a cave. But Elijah doesn’t. He asks Ahab to call “all Israel” there- he wanted to set himself up as alone against all Israel.

1Ki 18:26 They took the bull which was given to them and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, Baal, hear us! But there was no voice, nor any who answered. They leaped about the altar which was made-
"Leaped" is the word used for the limping of the people between Baal and Yahweh (:21). Even in the apparent passion and absolute devotion of leaping on the altar, they were in fact limping between Baal and Yahweh. And this is so for many religious people, even at the point of the height of their apparent devotions.

The idea of prophets was well known in the world around ancient Israel. The idea of a prophet was that a person was caught up in some kind of ecstasy, transported into some ‘other’ world, and leaving behind their humanity. The true prophets were different. Their inspiration was about being attuned to the mind of God, they remained very much in the flesh and in the world, and the subjects of their prophecy related to very real, human things- injustice, a guy building an extension on his house without paying the labourers. Not flashing lights and ethereal coasting through space. The pagan prophets (e.g. the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:26-29) worked themselves into a frenzy in order to reach a state of depersonalization and loss of consciousness, in the hope that then they would be filled with Divine consciousness. True prophets like Amos were absolutely different; the inspiration process required them to be fully in touch with their own consciousness and personality, and it was exactly through their humanity that the personality of God came through in the inspired words they spake and wrote. Amos perceived the Lord’s word, and then ‘butted in’ as it were, in full consciousness: “O Lord God, forgive, I beseech Thee! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” (Am. 7:2). This is the very opposite of the pagan prophets losing touch with their human senses and reasoning.

1Ki 18:27 It happened at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, Cry louder; for he is a god! Either he is musing, or he has gone aside to the toilet, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he sleeps and must be awakened-
Despite Elijah’s crude sarcasm about Baal being in the rest room, God didn’t give up working with Elijah, and Elijah still had a relationship with God. And this is how we have to see those brethren whom we perceive as arrogant and so terribly deficient in the spirit of Christ.

1Ki 18:28 They cried aloud, and cut themselves in their way with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them-
In 1 Kings 18:28 the prophets of Baal worshipped "in their way", AV “after their manner”- a Hebrew word normally translated 296 times “judgment”; they judged / condemned themselves, rather than needing Elijah to do so. And the word translated “cut” essentially means ‘to gather’. They gathered themselves together to condemnation and poured out their own blood. “Knives and lancets” is a phrase normally translated “swords and spears”. They lived out judgment upon themselves rather than Elijah needing to condemn them.

The Lord understood this when He speaks about the spirit of Elijah not being appropriate. His comment that He had “not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Lk. 9:56) must surely be connected with what He said just before that: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose [s.w. “destroy”] it” and vice versa (Lk. 9:24,25). The three words save, life, lose / destroy are all the same. There is surely a connection of thought here. But what is the Lord saying through it? The disciples like Elijah would have had their prayers heard- the fire of destruction could have come. But the Lord says that they don’t know the type of spirit they are of. His Spirit is one of saving and not destruction. Men destroy themselves by seeking to save themselves without Him. This is why the Lord could say that He Himself judged / condemned no man- each rejected man will have condemned himself. And so the same point is actually made within the Elijah story too.

1Ki 18:29 It was so, when midday was past, that they prophesied until the time of the offering of the offering; but there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any who responded-
There was no voice of response from Baal; and the implication may be that there was a voice from Yahweh in His response. But Elijah didn't hear it, for the thrill and noise of the fire coming down and consuming the sacrifice drowned it out. Perhaps this is referred to when Yahweh later tells Elijah that He is not [so much] in the wind and fire, but in the still small voice- which Elijah had not heard.

1Ki 18:30 Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me; and all the people came near to him-
Elijah may be alluding to how the people came near to Moses (Ex. 34:32). But he was shown that he was not as Moses; see on 1 Kings 19:9. It may be that they sensed that seeing Baal hadn't answered, and the tricks to make fire appear had failed, then Yahweh was likely to respond. And they were cowering away, fearful of the Divine fire which they sensed was going to appear. See on :34.

He repaired the altar of Yahweh that was thrown down-
The triumph on Carmel involved making an offering on an altar of Yahweh which was in one of the “high places”- 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 18:31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of Yahweh came, saying, Israel shall be your name-
- see on Gen. 35:2. This seems a conscious imitation of Joshua's building of the altar from 12 stones when entering the land (Josh. 4:5). Perhaps Elijah's hope was for a complete restoration of the kingdom. The allusion to the renaming of Jacob to Israel may also suggest a new beginning by grace. The usage of 12 stones suggests that he hoped for the ending of the division within Israel, as well as recognizing that the two tribe kingdom also needed forgiveness. For I suggested earlier that the bull was a sin offering.  

1Ki 18:32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of Yahweh. He made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed-
Elijah's hyper sensitivity to he alone being acceptable before God is perhaps shown in the way he repairs the Lord's altar and then himself builds another one (1 Kings 18:30-32). It was as if he felt some kind of guilt by association- he could only serve Yahweh on the altar of his own making. Perhaps he justified it by suspecting that  the first altar has been built contrary to Mosaic law, perhaps an iron tool had been used on it... and so, Elijah had to go his own way. And how often have our brethren done this. Nothing is any good unless we ourselves are doing it; we can't be made guilty by association with the work of others whom we doubt. 

1Ki 18:33 He put the wood in order, and cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood-
Elijah’s mocking attitude of :27 is also shown by the way in which he demands they find him four barrels of water- on the top of a mountain, after a major three and a half year drought. Presumably they took the water from the sea at the bottom of the mountain (although tradition claims there was a fountain at the top of Carmel)- and thus Elijah’s sacrifice would be offered with salt. He was strictly obedient to the requirements for sacrifice- yet amidst an abusive, self-justifying mindset. The very possession of truth can take our attention away from our need for self-examination and right attitudes towards others. In this lies one of our most subtle temptations.

1Ki 18:34 He said, Do it a second time; and they did it the second time. He said, Do it a third time; and they did it the third time-
I suggested above that Ahab agreed to this showdown because he planned to discredit Elijah by some bogus appearance of fire. The tricks hadn't worked. Everybody knew they hadn't. And Elijah is at great pains to demonstrate that he is not using any tricks. The burnt offering and wood were thrice doused in water, and the trench of water around the altar was of significant size. There was no way Elijah was using fake fire, and he had invited the people to "come near" (:30) so that all was transparent and under close public observation. 

1Ki 18:35 The water ran around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water-
As explained on :34, this was to stop any possibility of tricks being used. Various pagan religions construct altars with fire hidden beneath them (Adam Clarke describes several in his commentary). This fire is then exposed by the priests, supposedly by magic or their prayers, and then burns the sacrifice. But Elijah covered the entire sacrifice and altar with water to demonstrate there was no way this was the case wit him. And the fire came down from Heaven, rather than up from the altar as in these pagan altars.

1Ki 18:36 It happened at the time of the offering of the offering-
This could imply that this was intended as the daily evening offering.

That Elijah the prophet came near and said, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant-
He clearly saw prayer as requiring much effort; and the way he prays at the time of the evening sacrifice on Horeb suggests that he saw prayer as a sacrifice. His language here seems to have been inspired by David (1 Sam. 17:46). May our language likewise be an inspiration to others rather than pulling them downwards spiritually. But despite his immense faith, he seems unable to cease his desire for self justification. He didn't just want Israel to accept Yahweh, but to accept that he was Yahweh's servant. This was the meaning of 'Obadiah', 'servant of Yah', and we noted earlier how Elijah mocked that.

And that I have done all these things at Your word-
This is another example of Elijah playing God. There’s no record of any such word from the Lord to him. He appears to have set it all up at his initiative- and then assumed that actually God had told him to do so and that God would respond as he expected. We can so very easily do the same.

We become suspicious of Elijah’s motives when we read of him asking God to show all Israel “That I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things”. “That I…that I…” sounds like there was a large element of self-justification in his spirituality, just as there can be in our, e.g., desiring to prove someone else wrong and ourselves right, to win a debate, to abuse the advantage of our superior Bible knowledge…

1Ki 18:37 Answer me, Yahweh, answer me, that this people may know that You, Yahweh, are God-
See on 1 Kings 19:18. This kind of faith in prayer enables a believer to truly follow the Lord’s exhortation to ask for things and believe and feel that we have already received them. Elijah chose the terms of the contest on Carmel to be an answer by fire- for Baal was originally the fire god. Yet Elijah appears utterly certain that God will answer by a bolt of fire, without having asked Him first. He asks God to “answer me” without specifically requesting for fire to be sent down; he brings the situation before God and asks Him to ‘answer’ that situation. And this is why so many of David’s prayers are more a bringing of the situation before God, than a specific request for answers.

And that You have turned their heart back again-
It is our knowledge of God's mercy to us which empowers us to confidently seek to share with others our knowledge, our relationship, our experience with God. Forgiveness inspires the preacher; and yet the offer of forgiveness is what inspires the listener to respond. God appeals for Israel to respond by pointing out that in prospect, He has already forgiven them: “I have [already] blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions... [therefore] return unto me; for I have redeemed thee” (Is. 44:22). Likewise Elijah wanted Israel to know that God had already in prospect turned their hearts back to Him. We preach the cross of Christ, and that through that forgiveness has been enabled for all men; but they need to respond by repentance in order to access it. Hence the tragedy of human lack of response; so much has been enabled, the world has been reconciled, but all this is in vain if they will not respond.

Elijah was evidently in touch with God and knew His will. At the end, he is described as  the charioteer of the cherubim; for his prayers had controlled their direction. This really is how much God is willing to be influenced by our prayers. Elijah had a very developed sense of how God works with us. Thus he asks God to make Israel know how that He “didst turn back their heart” (1 Kings 18:37 RVmg.), he wanted them to know how that potentially, God had made their return to Him possible; Elijah perceived that God may prepare something in prospect that never gets realized in practice because of human weakness [and this should be an endless inspiration to us too].

1Ki 18:38 Then the fire of Yahweh fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood, the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench-
For all Elijah's clearly wrong attitudes, Yahweh still accepted him; and very dramatically. The total consumption of everything indicated that God had totally accepted the sin offering. Israel had been forgiven. Even though they had not repented. This was the power of Elijah's intercessory mediation and sacrifice. And how much more powerful is that of the Lord Jesus. 

1Ki 18:39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces. They said, Yahweh, he is God! Yahweh, He is God!-
This is another way of crying out the name 'Elijah'. Elijah had repeatedly asked for his own justification, and perhaps the people responded in this way purposefully.

1Ki 18:40 Elijah said to them, Seize the prophets of Baal! Don’t let one of them escape! They seized them. Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and killed them there-
It's unclear whether the 400 prophets of Astarte were slain or escaped. But by the time of 1 Kings 22, Ahab has another 400 prophets whom he listens to. This was a heat of the moment persuasion and response, but of no abiding value in their spiritual growth as a nation. It again demonstrates the limited value of miracle in fundamentally changing people.


1Ki 18:41 Elijah said to Ahab, Get up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain-
Elijah really is the great example of believing that what we have prayed for, we have already received. He tells Ahab that he hears “the sound of a abundance of rain”, well before the prayer for rain had even begun to be answered. Elijah tells Ahab that there is a “sound” of rain coming. The same word has just been used earlier, translated as “voice” (1 Kings 18:29) in the context of there being a voice / answer to prayer. So Elijah is saying that there is an answer speaking of much rain to come. There was no sign of rain coming at the time when he started praying, until the little cloud arose. But he calmly tells Ahab that there is a sound / answer of rain coming. Elijah believed in the answer coming before he prayed; he had a very firm faith. And thus ahead of time he told Ahab to eat and drink because of it [had Ahab been fasting? If so, to Yahweh or Baal?]. But all this required quite some passion in prayer.

He heard in the ears of faith the sound of rain, before he even formally prayed for it (1 Kings 18:40-42 cp. James 5:17,18). He saw that the sin offering had been accepted, and was sure that therefore the drought would end because it had produced the required repentance. And yet, reading through the record, there is ample evidence that at the very same time as he showed such faith, he had a hardness and arrogance which was contrary to the spirit of the Lord Jesus. And Paul had the same feature.

1Ki 18:42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he bowed himself down on the earth, and put his face between his knees-
Elijah cast himself down in prayer. The word occurs only in 2 Kings 4:34,35, as if it was Elijah’s example which inspired Elisha likewise to cast himself down [AV “stretch”] upon the child. The implication is that Elisha did so in prayer; and in passing, we wonder whether this implies that Elijah’s stretching himself upon another child, although a different Hebrew word, was also in prayer. Again we see that Elijah’s prayerful example inspired another. Our attitude to prayer is so easily influential upon others, and we ourselves are likewise easily influenced. It should be no shame nor embarrassment to us to instantly break into prayer, nor to kneel down to further our intensity in prayer, regardless of the social embarrassment  this may involve in some cultures.

1Ki 18:43 He said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. He went up and looked, and said, There is nothing. He said seven times, Go again-
The lack of immediate answer was to humble Elijah after the amazing answer to prayer just received on Carmel. He would have started wondering whether he really understood correctly that rain was to come now that the people had repented and his sin offering had been accepted. He would have started doubting his own faith; as one does after praying six times for something and not getting any answer. All this was to humble him. For his pride seems to have been at a very high point as he stood in triumph before Israel on Carmel, the man with his back to the world had apparently won.

1Ki 18:44 It happened at the seventh time that he said, Behold, a small cloud, like a man’s hand, is rising out of the sea. He said, Go up, tell Ahab, ‘Get ready and go down, so that the rain doesn’t stop you’-
It could be that after the triumph on Carmel, there had been another vision of God’s glory in order to humble Elijah. I say this on the basis that the description of the cloud “like a man’s hand” recalls “the likeness of a man’s hand” under the cherubim in Ezekiel’s visions. Clouds and rain are invariably part of theophanies. Elijah spoke of how, by faith, he heard “the feet of rain” (1 Kings 18:41 LXX), as if he believed that the Angels were coming with rain. Perhaps Elijah therefore told Ahab “prepare your chariot” and ride with the rain- i.e. ‘be part of the vision of glory / cherubim chariots on the ground as it passes overhead’. This was the point of Ezekiel’s vision; Israel were to reflect the Cherubim on earth, just As David moved in step with the Spirit / the sound of marching in the mulberry trees. Therefore in 1 Kings 18:42 when in the face of all this, Elijah places his  face between knees, he may be doing the same thing as when he hides his face in the mantle. He sensed the glory of God near him but didn’t want to face up to it personally. He didn’t want to become part of the Cherubic vision of glory, even though he advised Ahab to do so. We must identify ourselves with the vision of God’s glory, and face up to the life-changing implications of it. Elijah ultimately did this, although it took him a lifetime- he was caught up in another cherubic vision and threw away his mantle and became part of the vision of glory; and hence he was called “the chariot of Israel and the [great] horseman thereof” [reading “horsemen” as an intensive plural]. The chariots and horsemen of God appeared; and Elisha perceived that Elijah had finally become identified with them. For Elisha sees them and then describes Elijah as being them- the chariot and horseman of Israel (2 Kings 2:11,12). Finally, Elijah became part of God’s glory; He merged into it rather than resisting it for the sake of his own  glory. He was the charioteer of the cherubim; for his prayers had controlled their direction. This identification of ourselves with God’s glory, this losing of ourselves and our own insistence upon our rightness, and our focus on others’ wrongness... this is the end result of our lives if they are lived out after the pattern of Elijah’s. 

1Ki 18:45 It happened in a little while, that the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel-
LXX "Ahab wept". This fits the impression we have that he repented; his comments to Jezebel at the beginning of 1 Kings 19 could be understood as meaning that it was 'game over' with Baal worship. He had not protested the mass murder of the 450 priests of Baal.

1Ki 18:46 The hand of Yahweh was on Elijah; and he tucked his cloak into his belt and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel
Running in front of someone meant to herald them. He was perhaps rejoicing in Ahab's apparent repentance, see on :45. This 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 of 1 Kings 19.