Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Elijah the Tishbite--This prophet is introduced as abruptly as
Melchisedek--his birth, parents, and call to the prophetic office being
alike unrecorded. He is supposed to be called the Tishbite from Tisbeh,
a place east of Jordan.
who was of the inhabitants of Gilead--or residents of Gilead, implying
that he was not an Israelite, but an Ishmaelite, as
conjectures, for there were many of that race on the confines of
Gilead. The employment of a Gentile as an extraordinary minister might
be to rebuke and shame the apostate people of Israel.
said unto Ahab--The prophet appears to have been warning this apostate
king how fatal both to himself and people would be the reckless course
he was pursuing. The failure of Elijah's efforts to make an impression
on the obstinate heart of Ahab is shown by the penal prediction uttered
before whom I stand--that is, whom I serve
there shall not be dew nor rain these years--not absolutely; but the
dew and the rain would not fall in the usual and necessary quantities.
Such a suspension of moisture was sufficient to answer the corrective
purposes of God, while an absolute drought would have converted the
whole country into an uninhabitable waste.
but according to my word--not uttered in spite, vengeance, or caprice,
but as the minister of God. The impending calamity was in answer to his
earnest prayer, and a chastisement intended for the spiritual revival
of Israel. Drought was the threatened punishment of national idolatry
(De 11:16, 17; 28:23).
2, 3. the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and
turn thee eastward, &c.--At first the king may have spurned the
prediction as the utterance of a vain enthusiast; but when he found the
drought did last and increase in severity, he sought Elijah, who, as it
was necessary that he should be far removed from either the violence or
the importunities of the king, was divinely directed to repair to a
place of retreat, perhaps a cave on "the brook Cherith, that is, before
[east of] Jordan." Tradition points it out in a small winter torrent, a
little below the ford at Beth-shan.
6. the ravens brought him bread--The idea of such unclean and voracious
birds being employed to feed the prophet has appeared to many so
strange that they have labored to make out the Orebim, which in our
version has been rendered "ravens," to be as the word is used
"merchants"; or Arabians
or, the citizens of Arabah, near Beth-shan
(Jos 15:6; 18:18).
But the common rendering is, in our opinion, preferable to these
conjectures. And, if Elijah was miraculously fed by ravens, it is idle
to inquire where they found the bread and the flesh, for God would
direct them. After the lapse of a year, the brook dried up, and this
was a new trial to Elijah's faith.
SENT TO A
8-16. the word of the Lord came to him--Zarephath, Sarepta, now
Surafend, whither he was directed to go, was far away on the western
coast of Palestine, about nine miles south of Sidon, and within the
dominions of Jezebel's impious father, where the famine also prevailed.
Meeting, at his entrance into the town, the very woman who was
appointed by divine providence to support him, his faith was severely
tested by learning from her that her supplies were exhausted and that
she was preparing her last meal for herself and son. The Spirit of God
having prompted him to ask, and her to grant, some necessary succor,
she received a prophet's reward
(Mt 10:41, 42),
and for the one meal afforded to him, God, by a miraculous increase of
the little stock, afforded many to her.
17-24. the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick--A
severe domestic calamity seems to have led her to think that, as God
had shut up heaven upon a sinful land in consequence of the prophet,
she was suffering on a similar account. Without answering her bitter
upbraiding, the prophet takes the child, lays it on his bed, and after
a very earnest prayer, had the happiness of seeing its restoration, and
along with it, gladness to the widow's heart and home. The prophet was
sent to this widow, not merely for his own security, but on account of
her faith, to strengthen and promote which he was directed to go to her
rather than to many widows in Israel, who would have eagerly received
him on the same privileged terms of exception from the grinding famine.
The relief of her bodily necessities became the preparatory means of
supplying her spiritual wants, and bringing her and her son, through
the teachings of the prophet, to a clear knowledge of God, and a firm
faith in His word