Elijah Challenges Ahab

1 Kings 18-19

The story of Elijah’s contest on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal is well known. Sometime earlier, Elijah had warned Ahab that there would no longer be any rain or dew in Israel until he gave the word (1 Kings 17:1), presumably because of Ahab’s rabid promotion of Baal worship throughout Israel (1 Kings 16:29-34). It appears that Ahab may have gained this devotion to Baal worship through his marriage to Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he even built a temple and an altar to Baal in Samaria. Jezebel herself promoted Baal worship by providing for the needs of 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah and by killing off many of the prophets of the Lord. During the third year of the drought in Israel, the Lord told Elijah to confront Ahab, and soon after this, rain would return to the land. So Elijah met with Ahab and told him to assemble the people of Israel and the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel, and Ahab did so. Elijah may well have chosen Mount Carmel for this contest due to its proximity to both Phoenicia (the homeland of Jezebel and her Baal worship) and Israel, for the mountain would have represented geographically what was true spiritually among the people of Israel: They were straddling two different opinions about the Lord and Baal. When all were assembled on the mountain, Elijah challenged the people to choose once and for all whether they would serve the Lord or serve Baal. And in order to demonstrate which god was truly able to respond to them, both Elijah and the people were to call upon their god to send down fire to consume the sacrifice, and the god who responded would be the true God. When it was over, Baal had failed to respond, but the Lord had sent down fire that completely consumed the offering, and the people confessed that the Lord is God. Elijah immediately called upon the people to seize all the prophets of Baal, and they took them down the mountain to the Kishon River, where they killed them. Then Elijah instructed Ahab to go back up Mount Carmel, and Elijah went up as well and bowed down to the ground. Eventually he noticed a little cloud rising over the Mediterranean Sea to the west, and he sent his servant to tell Ahab to take his chariot and leave in order to escape the approaching storm. Ahab did so, and the Lord granted Elijah special strength to run ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel. There Ahab told Jezebel that Elijah had slaughtered all the prophets of Baal, and she vowed to kill Elijah by the next day. So Elijah became afraid and fled for his life, heading south and dropping off his servant along the way at Beersheba. Then he went a day’s journey into the wilderness and began to despair under a solitary broom tree. But the angel of the Lord appeared to him and granted him food and strength, and Elijah traveled forty days and forty nights to Horeb, which is called Mount Sinai elsewhere in Scripture.

download hi-res file         🔍 see in TimeGlider