1 Kings 17 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 Kings 17)

Verse 1

[1] And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

Elijah — The most eminent of the prophets, who is here brought in, like Melchisedek, without any mention of his father, or mother, or beginning of his days; like a man dropt out of the clouds, and raised by God's special providence as a witness for himself in this most degenerate time that by his zeal, and courage and miracles, he might give some check, to their various and abominable idolatries, and some reviving to that small number of the Lord's prophets, and people, who yet remained in Israel. He seems to have been naturally of a rough spirit. And rough spirits are called to rough services. His name signifies, my God Jehovah is he: he that sends me, and will own me, and bear me out.

Said to Ahab — Having doubtless admonished him of his sin and danger before; now upon his obstinacy in his wicked courses, he proceeds to declare, and execute the judgment of God upon him.

As the Lord, … — I Swear by the God of Israel, who is the only true and living God; whereas the gods whom thou hast joined with him, or preferred before him, are dead and senseless idols.

Before whom — Whose minister I am, not only in general, but especially in this threatening, which I now deliver in his name and authority.

There shall not, … — This was a prediction, but was seconded with his prayer, that God would verify it, James 5:17, And this prayer was truly charitable; that by this sharp affliction, God's honour, and the truth of his word (which was now so horribly and universally contemned) might be vindicated; and the Israelites (whom impunity had hardened in their idolatry) might be awakened to see their own wickedness, and the necessity of returning to the true religion.

Those years — That is, These following years, which were three and an half, Luke 4:25; James 5:17.

My word — Until I shall declare, that this judgment shall cease, and shall pray to God for the removal of it.

Verse 3

[3] Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

Hide thyself — Thus God rescues him from the fury of Ahab and Jezebel, who, he knew, would seek to destroy him. That Ahab did not seize on him immediately upon these words must be ascribed to God's over-ruling providence.

Verse 4

[4] And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.

Have commanded — Or, I shall command, that is, effectually move them, by instincts which shall be as forcible with them, as a law or command is to men. God is said to command both brute creatures, and senseless things; when he causeth them to do the things which he intends to effect by them.

The ravens — Which he chuseth for this work; to shew his care and power in providing for the prophet by those creatures, which are noted for their greediness, that by this strange experiment he might be taught to trust God in those many and great difficulties to which he was to be exposed. God could have sent angels to minister to him. But he chose winged messengers of another kind to shew he can serve his own purposes as effectually, by the meanest creatures as by the mightiest. Ravens neglect their own young, and do not feed them: yet when God pleaseth, they shall feed his prophet.

Verse 6

[6] And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.

And flesh — Not raw, but boiled by the ministry of some angel or man, and left in some place 'till the ravens came for it: in all which, there is nothing incredible, considering the power and providence of God.

Verse 7

[7] And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

A while — Heb. at the end of days; that is, of a year; for so the word days is often used.

Dried — God so ordering it, for the punishment of those Israelites who lived near it, and had hitherto been refreshed by it: and for the exercise of Elijah's faith, and to teach him to depend upon God alone.

Verse 9

[9] Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

Zarephath — A city between Tyre and Sidon, called Sarepta by St. Luke 4:26, and others.

Zidon — To the jurisdiction of that city, which was inhabited by Gentiles. And God's providing for his prophet, first, by an unclean bird, and then by a Gentile, whom the Jews esteemed unclean, was a presage of the calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews. So Elijah was the first prophet of the Gentiles.

Commanded — Appointed or provided, for that she had as yet no revelation or command of God about it, appears from verse 12.

Verse 12

[12] And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

She said — Therefore though she was a Gentile, yet she owned the God of Israel as the true God.

Two sticks — A few sticks, that number being often used indefinitely for any small number.

And die — For having no more provision, we must needs perish with hunger. For though the famine was chiefly in the land of Israel, yet the effects of it were in Tyre and Sidon, which were fed by the corn of that land. But what a poor supporter was this likely to be? who had no fuel, but what she gathered in the streets, and nothing to live upon herself, but an handful of meal and a little oil! To her Elijah is sent, that he might live upon providence, as much as he had done when the ravens fed him.

Verse 13

[13] And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.

But make, … — This he requires as a trial of her faith, and obedience, which he knew God would plentifully reward; and so this would be a great example to encourage others to the practice of the same graces.

Verse 14

[14] For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.

The barrel, … — The meal of the barrel So the cruse of oil for the oil of the cruse.

Verse 15

[15] And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.

Many days — A long time, even above two years, before the following event about her son happened. And surely the increase of her faith to such a degree, as to enable her thus to deny herself and trust the promise, was as great a miracle in the kingdom of grace, as the increase of her oil in the kingdom of providence. Happy are they who can thus against hope believe and obey in hope.

Verse 16

[16] And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.

Wasted not — See how the reward answered the service. She made one cake for the prophet and was repaid with many for herself and her son. What is laid out in charity is set out to the best interest, an upon the best securities.

Verse 17

[17] And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.

No breath — That is, he died. We must not think it strange, if we meet with sharp afflictions, even when we are in the way of eminent service to God.

Verse 18

[18] And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?

She said — Wherein have I injured thee? Or, why didst thou come to sojourn in my house, if this be the fruit of it? They are the words of a troubled mind.

Art thou come — Didst thou come for this end, that thou mightest severely observe my sins, and by thy prayers bring down God's just judgment upon me, as thou hast brought down this famine upon the nation? To call, etc. - To God's remembrance: for God is said in scripture, to remember sins, when he punisheth them; and to forget them, when he spares the sinner.

Verse 19

[19] And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.

Into a loft — A private place, where he might more freely pour out his soul to God, and use such gestures as he thought most proper.

Verse 20

[20] And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?

He cried — A prayer full of powerful arguments. Thou art the Lord, that canst revive the child: and my God; and therefore wilt not, deny me. She is a widow, add not affliction to the afflicted; deprive her not of the support and staff of her age: she hath given me kind entertainment: let her not fare the worse for her kindness to a prophet, whereby wicked men will take occasion to reproach both her, and religion.

Verse 21

[21] And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.

Come into him — By which it is evident, that the soul was gone out of his body, this was a great request; but Elijah was encouraged to make it; by his zeal for God's honour, and by the experience which he had of his prevailing power with God in prayer.

Verse 22

[22] And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

Into him again — This plainly supposes the existence of the soul in a state of separation, and consequently its immortality: probably God might design by this miracle to give an evidence hereof, for the encouragement of his suffering people.