Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
1 Kings 17:8-20:22
Questions & Observations
O. (1 Kings 17:8-24): I have heard this story many times. It’s a classic. Through God bringing the boy back to life, God shows his love for man, his devotion and that man can trust in him and lean on him. The way God weaved Elijah’s life into the widow and her boy’s life is very neat. I was on a walk with my girls the other day. Six or seven houses down we saw an elderly man using a walker and taking his trash out — not an easy task. We stopped and helped him. He told us about the medical issues he’s had lately, which have caused him to lose 20 pounds that he didn’t have to lose. My daughter was wearing a shirt that says “God loves you a lot.” He read it and affirmed the saying. He said he was looking to God — I think for the first time — with all of his medical issues. In the last couple days I have read Bible stories to both of my daughters: the good Samaritan and one where Jesus says that by helping others, we help Him. So, my daughters and I agreed that we should knock on our elderly neighbor’s door and ask if he needs help. We’ll give him our phone number and maybe even ask if we can knock every day to see if he’s all right and give him something. There are those who need served everywhere! Our church has a great prison ministry that I plan to help with soon.
Q. (1 Kings 18:1-40): The Bible is going through the kings so fast that it’s hard to keep them straight in my head. Our last reading talked about Jehoshaphat. He was king of Judah. Now we have King Ahab. He was king in Samaria? Samaria was a part of Israel?
A. Samaria is where the kings of Israel established their throne and “base of operations,” since Jerusalem was in Judah and they needed somewhere else to be located. Samaria will figure prominently in the rest of our story, including the NT (think Good Samaritan). The location is in a hilly region in what is today known as the West Bank, near the edge of the border between Israel and Syria.
Q. (18:16): Did Ahab greet Elijah so coldly because he blamed God — and Elijah was a prophet of God — for the drought?
A. Yes, especially since at the beginning of 1 Kings 17, Elijah told Ahab that God was not going to allow any rain. Ahab surely held Elijah responsible for what had happened.
Q. I would like to discuss prophets. How did prophets get chosen? We learn in this reading where Elijah was the only prophet left in his time. Did there used to be lots of prophets? We read in June 9th reading where one prophet sought out another. And in 1 Kings 18:19, we read about the idol Baal’s prophets, who were a prophet by name alone, right? There God was false, so they have to be false too?
A. Ok, let’s clear a few things up: this era of Israel’s history corresponds with a large number of prophets chosen by God to bring His message. There’s good reason: the people need to repent of their sins, especially idolatry as in this story, which is the job of a prophet (of God anyway, more on Baal’s prophets in a second). If you speak to a Rabbi about “the prophets,” he will likely mention the Jewish thinking that this era is the so-called era of the prophets: figures such as Elijah and Elisha (our next prophet), as well as many other important figures such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel (Jews are divided on whether Daniel is a prophet, but we’ll ignore that for now). There is no rhyme or reason to “how” they are selected other than to say God chose them — there is no selection process that we are privy too. God speaks to the prophet Jeremiah (in Jer 1) of the man being set apart from birth for God’s purposes. It’s a really cool passage. Prophets come from all walks of life: Isaiah is a royal official, Ezekiel and Jeremiah are priests, Amos is a shepherd, we have no idea about Elijah (there’s an element of mystery about him that resonates with people), and as far as we can tell, Elisha worked the land as a farmer. Remember our saying: God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. As to the “other” prophets in this story, we don’t know exactly what they did, but the suspicion is that they could have just as easily been called priests. They were likely the facilitators of the pagan worship of Baal.
O. (18:26): This is proof that Baal is nonexistent!
O. (18:27): I like to see humor in the Bible!
Q. (18:46): Wow, Elijah got super powers from God. Why would Elijah run ahead of Ahab’s chariot?
A. To be in the city when Ahab got to tell his wife, Jezebel, the bad news about her prophets.
Q. (19:1): I didn’t think we read anything about Elijah killing the prophets of Baal. And, I always thought Jezebel was a big character in the Bible. Will we read more about her? Why did she have authority?
A. 18:40 tells the tale: Elijah has the prophets of Baal, and presumably Asherah, killed. Jezebel will be around for a few more chapters, and it appears she has authority by controlling her husband.
Q. (19:6): It seems that a lot of folks in the Bible got by on bread and water. Here, Elijah did twice: once with the widow and here when he is fleeing Jezebel. How can they get by on bread and water? I am concerned about my girls getting all four food groups to keep their mind and body properly fed … according to today’s standards. I know in the Bible it says not to worry about what you eat because God will provide. I don’t think he would provide French fries and ice cream though. Does the Bible say anything about eating nutritiously or are we really supposed to not worry about it? I think this verse just means that God will give us food. We won’t go hungry. But I am curious about the nutrition aspect.
A. The Bible writers would have had almost no concept of “overeating” because almost everyone, except the uber rich, lived from day to day on whatever they could find to survive. The Bible is not a dietary book — in the sense that we understand dieting anyway — it has bigger fish to fry. Nutritional information and intelligent eating are modern concepts that wouldn’t have made any sense in that day, so God doesn’t bother including that information.
You surely can survive on bread and water — though surviving might be the right word for it! As it relates to Elijah’s two adventures: in the first one, they probably traded bread for other things to eat or drink — like meat or wine, which was safer to drink than water in that day — and in the other, the bread and water were for ensuring that he survived the long journey, it said nothing about being his “every meal”.
Q. (19:8): Why did Elijah think he needed to go to Mount Sinai? He traveled for 40 days and nights. How is the number representing completion here — something that we’ve talked about?
A. Apparently the reputation of Sinai as being the mountain of God carried down the generations. It appeared to be a place where Elijah felt he would be safe, and frankly, where he could hide. God, of course, still had work to do with Elijah, so He sent him back to work.
Q. (20:3-4): Why did Ahab agree to give up the silver, gold, women and children?
A. Probably he was attempting to appease the king of Aram by giving in to his demands. It is only when the King got greedy that Ahab showed some spine and fought back.
Hope you are having a great summer! We’ll keep blogging throughout.