1 Kings Chapter 17: Elijah and the 1260 days of drought, Widow of Zarephath,

Nov 8th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Kings, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Kings Chapter 17: Elijah and the 1260 days of drought, Widow of Zarephath,

1 Kings 17:1 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.

1 Kings 17:2 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,

1 Kings 17:3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

1 Kings 17:4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.

1 Kings 17:5 So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

1 Kings 17:6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.

1 Kings 17:7 And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

Elijah the Tishbite had to make a strong proclamation to King 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.” The period with neither dew nor rain lasted for 3 1/2 years, and for much of this time, Elijah was at the brook Cherith.

When Elijah issued this proclamation, Ahab would have been stunned. The prophet then fled quickly to the brook Cherith and hid himself there, as instructed. “Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan [in Israel].” The word from God continued, “You shall drink water from the brook, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there.” The ravens brought Elijah bread and flesh morning and evening. Elijah’s necessities were thus provided for.

Like a bedouin, Elijah dressed in rough skins, or hairy garments. For him to have gone to Ahab, the king of Israel, who had a notorious reputation, and issue this proclamation was a courageous act. The message would have been delivered with confidence.

Ravens are flesh-eating birds. In fact, the word “ravenous” comes from “raven.” Therefore, we can be sure that the meat they brought to Elijah was freshly slain.

There is a prophetic aspect to this account, for during the period of papal persecution in the Dark and Middle Ages in Europe, worldly unconsecrated people (“ravens”) fed, hid, and helped Christians who were fleeing from brutal persecution. If caught, this “raven” class would have been punished severely, so many risked their lives by helping Christians. In the antitype, Elijah represents God’s people down through the Gospel Age who were preserved and fed from His Word and given time to develop Christlike characters in the hope of being kings and priests in the Kingdom Age. Many were tried and executed, but at least, they had an opportunity to develop their characters.

In time, the brook Cherith dried up, and Elijah had to move to another place. God’s instruction came to him, starting in verse 8.

1 Kings 17:8 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,

1 Kings 17:9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

1 Kings 17:10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.

1 Kings 17:11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.

1 Kings 17:12 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.

1 Kings 17:13 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.

1 Kings 17:14 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.

1 Kings 17:15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.

1 Kings 17:16 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.

Elijah was told to leave the brook Cherith and go to Zarephath, which is in Lebanon today— and thus was quite a distance to go on foot. First, he went to Zidon, the capital of Phoenicia, as a landmark. Zarephath was located in a little village nearby. When Elijah entered the gate, he saw a woman gathering sticks. God had told him that a widow would sustain him there, so he called out to her, “Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” Then, being famished, he added, “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread.”

With a famine in the land, the woman had been gathering sticks to prepare a fire to bake a cake  of her last handful of flour mixed with oil. She had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get the flour, and there was a little oil left in the cruse. Her expectation was that after this last meal, she and her son would die of starvation. Under this dire circumstance, Elijah has asked for something to eat. Imagine being in the woman’s place and getting this request for food!

Elijah next said, “Fear not; go and do as you have said. But make me a little cake first, and bring it to me, and afterward make one for you and your son. For God has said that the barrel will not be emptied of meal or the cruse of oil, until the very day He sends rain to end the famine.”

Elijah’s request was a test on the widow, and faith was involved. Perhaps the woman had been praying, but at any rate, she obeyed in this time of extremity. “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. 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.”

Elijah must have had a very magnetic, forceful personality. He started his mission by going to King Ahab and reprimanding him to his face with the boldness and courage that were instilled by the Lord. Now he spoke to the widow. His manner of speaking was convincing and persuasive, and she believed him. According to the King James margin, for a “full year,” they ate of the flour and the oil that kept replenishing. Therefore, Elijah was at the brook Cherith for at least two years, and then he was in Zarephath for another year.

Jesus used this widow of Zarephath as an illustration of faith when he was castigating the Israelites for not believing. Even after all his miracles, the number of believers was only 500 of the 7 million or so people who lived in Israel at that time. As an example of faith, Jesus also used Naaman the Syrian leper, who came for help. They had more faith than anyone in Israel.

Israel was chosen for several reasons, one of which is geographic. The future capital of the world, Israel is in the navel of the earth; it is the land bridge of three continents.

Comment: Luke 4:24-27 reads as follows: “And he [Jesus] said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” The widow of Zarephath was a woman of great faith prior to Elijah’s coming to her. Her words to Elijah here in chapter 17 show her faith: “As the LORD thy God liveth.

Reply: Jesus said that a prophet is without honor in his own country, for even in his own household, some of his stepbrothers did not believe he was the Messiah until later.

Comment: What a wonderful experience! Each time the widow wanted to eat, she went to the barrel and the cruse, and there was a supply of flour and oil, respectively. And the replenishing continued until the very day God sent the rain (verse 14).

Reply: The proverbial term “the widow’s cruse” means that the vessel never emptied. Incidentally, among other qualifications, Elijah was quite a runner, as we will see. With a little help, he outran King Ahab in his chariot. Moreover, he traversed tremendous distances.

1 Kings 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.

1 Kings 17:18 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?

1 Kings 17:19 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.

1 Kings 17:20 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?

1 Kings 17:21 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.

1 Kings 17:22 And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

1 Kings 17:23 And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.

1 Kings 17:24 And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.

Subsequently the widow’s son got very sick and died. In distress, she said to 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?” Elijah’s response was, “Give me your son.” Then Elijah took the dead son up into his little quarters—the “loft”—and laid the boy on his own bed. When the prophet stretched himself upon the boy three times and prayed to the Lord, the boy’s soul came “into his inward parts” (see KJV margin), and he revived. What a marvelous miracle! Elijah then delivered the boy to his mother. Now she knew that he was a man of God and that truth was in his mouth.

Elijah’s lying upon the child was like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but nevertheless, the revival was a miracle. This was a beautiful experience for the woman, but there was a testing all along the line, starting when Elijah requested her last morsel of food. As she exercised faith under this testing, her character was strengthened. Similarly in principle, an athlete who lifts weights develops strength in his muscles. Thus the exercise of faith in instances of crises strengthens one’s character, experience, and maturity.

At the same time, the three stretchings, followed by resuscitation, helped the development of Elijah’s character and faith. He was growing as a man of faith. Of course he had recognized God’s providence in his being fed by ravens with bread and flesh for two years. But we see some strange situations where individuals who have been unusually blessed do not have faith.

Sad to say, they do not develop faith when they are recipients of God’s providence. Much has to do with the exercise of the mind and the heart to recognize that the experiences are of Divine Providence. If realized, the providences become stepping-stones toward progress in Christian development. Elijah was being schooled, developed, and matured for the things he had to do.

Comment: Apparently, Elijah had a little chamber up in a loft on the outside of the house.

Q: Is there an antitype about the three times that Elijah stretched himself upon the child? Does that miracle bring us forward into the Kingdom Age?

A: A principle is involved in restoring a dead person to life—not only in the three stretchings with Elijah but also in the seven sneezings with Elisha (2 Kings 4:35). Both numbers are symbols of completion but from two different standpoints.

Comment: Verses 21 and 22 are good proof texts with regard to the meaning of the soul. The soul came into the child again. The soul is not the product of breath and body, for there was a definite reimplanting.

Reply: In today’s era of technology, we can easily see how this can be the case. The study of the soul is very interesting, but we must leave it for another occasion.

We are getting a backlog of information on Elijah so that later we can bring it together and study the prophetic implications.

1989-1991

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  1. God amazes me with his everything… every tiny thing has meaning in the bible and all it is connected like a chain. And the best of all is that it all makes sense, and you are just so atonished with the information and you want to hear more and more. And example would be the reaven, they are not supposed to feed ever their own kind yet they fed the prophet Elijah….I know there is more deeper things in this story, that only God can reveal onto us individually. Thank you for sharing what God has shared with you.

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