1 Kings 19

CHAPTER XIX

Ahab tells Jezebel what Elijah had done; she is enraged, and

threatens to take away his life, 1, 2.

He leaves Jezreel, and comes to Beer-sheba, and thence to the

wilderness, where he is fed and encouraged by an angel, 3-9.

His complaint and the vision by which God instructs him, 10-14.

He is sent to Damascus, in order to anoint Hazael king over

Syria, and Jehu king over Israel, 15-18.

He meets with Elisha, who becomes his servant, 19-21.

NOTES ON CHAP. XIX

Verse 1. Ahab told Jezebel] Probably with no evil design against

Elijah.

Verse 2. So let the gods do] If I do not slay thee, let the gods

slay me with the most ignominious death.

Verse 3. He arose, and went for his life] He saw it was best to

give place to this storm, and go to a place of safety. He probably

thought that the miracle at Carmel would have been the means of

effecting the conversion of the whole court and of the country,

but, finding himself mistaken, he is greatly discouraged.

To Beer-sheba] This being at the most southern extremity of the

promised land, and under the jurisdiction of the king of Judah, he

might suppose himself in a place of safety.

Left his servant there.] Being alone, he would be the more

unlikely to be discovered; besides, he did not wish to risk the

life of his servant.

Verse 4. A day's journey into the wilderness] Probably in his

way to Mount Horeb. See 1Ki 19:8.

Juniper tree] A tree that afforded him a shade from the

scorching sun.

It is enough] I have lived long enough! I can do no more good

among this people; let me now end my days.

Verse 5. As he lay and slept] Excessive anguish of mind

frequently induces sleep, as well as great fatigue of body.

An angel touched him] He needed refreshment, and God sent an

angel to bring him what was necessary.

Verse 6. A cake baken on the coals] All this seems to have been

supernaturally provided.

Verse 7. The journey is too great for thee.] From Beer-sheba to

Horeb was about one hundred and fifty miles.

Verse 8. Forty days and forty nights] So he fasted just the same

time as Moses did at Horeb, and as Christ did in the wilderness.

Verse 9. He came thither unto a cave] Conjectured by some to be

the same cave in which God put Moses that he might give him a

glimpse of his glory. See Ex 33:22.

What doest thou here, Elijah?] Is this a reproach for having

fled from the face of Jezebel, through what some call unbelieving

fears, that God would abandon him to her rage?

Verse 10. I have been very jealous for the Lord] The picture

which he draws here of apostate Israel is very affecting:-

1. They have forsaken thy covenant] They have now cleaved to and

worshipped other gods.

2. Thrown down thine altars] Endeavoured, as much as they

possibly could, to abolish thy worship, and destroy its

remembrance from the land.

3. And slain thy prophets] That there might be none to reprove

their iniquity, or teach the truth; so that the restoration of the

true worship might be impossible.

4. I only, am left] They have succeeded in destroying all the

rest of the prophets, and they are determined not to rest till

they slay me.

Verse 11. Stand upon the mount before the Lord.] God was now

treating Elijah nearly in the same way that he treated Moses; and

it is not unlikely that Elijah was now standing on the same place

where Moses stood, when God revealed himself to him in the giving

of the law. See Ex 19:9, 16.

The Lord passed by] It appears that the passing by of the Lord

occasioned the strong wind, the earthquake, and the fire; but in

none of these was God to make a discovery of himself unto the

prophet; yet these, in some sort, prepared his way, and prepared

Elijah to hear the still small voice. The apparatus, indicating

the presence of the Divine Majesty, is nearly the same as that

employed to minister the law to Moses; and many have supposed that

God intended these things to be understood thus: that God intended

to display himself to mankind not in judgment, but in mercy; and

that as the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, were only the

forerunners of the still small voice, which proclaimed the

benignity of the Father of spirits; so the law, and all its

terrors, were only intended to introduce that mild spirit of the

Gospel of Jesus, proclaiming glory to God in the highest, and on

earth peace, and good will unto men. Others think that all this

was merely natural; and that a real earthquake, and its

accompaniments, are described. 1. Previously to earthquakes the

atmosphere becomes greatly disturbed, mighty winds and tempests

taking place. 2. This is followed by the actual agitation of the

earth. 3. In this agitation fire frequently escapes, or a burning

lava is poured out, often accompanied with thunder and

lightning. 4. After these the air becomes serene, the thunder

ceases to roll, the forked lightnings no longer play, and nothing

remains but a gentle breeze. However correct all this may be, it

seems most probably evident that what took place at this time was

out of the ordinary course of nature; and although the things, as

mentioned here, may often be the accompaniments of an earthquake

that has nothing supernatural in it; yet here, though every thing

is produced in its natural order, yet the exciting cause of the

whole is supernatural. Thus the Chaldee understands the whole

passage: "And behold the Lord was revealed; and before him was a

host of the angels of the wind, tearing the mountains, and

breaking the rocks before the Lord, but the Majesty (Shechinah) of

the Lord was not in the host of the angels of the wind. And after

the host of the angels of the wind, there was a host of the angels

of commotion; but the Majesty of the Lord was not in the host of

the angels of commotion. And after the host of the angels of

commotion, a fire; but the Majesty of the Lord was not in the host

of the angels of fire. And after the host of the angels of fire, a

voice singing in silence," &c.; that is, a sound with which no

other sound was mingled. Perhaps the whole of this is intended to

give an emblematical representation of the various displays of

Divine providence and grace.

Verse 13. Wrapped his face in his mantle] This he did to signify

his respect; so Moses hid his face, for he dared not to look upon

God Ex 3:6.

Covering the face was a token of respect among the Asiatics, as

uncovering the head is among the Europeans.

Verse 15. To the wilderness of Damascus] He does not desire him

to take a road by which he might be likely to meet Jezebel, or any

other of his enemies.

Anoint Hazael] For what reason the Lord was about to make all

these revolutions, we are told in 1Ki 19:17. God was about to

bring his judgments upon the land, and especially on the house of

Ahab. This he exterminated by means of Jehu; and Jehu himself was

a scourge of the Lord to the people. Hazael also grievously

afflicted Israel; see the accomplishment of these purposes, 2

Kings 8, and 9.

Verse 16. Elisha-shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.]

Jarchi gives a strange turn to these words: "Thy prophecy (or

execution of the prophetic office) does not please me, because

thou art the constant accuser of my children." With all their

abominations, this rabbin would have us to believe that those vile

idolaters and murderers were still the beloved children of God!

And why? Because God had made a covenant with their fathers;

therefore said the ancient as well as the modern siren song: "Once

in the covenant, always in the covenant; once a son, and a son for

ever." And yet we have here the testimony of God's own prophet,

and the testimony of their history, that they had forsaken the

covenant, and consequently renounced all their interest in it.

Verse 17. Shall Elisha slay.] We do not find that Elisha either

used the sword, or commissioned it to be used, though he delivered

solemn prophecies against this disobedient people: and this is

probably the sense in which this should be understood, as Elisha

was prophet before Hazael was king, and Hazael was king before

Jehu; and the heavy famine which he brought on the land took place

before the reign either of Jehu or Hazael. The meaning of the

prophecy may be this: Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha, shall be the

ministers of my vengeance against this disobedient and rebellious

people. The order of time, here, is not to be regarded.

Verse 18. Seven thousand in Israel] That is, many thousands; for

seven is a number of perfection, as we have often seen: so, The

barren has borne seven-has had a numerous off-spring; Gold seven

times purified-purified till all the dross is perfectly separated

from it. The court and multitudes of the people had gone after

Baal; but perhaps the majority of the common people still

worshipped in secret the God of their fathers.

Every mouth which hath not kissed him.] Idolaters often kissed

their hand in honour of their idols; and hence the origin of

adoration-bringing the hand to the mouth after touching the

idol, if it were within reach; and if not, kissing the right hand

in token of respect and subjection. The word is compounded of ad,

to, and os, oris, the mouth. Dextera manu deum contingentes, ori

admovebant: "Touching the god with their right hand, they applied

it to their mouth." So kissing the hand, and adoration, mean the

same thing-thus Pliny, Inter adorandum, dexteram ad osculum

referimus, totum corpus circumagimus: Nat. Hist. lib. xxviii.,

cap. 2.-"In the act of adoration we kiss the right hand, and turn

about the whole body." Cicero mentions a statue of Hercules, the

chin and lips of which were considerably worn by the frequent

kissing of his worshippers: Ut rictus ejus, et mentum paulo sit

attritius, quod in precibus et gratulationibus, non solum id

venerari, sed etiam osculari solent.-Orat. in VERREM.

I have seen several instances of this, especially in the

paintings of old saints: the lips and mouth of beautiful paintings

literally worn away by the unmerciful osculations of devotees.

Verse 19. Twelve yoke of oxen] Elisha must have had a

considerable estate, when he kept twelve yoke of oxen to till the

ground. If, therefore, he obeyed the prophetic call, he did it to

considerable secular loss.

He with the twelfth] Every owner of an inheritance among the

Hebrews, and indeed among the ancients in general, was a principal

agent in its cultivation.

Cast his mantle upon him] Either this was a ceremony used in a

call to the prophetic office, or it indicated that he was called

to be the servant of the prophet. The mantle, or pallium, was

the peculiar garb of the prophet, as we may learn from Zec 13:4;

and this was probably made of skin dressed with the hair on. See

also 2Ki 1:8. It is likely, therefore, that Elijah threw his

mantle on Elisha to signify to him that he was called to the

prophetic office. See more on this subject below.

Verse 20. Let me-kiss my father and my mother] Elisha fully

understood that he was called by this ceremony to the prophetic

office: and it is evident that he conferred not with flesh and

blood, but resolved, immediately resolved, to obey; only he wished

to bid farewell to his relatives. See below.

What have I done to thee?] Thy call is not from me, but from

God: to him, not to me, art thou accountable for thy use or abuse

of it.

Verse 21. He returned back] He went home to his house; probably

he yet lived with his parents, for it appears he was a single man:

and he slew a yoke of the oxen-he made a feast for his household,

having boiled the flesh of the oxen with his agricultural

implements, probably in token that he had abandoned secular life:

then, having bidden them an affectionate farewell, he arose, went

after Elijah, who probably still awaited his coming in the field

or its vicinity, and ministered unto him.

ON the call of Elisha, I may make a few remarks.

1. Elijah is commanded, 1Ki 19:16, to

anoint Elisha prophet in his room. Though it is generally

believed that kings, priests, and prophets, were inaugurated into

their respective offices by the right of unction, and this I have

elsewhere supposed; yet this is the only instance on record where

a prophet is commanded to be anointed; and even this case is

problematical, for it does not appear that Elijah did anoint

Elisha. Nothing is mentioned in his call to the prophetic office,

but the casting the mantle of Elijah upon him; wherefore it is

probable that the word anoint, here signifies no more than the

call to the office, accompanied by the simple rite of having the

prophet's mantle thrown over his shoulders.

2. A call to the ministerial office, though it completely sever

from all secular occupations, yet never supersedes the duties of

filial affection. Though Elisha must leave his oxen, and become a

prophet to Israel: yet he may first go home, eat and drink with

his parents and relatives, and bid them an affectionate farewell.

3. We do not find any attempt on the part of his parents to

hinder him from obeying the Divine call: they had too much respect

for the authority of God, and they left their son to the dictates

of his conscience. Wo to those parents who strive, for filthy

lucre's sake, to prevent their sons from embracing a call to

preach Jesus to their perishing countrymen, or to the heathen,

because they see that the life of a true evangelist is a life of

comparative poverty, and they had rather he should gain money than

save souls.

4. The cloak, we have already observed, was the prophet's

peculiar habit; it was probably in imitation of this that the

Greek philosophers wore a sort of mantle, that distinguished them

from the common people; and by which they were at once as easily

known as certain academical characters are by their gowns and

square caps. The pallium was as common among the Greeks as the

toga was among the Romans. Each of these was so peculiar to

those nations, that Palliatus is used to signify a Greek, as

Togatus is to signify a Roman.

5. Was it from this act of Elijah, conveying the prophetic

office and its authority to Elisha by throwing his mantle upon

him, that the popes of Rome borrowed the ceremony of collating an

archbishop to the spiritualities and temporalities of his see, and

investing him with plenary sacerdotal authority, by sending him

what is well known in ecclesiastical history by the name pallium,

pall, or cloak? I think this is likely; for as we learn from

Zec 13:4, and 2Ki 1:8, that this

mantle was a rough or hairy garment, so we learn from Durandus

that the pallium or pall was made of white wool, after the

following manner:-

The nuns of St. Agnes, annually on the festival of their

patroness, offer two white lambs on the altar of their church,

during the time they sing Agnus Dei, in a solemn mass; which lambs

are afterwards taken by two of the canons of the Lateran church,

and by them given to the pope's sub-deacons, who send them to

pasture till shearing time; and then they are shorn, and the pall

is made of their wool, mixed with other white wool. The pall is

then carried to the Lateran church, and there placed on the high

altar by the deacons, on the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul;

and, after a usual watching or vigil, it is carried away in the

night, and delivered to the sub-deacons, who lay it up safely.

Now, because it was taken from the body of St. Peter, it signifies

the plenitude of ecclesiastical power: and, therefore, the popes

assume it as their prerogative, being the professed successors of

this apostle, to invest other prelates with it. This was at first

confined to Rome, but afterwards it was sent to popish prelates in

different parts of the world.

6. It seems, from the place in Zechariah, quoted above, that

this rough cloak or garment became the covering of hypocrites

and deceivers; and that persons assumed the prophetic dress

without the prophetic call, and God threatens to unmask them. We

know that this became general in the popish Church in the

beginning of the 16th century; and God stripped those false

prophets of their false and wicked pretensions, and exposed them

to the people. Many of them profited by this exposure, and became

reformed; and the whole community became at least more cautious.

The Romish Church should be thankful to the Reformation for the

moral purity which is now found in it; for, had not its vices, and

usurpations, and super-scandalous sales of indulgences, been thus

checked, the whole fabric had by this time been probably

dissolved. Should it carry its reformation still farther, it would

have a more legitimate pretension to the title of apostolic. Let

them compare their ritual with the Bible and common sense, and

they will find cause to lop many cumbrous and rotten branches from

a good tree.

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