1 Kings 17

Elijah Visits a Widow in Sidonian Territory

1Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As certainly as the Lord God of Israel lives (whom I serve),
Heb “before whom I stand.”
there will be no dew or rain in the years ahead unless I give the command.”
Heb “except at the command of my word.”
2The Lord told him:
Heb “and the word of the Lord came to him, saying.”
3“Leave here and travel eastward. Hide out in the Kerith Valley near the Jordan. 4Drink from the stream; I have already told
Heb “commanded.”
the ravens to bring you food
Heb “to provide for you.”
5So he did
Heb “So he went and did.”
as the Lord told him; he went and lived in the Kerith Valley near the Jordan.
6The ravens would bring him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he would drink from the stream.

7 After a while,
Heb “And it came about at the end of days.”
the stream dried up because there had been no rain in the land.
8The Lord told him,
Heb “And the word of the Lord came to him, saying.”
9“Get up, go to Zarephath in Sidonian territory, and live there. I have already told
Heb “Look, I have commanded.”
a widow who lives there to provide for you.”
10So he got up and went to Zarephath. When he went through the city gate, there was a widow gathering wood. He called out to her, “Please give me a cup
Heb “a little.”
of water, so I can take a drink.”
11As she went to get it, he called out to her, “Please bring me a piece of bread.”
The Hebrew text also includes the phrase “in your hand.”
12She said, “As certainly as the Lord your God lives, I have no food, except for a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. Right now I am gathering a couple of sticks for a fire. Then I’m going home to make one final meal for my son and myself. After we have eaten that, we will die of starvation.”
Heb “Look, I am gathering two sticks and then I will go and make it for me and my son and we will eat it and we will die.”
13Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go and do as you planned.
Heb “according to your word.”
But first make a small cake for me and bring it to me; then make something for yourself and your son.
14For this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘The jar of flour will not be empty and the jug of oil will not run out until the day the Lord makes it rain on the surface of the ground.’” 15She went and did as Elijah told her; there was always enough food for Elijah and for her and her family.
Heb “and she ate, she and he and her house [for] days.”
16The jar of flour was never empty and the jug of oil never ran out, just as the Lord had promised
Heb “out, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke.”
through Elijah.

17 After this
Heb “after these things.”
the son of the woman who owned the house got sick. His illness was so severe he could no longer breathe.
18She asked Elijah, “Why, prophet, have you come
Heb “What to me and to you, man of God, that you have come.”
to me to confront me with
Heb “to make me remember.”
my sin and kill my son?”
19He said to her, “Hand me your son.” He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him down on his bed. 20Then he called out to the Lord, “O Lord, my God, are you also bringing disaster on this widow I am staying with by killing her son?” 21He stretched out over the boy three times and called out to the Lord, “O Lord, my God, please let this boy’s breath return to him.” 22The Lord answered Elijah’s prayer; the boy’s breath returned to him and he lived. 23Elijah took the boy, brought him down from the upper room to the house, and handed him to his mother. Elijah then said, “See, your son is alive!” 24The woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a prophet and that the Lord really does speak through you.”
Heb “you are a man of God and the word of the Lord is truly in your mouth.”
This episode is especially significant in light of Ahab’s decision to promote Baal worship in Israel. In Canaanite mythology the drought that swept over the region (v. 1) would signal that Baal, a fertility god responsible for providing food for his subjects, had been defeated by the god of death and was imprisoned in the underworld. While Baal was overcome by death and unable to function like a king, Israel’s God demonstrated his sovereignty and superiority to death by providing food for a widow and restoring life to her son. And he did it all in Sidonian territory, Baal’s back yard, as it were. The episode demonstrates that Israel’s God, not Baal, is the true king who provides food and controls life and death. This polemic against Baalism reaches its climax in the next chapter, when the Lord proves that he, not Baal, controls the elements of the storm and determines when the rains will fall.

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