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1 Kings 18:16-40

Context
Elijah Confronts Baal’s Prophets

18:16 When Obadiah went and informed Ahab, the king went to meet Elijah. 1  18:17 When Ahab saw Elijah, he 2  said to him, “Is it really you, the one who brings disaster 3  on Israel?” 18:18 Elijah 4  replied, “I have not brought disaster 5  on Israel. But you and your father’s dynasty have, by abandoning the Lord’s commandments and following the Baals. 18:19 Now send out messengers 6  and assemble all Israel before me at Mount Carmel, as well as the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah whom Jezebel supports. 7 

18:20 Ahab sent messengers to all the Israelites and had the prophets assemble at Mount Carmel. 18:21 Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long are you going to be paralyzed by indecision? 8  If the Lord is the true God, 9  then follow him, but if Baal is, follow him!” But the people did not say a word. 18:22 Elijah said to them: 10  “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but there are 450 prophets of Baal. 18:23 Let them bring us two bulls. Let them choose one of the bulls for themselves, cut it up into pieces, and place it on the wood. But they must not set it on fire. I will do the same to the other bull and place it on the wood. But I will not set it on fire. 18:24 Then you 11  will invoke the name of your god, and I will invoke the name of the Lord. The god who responds with fire will demonstrate that he is the true God.” 12  All the people responded, “This will be a fair test.” 13 

18:25 Elijah told the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls for yourselves and go first, for you are the majority. Invoke the name of your god, but do not light a fire.” 14  18:26 So they took a bull, as he had suggested, 15  and prepared it. They invoked the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us.” But there was no sound and no answer. They jumped 16  around on the altar they had made. 17  18:27 At noon Elijah mocked them, “Yell louder! After all, he is a god; he may be deep in thought, or perhaps he stepped out for a moment or has taken a trip. Perhaps he is sleeping and needs to be awakened.” 18  18:28 So they yelled louder and, in accordance with their prescribed ritual, 19  mutilated themselves with swords and spears until their bodies were covered with blood. 20  18:29 Throughout the afternoon they were in an ecstatic frenzy, 21  but there was no sound, no answer, and no response. 22 

18:30 Elijah then told all the people, “Approach me.” So all the people approached him. He repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 23  18:31 Then Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of tribes that descended from Jacob, to whom the Lord had said, “Israel will be your new 24  name.” 25  18:32 With the stones he constructed an altar for the Lord. 26  Around the altar he made a trench large enough to contain two seahs 27  of seed. 18:33 He arranged the wood, cut up the bull, and placed it on the wood. 18:34 Then he said, “Fill four water jars and pour the water on the offering and the wood.” When they had done so, 28  he said, “Do it again.” So they did it again. Then he said, “Do it a third time.” So they did it a third time. 18:35 The water flowed down all sides of the altar and filled the trench. 18:36 When it was time for the evening offering, 29  Elijah the prophet approached the altar 30  and prayed: “O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, prove 31  today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 18:37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are the true God 32  and that you are winning back their allegiance.” 33  18:38 Then fire from the Lord fell from the sky. 34  It consumed the offering, the wood, the stones, and the dirt, and licked up the water in the trench. 18:39 When all the people saw this, they threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and said, “The Lord is the true God! 35  The Lord is the true God!” 18:40 Elijah told them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Don’t let even one of them escape!” So they seized them, and Elijah led them down to the Kishon Valley and executed 36  them there.

1 tn Heb “Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.”

2 tn Heb “Ahab.”

3 tn Or “trouble.”

4 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Elijah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

5 tn Or “trouble.”

6 tn The word “messengers” is supplied in the translation both here and in v. 20 for clarification.

7 tn Heb “who eat at the table of Jezebel.”

8 tn Heb “How long are you going to limp around on two crutches?” (see HALOT 762 s.v. סְעִפִּים). In context this idiomatic expression refers to indecision rather than physical disability.

9 tn Heb “the God.”

10 tn Heb “to the people.”

11 tn Elijah now directly addresses the prophets.

12 tn Heb “the God.”

13 tn Heb “The matter [i.e., proposal] is good [i.e., acceptable].”

14 tc The last sentence of v. 25 is absent in the Syriac Peshitta.

15 tn Heb “and they took the bull which he allowed them.”

16 tn Heb “limped” (the same verb is used in v. 21).

17 tc The MT has “which he made,” but some medieval Hebrew mss and the ancient versions have the plural form of the verb.

18 sn Elijah’s sarcastic proposals would have been especially offensive and irritating to Baal’s prophets, for they believed Baal was imprisoned in the underworld as death’s captive during this time of drought. Elijah’s apparent ignorance of their theology is probably designed for dramatic effect; indeed the suggestion that Baal is away on a trip or deep in sleep comes precariously close to the truth as viewed by the prophets.

19 tn Or “as was their custom.”

20 tn Heb “until blood poured out on them.”

sn mutilated…covered with blood. This self-mutilation was a mourning rite designed to facilitate Baal’s return from the underworld.

21 tn Heb “when noon passed they prophesied until the offering up of the offering.”

22 tc The Old Greek translation and Syriac Peshitta include the following words here: “When it was time to offer the sacrifice, Elijah the Tishbite spoke to the prophets of the abominations: ‘Stand aside for the time being, and I will offer my burnt offering.’ So they stood aside and departed.”

sn In 2 Kgs 4:31 the words “there was no sound and there was no response” are used to describe a dead boy. Similar words are used here to describe the god Baal as dead and therefore unresponsive.

23 sn Torn down. The condition of the altar symbolizes the spiritual state of the people.

24 tn The word “new” is implied but not actually present in the Hebrew text.

25 sn Israel will be your new name. See Gen 32:28; 35:10.

26 tn Heb “and he built the stones into an altar in the name of the Lord.

27 tn A seah was a dry measure equivalent to about seven quarts.

28 tn The words “when they had done so” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

29 tn Heb “at the offering up of the offering.”

30 tn The words “the altar” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

31 tn Heb “let it be known.”

32 tn Heb “the God.”

33 tn Heb “that you are turning their heart[s] back.”

34 tn The words “from the sky” are added for stylistic reasons.

35 tn Heb “the God” (the phrase occurs twice in this verse).

36 tn Or “slaughtered.”



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