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1 Kings 18:25-29

Context

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.” 1  18:26 So they took a bull, as he had suggested, 2  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 3  around on the altar they had made. 4  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.” 5  18:28 So they yelled louder and, in accordance with their prescribed ritual, 6  mutilated themselves with swords and spears until their bodies were covered with blood. 7  18:29 Throughout the afternoon they were in an ecstatic frenzy, 8  but there was no sound, no answer, and no response. 9 

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

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

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

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

5 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.

6 tn Or “as was their custom.”

7 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.

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

9 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.



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