1 Kings 12-16 Preface to Elijah
After the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam became king:
- 1 Kings 12:1-11, 16-20—The “old men” who had been advisors to Solomon counseled Rehoboam to be a servant-king to the people; Jeroboam counseled Rehoboam to lighten the “heavy yoke” that Solomon had put upon them. But instead, Rehoboam followed the counsel of the “young men” who were his friends, and added to the people’s burdens. Therefore, ten tribes chose Jeroboam as king in the northern kingdom (“Israel”), leaving Rehoboam as king over the south (“Judah”), comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
- 1 Kings 12:25-33—In the north, Jeroboam worried that his people would still want to go to Jerusalem to worship at the temple, so he devised his own gods, idols, priests, sacrifices, and feasts; all contrary to the law of Moses.
- 1 Kings 14—Rehoboam and Jeroboam war against each other; Jeroboam dies and his son Nadab becomes king over the northern kingdom. In the southern kingdom, Rehoboam’s people also turned to idolatry and immorality. They are attacked by the king of Egypt, who ransacked the temple and took away its treasures. Rehoboam dies and his son Abijam becomes king in the south.
- 1 Kings 15-16—Ongoing wickedness and conflict in both kingdoms, through the lives and deaths of various kings. Ahab became king in Israel, married Jezebel, worshipped Baal, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him” (16:30).
1 Kings 17 The Prophet Elijah
The Lord raises up a wondrous prophet, Elijah, to minister among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel. His name means “the Lord is my God.” He goes before wicked king Ahab and proclaims that there will be a drought in the land (verse 1), with the purpose of motivating the people to repent:
- This is similar to what the prophet Nephi did in Helaman 11:3-7, which successfully prompted the Nephites to repentance. Nephi had been given the sealing power by which he could “smite the earth with famine” (see Helaman 10:6-7). We normally think of the sealing power as the priesthood key by which couples and families are sealed in eternal relationships; but evidently this power can also “seal” the heavens so that it does not rain.
- This is the same Elijah who was later translated and appeared to the Savior and to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-3). And in 1836 Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and committed the sealing keys to them (D&C 110:13-16; see also Malachi 4:5-6).
- The drought in Israel also affected Elijah, so the Lord arranged for him to be given water from a brook and food from ravens (1 Kings 17:2-6).
- What happened next, in verses 7-16, is a sweet story that was referred to by Jesus almost 1,000 years later. What gospel principles do you see in this story of Elijah and the widow?
- This faithful woman “went and did” (verse 15); reminding us of Nephi’s declaration in 1 Nephi 3:7—“I will go and do …”
- It is significant to note that the widow lived in Zarephath of Zidon (verse 9; in modern-day Lebanon), which is gentile territory. She was a convert to the God of Israel, whose name she cited in verse 12.
- In Luke 4:24-26, Jesus used this story of the widow to explain His lack of miracles in Nazareth; in other words, the “people of God” (in Elijah’s day and in Jesus’s day) did not receive God’s miraculous grace, but certain gentiles did.
- The miracle of the widow’s unfailing grain and oil is followed up by Elijah raising her son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24).
1 Kings 18:17-45 “How Long Halt Ye Between Two Opinions?”
In the third year of the drought, Elijah went before king Ahab again. Ahab blamed Elijah for the drought (verse 17), but Elijah corrected Ahab by saying that the drought had come upon them because of their wickedness (verse 18).
- What did Elijah invite Ahab to do in verse 19?
- Ahab consents (verse 20), thus setting the stage at Mount Carmel for the great “contest” between those who worshipped the true God and those who worshipped Baal (the false prophets of Baal were supported by Ahab’s wife, Jezebel; see verse 19).
- How would you put Elijah’s invitation (in verse 21) into words that people today would understand? What was the people’s reply to Elijah’s invitation?
- What did Elijah propose to the people, in verses 22-24? What was their response?
- Read verses 25-39. What was Elijah’s motive? What was the result? (verse 39). Do you think this would result in the conversion of the people?
- The 450 false prophets of Baal were put to death by Elijah (verse 40), which was followed by “a great rain” and end to the drought (verse 45).
What prominent messages and counsel are you hearing from our prophets today? What things do you see and feel that prompt you to know and to say, “The Lord, he is the God”? (verse 39).
1 Kings 19:1-8 Running for His Life
King Ahab told his wife Jezebel that Elijah had killed the 450 prophets of Baal, and her reaction was to send a message to Elijah, swearing to kill him (verses 1-2):
- Elijah had already left Mount Carmel, having “girded up his loins” for fast foot-travel, and he “ran” to Jezreel (18:46); a distance of about 30 miles.
- After hearing of Jezebel’s threat, Elijah then departed “for his life,” traveling to Beer-sheba (19:3); an additional distance of over 100 miles. This was followed by a “day’s journey into the wilderness” (verse 4); adding about 20 more miles to his escape route.
- In verse 4, Elijah “requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (even prophets can become discouraged).
- At Beer-sheba, the Lord sent an angel to feed and comfort Elijah (verses 5-7). The angel then instructed Elijah to travel to Mount Horeb (verse 8; Horeb is thought to be the same as Mount Sinai, where Moses received the stone tablets from the Lord).
- The exact location of Mount Horeb/Sinai is not known, but from Beer-sheba to the site considered by many to be Horeb adds another 250 miles; making Elijah’s journey from Mount Carmel to Mount Horeb about 400 miles total.
- Miraculously, Elijah survived the last 250 miles—much of it in mountainous desert—on only the cake and water provided in Beer-sheba by the angel (19:8). But, in a sense, a greater manifestation is yet to come.
1 Kings 19:9-18 You Are Not Alone
Perhaps at least partly in response to Elijah’s wish to die (in verse 4), the Lord gives him a most significant sign. Read verses 9-12. What impresses you most in these verses? In what ways do you perceive the Lord’s presence, support, help, and love? In your experience, how do you hear the Lord? What is the voice of the Spirit like for you?
The King James Version of the Bible (KJV) says that the Lord was made evident in “a still small voice.” Other English translations include “the sound of sheer silence” (RSV); “a sound of a gentle blowing” (NASB); and “a gentle whisper” (NIV).
Not only does the Lord reassure Elijah that He is with him, but He also addresses Elijah’s depressing perception that he is all alone in his determination to follow the Lord:
- Note Elijah’s statement in verse 10 (which is repeated almost word for word in verse 14): “I have been very jealous [or zealous] for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
- 1 Kings 16:30 says that Ahab “did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him” (see also 1 Kings 21:25-26). All this could certainly make Elijah feel like everyone else had turned wicked.
- But there is a companion-prophet for Elijah, and in 19:17 the Lord directs him to anoint Elisha.
- This is followed up by the Lord’s declaration that must have surprised Elijah: “Yet I have left [to] me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (verse 18).
- You are not alone in your quest to follow God! Today there are thousands, even millions of others (of many religions) who believe and obey Him, and they do not bow down to the false gods of this world.
- God always prevails in the end: In 19:16-17 He instructed Elijah to anoint Hazael and Jehu as kings, who will destroy the wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel, which happens in 1 Kings 21:17-24; 1 Kings 22.