This Week’s Readings
Monday, June 4: 1 Kings 1-4
Tuesday, June 5: 1 Kings 5-8
Wednesday, June 6: 1 Kings 9-12
Thursday, June 7: 1 Kings 13-17
Friday, June 8: 1 Kings 18-22
We will start 2 Kings on Monday (June 11).
The overall year’s plan is here.
1 Kings 18
This is, of course, one of the most famous stories in the Bible. It’s the showdown between the prophets of Baal (and Asherah) and Elijah, the prophet of Yahweh.
You may wonder, as many skeptics have, where the people found 12 water jars full of water at the end of a 3-year drought. Mt. Carmel, which is only 1,742 feet high, sits right on the Mediterranean coast. The water probably came from the sea and was salt water.
As I pointed out yesterday, Elijah is persistent in prayer. He prays seven times, and each time he sends his servant to check on the results of his prayer.
At the faintest hint of an answer (a cloud as small as a man’s hand, v. 44), Elijah announces a deluge and sends Ahab back to Samaria to dodge the storm.
Elijah runs back ahead of Ahab’s chariot. You can see on the map that Jezreel is about 30 miles from Mt. Carmel. From Mt. Carmel on the coast (it’s on a little horn in C5 or D5) follow the Plain of Megiddo to the Valley of Jezreel. The city of Jezreel is just above the word "valley" there.
Jezreel was Ahab’s residence, but no other kings after Ahab lived there. Today it’s a village called Ze’rin (ref).
1 Kings 19
James, the Lord’s brother, tells us that Elijah was a man "of like passions to us" (Jam. 5:17). Perhaps this chapter is the reason he says it. Elijah, who has just conquered Ahab and 850 prophets of false gods, finds himself terrified and fleeing from Jezebel.
The Scriptures don’t say how many days he fled, but the trip from Jezreel to Beersheba was about 100 miles. It’s in the bottom left corner of the map I linked.
I found an excellent commentary on this chapter which includes the distances of Elijah’s travels. Horeb, which is Mt. Sinai of which the exact location is unknown, is 160 to 220 miles, as the crow flies, south of Beersheba. According to the commentary link at the start of this paragraph, it could be up to 420 miles if he took the roads.
The commentary suggests that Elijah was a younger man than we’re used to thinking of him as. He needed God’s strength to get to Horeb without eating, taking 40 days and 40 nights, but he traveled the 100 miles to Beersheba without divine intervention.
It is not at all unthinkable for a human in good shape to travel 40 to 50 miles a day for days on end and even further for one day only.
You’ve probably heard the term "still, small voice." This comes from verses 11 and 12.
Elijah is encouraged by God, and he goes back north to anoint two kings, one of which is to replace Ahab, though Ahab’s stories are by no means over at this point. He also anoints Elisha as his own replacement.
Elijah finds Elisha at Abel-Maholah, which is in the Valley of Jezreel though its exact location is unknown and it may be a region, not a city. Elisha is plowing with 12 yoke of oxen, indicating he is from a wealthy family. He leaves all that, however, to become Elijah’s student.
1 Kings 20
This is a bit of an unusual chapter. Unknown prophets approach King Ahab that are really sent from God. God helps King Ahab, declared by Scripture to be more evil than any of his predecessors (21:25), to defeat Ben-Hadad. (But see my comments on chapter 21.)
Also, we would expect that Ahab was finally doing something good in being merciful to a conquered king, but God curses him for doing so.
It is the word of the Lord that matters, and several kings and leaders are rebuked by God in Scripture for letting kings go that God had marked out for destruction. Saul is an example when he let Agag, king of the Amalekites live. God removed him from being king for not following through.
The figurative application for us today is that we need to deal with sin and with the things that make us stumble and make us weak in the same way God wanted Ahab to deal with Ben-Hadad. We must utterly purge our lives, leaving nothing of that weak area behind to tempt us.
I knew a man who was invited to a movie. He asked if there were anything in the movie to be concerned about. The person who invited him said, "Well, there’s a short scene where a beautiful girl walks around in a bikini; only a few seconds."
The man said, "I can’t see it. I’ve had difficulties in the past with my desires, and that would be like giving heroin to an addict."
That man was being thorough.
Are we really serious about following God?
(As I write that, I am convicted myself of a couple areas where I have not been thorough with God. Conviction should not discourage us, but should painfully empower us to action that we already knew was right.)
1 Kings 21
In chapter 21, we get an idea why God was so patient with Ahab. The truly evil one was Jezebel. Ahab himself was guilty for being pushed by and following Jezebel, but notice that there appears to be no one that stood up to Jezebel during her lifetime except God himself … and that includes Elijah the Tishbite!
Even here, Elijah is sent by God to speak to Ahab, not Jezebel. Speaking to Jezebel could well have resulted in the death of the prophet, but Ahab had more respect than that. Somewhere, deep beneath his evil behavior, Ahab knew that Yahweh was God.
Even Jehu, whom had Jezebel put to death and who will come up in 2 Kings, exchanged no words with her. He simply asked those with her to throw her out the upper story window.
1 Kings 22
Jehoshaphat’s expressions of unity with Ahab in verse 4 are entirely inappropriate, and God rebukes him for it (2 Chr. 19:2). We are to despise evil, and we are certainly not supposed to form bonds of unity with evil men.
Notice, too, that down in verse 44 that Jehoshophat’s peace with the king of Israel is listed among the deeds of his life, but it seems to be listed in the negative section of his deeds, not the positive—the "exceptions" to his righteousness, if you will.
I think it is safe to conclude that Ahab’s 400 prophets were clearly unreliable prophets. Jehoshaphat asks if there’s any other to hear from, even though four hundred were presented before him, all speaking with one voice.
Ahab brings Micaiah. I have to wonder if Ahab kept Micaiah in prison so he could "have his cake and eat it, too." Deep down, he knew that though Micaiah always prophesied evil about him, Micaiah prophesied truth. He couldn’t acknowledge that Micaiah was true, so he found a terrific compromise. He threw Micaiah in prison. This allowed him to hear true prophecy while still ignoring it, pretending he didn’t recognize truth when it was spoken to him. He also got to relieve his anger by ill-treating Micaiah.
When I read the story of the battle, I get the impression that Jehoshaphat, though a righteous man himself, wasn’t very courageous in standing up to evil men, or at least to evil kings. For some crazy reason, he agrees to let Ahab disguise himself in the midst of the battle while Jehoshaphat himself dressed in his royal robes.
Why would Jehoshaphat agree to be a decoy for Ahab?
God worked it all out despite Jehoshaphat’s foolishness, and Ahab got his just punishment from God, the same punishment we will all get if we ignore the truth that is told to us.