Since Jeroboam, there were a few other kings in the scripture since chapter 12. At the end of chapter 16, Ahab is king; and he marries a foreign woman, Jezebel. Then he erects an altar for the idol Baal, and worships it. So under his reign, the people are turned from the perverse worship of the Lord through idols into the outright worship of Baal. The lines of loyalty to the Lord have gone from blurred to blind, and worse. Baal worship was appealing in the dry regions of Canaan when the Israelites first came because Baal was the “god” of rain. This is fitting, just as the plagues in Egypt in Exodus were a mockery of their gods (see blog on Exodus 7).
In chapter 17, we meet the prophet Elijah – arguably the most important prophet since Samuel. Right away, in verse 1, we find him telling Ahab “there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” because of this Baal worship. This is exactly what God had told them would happen in Deuteronomy 11:16-17. God then sends Elijah to the brook at Cherith, where he commanded the ravens to feed him; and he remained there until the brook dried up from the lack of rain. He then sends him to Zarephath, where he has commanded a widow to feed Elijah.
But Elijah finds that the widow is expecting that she and her son will die, saying that she only has a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. Elijah tells her that until it rains, the jar and the jug both will never be empty, and God made it so (verse 16). Then, her son becomes so severely ill “that there was no breath left in him,” and she believes that Elijah has brought that upon her because of her sins. In verse 21, it is Elijah’s prayer to God that revives the boy – not the physical ritual described that the prophet did.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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