1 Kings 18
Battle of the gods: LORD vs Baal
Three years without rain1 Three years into the drought, Elijah got this message from the LORD: “Go tell Ahab that I said, ‘I’m going to make it rain.’” 2Elijah began traveling to the territory of Samaria  to meet the king. The famine was especially severe there.
3Meanwhile, King Ahab called in Obadiah, the official in charge of palace operations. Obadiah was completely devoted to the LORD. 4Earlier, when Queen Jezebel started executing prophets of the LORD, Obadiah hid 100 of them in two caves, 50 in a cave. And he supplied them with food and water.
5Obadiah appeared before the king, as requested. Ahab said, “We’ve got to find water if we want to keep our horses and mules alive. Let’s go scout out the springs and streams to see what we can find.” 6So they divided the area in half. Ahab went scouting for water in one direction. Obadiah in the other.
The king’s man meet’s Elijah7While Obadiah was out looking for water, he saw Elijah, recognized him, and dropped face-down on the ground out of respect. He said, “Elijah, is it really you, sir?” 8Elijah said, “Yes, I’m Elijah. Go tell the king I’m here.”
9Obadiah said, “Oh, don’t make me do that. He’ll kill me. Have I done something to deserve that? 10Listen to me, the king wants you dead. He has hunted you everywhere. He has searched one kingdom after another, forcing kings to swear you weren’t there. 11And now you say, ‘Go tell the king I’m here.’
12What if the LORD whisks you away somewhere after I leave. Then I tell Ahab you’re here, he can’t find you, and he kills me for lying to him about such a serious matter. I have served the LORD since I was a child. I don’t deserve this. 13Didn’t anyone tell you what I did when Jezebel started killing the LORD’s prophets? I hid 100 prophets in two caves, with 50 to a cave. And I kept them supplied with food and water. 14And now you say, ‘Go tell the king Elijah is here.’ He’ll kill me if I do.”
15Elijah said, “The king is going to see me today. As sure as there’s a LORD above us, it’s going to happen.” 16So, Obadiah did it. He told Ahab where Elijah was, and Ahab when to meet him.
Ahab meets Elijah the “troublemaker”17When Ahab approached Elijah, the king said, “Israel’s troublemaker, is that you?”
18Elijah said, “I’m not Israel’s troublemaker. You are. You and your God-forsaken family. You quit on the LORD, and you started worshiping Baal. 19Tell the people to meet me at Mount Carmel.  Bring the 950 prophets Jezebel feeds: 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. 
Battle of the gods20Ahab did just that. He brought the prophets and the people to Mount Carmel. 21Elijah told the people, “How long will it take you to make up your minds? If the LORD is God, act like it. If Baal is god, go ahead and try following him. But what makes you think you can do both?” No one answered.
22Elijah said, “Look at me. I’m one man—the LORD’s prophet. Look at them, all 450 prophets of Baal. 23Bring us two bulls for sacrifice. Let the queen’s prophets pick their bull, cut it up, and lay it on a pile of wood here. I’ll do the same with the second bull. Neither of us will light the fire. 24Then we’ll each start praying for our god to light the fire without any help from us. I’ll ask the LORD to send fire. Whichever god lights the fire is the real God.” The people answered, “Agreed.”
25Elijah told Baal’s prophets, “So, go ahead and pick a bull and prepare your sacrifice. There are a lot of you, so go ahead and take the first turn. Don’t light the fire. Instead, ask your god to send down the fire.”  26They killed the bull, cut it into pieces, and laid it on the wood. Then they prayed to Baal, from morning to noon: “Baal, answer.” He didn’t. They danced a slow, rhythmic hobble around the altar they made.
27At noon, Elijah took a few jabs at them. “Pray louder. Maybe he’s meditating—yeah he’s in deep meditation. Or maybe he took a little walk to the outhouse. He might even be taking a power nap.”
28They prayed loudly. They cut themselves, too. They cut with swords, spears, and knives. They cut until the blood gushed out. This was one of their worship rituals. 29They kept it up until evening. That’s when it was time for the daily sacrifice just before the sun went down. No one answered them
Elijah calls down the fire30Elijah told the people, “Come close.” They crowded up around him. He repaired what had once been a stone altar to God, which someone had torn apart. 31He picked out 12 stones, one for each tribe of Israel—extended families descended from the 12 sons of Jacob. These are the people God named as Israel. 32Elijah used those stones to build an altar devoted to the LORD. He dug a trench around the altar. It would hold about three gallons  of water.
33He stacked the wood on top of the stones, and he placed meat on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars of water and pour it all on the meat and wood.” 34When they did, he said, “Do it again.” When they did, he said, “Do it a third time.” 35When they did, the excess water drained into the trench and filled it.
36It was now time for the evening sacrifice. Elijah said, “LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, show these people who you are. Let then know you are the God of Israel. And let them see that I am a man of God, and that I am doing what you told me to do. 37Answer me, LORD, so these people will know you are God and come back to you.”
God lights it up38Fire of the LORD struck the wood with heat that consumed everything it touched: meat, wood, stone, and water. 39When the people saw that, they were sold on God. They dropped face-down in the dirt and said, “The LORD is God. The LORD is God.”
40Elijah said, “Arrest the prophets of Baal. Don’t let one of them escape.” Elijah led them down the hill to the Kishon River Valley below. He killed them all there.
The first cloud41Elijah told Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink. You can celebrate because I can already hear the heavy rains that are coming.” 42Ahad left to eat. Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel. He sat with his face bowed between his knees.
43Then he told a servant with him, “Look out toward the sea.” The servant did and said, “There’s nothing happening.” Elijah said, “Go do it again, but seven times.” 44After the servant did that seven times, he said, “Look. I see a cloud. It doesn’t look any bigger than someone’s hand, but it’s lifting out of the sea.” Elijah said, “Go tell Ahab, ‘Get your chariot headed back down the hills for home before the rain hits.’”
45A little while later, the winds arrived ahead of the dark clouds and a downpour. Ahab rode to his summer palace in Jezreel.  46Elijah pulled his robe up high enough for him to run and he took off down the hill toward Jezreel. The LORD gave him speed enough to get there before Ahab did.
It’s not clear which Samaria the writer was talking about. Was it the capital city? Or was it the territory that includes the city but that extends up north to the Carmel Mountains and to the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley beyond it? At the time of this story, Ahab seemed to have been staying in his getaway palace at Jezreel, a wall-protected town in the southern part of the Jezreel Valley. Best guess: it was the territory of Samaria.
Carmel isn’t just one mountain, it’s a ridge of many hilltops overlooking the sprawling Jezreel Valley below, to the north.
Baal and Asherah were native Canaanite gods worshiped by the people who lived in what is now Israel and the Palestinian Territory before Joshua led the Hebrew (Jewish) invasion into the land to take it from the locals. Many of these locals considered Baal a god of fertility in family, flocks, and fields. He sent the storms and the rain. Some scholars say the idea behind one worship ritual was to entertain Baal by letting him watch people have sex. They did this so he would make it rain. Priests apparently served as sacred prostitutes assigned to helping worshipers please their god. Asherah was a Canaanite fertility goddess of motherhood. She was the love interest of Baal.
Advantage: Baal. Or so it would seem. He was the god of lightning and rain. Some ancient art shows him holding what looks like a lightning bolt.
About 14 liters or, in ancient Hebrew measure, 2 seahs.
Ahab’s main palace was in the capital city of Samaria, in the central part of what is known today as the Holy Land, Israel, and the Palestinian Territory. But he also had a palace in Jezreel, a cooler, wind-swept location in the Jezreel Valley north of the Carmel Mountains and Mount Gilboa. Ruins of the Jezreel city walls were discovered during excavation for a parking lot that never got built. Ancient ruins trump parking lots.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.