1 Kings 19 – “Elijah’s Theophany at Horeb”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah. With the help of an angel, Elijah travels to Horeb where he encounters God. He returns to Israel and accepts Elisha as his apprentice.

II. Photo
Elijah, who is being pursued by Jezebel, begs for death: “He came to a broom bush and sat down under it, and prayed that he might die. ‘Enough!’ he cried. ‘Now, O Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’” (v. 4b)

III. Important Verses
1-2: When Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had put all the prophets to the sword, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “Thus and more may the gods do if by this time tomorrow I have not made you like one of them.”
3-4: Frightened, he fled at once for his life. He came to Beer-sheba, which is in Judah, and left his servant there; he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush and sat down under it, and prayed that he might die. “Enough!” he cried. “Now, O LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
7-9a: The angel of the LORD came a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.”  He arose and ate and drank; and with the strength from that meal he walked forty days and forty nights as far as the mountain of God at Horeb. There he went into a cave, and there he spent the night.
9b-12: Then the word of the LORD came to him. He said to him, “Why are you here, Elijah?” He replied, “I am moved by zeal for the LORD, the God of Hosts, for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put Your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they are out to take my life.”  “Come out,” He called, “and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And lo, the LORD passed by. There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind — an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake — fire; but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire — a soft murmuring sound.

IV. Outline
1-2. Jezebel threatens Elijah
3-4a. Elijah flees to the wilderness
4b. Elijah’s petition
5-8a. An angel sustains Elijah
8b-9a. Elijah travels to Horeb
9b-14. Elijah experiences the power of God
15-18. God gives Elijah a mission
19-21. Elisha becomes Elijah’s attendant

V. Comment
Chapter 19 relates how Elijah, who is being pursued by Jezebel, travels to Horeb and experiences God’s presence. In discussing this chapter, scholars point to the many similarities between Moses and Elijah. For example, note the following parallels:

Horeb:

  • He arose and ate and drank; and with the strength from that meal he walked forty days and forty nights as far as the mountain of God at Horeb. (1 Kgs 19:8)
  • Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Ex 3:1)

Forty days:

  • He arose and ate and drank; and with the strength from that meal he walked forty days and forty nights as far as the mountain of God at Horeb. (1 Kgs 19:8)
  • Moses went inside the cloud and ascended the mountain; and Moses remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. (Ex 24:18)

Abstaining from food and drink:

  • He arose and ate and drank; and with the strength from that meal he walked forty days and forty nights as far as the mountain of God at Horeb. (1 Kgs 19:8)
  • And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he ate no bread and drank no water; and he wrote down on the tablets the terms of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Ex 34:28)

Standing in a cave as God passes by:

  • There he went into a cave, and there he spent the night. Then the word of the LORD came to him. He said to him, “Why are you here, Elijah?” (1 Kgs 19:9)
  • And, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. (Ex 33:22)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
De Vries, Simon John. “1 Kings” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 12 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1985).
Longe, Burke O. “1 Kings with an Introduction to Historical Literature” Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1984).
Photo taken from http://www.floradecanarias.com/imagenes/spartium_junceum.jpg

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