Elijah – The Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 16:30-17:24)

This Tuesday is the first week of our Elijah study. Please read 1 Kings 16:30 – 17:24 where we are introduced to the prophet and we encounter the Widow of Zarepeth. As you read these two stories, first read them as simply a good story. Then re-read the stories and see how they speak to us in the church today – both in who we are as an alternative community and who we are called to be to the outside community surrounding us. Then re-read the stories for a third time and discern where you see Jesus the Messiah.

The Characters:

On Tuesday, we are going to meet several characters, most of whom will continue with us through our readings.

Ahab: The primary antagonist in our stories is King Ahab. He is the king of the northern Kingdom of Israel who ruled about a century after the death of King David. He is described as the most evil king of Israel to date. 1 Kings 16:30, 33. Ahab’s great sin was that he erected an altar and a temple to the Canaanite God Baal in his capital city of Samaria. Early Israelite kings had permitted the worship of Baal, but Ahab encouraged it.

Jezebel: The source of Ahab’s apostasy is his wife Jezebel. She was the daughter of the priest-king Eth-baal, ruler of the coastal Phoenician cities (current day Lebanon) of Tyre and Sidon. She sought to make Baal worship the religion of Isreal by bringing with her 450 priests of Baal and 450 priests of his mother-goddess consort Ashera.

Elijah: During this time, the royal court was full of hundreds of prophets. Their role was to channel the will of God and give advice to the king. See, 1 Kings 22:6. We are not told much about Elijah’s origins, only that he was from Gilead which is on the east bank of the Jordan River. There is no story of Elijah’s call. However, he appears to be well-known to Ahab.

The Drought: (1 Kings 17:1-7)

Our story begins with Elijah pronouncing a drought in the land. 1 Kings 17:1. In Canaanite mythology, Baal is the Storm God who brings rain and dew. From the very outset, Elijah is coming after Baal. And, from the very outset, Elijah has to flee for his life from Jezebel and he escapes across the Jordan River.

The Widow of Zarephath: (1 Kings 17:8-16)

Elijah is sent by  God to the town of Zarephath located in Sidon’s territory. She is a Gentile, not an Israelite. She is from the same country as Jezebel and is presumably a Baal worshiper. She appears to have little economic or social standing, particularly as a widow. In fact, the Bible does not even tell us her name. Her story opens with her making her last meal with the last of her supplies. Elijah asks her to share what little she has, and she does. In return for her faith in sharing with Elijah, she is blessed with a bottomless jar of flour and a bottomless jug of oil.

The Widow’s Son: (1 Kings 17:17-24)

After this first miracle, the widow’s son takes ill and dies. He is her only child and the only heir of her deceased husband. The woman blames her own sin for her son’s death and blames Elijah for visiting the punishment for her sin upon her son. Elijah confronts God and prays for the child’s revival. God hears Elijah, and the child’s life comes back to him. The story ends with the widow’s proclamation that Elijah is “a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.” v.24. This proclamation gives Elijah the confidence to return to Israel and to confront Ahab. It is Elijah, not only the widow’s son, who receives his life back.

Think through these stories as you read through them. See the apocalyptic battle between Yahweh and Baal (God/Satan, Good/Evil) begin to develop. Notice the faith, as it waxes and wanes, in both Elijah and the Widow. See the typology of the coming resurrection of the son.  

Dinner is at 6. The menu is turkey chili. Discussion around 6:45. Compline at 8. Hope to see you here.

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

Luke 4:24-26

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