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18
Elijah Gives Obadiah a Message for Ahab
1It was now three years since it had rained. A message came to Elijah from the Lord. He said, "Go. Speak to Ahab. Then I will send rain on the land."
2So Elijah went to speak to Ahab.
There wasn't enough food in Samaria. The people there were very hungry. 3Ahab had sent for Obadiah. He was in charge of Ahab's palace. Obadiah had great respect for the Lord.
4Ahab's wife Jezebel had been killing off the Lord's prophets. So Obadiah had hidden 100 prophets in two caves. He had put 50 in each cave. He had supplied them with food and water.
5Ahab had said to Obadiah, "Go through the land. Go to all of the springs of water and to the valleys. Maybe we can find some grass there. It will keep the horses and mules alive. Then we won't have to kill any of our animals." 6So they decided where each of them would look. Ahab went in one direction. Obadiah went in another.
7As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him. He bowed down to the ground. He said, "My master Elijah! Is it really you?"
8"Yes," he replied. "Go and tell your master Ahab, 'Elijah is here.' "
9"What have I done wrong?" asked Obadiah. "Why are you handing me over to Ahab to be put to death?
10"My master has sent people to look for you everywhere. There isn't a nation or kingdom where he hasn't sent someone to look for you. Suppose a nation or kingdom would claim you weren't there. Then Ahab would make them take an oath and say they couldn't find you. And that's just as sure as the Lord your God is alive.
11"But now you are telling me to go to my master. You want me to say, 'Elijah is here.' 12But the Spirit of the Lord might carry you away when I leave you. Then I won't know where you are. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn't find you, he'll kill me.
"But I've worshiped the Lord ever since I was young. 13My master, haven't you heard what I did? Jezebel was killing the Lord's prophets. But I hid 100 of them in two caves. I put 50 in each cave. I supplied them with food and water. 14And now you are telling me to go to my master Ahab. You want me to say to him, 'Elijah is here.' He'll kill me!"
15Elijah said, "I serve the Lord who rules over all. You can be sure that he lives. And you can be just as sure that I will speak to Ahab today."
The Lord Answers Elijah's Prayer on Mount Carmel
16Obadiah went back to Ahab. He told Ahab that Elijah wanted to see him. So Ahab went to where Elijah was. 17When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you? You are always stirring up trouble in Israel."
18"I haven't made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have turned away from the Lord's commands. You have followed the gods that are named after Baal.
19"Now send for people from all over Israel. Tell them to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the 450 prophets of the god Baal. Also bring the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah. All of them eat at Jezebel's table."
20So Ahab sent that message all through Israel. He gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel.
21Elijah went there and stood in front of the people. He said, "How long will it take you to make up your minds? If the Lord is the one and only God, follow him. But if Baal is the one and only God, follow him."
The people didn't say anything.
22Then Elijah said to them, "I'm the only one of the Lord's prophets left. But Baal has 450 prophets. 23Get two bulls for us. Let Baal's prophets choose one for themselves. Let them cut it into pieces. Then let them put it on the wood. But don't let them set fire to it. I'll prepare the other bull. I'll put it on the wood. But I won't set fire to it. 24Then you pray to your god. And I'll pray to the Lord. The god who answers by sending fire down is the one and only God."
Then all of the people said, "What you are saying is good."
25Elijah spoke to the prophets of Baal. He said, "Choose one of the bulls. There are many of you. So prepare your bull first. Pray to your god. But don't light the fire."
26So they prepared the bull they had been given.
They prayed to Baal from morning until noon. "Baal! Answer us!" they shouted. But there wasn't any reply. No one answered. Then they danced around the altar they had made.
27At noon Elijah began to tease them. "Shout louder!" he said. "I'm sure Baal is a god! Perhaps he has too much to think about. Or maybe he has gone to the toilet. Or perhaps he's away on a trip. Maybe he's sleeping. You might have to wake him up."
28So they shouted louder. They cut themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed. That's what they usually did when things really looked hopeless. 29It was now past noon. The prophets of Baal continued to prophesy with all their might. They did it until the time came to offer the evening sacrifice. But there wasn't any reply. No one answered. No one paid any attention.
30Then Elijah said to all of the people, "Come here to me." So they went to him. He rebuilt the altar of the Lord. It had been destroyed. 31Elijah got 12 stones. There was one for each tribe in the family line of Jacob. The Lord's message had come to Jacob. It had said, "Your name will be Israel." 32Elijah used the stones to build an altar in honor of the Lord. He dug a ditch around it. The ditch was large enough to hold 13 quarts of seeds. 33He arranged the wood for the fire. He cut the bull into pieces. He placed the pieces on the wood.
Then he said to some of the people, "Fill four large jars with water. Pour it on the offering and the wood." So they did.
34"Do it again," he said. So they did it again.
"Do it a third time," he ordered. And they did it the third time. 35The water ran down around the altar. It even filled the ditch.
36When it was time to offer the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward. He prayed, "Lord, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Today let everyone know that you are God in Israel. Let them know I'm your servant. Let them know I've done all of these things because you commanded me to. 37Answer me. Lord, answer me. Then these people will know that you are the one and only God. They'll know that you are turning their hearts back to you again."
38The fire of the Lord came down. It burned up the sacrifice. It burned up the wood and the stones and the soil. It even licked up the water in the ditch.
39All of the people saw it. Then they fell down flat with their faces toward the ground. They cried out, "The Lord is the one and only God! The Lord is the one and only God!"
40Then Elijah commanded them, "Grab hold of the prophets of Baal. Don't let a single one of them get away!"
So they grabbed them. Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley. There he had them put to death.
41Elijah said to Ahab, "Go. Eat and drink. I can hear the sound of a heavy rain."
42So Ahab went off to eat and drink.
But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel. He bent down toward the ground. Then he put his face between his knees.
43"Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. So he went up and looked.
"I don't see anything there," he said.
Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."
44The seventh time the servant said, "I see a cloud. It's as small as a man's hand. It's coming up over the sea."
Elijah said, "Go to Ahab. Tell him, 'Tie your chariot to your horse. Go down to Jezreel before the rain stops you.' "
45Black clouds filled the sky. The wind came up, and a heavy rain began to fall. Ahab rode off to Jezreel.
46The power of the Lord came on Elijah. He tucked his coat into his belt. And he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
18
The Contest on Mount Carmel
1Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.
Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
7As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.
8“Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”
9“Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”
15But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”
16So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”
18“I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.#18:19 Hebrew who eat at Jezebel’s table.
20So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.
22Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.
25Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”
26So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.
27About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.#18:27 Or is busy somewhere else, or is engaged in business. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”
28So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.
30Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,#18:31 Hebrew each of the tribes of the sons of Jacob to whom the Lord had said, “Your name will be Israel.” 32and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.#18:32 Hebrew 2 seahs [14.6 liters] of seed. 33He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.#18:33 Verse 18:34 in the Hebrew text begins here.
Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”
34After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.
36At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,#18:36 Hebrew and Israel. The names “Jacob” and “Israel” are often interchanged throughout the Old Testament, referring sometimes to the individual patriarch and sometimes to the nation. prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
38Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”
40Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.
Elijah Prays for Rain
41Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!”
42So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees.
43Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.”
The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.”
Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. 44Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.”
Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”
45And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. 46Then the Lord gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt#18:46 Hebrew He bound up his loins. and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel.