THE PROPHET WHOSE PRAYER RAISED A BOY TO LIFE
I Kings 15:33 to 17:24
AFTER Jeroboam and Nadab, his son Baasha reigned as king of Israel. But he did as Jeroboam had done before him, disobeying the word of the Lord and worshipping idols. Therefore the Lord sent a prophet to Baasha, saying, "Thus saith the Lord to Baasha, king of Israel, I lifted you up from the dust and made you the prince over my people Israel. But you have walked in the way of Jeroboam, and have made Israel sin. Therefore your family shall be destroyed, like the family of Jeroboam."
When Baasha died, his son Elah became king; but while he was drinking wine and making himself drunk, his servant, Zimri, came in and killed him, and killed also all his family, and all the house of Baasha, so that not one was left.
Zimri tried to make himself king, but his reign was short, only seven days. Omri, the general of the Israelite army, made war upon him, and shut him up in his palace. When Zimri found that he could not escape, he set his palace on fire and was burned up with it. After this there was war in Israel between Omri and another man, named Tibni, each trying to win the kingdom. But at last Tibni was slain, and Omri became king.
Omri was not a good man, for he worshipped idols, like the kings before him. But he was a strong king, and made his kingdom great. He made peace with the kingdom of Judah, for there had been war between Judah and Israel ever since Jeroboam had founded the kingdom. Omri bought a hill in the middle of the land, from a man named Shemer; and on the hill he built a city which he named Samaria, after the name of the man from whom he had bought the hill. The city of Samaria became in Israel what Jerusalem was in Judah, the chief city and capital. Before the time of Omri the kings of Israel had lived in different cities, sometimes in Shechem, and sometimes in Tirzah; but after Omri all the kings lived in Samaria; so that the kingdom itself was often called "the kingdom of Samaria."
After Omri came his son, Ahab, as king of Israel, reigning in Samaria. He was worse than any of the kings before him. Ahab took for his wife Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Zidon, on the coast of the Great Sea; and Jezebel brought into Israel the worship of Baal and of the Asherah, which was far more wicked than even the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. And Jezebel was so bitter against the worship of the Lord God of Israel that she sought out the prophets of the Lord everywhere, and slew them; so that to save their lives the prophets hid in caves among the mountains.
You remember that when Joshua destroyed and burned the city of Jericho, he spoke a curse, in the name of the Lord, upon any man who should ever build again the walls of Jericho. In the days of Ahab, king of Israel, five hundred years after Joshua, the walls of Jericho were built by a man named Hiel, who came from Bethel, the place of the idol-temple. When he laid the foundation of the wall his oldest son, Abiram, died; and when he set up the gates of the city his youngest son, Segub, died. Thus came to pass the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua.
In the reign of King Ahab a great prophet suddenly rose up, named Elijah. He came from the land of Gilead, beyond the river Jordan, and he lived alone out in the wilderness. His clothing was a mantle of skin, and his hair and beard were long and rough. Without any warning, Elijah came into the presence of King Ahab, and said, "As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not fall upon the ground any dew or rain until I call for it."
And then he went away as suddenly as he had come. At the Lord's command he hid himself in a wild place by the brook Cherith, which flows down from the mountains into the river Jordan. There he drank of the water in the brook, and every day the wild birds, the ravens, brought him food.
It came to pass as Elijah had said, that no rain fell upon the land, and there was not even any dew upon the grass. Every day the brook from which Elijah drank grew smaller, until at last it was dry, and there was no water. Then the Lord spoke to Elijah again, and said, "Rise up, and go to Zarephath, which is near to Zidon, by the Great Sea, on the north of the land of Israel. I have commanded a widow woman there to care for you."
So Elijah left the brook Cherith and walked northward through the land until he came near to the city of Zarephath. There, beside the gate of the city, he saw a woman dressed as a widow picking up sticks. Elijah said to her, "Will you bring to me some water, that I may drink?"
She went to bring him the water, and Elijah said again, "Bring me also, I pray you, a little piece of bread to eat."
And the woman said to Elijah, "As sure as the Lord your God lives, I have not in the house even a loaf of bread; but only one handful of meal in the barrel, and a little oil in a bottle; and now I am gathering a few sticks to make a fire, that I may bake it for me and my son; and when we have eaten it, there is nothing left for us but to die."
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, and he said to the woman, "Fear not; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake, and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son. For thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, 'The barrel of meal shall not waste nor the bottle of oil fail, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.' "
And the widow woman believed Elijah's word. She took from her barrel the meal and from her bottle the oil, and made a little cake for the prophet, and then found enough left for herself and for her son. And the barrel always had meal in it, and the bottle held oil every day. And the prophet, and the woman, and her son had food as long as they needed it.
After this, one day the son of the widow was taken very ill, and his illness was so great that there was no breath left in him. The boy's mother said to Elijah, "O man of God! Have you come here to cause my son to die?"
And Elijah said to her, "Give me your son."
And Elijah carried the boy up to his own room, and laid him on the bed. Then he cried to the Lord, and said, "O Lord God, hast thou brought trouble upon this woman, by taking away the life of her son?"
Then he stretched himself upon the child's body three times, and cried to the Lord again, "O Lord God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again!"
And the Lord heard Elijah's prayer, and the child became living once more. Then Elijah carried the living boy back to his mother; and she said, "Now I am sure that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord which you speak is the truth."