Elijah Proclaims a Drought.* 1Elijah the Tishbite,* a from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab: “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, during these years there shall be no dew or rain except at my word.” 2The word of the LORD came to Elijah: 3Leave here, go east and hide in the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan. 4You shall drink of the wadi, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there. 5So he left and did as the LORD had commanded. He left and remained by the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan. 6b Ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the wadi.
7After some time, however, the wadi ran dry, because no rain had fallen in the land. 8c So the word of the LORD came to him: 9Arise, go to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow there to feed you. 10He arose and went to Zarephath. When he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called out to her, “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.” 11She left to get it, and he called out after her, “Please bring along a crust of bread.” 12She said, “As the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a few sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” 13Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Afterwards you can prepare something for yourself and your son. 14For the LORD, the God of Israel, says: The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.” 15She left and did as Elijah had said. She had enough to eat for a long time—he and she and her household. 16The jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD spoken through Elijah.
17d Some time later the son of the woman, the owner of the house, fell sick, and his sickness grew more severe until he stopped breathing. 18So she said to Elijah, “Why have you done this to me, man of God? Have you come to me to call attention to my guilt and to kill my son?” 19Elijah said to her, “Give me your son.” Taking him from her lap, he carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. 20He called out to the LORD: “LORD, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?” 21Then he stretched himself out upon the child three times and he called out to the LORD: “LORD, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.” 22The LORD heard the prayer of Elijah; the life breath returned to the child’s body and he lived. 23Taking the child, Elijah carried him down into the house from the upper room and gave him to his mother. Elijah said, “See! Your son is alive.” 24The woman said to Elijah, “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God, and it is truly the word of the LORD that you speak.”
* [17:1–19:21] The central section of 1–2 Kings tells the story of the dynasty of Omri. That dynasty begins and ends in civil war (1 Kgs 16:21–22; 2 Kgs 9–11). Most of the story is set during the reigns of Ahab of Israel (1 Kgs 16:29–22:40) and his son Joram (2 Kgs 3:1–9:26) and focuses particularly on the interaction of the king with various prophets, especially Ahab with Elijah and Joram with Elisha. The story of Ahab itself contains two large complexes, a series of narratives about Elijah (1 Kgs 17:1–19:21) and a series about hostility between Ahab and the prophets (1 Kgs 20:1–22:38).
* [17:1–24] The story of Elijah is in three parts. The first (chap. 17) describes how Elijah proclaimed a drought on God’s authority and how he survived during the drought. The second (chap. 18) describes how he ends the drought by bringing the populace back to exclusive worship of the Lord. The third (chap. 19) describes Elijah’s despair at the failure of his prophetic mission and his consequent attempt to resign from the prophetic office.
* [17:1] This verse introduces the enigmatic figure of Elijah the Tishbite. (The name “Elijah” means “the Lord is my God.” The meaning of “Tishbite” is unknown; it may refer to a place or to a social class.) His appearance before Ahab is abrupt and involves several matters that will unify the whole Elijah story. His claim to “serve the Lord” (lit., to “stand before the Lord”) points forward to 19:13, where he refuses to do so; the center of narrative tension on this level is the question of the prophet’s autonomy in God’s service. His proclamation of a drought points forward to 18:41–45 where he announces the drought’s end; the center of narrative tension on this level is the struggle between the Lord and the Canaanite fertility god Baal for the loyalties of Israel. His claim that the drought is due to his own word of power (“except at my word”) points forward to 17:24 where the widow acknowledges the divine source of the word Elijah speaks; the center of narrative tension on this level is the gradual characterization of the prophet as one who receives a divine word (vv. 2, 8), obeys it (v. 5), conveys an effective divine word of threat (v. 1) or promise (vv. 14, 16), and even speaks an effective human word of entreaty to God (vv. 20, 22).