Elijah Ends the Drought.* 1Long afterward, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: Go, present yourself to Ahab, that I may send rain upon the earth. 2So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.
Now the famine in Samaria was severe, 3and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, master of his palace, who greatly revered the LORD. 4When Jezebel was slaughtering the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them away by fifties in caves, and supplied them with food and water. 5Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all sources of water and to all the wadies. We may find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, so that we shall not have to slaughter any of the beasts.” 6Dividing the land to explore between them, Ahab went one way by himself, Obadiah another way by himself. 7As Obadiah was on his way, Elijah met him. Recognizing him, Obadiah fell prostrate and asked, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” 8He said to him, “Yes. Go tell your lord, ‘Elijah is here!’”* 9But Obadiah said, “What sin has your servant committed, that you are handing me over to Ahab to be killed? 10As the LORD, your God, lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent in search of you. When they replied, ‘He is not here,’ he made each kingdom and nation swear they could not find you. 11And now you say, ‘Go tell your lord: Elijah is here!’ 12After I leave you, the spirit of the LORD will carry you to some place I do not know, and when I go to inform Ahab and he does not find you, he will kill me—though your servant has revered the LORD from his youth! 13Have you not been told, my lord, what I did when Jezebel was murdering the prophets of the LORD—that I hid a hundred of the prophets of the LORD, fifty each in caves, and supplied them with food and water? 14And now you say, ‘Go tell your lord: Elijah is here!’ He will kill me!” 15Elijah answered, “As the LORD of hosts lives, whom I serve, I will present myself to him today.”
16So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and informed him, and Ahab came to meet Elijah. 17When Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is it you, you disturber of Israel?” 18He answered, “It is not I who disturb Israel, but you and your father’s house, by forsaking the commands of the LORD and you by following the Baals. 19Now summon all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, as well as the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 20So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and had the prophets gather on Mount Carmel.
21Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him. 22So Elijah said to the people, “I am the only remaining prophet of the LORD, and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. 23Give us two young bulls. Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood, but shall start no fire. 24You shall call upon the name of your gods, and I will call upon the name of the LORD. The God who answers with fire is God.” All the people answered, “We agree!”
25Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one young bull and prepare it first, for there are more of you. Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire.” 26Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it and called upon Baal from morning to noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound, and no one answering. And they hopped around the altar they had prepared. 27When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: “Call louder, for he is a god; he may be busy doing his business, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears according to their ritual until blood gushed over them. 29Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state until the time for offering sacrifice. But there was no sound, no one answering, no one listening.
30Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” When they drew near to him, he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been destroyed. 31He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the LORD had said: Israel shall be your name. 32He built the stones into an altar to the name of the LORD, and made a trench around the altar large enough for two measures of grain. 33When he had arranged the wood, he cut up the young bull and laid it on the wood. 34He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it over the burnt offering and over the wood.” “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he said, and they did it a third time. 35The water flowed around the altar; even the trench was filled with the water. 36At the time for offering sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came forward and said, “LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37a Answer me, LORD! Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have turned their hearts back to you.” 38The LORD’s fire came down and devoured the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust, and lapped up the water in the trench. 39Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!” 40b Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Let none of them escape!” They seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and there he slaughtered them. 41Elijah then said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42So Ahab went up to eat and drink, while Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, crouched down to the earth, and put his head between his knees. 43He said to his servant, “Go up and look out to sea.” He went up and looked, but reported, “There is nothing.” Seven times he said, “Go look again!” 44And the seventh time the youth reported, “There is a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Elijah said, “Go and say to Ahab, ‘Harness up and go down the mountain before the rain stops you.’” 45All at once the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and a heavy rain fell. Ahab mounted his chariot and headed for Jezreel. 46But the hand of the LORD was on Elijah. He girded up his clothing and ran before Ahab as far as the approaches to Jezreel.
* [18:1–45] The story of the conflict with the prophets of Baal (vv. 21–40) is embedded in the story of the drought and its ending (vv. 1–20, 41–45). The connection between the two stories is found in Canaanite theology, in whose pantheon Baal, “the Cloud Rider,” the god of rain and storm, was recognized as the one who brings fertility. Worship of many gods was virtually universal in the ancient world; the Israelite requirement of exclusive worship of the Lord (Ex 20:3) was unique. The people of Israel had apparently become comfortable worshiping both Baal and the Lord, perhaps assigning mutually exclusive spheres of influence to each. By claiming authority over the rain (17:1; 18:1), the Lord was challenging Baal’s power in Baal’s own domain. The entire drought story in chaps. 17–18 implies what becomes explicit in 18:21–40: this is a struggle between the Lord and Baal for the loyalties of the people of Israel.
* [18:8] Elijah is here: the Hebrew hinneh ‘eliyahu involves a pun. The sentence means both “Elijah is here,” informing Ahab that the prophet has been found, and “Behold, Yhwh is my God” (the meaning of the name “Elijah”).