Flight to Horeb.* 1Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done—that he had murdered all the prophets by the sword. 2Jezebel then sent a messenger to Elijah and said, “May the gods do thus to me and more, if by this time tomorrow I have not done with your life what was done to each of them.” 3Elijah was afraid and fled for his life, going to Beer-sheba of Judah. He left his servant there 4a and went a day’s journey into the wilderness, until he came to a solitary broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: “Enough, LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5He lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger* touched him and said, “Get up and eat!” 6He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, 7but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!” 8b He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
9There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him: Why are you here, Elijah? 10He answered: “I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” 11c Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD;* the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.*
13When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah? 14d He replied, “I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” 15* e The LORD said to him: Go back! Take the desert road to Damascus. When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16f You shall also anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you. 17Anyone who escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Anyone who escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18g But I will spare seven thousand in Israel—every knee that has not bent to Baal, every mouth that has not kissed him.
19* Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak on him. 20h Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! What have I done to you?” 21Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to the people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah to serve him.
* [19:1–21] The story of Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb begins as a flight from danger, but takes a surprising turn. The prophet makes his solitary way to the mountain where the Lord had appeared to Moses and the Israelites (“Horeb” is an alternate name for “Sinai”). Like Moses on the holy mountain, Elijah experiences a theophany and receives a commission.
* [19:5–7] Sound asleep, Elijah is startled awake by an unspecified “messenger.” Only in v. 7 is the figure identified as a messenger (or “angel”) of the Lord.
* [19:11–13] To “stand before the Lord” is a literal translation of a Hebrew idiom meaning “to serve the Lord”; Elijah has used this idiom twice before to describe himself as the Lord’s servant (17:1; 18:15). The Lord’s command, then, means that Elijah is to take up once again the prophetic service to which he has been appointed. The Lord’s question, “Why are you here?” (v. 9, repeated in v. 13), could imply an accusation that he is abandoning his prophetic office. In v. 15, the Lord tells him to go back.
* [19:12] Compare these divine manifestations to Elijah with those to Moses on the same mountain (Ex 19:16–19; 33:18–23; 34:5–6; Dt 4:10–15). Though various phenomena, such as wind, storms, earthquakes, fire, accompany the divine presence, they do not constitute the presence itself which, like the “silent sound,” is mysterious and ultimately ungraspable. Moses and Elijah, the two figures who experienced God’s theophany on this mountain, reappear with Jesus on another mountain at his transfiguration (Mt 17:1–9; Mk 9:2–9; Lk 9:28–36).
* [19:15–17] Elijah himself carried out only the last of the three commissions entrusted to him (vv. 19–21); Elisha performed the first himself (2 Kgs 8:7–19), and the second, the anointing of Jehu, through one of his followers (2 Kgs 9:1–10).
* [19:19–21] Elijah’s act of throwing his mantle over the shoulders of Elisha associates him with Elijah as a servant (v. 21). Elisha will later succeed to Elijah’s position and prophetic power (2 Kgs 2:1–15). Elisha’s prompt response, destroying his plow and oxen, signifies a radical change from his former manner of living.
c. [19:11–13] Ex 33:18–23; 34:5–6.
f. [19:16] 2 Kgs 2:1–15; 9:1–10.