Elijah sets up 12 stones to represent the
12 tribes; he lays the bull out on the altar. He then digs a trench around the altar and
he orders water to be poured over the whole thing so that it’s completely saturated and
the trench is filled with water. This is going to highlight, of course, the miracle that’s
about to occur. And then he calls upon the name of the Lord,
and instantly a fire descends from God and consumes everything: offering, wood, stone,
earth, water, everything. And the people prostrate themselves and declare, “Yahweh alone is God.
Yahweh alone is God.” The prophets of Baal are all seized and slaughtered.
Elijah expects an end to the drought, and a servant comes to report to him that “A cloud
as small as a man’s hand is rising in the west,” and the sky grows black and there’s
a strong wind and a heavy storm, and the drought is finally over.
The language that’s used to describe this storm is the language that’s typically employed
for the storm god Baal. It drives home the point of the whole satire, that Yahweh is
the real god of the storm, not Baal. Yahweh controls nature, not Baal. It’s God who is
effective; Baal is silent and powerless, and Israel’s choice should be clear. Yahweh should
be the only God for Israel, just as he is for Elijah, who’s name El-i-yahu means “my
God [Eli=my God] is Yahweh.” So Jezebel is pretty upset and she threatens
Elijah with execution. He flees into the desert, and he will spend 40 days and 40 nights on
a mountain called Horeb, or Sinai. That, of course, is the site of God’s revelation to
Moses. Moses also spent 40 days and 40 nights there, and many scholars have pointed out
the numerous parallels between Elijah and Moses. It seems that there was a conscious
literary shaping of the Elijah traditions on the model of Moses, in more ways than just
these two. We’ll see a few coming up. Elijah is in great despair at Sinai. He wants
to die. He feels that he has failed in his fight for God. And so he hides himself in
a rocky cleft, and this is also reminiscent of the cleft that Moses hides himself in in
order to catch a glimpse of God as God passes by. Similarly, Elijah hides in a cleft where
he will encounter God. This passage is in 1 Kings 19:9-12:
Then the Word of the Lord came to him. He said to him, “Why are you here, Elijah?” He
replied, “I am moved by zeal for the Lord, the God of Hosts, for the Israelites have
forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put Your prophets to the sword. I alone
am left, and they are out to take my life.” “Come out,” He called, “and stand on the mountain
before the Lord.” And lo, the Lord passed by. There was a great
and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the Lord; but the Lord
was not in the wind. After the wind–an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After
the earthquake–;fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire–a soft murmuring
sound. Or perhaps a still, small voice. A lot of
translations use that phrase, which is very poetic. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his mantle
about his face and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. 1 Kings 19:13