They Did Jehovah’s Will
Elijah Exalts the True God
HE WAS the most wanted man in Israel. He would almost certainly be put to death if the king could find him. Who was this hunted man? Jehovah’s prophet Elijah.
King Ahab and his pagan wife, Jezebel, had caused Baal worship to flourish in Israel. As a result, Jehovah had brought a drought upon the land, which was now in its fourth year. An enraged Jezebel set out to have Jehovah’s prophets put to death, but Ahab wanted Elijah in particular. It was Elijah who had said to Ahab more than three years previously: “There will occur during these years neither dew nor rain, except at the order of my word!” (1 Kings 17:1) And the resultant drought still continued.
In this dangerous situation, Elijah was told by Jehovah: “Go, show yourself to Ahab, as I am determined to give rain upon the surface of the ground.” At great personal risk, Elijah obeyed Jehovah’s command.—1 Kings 18:1, 2.
Two Opponents Meet
“Is this you, the bringer of ostracism upon Israel?” asked Ahab, upon seeing Elijah. “I have not brought ostracism upon Israel,” Elijah boldly replied, “but you and the house of your father have, because you men have left the commandments of Jehovah, and you went following the Baals.” Then Elijah directed that all Israel should gather at Mount Carmel, including “the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of the sacred pole.” Then Elijah addressed the crowd: “How long will you be limping upon two different opinions?* If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him.”—1 Kings 18:17-21.
The people were silent. Perhaps they recognized their guilt in failing to render exclusive devotion to Jehovah. (Exodus 20:4, 5) Or it may be that their consciences were so seared that they saw no sin in dividing their loyalties between Jehovah and Baal. In any case, Elijah instructed the people to produce two young bulls—one for the Baal prophets and the other for him. Both bulls would be prepared for sacrifice, but no fire was to be lit. “You must call upon the name of your god,” Elijah said, “and I, for my part, shall call upon the name of Jehovah; and it must occur that the true God that answers by fire is the true God.”—1 Kings 18:23, 24.
Jehovah Is Exalted
The Baal prophets began “limping around the altar that they had made.” All morning they cried out: “O Baal, answer us!” But Baal did not answer. (1 Kings 18:26) Then Elijah began taunting them: “Call at the top of your voice, for he is a god.” (1 Kings 18:27) The Baal prophets even began cutting themselves with daggers and lances—a practice often employed by pagans to arouse the pity of their gods.*—1 Kings 18:28.
It was now past noon, and the worshipers of Baal continued “behaving as prophets”—a phrase that in this context conveys the idea of carrying on in a frenzied fashion and with a loss of self-control. Well into the afternoon, Elijah finally said to all the people: “Approach me.” All watched intently as Elijah rebuilt the altar of Jehovah, dug a trench around it, cut the young bull in pieces, and placed it on the altar with wood for burning. Afterward, the bull, the altar, and the wood were thoroughly soaked with water, and the trench was filled with water (no doubt seawater obtained from the Mediterranean Sea). Then, Elijah prayed to Jehovah: “Today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant and it is by your word that I have done all these things. Answer me, O Jehovah, answer me, that this people may know that you, Jehovah, are the true God and you yourself have turned their heart back.”—1 Kings 18:29-37.
Suddenly, fire came down from heaven “and went eating up the burnt offering and the pieces of wood and the stones and the dust, and the water that was in the trench it licked up.” The people who were watching immediately prostrated themselves, saying: “Jehovah is the true God! Jehovah is the true God!” At Elijah’s command, the Baal prophets were seized and brought to the torrent valley of Kishon, where they were executed.—1 Kings 18:38-40.
Lesson for Us
Elijah displayed what may seem like superhuman boldness. Yet, the Bible writer James assures us that “Elijah was a man with feelings like ours.” (James 5:17) He was not immune to a degree of fear and anxiety. For example, when Jezebel later vowed revenge for the loss of the Baal prophets, Elijah fled and then cried out to Jehovah in prayer: “It is enough! Now, O Jehovah, take my soul away.”—1 Kings 19:4.
Jehovah did not take Elijah’s soul away in death. Instead, he mercifully provided assistance. (1 Kings 19:5-8) Servants of God today can be assured that Jehovah will do the same when they face periods of intense anxiety, perhaps because of opposition. Indeed, if they pray for Jehovah’s help, he can supply them with “power beyond what is normal,” so that even if they are “pressed in every way,” they will not be “cramped beyond movement.” Thus, they will be helped to endure, as Elijah was.—2 Corinthians 4:7, 8.
Some scholars suggest that Elijah may have alluded to the ritual dance of Baal worshipers. The same use of the word “limping” is found at 1 Kings 18:26 to describe the dance of the Baal prophets.
Some suggest that self-mutilation was related to the practice of human sacrifice. Both acts implied that bodily affliction or the shedding of blood can invoke a god’s favor.