Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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3 KINGS - Chapter 18

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3 Kings xviii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Year of his sojourning at Sarephta. As other six months elapsed before the drought was removed, it is probable that Elias had spent them at Carith, James v. 17. (Calmet) --- Earth. God is pleased to withdraw his chastisement, though the guilty were not yet reclaimed. (Salien)

Ver. 2. Samaria, and the vicinity. The people could procure corn from a distance. But Achab is solicitous to find grass, ver. 5.

Ver. 3. Abdias. Some suppose that he was the fourth of the minor prophets, or the husband of the Sunamitess, (4 Kings iv.) or the third of the captains, who were ordered by Ochozias to seize Elias, 4 Kings i. 13. (Tirinus) --- But this is uncertain. He took care of the persecuted prophets, (ver. 4, 13.) judging it better to obey God than man. (Calmet)

Ver. 6. Himself. So Providence ordered it, that the prophet might declare his sentiments to him freely. (Haydock) --- Achab would go in person, another way, that he might not be imposed upon. He was more solicitous for his cattle than for his subjects. (Menochius)

Ver. 7. Face, to shew him a religious veneration, due to the servant of God. (Worthington)

Ver. 9. Kill me, as an impostor, or an accomplice of thy escape, if afterwards thou shouldst disappear, ver. 12. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. An oath of every kingdom, adjuring all his neighbours to tell if they knew any thing about Elias. (Haydock) --- Achab wished to make him restore rain, or to punish him for the refusal. (Calmet) --- How stupid he must have been, not to perceive that God was punishing him! (Haydock) --- Elias must have kept himself very retired, not to be discovered at Sarephta, which was so near, (Calmet) and where Jezabel's father reigned. But God could render him invisible, even upon the high road, when he went thither. (Haydock)

Ver. 12. Spirit. Abdias supposed that the prophet had been transported to some unknown country, (Calmet) as he was afterwards to paradise. His disciples imagined, by a violent wind, 4 Kings ii. 16. (Haydock) --- Thus the spirit of the Lord took away Philip, (Acts viii. 39,) and conducted Jesus into the desert, Matthew iv. 1., and Mark i. 12. (Calmet) --- Infancy. This he mentions, that the prophet might take pity on him. (Menochius)

Ver. 13. A hundred. Hence we may judge how numerous they were. These prophets were not perhaps all inspired: but they had such at their head; and spent their time in working and in the divine praises. They were the salt and light of the earth, the pillars of the true religion, against whom Jezabel bent all her fury, during the first years of the drought. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. Kill me. He had expressed this fear twice before. Elias perceiving how much he was agitated, confirmed him with an oath. (Haydock)

Ver. 16. Meet Elias, out of respect, (Abulensis) or rather to upbraid him.

Ver. 17. Troublest Israel? Thus the wicked esteem those disturbers of the public repose, who will not suffer them to go on in their wickedness unmolested. Thus the Jews complain of Jesus Christ, Luke xxiii. 5. Such a war is better than a false peace: and Achab, in fact, proclaims the praise of Elias, who strove by easy means to make the people open their eyes and return to their God. (Calmet)

Ver. 18. House. Your impiety has brought on this scourge. I only denounced it. (Salien)

Ver. 19. Fifty, attached to Baal, and fed by the king; while the prophets of the groves, or of Astarte, lived at the queen's expense. They imitated the lives of the true prophets, to delude the people. --- Carmel was long after famous fo the worship of Apollo, who was the same with Baal, or the sun, Josue xix. 26. (Calmet) --- No mention is made of rain: but it was understood that it would be given, when the people should assemble to hear God's determination. (Menochius) --- Achab durst not therefore refuse to convoke them. (Haydock)

Ver. 21. Sides: sometimes adoring God; at other times the devil. (Calmet) --- Such an expostulation ought to be made to those who are indifferent about religion. (Worthington) --- You cannot serve two masters. (Calmet) --- They wished to unite the service of both, foolishly supposing that there might be many gods; as some, at present assert that many religions may be pleasing to heaven. (Haydock) --- A word, not knowing the drift of his proposal. But, as they might perhaps rely that they considered Baal also as a god, Elias puts this to the test of a miracle; being convinced that God would never suffer the devils to prevail on this occasion. (Salien) --- They might otherwise have brought down fire, as they will do in the days of Antichrist, Apocalypse xiii. 13. (Menochius)

Ver. 22. I. Hebrew repeats "I," to make the contrast more striking. Elias alone was present, in this assembly, as the prophet of the Lord. (Haydock) --- He knew that Abdias had preserved 100: but they were concealed. --- Men. The other 400 of Jezabel did not appear.

Ver. 24. Call ye. He does not order them to invoke idols; but challenges them to prove their divinity, if they can. --- By fire. On such trying occasions, it is not tempting God to ask for a miracle. God had given this proof of fire repeatedly, Genesis xv. 17., Leviticus ix. 24., and 2 Paralipomenon vii. 1. He will restrain the devil's power, to confirm the truth, Mark xvi. 20. (Worthington)

Ver. 26. That they. Hebrew, "which he (Achaz) had made;" (Calmet) or, "which was made." (Haydock) --- The altar of Elias was erected afterwards, ver. 30. The prophets of Baal acted in a foolish manner, (Calmet) as if in jest, but really despairing of success. (Haydock) --- The pagans were accustomed to dance around their altars: --- Pingues spatiatur ad aras. (Virgil, Æneid iv.) --- and some would translate, "near the altar." We might apply to these prophets, the verses of Horace:

Dedit risusque jocosque,

Dum, flammà sine, thura liquescere limine sacro

Persuadere cupit: credat Judæus Apella

Non ego. (Sat. i. 5.)

Ver. 27. Talking to some of his prophets, (Calmet) or in deep contemplation. (Montanus) --- An inn. Septuagint, "giving oracles;" or, "he is pursuing." (Pagnin)

Ver. 28. Blood. Strange infatuation! which has nevertheless prevailed in many pagan mysteries and countries. Thus were Bellona, Cybele, the Syrian goddess, &c., honoured and appeased. (Calmet) --- God prohibits this fury, Deuteronomy xiv. 1. The devil always endeavours to destroy or to injure man. (Menochius)

"Ipsa bipenne suos cædit violenta lacertos,

Sanguineque effuso spargit inepta deam."  (Tebullus)

Ver. 29. Prophesying, "acting like fools;" (Chaldean) performing their superstitious rites, and singing the praises of their god, &c. (Calmet) --- Sacrifice, by Elias, who had assigned all the morning to Baal's prophets. Perhaps he waited till the time of the evening sacrifice, Exodus xxix. 38. (Menochius)

Ver. 30. Down, by the false prophets, whose fury the people now repressed. (Tirinus) --- The altar might have been erected, under the judges, lawfully. (Calmet)

Ver. 31. Twelve stones, (as [in] Exodus xxiv., &c.) intimating that he acted in the name of all; (Menochius) and in order that all Israel might return with one heart to the service of God. (Haydock) --- The prophet did not follow his own spirit in erecting this altar. (Calmet)

Ver. 32. Furrows. Hebrew, "of two (sathayim) measures of seed." These furrows Elias filled with water, to impede the natural activity of fire, and to shew the miracle in a more striking light; (Haydock) as also to convince all that there was no deceit. An author quoted, under the name of St. Chrysostom, says that the pagans had sometimes subterraneous passages, by which they kindled the wood on the altar, as if by miracle, ita ut multi decepti ignem illum cœlestem esse existiment. (ap. Surium iv.)

Ver. 34. Time. So that the wood was less disposed to catch fire. (Menochius)

Ver. 37. Again. This effect he hoped for from the miracle.

Ver. 38. Trench, as if it had been of an inflammable nature. Julian himself was forced to acknowledge this miracle. "This, says he, once happened under Moses, and, a long while after, again under Elias, the Thesbite."

Ver. 40. Cison, at the foot of Carmel. (Adrichomius) --- Achab durst not protect his prophets, being confounded by the evidence of the miracle, (Menochius) and the unanimity of the people's cry. (Haydock) --- Killed them, by God's inspiration, (Calmet) as impostors, who had deluded the people, and were worthy of death.

Ver. 41. Sound. It will as surely come, as if you heard it falling. (Haydock)

Ver. 42. Knees, in fervent and humble prayer. God made his servant wait some time before he granted his request, that he might not give way to vanity. The people were not present, so that there was no danger of their being scandalized. (Menochius)

Ver. 44. Sea, the Mediterranean, which could be seen from Carmel. (Haydock) --- Hence the rain commonly came in that country, Luke xii. 54.

Ver. 45. Jezrahel, where Achab had a palace, chap. xxi. 1. (Calmet) --- He stopped for shelter, as he had not time to reach Samaria. (Menochius)

Ver. 46. Before Achab, notwithstanding the king was drawn by horses, (Calmet) and Elias was advanced in years, chap. xix. 4. (Menochius) --- The invigorating spirit gave him such strength and agility, (Haydock) as Jezrahel was 12 or 15 leagues, (Calmet) or about 36 miles, from Carmel. In the Levant, impostors still run very swiftly before the chariots of princes, to imitate Elias. (Calmet)

Bible Text & Cross-references:
Elias cometh before Achab. He convinceth the false prophets by bringing fire from heaven: he obtaineth rain by his prayer.

1 After *many days, the word of the Lord came to Elias, in the third year, saying: Go and shew thyself to Achab, that I may give rain upon the face of the earth.

2 And Elias went to shew himself to Achab, and there was a grievous famine in Samaria.

3 And Achab called Abdias the governor of his house: now Abdias feared the Lord very much.

4 For when Jezabel killed the prophets of the Lord, he took a hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty and fifty in caves, and fed them with bread and water.

5 And Achab said to Abdias: Go into the land unto all fountains of waters, and into all valleys, to see if we can find grass, and save the horses and mules, that the beasts may not utterly perish.

6 And they divided the countries between them, that they might go round about them: Achab went one way, and Abdias another way by himself.

7 And as Abdias was in the way, Elias met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said: Art thou my lord Elias?

8 And he answered: I am. Go, and tell thy master: Elias is here.

9 And he said: What have I sinned, that thou wouldst deliver me, thy servant, into the hand of Achab, that he should kill me?

10 As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when all answered: He is not here: he took an oath of every kingdom and nation, because thou wast not found.

11 And now thou sayest to me: Go and tell thy master: Elias is here.

12 And when I am gone from thee, the Spirit of the Lord will carry thee into a place that I know not: and I shall go in and tell Achab; and he, not finding thee, will kill me: but thy servant feareth the Lord from his infancy.

13 Hath it not been told thee, my lord, what I did when Jezabel killed the prophets of the Lord; how I hid a hundred men of the prophets of the Lord, by fifty and fifty in caves, and fed them with bread and water?

14 And now thou sayest: Go and tell thy master: Elias is here: that he may kill me.

15 And Elias said: As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whose face I stand, this day I will shew myself unto him.

16 Abdias therefore went to meet Achab, and told him: and Achab came to meet Elias.

17 And when he had seen him, he said: Art thou he that troublest Israel?

18 And he said: I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, who have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and have followed Baalim.

19 Nevertheless send now, and gather unto me all Israel, unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, who eat at Jezabel's table.

20 Achab sent to all the children of Israel, and gathered together the prophets unto Mount Carmel.

21 And Elias coming to all the people, said: How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word.

22 And Elias said again to the people: I only remain a prophet of the Lord: but the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty men.

23 Let two bullocks be given us, and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it upon wood, but put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under it.

24 Call ye on the names of your gods, and I will call on the name of my Lord: and the God that shall answer by fire, let him be God. And all the people answering, said: A very good proposal.

25 Then Elias said to the prophets of Baal: Choose you one bullock and dress it first, because you are many: and call on the names of your gods; but put no fire under.

26 And they took the bullock, which he gave them, and dressed it: and they called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying: O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered: and they leaped over the altar that they had made.

27 And when it was now noon, Elias jested at them, saying: Cry with a louder voice: for he is a god; and perhaps he is talking, or is in an inn, or on a journey; or perhaps he is asleep, and must be awaked.

28 So they cried with a loud voice, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till they were all covered with blood.

29 And after mid-day was past, and while they were prophesying, the time was come of offering sacrifice, and there was no voice heard, nor did any one answer, nor regard them as they prayed.

30 Elias said to all the people: Come ye unto me. And the people coming near unto him, he repaired the altar of the Lord, that was broken down:

31 And he took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying: *Israel shall be thy name.

32 And he built with the stones an altar to the name of the Lord: and he made a trench for water, of the breadth of two furrows round about the altar.

33 And he laid the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it upon the wood.

34 And he said: Fill four buckets with water, and pour it upon the burnt-offering, and upon the wood. And again he said: Do the same the second time. And when they had done it the second time, he said: Do the same also the third time. And they did so the third time.

35 And the water run round about the altar, and the trench was filled with water.

36 And when it was now time to offer the holocaust, Elias, the prophet, came near and said: O Lord God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Israel, shew this day that thou art the God of Israel, and I thy servant, and that according to thy commandment I have done all these things.

37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me: that this people may learn that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart again.

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the holocaust, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

39 And when all the people saw this, they fell on their faces, and they said: The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.

40 And Elias said to them: Take the prophets of Baal, and let not one of them escape. And when they had taken them, Elias brought them down to the torrent Cison, and killed them there.

41 And Elias said to Achab: Go up, eat and drink: for there is a sound of abundance of rain.

42 Achab went up to eat and drink: and Elias went up to the top of Carmel, and casting himself down upon the earth, put his face between his knees,

43 And he said to his servant: Go up, and look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times.

44 And at the seventh time: Behold a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man's foot. And he said: Go up, and say to Achab: Prepare thy chariot, and go down, lest the rain prevent thee.

45 And while he turned himself this way and that way, behold the heavens grew dark, with clouds, and wind, and there fell a great rain. And Achab getting up, went away to Jezrahel:

46 And the hand of the Lord was upon Elias, and he girded up his loins, and ran before Achab, till he came to Jezrahel.



1: Year of the World 3096, Year before Christ 908.

31: Genesis xxxii. 28.