Hurlbut's Story of the Bible  by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

The Prayer That Was Answered in Fire

I Kings xviii: 1 to 46.

dropcap image HREE years passed after Elijah gave the message of the Lord to King Ahab, and in all that time no rain fell upon the land of Israel. Everywhere the brooks ceased to flow, the springs became dry, the ground was parched, and the fields gave no harvest. There was no grass for the cattle and the flocks, and there was scarcely any food for the people.

King Ahab was in great trouble. He knew that Elijah had the power to call down rain; but Elijah was nowhere to be found. He sent men to search for him everywhere in the land, and he asked the kings of the nations around to look for him in their countries; for he hoped to persuade the prophet to set the land free from the long drought by calling for rain.

When the land was at its worst, in the third year, Ahab called the chief of his servants, the man who stood next to the king. His name was Obadiah, and, unlike Ahab, he was a good man, worshipping the Lord, and trying to do right. Once, when Queen Jezebel sought to kill all the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah hid a hundred of them in two caves, fifty in each cave, and gave them food, and kept them in safety.

Ahab said to Obadiah, "Let us go through all the land, you in one part, and I in another, and look for running streams and fountains of water. Perhaps we can find some water, enough to save a part of the horses and mules, so that we may not lose them all."

And as Obadiah was going through his part of the country, looking for water, suddenly Elijah met him. Obadiah knew Elijah at once. He fell on his face before him, and said, "Is this my lord Elijah?"

And Elijah answered him, "Yes, it is I, Elijah. Go and tell your master that Elijah is here."

And Obadiah said, "Oh, my Lord, what wrong have I done, that you would cause King Ahab to kill me? For there is not a land where Ahab has not sent for you; and now when I go to tell him that you are here, the Spirit of the Lord will send you away to some other place, and then if Ahab cannot find you he will be angry at me, and kill me. Do you not know that I fear the Lord, and serve him?" And Elijah said, "As the Lord God lives, I will surely show myself to King Ahab to-day."

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him of Elijah's coming; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him, "Are you here, you that have brought all this trouble upon Israel?"

And Elijah answered the king, "I am not the one that has brought trouble upon Israel. It is you, and your house; for you have turned away from the commands of the Lord, and have worshipped the images of Baal. Now send and bring all the people to Mount Carmel, and with them the four hundred prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of the Asherah, who ate at Jezebel's table."


Mount Carmel

So Ahab did as Elijah commanded, and brought all the people to Mount Carmel, which stands by the Great Sea. And Elijah stood before all the multitude, and he said to them. "How long will you go halting and limping back and forth between two sides, not choosing either? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, then follow him."

And the people had not a word to say. Then Elijah spoke again, and said, "I am alone, the only prophet of the Lord here to-day; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Now, let the people give us two young oxen, one for Baal's prophets, and one for me. Let the prophets of Baal take one ox, and cut it up, and lay it on the altar on the wood. But let no fire be placed under it. And I will do the same; then you call on your god, and I will call on the Lord. And the God who sends down fire upon his altar, he shall be the God of Israel."

And the people said, "What you have spoken is right. We will do as you say, and will see who is the true God."

Then the two oxen were brought, and one was cut in pieces and laid on the altar of Baal The prophets of Baal stood around the altar, and cried aloud, "O Baal, hear us!" But there was no answer, nor any voice. After a time the worshippers of Baal became furious. They leaped and danced around the altar, and they cut themselves with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them And Elijah laughed at them, and mocked them, calling out, "Call out louder, for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is sitting still and thinking, or he has gone on a journey; or perhaps he is asleep, and must be awaked!"

But it was all in vain. The middles of the afternoon came, and there was no answer. The altar stood with its offering, but no fire came upon it. Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me."

And they came near He found an old altar to the Lord that had been thrown down, and he took twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes, and piled them up to from the altar anew. Around the altar he dug a trench, to carry away water. Then he cut wood, and laid it on the altar, and on the wood he placed the young ox, cut into pieces for a sacrifice. Then he said, "Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the offering."


Elijah's sacrifice on Mount Carmel

The Great Sea was near at hand, in sight of all the people; and from it they brought four barrels of water, and poured it on the altar. He called upon them to do it again, and a third time, until the offering, and the wood, and the altar were soaked through and through, and the trench was filled with water.

Then, in the sight of all the people, Elijah, the prophet, drew near, and stood all alone before the altar, and prayed in these words, "O Lord, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou, Lord, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back again to thyself."

Then the fire fell from the Lord, and burned up the offering, and the wood, and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces, and they cried, "The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!" And Elijah said to the people, "Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape!"

They took them all, four hundred and fifty men; and by Elijah's command they brought them down to the dry bed of the brook Kishon, at the foot of the mountain; and there Elijah caused them to be put death, because they had led Israel into sin.

Ahab, the king, was present upon Mount Carmel, and saw all that had been done. Elijah now said to Ahab, "Rise up; eat and drink; for there is a sound of a great rain."

While Ahab was eating and drinking, Elijah was praying upon Mount Carmel. He bowed down, with his face between his knees, and prayed to the Lord to send rain. After a time he sent his servant up to the top of the mountain, saying, "Go up and look toward the sea."

The servant went up, and came back, saying, "I can see nothing."

Elijah sent him up seven times; and at the seventh time his servant said, "I see a cloud rising out of the sea as small as a man's hand."

Then Elijah sent to Ahab, saying, "Hasten; make ready your chariot before the rain stops you."

In a little while the sky was covered with black clouds, and there came a great rain. And Ahab rode in his chariot to his palace at Jezreel, on the eastern side of the great plain. And the power of the Lord was on Elijah, and he ran before Ahab's chariot to the gate of the city.

Thus in one day a great victory was wrought for the Lord God, and the power of Baal was thrown down.