1 Kings 19-22
Chapters 19-22 contain the final events in the life of Ahab king of Israel. It covers the time from the defeat of Baal by God on Mt Carmel to the death of Ahab. It also contains some summary statements about Jehoshaphat of Judah and Ahaziah of Israel, Ahab’s son and successor after his death.
The chapter opens with Jezebel promising to kill Elijah just like he killed the prophets of Baal. He then flees to Mt. Horeb and lays down under a juniper tree. God sends bread and water to nourish him and then begins to show Elijah he is not alone.
There takes place a series of events in which Elijah is going to meet with the Lord.
- A great and strong wind breaking the mountains in pieces – the Lord wasn’t in it
- An earthquake – the Lord wasn’t in it
- A fire – the Lord wasn’t in it
- A sound of a gentle blowing
Elijah than wrapped his face in his cloak. To be in the presence of God is an awesome thing and it needs to be held in utmost reverence. Consider the following.
Exodus 3:3-6 NASB So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Exodus 33:20 NASB But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”
Isaiah 6:5 NASB Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
So we find God in the sound of a gentle blowing (see comparisons to other translations below). This gives us a great picture of God. He has all the strength needed to blow giant rocks and boulders out of place, to cause great earthquakes, cause fires to appear on the mountains, but more often than not He chooses to reveal Himself in the sound of a gentle blowing.
In that sound of a gentle blowing there was a voice. It was God asking Elijah what he was doing here and also what he was supposed to do next: anoint Jehu king and Elisha as a prophet. God also told him that he was not alone but that there were 7000 who had not bowed their knees to Baal nor worshiped him.
It is interesting to think about the name YHWH. I’ve heard (I can’t remember for sure who I was listening to at the time) that the pronunciation of each letter in Hebrew has a “breathy” quality to it when said individually. It was described as breathing out and in – breathing out on the Y, in on the H, out on the W, and in on the H. So the name of God is like breathing. In Genesis, God breathed life in to Adam and he became alive. So with each breath we take we can be reminded that we are alive because of God and that, while He does sometime come in a great wind or an earthquake or a fire, He doesn’t want to always come in His fierce anger and might. There are times He wants to come in the sound of a gentle, quiet whisper and, just like Elijah, let us know that we are not alone in the world.
Elijah then departed and found Elisha and “threw his mantle on him.” Evidently there were certain garments, probably hairy animal skins, that prophets wore which indicated that they were prophets. In Zechariah, we find this description that might referring to a prophets robe.
Zechariah 13:4 NASB “Also it will come about in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies, and they will not put on a hairy robe in order to deceive;
John the Baptist is also described as wearing unusual clothing.
Matthew 3:4 NASB Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains that, “Throwing a prophet’s cloak around a person symbolized the passing of the power and authority of the office to that individual.” This must have been a custom that Elisha understood because he immediately asks to go and say goodbye to his parents and then he would follow. Elijah allows it and Elisha sacrifices the oxen he was using to plow with when Elijah found him and then left and followed Elijah.
This was definitely a Master/Student or Rabbi/Disciple relationship as was typical of eastern cultures as is indicated by the end of v 21, “The he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to Him.”
The below are some commentary notes that indicate that this is different than the people who Jesus indicated who would be disciples unfit for the kingdom.
Believer’s Bible Commentary
Elisha’s request to say goodbye to his parents sounds dangerously like that of a would-be disciple whom Jesus pronounced unfit for the kingdom (Luk 9:61-62). The difference is that in Elisha’s case it was a no-nonsense decision to sever ties immediately, whereas in the other case it was a delaying tactic and an excuse.
Elisha came to a resolution presently, but begged a little time, not to ask leave, but only to take leave, of his parents. This was not an excuse for delay, like his (Luk 9:61) that desired he might bid those farewell that were at home, but only a reservation of the respect and duty he owed to his father and mother. Elijah bade him to back and do it, he would not hinder him; nay, if he would, he might go back, and not return, for any thing he had done to him. He will not force him, nor take him against his will; let him sit down and count the cost, and make it his own act. The efficacy of God’s grace preserves the native liberty of man’s will, so that those who are good are good of choice and not by constraint, not pressed men, but volunteers.
The Preacher’s Commentary
Like the reluctant followers in Jesus’ parable, Elisha asked for the privilege of first saying goodbye to his parents (cf. Mat 8:21; Luk 9:61). It is not exactly clear whether Elijah willingly granted his petition or not. What did Elijah mean when he said, “Go back again, for what have I done to you”? Seeing it as a favorable response to Elisha’s request, one commentator translates the comment: “Go (kiss your parents). Then come back, for (remember) what I have done to you (i.e. casting my mantle on you).” Elisha must have understood it this way. Not only did he go back to tell his parents farewell but he also symbolically put his entire past life behind him by sacrificing his oxen and burning them with a fire kindled from the wooden plow.
Matthew 8:19-22 NASB Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 Jesus *said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”
Luke 9:57-62 NASB As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Elisha’s new profession and his following Elijah is described by the Expositor’s Bible Commentary as follows.
And it was thus that Elisha understood the Prophet. He went back, and kissed his father and mother, and, like Matthew when he left his toil-booth to follow Christ, he made a great feast to his dependents, kinsfolk, and friends. To mark his complete severance from the happy past he unyoked his pair of oxen, slew them, used the plough and goad and wooden yokes as fuel, boiled the flesh of the oxen, and invited the people to his farewell feast. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. He was thenceforth recognized as a son of the prophetic schools, and as their future head. For the present he became known as “Elisha who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” His subsequent career belongs entirely to the Second Book of Kings.
This chapter opens with Ben-hadad of Aram preparing for battle against Ahab and besieging Samaria. Ben-hadad sends envoys to Ahab offering terms of surrender. Ahab consults the leaders of the people who tell Ahab to disregard the message of Ben-hadad and that was the message that was sent back to him. Of course Ben-hadad was drinking with the other kings who were assembled with him and took offense and ordered the army to get into battle formations.
It was then that an unnamed prophet approached Ahab and told him about God’s plans for Ahab and the victory He had prepared for Ahab and how to accomplish it.
1 Kings 20:13-14 NASB Now behold, a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the LORD.'” 14 Ahab said, “By whom?” So he said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘By the young men of the rulers of the provinces.'” Then he said, “Who shall begin the battle?” And he answered, “You.”
The key phrase is “and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
So Ahab did what the prophet told him to do and he did have a great victory.
Now we know that Ahab wasn’t a “good” king in that he worshiped idols and yet in this instance he listened to the voice of the God through the prophet and he had a great victory just as the Lord said he would. You would think that this would have been enough for Ahab to change his ways but we will see that it doesn’t later.
After the victory, the unnamed prophet returns and tells Ahab to get his army and fortifications ready because after the new year comes, Ben-hadad will return.
Verses 23-25 reveals the nature of people’s beliefs concerning gods and the nations. They believed that the gods were specific to an individual nation and even to a geographic place or feature and was stronger than other gods in those areas, in particular the mountains, thus the reason for their loss this time. They then begin to make plans to go out to battle against Israel the next year in the plains and be victorious.
After the turn of the year, the Arameans returned in large numbers and prepared to do battle against the Israelites, which are described as “two little flocks of goats” as compared to the Arameans who ”filled the country.”
Then another unnamed man of God came to Ahab and prophesied about the impending battle.
1 Kings 20:28 NASB Then a man of God came near and spoke to the king of Israel and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Arameans have said, “The LORD is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.'”
Again, the key phrase is “you shall know that I am the LORD.” God isn’t just God of the mountains but of the valleys and everywhere else and He was going to make sure that Ben-hadad and his men knew that before the battle was through. Then, as the man of God said, Ahab and the Israelites had a great victory. But then Ahab makes a fatal mistake.
Ben-hadad had fled into a city and had barricaded himself into an inner chamber and was persuaded to send out a surrender party because they heard that the kings of Israel were merciful. The group approached the Israelites and used Ahab’s words to convince him to let Ben-hadad come to offer terms of surrender. Ahab invited Ben-hadad into his chariot and they made an agreement regarding some cities Ben-hadad’s father took, thus Ahab spared his life.
Then a prophet asked two of his fellow prophets to strike him so that he could go to Ahab and tell him of the Lord’s disappointment with him. The first refused and he was told a lion would kill him, which it did. The second did and he wounded the prophet, who then bandaged himself and stationed himself so that he could be seen by Ahab as he passed by, which he did. The prophet tells a story of how he was to guard a person and if he lost track of the prisoner, he would be killed and in the course of events he lost track of the prisoner. Ahab then says that the man had stated his punishment already, at which point the prophet reveals himself and tells him that the story that he told was about Ahab and Ben-hadad and that because he let Ben-hadad go, Ahab would die in his place. Thus Ahab returned to Samaria sad and worried.
This chapter contains the story of how Ahab wanted to have the vineyard that was next to the palace and was owned by Naboth. Naboth refused to sell the land that was passed down from his ancestors. Which caused Ahab to become “sullen and vexed” and went home and got in bed and turned away from the household.
Jezebel seeing that her husband was depressed and bedridden as a result of something, inquired as to the reason for this mood. Ahab told her of his disappointment and she responded by telling him to get up and eat something and she would get the vineyard for him.
1 Kings 21:7 NASB Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
Jezebel set her evil plan in motion – conscripts some of the city leaders to throw a party so that she might use it as an occasion to falsely accuse Naboth and have him killed, which is what happens. Ahab then takes possession of the vineyard.
Elijah is told by the Lord to go and declare to Ahab that because he had Naboth killed and stole his land from him, that Ahab would sure die and his blood would be licked up in the field of Naboth by dogs and that Jezebel would be eaten by the dogs of Jezreel. These are not the dogs that we have as domesticated pets like we have in homes today. No, these were wild vicious dogs who were given to eating anything they could sink their teeth into.
Then there is a summary statement of just how evil Ahab and Jezebel were in verses 25-26.
1 Kings 21:25-26 NASB Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him. 26 He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the sons of Israel.
Ahab was penitent and humbled himself and so the Lord waited to fulfill the prophecy until Ahab’s son reigned in his place.
Three years later, Aram had failed to return the cities that Ben-hadad promised and so Ahab decides to go and take them for himself. Ahab asks Jehoshaphat of Judah to join with him in a pact to fight against Aram. Jehoshaphat agrees to join with Ahab but asks to inquire of the Lord regarding the battle.
Ahab gathers up 400 men who all proclaim in the affirmative that they should go up against them and they would be victorious. Jehoshaphat was a godly king and know that without the Lord’s blessing the battle would not go well, thus his request to specifically inquire of the Lord is ventured again.
Ahab tells him that there is only one prophet of God, Micaiah son of Imlah, but he always prophesies evil against Ahab. Jehoshaphat tells him not to think like that and they send for him to come.
In the meantime, Zedekiah makes “horns of iron” for himself and prophesies that the Lord will give them victory by goring the Arameans and all the other prophets were agreeing with him.
Micaiah is approached and asked to agree with all the other prophets. He responds by saying that he will only speak what the Lord tells him to speak. Upon arriving at the place where they were assembled, Micaiah is asked about going up against the Arameans at Ramoth-Gilead and he responds in agreement. Evidently Ahab knew something was wrong because he asked him to speak the truth in the name of the Lord. So Micaiah told of the eventual loss in the battle. To which Ahab said, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
Then Micaiah describes the scene in heaven where the spiritual battle was waged and how it was effecting the outcome on earth. Zedekiah strikes Micaiah on the face and chastises him for prophesying in oppostion to what he had prophesied and Ahab then gives orders to have Micaiah put in prison and assigns his rations as bread and water. Micaiah then declares for everyone to hear that if his prophecy doesn’t come true then God wasn’t speaking through him.
So Ahab and Jehoshaphat prepare for battle. Ahab tells Jehoshaphat to wear his royal armor and he would wear regular armor to disguise himself. The Arameans are told to only fight against the men around Ahab so when they see Jehoshaphat, they think he is Ahab until they hear him yell, realize he isn’t and the change their attention to someplace else.
At the same time, a archer randomly shoots an arrow and it strikes Ahab in the joint of his armor and mortally wounds him. He asks to be taken out of the fight but is propped up in his chariot to encourage the troops to keep fighting, which they do until night fall. It is then that the Israelite army learns of Ahab’s death and the rumor spreads throughout the camp and everyone leaves to go home and they are defeated.
Ahab’s chariot is brought back to Samaria and is washed out by the pool of Samaria and the dogs licked up the blood.
The chapter closes with some summary statements about Jehoshaphat of Judah and Ahaziah of Israel, Ahab’s son who reigns after his death.
Ahaziah followed in the footsteps of his parents and Jeroboam and worshiped Baal instead of God.
Various translations for “sound of a gentle blowing” (see translations on the About page)
ASV – a still small voice
BBE – sound of soft breath
Bishops – a small still voice
Brenton – voice of a gentle breeze
CEV – a gentle breeze
CJB – a quiet, subdued voice
Darby – a soft gentle voice
DRB – a whistling of a gentle air
ERV – a quiet, gentle voice
ESV – sound of a low whisper
Geneva – a still and soft voice
GNB – soft whisper of a voice
GW – a quiet, whispering voice
HCSB – a voice, a soft whisper
ISV – sound of a gentle whisper
JPS – a still small voice
JUB – a still small voice
KJV – a still small voice
LITV – a still, small voice
MSG – a gentle and quiet whisper
NASB – sound of a gentle blowing
NET – a soft whisper
NIV – a gentle whisper
NKJV – a still small voice
NLT – sound of a gentle whisper
RV – a still small voice
Webster – a still small voice
YLT – a voice still small
You can download a copy of the outline for 1 Kings 19-22 from the Downloads page under the Outlines folder.
Dilday, Russell H. The Preacher’s Commentary: 1 & 2 Kings. Thomas Nelson, Inc.; e-Sword, 1982.
Farrar, F. W. Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Kings. Public Domain; e-Sword, 1892. Print.
Henry, Matthew. Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. Public Domain; e-Sword, 1700s. Print.
MacDonald, William, and Arthur Farstad. Believer’s Bible Commentary: An Exposition of the Sacred Scriptures. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers; e-Sword, 1995.
Walvoord, John, and Roy Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old & New Testament. Victor Books; e-Sword, 1983.