Melachim 1/Kings 1 Chapter 18: The drought and showdown by Mt. Carmel with Aliyahu, Achav, and the Baal

1.      Hashem tells Eliyahu to tell Achav that he will provide rain

  • After many days, in the third year [of drought[1]], Hashem told Eliyahu to go and appear to Achav and tell him that “I will give rain upon the earth.” So, Eliyahu went to appear before Achav. Now the famine was severe in the Shmron.

2.      Ovadia, the G-d fearing servant of Achav:

  • Achav summoned Ovadia, who was the minister in charge of the kings palace, to travel with him. Ovadia was a great G-d fearing Jew.
  • Izevel kills all the prophets except for 100 who were saved by Ovadia: When Izevel annihilated all of the prophets of Hashem, Ovadia took one hundred prophets and hid them fifty men each in a cave, and he nourished them there with bread and water.
  • Achav sends Ovadia to search for food: Achav said to Ovadia, “Go travel throughout the land to all the wells and channels of water as perhaps we will find grass, and be able to save the lives of the horses and mules, and not lose all our beasts to hunger.”
  • Achav and Ovadia go in two different directions: They divided the land amongst themselves for the search for water, with Achav going by himself in one direction and Ovadia going by himself in another direction.

3.      Ovadia meats Eliyahu:

  • When Ovadia was on the road he saw Eliyahu coming towards him. He recognized him and fell on his face, and said, “Is this you, my master, Eliyahu?” Eliyahu replied to him that indeed it is him.
  • Eliyahu instructs Ovadia to tell Achav of his arrival: Eliyahu told Ovadia, “Go and tell your master that Eliyahu is coming.”
  • Ovadia pushes back against the instructions: However, Ovadia pushed back saying, “What have I sinned that you have delivered your servant into the hands of Achav to kill me? I swear by Hashem that there is no nation or kingdom where my master Achav has not sent a messenger to search for you, and they have all replied under oath that they do not know of your whereabouts. How then can you now tell me to tell my master Achav that Eliyahu is here. As soon as I leave from here, Hashem may send you away with a wind to an unknown area, and when I will come to tell Achav where I met you, and he will not find you, then he will kill me. Now, I your servant fear Hashem from my young days. Surely you have heard of what I did when Izevel killed all the prophets of Hashem. I hid one hundred prophets in caves, 50 in each cave, and provided them with bread and water. If I go tell Achav that you are here he will kill me [and there will be no one to provide food for the prophets[2]].”
  • Eliyahu reassures Ovadia of his safety: Eliyahu swore by the name of Hashem that he will appear to Achav today [and that therefore he has nothing to worry].

4.      Achav and Eliyahu meet, and a showdown is agreed to take place:

  • Ovadia went towards Achav and he told him of Eliyahu’s arrival. So, Achav went towards Eliyahu. When Achav saw Eliyahu, he said to him, “Is that you, the destroyer of Israel?” Eliyahu responded that, “It is not me who has forsaken Israel, but you and your father’s house, since you have forsaken the commandments of Hashem, and worshipped the Baal.”
  • Eliyahu asks for a showdown to be set up between the prophets of Baal and Hashem: Eliyahu said to Achav: Gather all of the Jewish people to Mount Carmel, and gather all the 450 prophets of the Baal and the 400 prophets of the Ashera who eat at Izevel’s table.

5.      The showdown between the prophets of Baal and Eliyahu by Mount Carmel:

  • Achav summoned all of the Jewish people, and gathered the prophets to Mount Carmel.
  • Eliyahu taunts the people to pick a side and stop worshipping both Baal and Hashem: Eliyahu then said to all of the people, “Until when will you remain between idolatry and service of G-d? If Hashem is G-d, then follow Him, and if the Baal, then go after him.” The people did not respond one word. Eliyahu then again spoke to the people saying, “I alone have remained a prophet to Hashem, while the prophets of the Baal are four hundred and fifty men.”
  • Eliyahu offers the Jewish people an experiment to reveal who is the true G-d: Eliyahu said to the Jewish people and the prophets of the Baal: “Let us take two bulls, from which they will choose one bull for themselves and cut it up and place it on the wood but will not light it afire. I will then prepare the second bull, and I will also put it on the wood but will not light it afire. You will then call in the name of your deity, and I will call in the name of Hashem to bring down a fire to consume the sacrifice. Now, the God that will answer with fire, will be declared as the true God.” When the people heard of the above offer from Eliyahu they all accepted it and agreed that that it is a good option.
  • So Eliyahu said to the prophets of the Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first since you are the majority. Now, do not light it afire and rather call in the name of your deity, for him to bring fire from the heavens.”


6.      The prophets of Baal are not successful in bringing a fire:

  • The prophets of Baal prepare their offering and pray, but no fire comes: The prophets of Baal took the bull that Eliyahu gave them [as it had run away from them, not wanting to be offered to idolatry[3]] and they prepared it on the altar. They prayed to their deity Baal from the morning until noon, asking him to answer their prayers, but there was no response. They even preformed a dancing ceremony on the altar that they had made [for the sake of invoking their deity Baal to draw down fire from the sky].
  • Eliyahu taunts the worshippers of Baal: In the afternoon Eliyahu began scoffing at them, and said to them sarcastically, “Why don’t you call to your deity Baal with a louder voice, as after all isn’t he the god. Maybe he is in middle of a conversation or is engaged in war with his enemies or he is in the bathroom, or perhaps he is sleeping and if you call him, he will awaken.”
  • The Baal worshippers continue to pray to Baal in vain: The prophets of Baal [took Eliyahu seriously and] prayed in an even louder voice and gashed themselves with swords and spears as was their custom, until blood gushed out onto them. They did this throughout all the afternoon and tried to prophesy until the time came for the Mincha sacrifice to be brought. However, there was no response to their call, no sound or voice.

7.      Eliyahu draws a fire from heaven and proves that Hashem is G-d:

  • Eliyahu gathers the people: Eliyahu told all of the people to come near him [to witness what would take place], and so all the people came near to him.
  • Eliyahu fixes the altar: Eliyahu then repaired the destroyed altar of Hashem. Eliyahu then took twelve stones, corresponding to the 12 tribes of Yaakov. He built the stones into an altar for the sake of Hashem, and he made a ditch that could hold two se’ah, around the altar.
  • Eliyahu prepares the wood and bull offering on the altar: Eliyahu arranged the wood on the altar, and he cut up the bull and placed it on top of the wood.
  • Water is poured onto the altar, wood, and offering until it is drowned in water: Eliyahu instructed [his servant Elisha[4]] that four pitchers be filled with water and that they should be poured over the meat and onto the wood. This was done three times [for a total of 12 buckets of water being poured onto the altar[5]]. The water flowed around the altar, and into the ditch that surrounded the altar, thus filling it with water.
  • Eliyahu prays to Hashem: Towards the time of Mincha, Eliyahu Hanavi prayed to Hashem as follows: “The God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yisrael, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and at Your word have I done all these things. Answer me, Hashem, answer me, and let the nation know that You are Hashem, and that You have allowed them to stray against you.”
  • A fire comes from Heaven and consumes the entire altar: [Immediately after the above prayer] a fire of Hashem fell [from the heavens] and consumed the Olah offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the earth. Even the water which was in the trench became consumed by the fire.
  • The people voice their belief in G-d: When the people saw this they fell on their faces, and said, “Hashem is God, Hashem is God.”
  • The prophets of Baal are slaughtered: Eliyahu then said to the people: “Seize the prophets of the Baal and do not allow anyone to escape.” So, the people seized them and Eliyahu took them down the brook of Kishon and slaughtered them there.

8.      It rains:

  • Eliyahu instructs Achav to eat: Eliyahu then instructed Achav to go up and eat and drink [in celebration[6]], as he will soon hear the rumbling sound of rain. So, Achav went up to eat and drink.
  • Eliyahu prays for rain: Eliyahu went up to the top of Mt. Carmel and crouched on the ground, and put his head between his knees [and began to pray for rain[7]].
  • A servant of Eliyahu is sent to lookout for rainclouds: Eliyahu sent his servant to go up and look towards the sea [to search for rainclouds coming from the sea[8]]. So, the servant went up and looked, but he saw nothing. Eliyahu instructed him to go again for a total of seven times.
  • The rainclouds are seen by the seventh time: By the seventh time, the servant saw a cloud as small as a man’s palm, rising from the sea.
  • Eliyahu informs Achav to quickly return home: Eliyahu then instructed his servant to tell Achav to quickly prepare his horses and descend Mt. Carmel, lest they get stopped by the rain.
  • A heavy rain falls: In the meanwhile, the heavens became dark with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain.
  • Achav arrives to Yizrael but is preceded by Eliyahu: Achav rode and went to Yizrael. However, Hashem gave Eliyahu extra powers and he was able to run before Achav and arrive to Yizrael before him.

[1] Radak 18:1

[2] Metzudos Dovid 18:14

[3] Rashi 18:26

[4] Rashi 18:34

[5] Radak 18:34

[6] Metzudos Dovid 18:41

[7] Rashi 18:42

[8] Rashi 18:43

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