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fuence, he caused a magnificent temple to be built at Samaria in honour of Baal, or Belus, the god of the Zidonians, and established for the worship of Astarté a company of priests. The common people, following the example of their sovereign, forsook the commandments of the Lord, regis ad exemplum.
At this critical period, Elijah the Tishbite appeared with all the authority of a messenger of God. He is justly called, “the Prince of the prophets next unto Moses.' The sacred historian ushers him to our notice as another Melchizedeck without any intimation of his birth, or family, or the occurrences of his early life. He was an inhabitant of the extensive district assigned to the two tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, which was bounded on the west by the river Jordan, and on the east by Mount Galaad. On the commencement of his high office, he approaches Ahab with great dignity, states to him the important commission with which he is charged, and declares in undisguised language; As the Lord God of Israel liveth before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
It has pleased the Supreme Being, at different times, to adopt this mode of expressing his indignation.
"Therefore over you
As, on the contrary, he displays his loving kindness by an opposite dispensation:
- The seed shall be prosperous,
By the phrase, according to his word, Elijah means, not that the termination of the drought should depend on his own arbitrary caprice; but that God had graciously allowed him the privilege of interceding in due time for it's removal. Ahab seems to have been highly exasperated by this explicit declaration.
As in a succeeding age Jeremiah, and Baruch his secretary, were directed by God to avoid the fury of their enemies; so, in this emergency, Elijah was admonished to flee from the presence of the enraged Monarch. Accordingly, he removed to a cave or cell in the valley of Cherith, near a brook of the same name which flows into the river Jordan, and there continued for six months.
His attire, his venerable aspect, and his dignified demeanor interested the benevolence of the inhabitants of Oreb or Aorabi, a small village on the borders of Arabia ; and they
brought him a liberal allowance of provisions every morning and evening.
If we retain the sense conveyed by the versions, the Prophet was furnished with food by ‘ravens.' All created beings are under the immediate control of their Maker. At his command the serpent bites, and locusts devour the land. He enrolleth in his great army the hornet, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar. On the present occasion, the birds of the air were appointed as purveyors to bring provisions to the Prophet.*
The prediction of Elijah was speedily accomplished : The heaven was become as iron, and the earth as brass. The fields produced no fruit: no dews fertilised the ground: no genial showers descended. A terrible scarcity ensued, without any prospect of relief. Even the brook of Cherith, which had hitherto supplied the Prophet's beverage, was dried up. It is written, that there had been no rain in the land. If by the land' we understand the land of Israel, the drought might not have extended itself to the realm of Judah, which was then flourishing under the government of the pious Jehosaphat. Yet it prevailed at Zarephath (called in the New Testament, and by Pliny, Sarepta) a town situated between Tyre and Zidon, and subject to the latter. Here Elijah found a safe asylum, when he left the vale of Cherith. His abode in this place is noticed by Christ himself: “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land: but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow."
* No attention is due to those, who describe the raven as void of natural affection toward it's infant brood, and thus would magnify the miracle by remarking that birds, which neglect even their own offspring, sustained Elijah with food.
The horrors of the famine above recorded may be inferred from an incident related, with beautiful simplicity, by the sacred historian. Elijah arose, and went to Zarephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold a widow woman was there gathering of sticks : and he called to her and said, “ Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to fetch it, he called her and said,
Bring me, I pray thee, u morsel of bread in thy hand.” And she said, “ As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a cruse ; and behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it and
die.” And Elijah said unto her, “ Fear not, go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it to me, and after make for thee and thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, • The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth." And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah : and sh?, and he, and her house did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord which he spake by Elijah.
From his abode at Sarepta, which is beyond the confines of Palestine, Elijah is called “the First Prophet of the Gentiles.' And here occurred an extraordinary event, which clearly designated him as a man of God. Having performed more and greater miracles than had been wrought from the time of Moses, he surpassed even Moses himself by re-animating the dead.
The only child of his hostess being seized with a sickness, which terminated in death, the compassion of Elijah was naturally awakened. He addressed himself to God. The Lord heareth the prayers of those, who call upon him faithfully: and the boy, restored to life, was delivered to his transported mother. The miraculous increase of the meal and oil must previously have convinced her, that Elijah was a true Prophet: and the recovery of her son from death still more