Good morning! Today’s passage first gives us in 1 Kings 15-16 some ugly (but mercifully swift) stories about various generations of kings in southern Judah and northern Israel. These brief mentions are expanded significantly in two now-lost volumes, the “Books of the Annals of the Kings” of Israel and Judah. Idolatry and civil war wreak havoc on both kingdoms according to the writer(s), but Israel gets it worse because of frequent coups. In the chaotic Israelite succession, Baasha kills Jeroboam and his family, Zimri kills Baasha’s son Elah and does the same with his family, then Omri corners Zimri, who burns the house down over himself. Omri consolidates power so that the people of Israel eventually followed him as their king for twelve years. He moved the capital of Israel to Samaria, a city that he built. For the first time in awhile, a son follows a father’s death. Ahab ascends to the throne, and we’ll spend quite a bit of time with him. The bloody deaths for so many northern kings and their families are explained to us as divine judgment on idolatrous sins, even though much the same was happening in Judah. Keep in mind that these narratives are almost certainly told from the point-of-view of the south (after Israel had fallen), so they had every reason to describe the worst behaviors of their old opponents (and kindred).
We meet Elijah in chapter 17, a northern Israelite prophet and miracle-worker who is the chief thorn in the side of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Ahab makes no bones about monotheism; he worships other gods openly and builds their shrines. The first thing Elijah does is challenge Ahab on God’s behalf—there will be no rain in Israel for three years. Divine providence via ravens keeps hidden Elijah alive during this time. He also travels north to Zarephath by God’s command, where we meet another courageous and faithful woman who gives her family’s last food to Elijah. God provides the woman and her household with food throughout the long drought. When her son still gets sick and dies, even Elijah protests to God that this unjust suffering is too much. God listens to Elijah and restores the boy to health. This episode proves for her (and presumably for readers) that Elijah really is a righteous man of God. This is shaping up to be a major battle of deities and human contestants, much like between Moses and Pharaoh back in Exodus. We’ll follow the course of these antagonists through the rest of this book. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 1 Kings 18-19. Thanks for reading!