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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

Chapter 18

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Text Commentary

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal. 1Long afterward, in the third year, the LORD spoke to Elijah. “Go, present yourself to Ahab,” he said, “that I may send rain upon the earth.” 2So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

3Now the famine in Samaria was bitter, 4and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his vizier, who was a zealous follower of the LORD. When Jezebel was murdering the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them away fifty each in two caves, and supplied them with food and drink. 5Ahab said to Obadiah, “Come, let us go through the land to all sources of water and to all the streams. We may find grass and save the horses and mules, so that we shall not have to slaughter any of the beasts.” 6Dividing the land to explore between them, Ahab went one way by himself, Obadiah another way by himself.

7As Obadiah was on his way, Elijah met him. Recognizing him, Obadiah fell prostrate and asked, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” 8“Yes,” he answered. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here!’ ” 9But Obadiah said, “What sin have I committed, that you are handing me over to Ahab to have me killed? 10As the LORD, your God, lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent in search of you. When they replied, ‘He is not here,’ he made each kingdom and nation swear they could not find you. 11And now you say, ‘Go tell your master: Elijah is here!’ 12After I leave you, the spirit of the LORD will carry you to some place I do not know, and when I go to inform Ahab and he does not find you, he will kill me. Your servant has revered the LORD from his youth. 13Have you not been told, my lord, what I did when Jezebel was murdering the prophets of the LORD—that I hid a hundred of the prophets of the LORD, fifty each in two caves, and supplied them with food and drink? 14And now you say, ‘Go tell your master: Elijah is here!’ He will kill me!” 15Elijah answered, “As the LORD of hosts lives, whom I serve, I will present myself to him today.”

16So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and informed him. Ahab came to meet Elijah, 17and when he saw Elijah, said to him, “Is it you, you disturber of Israel?” 18“It is not I who disturb Israel,” he answered, “but you and your family, by forsaking the commands of the LORD and following the Baals. 19Now summon all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, as well as the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel's table.” 20So Ahab sent to all the Israelites and had the prophets assemble on Mount Carmel.

21Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him. 22So Elijah said to the people, “I am the only surviving prophet of the LORD, and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. 23Give us two young bulls. Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood, but shall start no fire. 24You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the LORD. The God who answers with fire is God.” All the people answered, “Agreed!”

25Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one young bull and prepare it first, for there are more of you. Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire.” 26Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, “Answer us, Baal!” But there was no sound, and no one answering. And they hopped around the altar they had prepared. 27When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: “Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them. 29Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state until the time for offering sacrifice. But there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening.

30Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” When they had done so, he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been destroyed. 31He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the LORD had said, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32He built an altar in honor of the LORD with the stones, and made a trench around the altar large enough for two seahs of grain. 33When he had arranged the wood, he cut up the young bull and laid it on the wood. 34“Fill four jars with water,” he said, “and pour it over the holocaust and over the wood.” “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he said, and they did it a third time. 35The water flowed around the altar, and the trench was filled with the water.

36At the time for offering sacrifice, the prophet Elijah came forward and said, “LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command. 37Answer me, LORD! Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.” 38The LORD's fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench. 39Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!” 40Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Let none of them escape!” They were seized, and Elijah had them brought down to the brook Kishon and there he slit their throats.

41Elijah then said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42So Ahab went up to eat and drink, while Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, crouched down to the earth, and put his head between his knees. 43“Climb up and look out to sea,” he directed his servant, who went up and looked, but reported, “There is nothing.” Seven times he said, “Go, look again!” 44And the seventh time the youth reported, “There is a cloud as small as a man's hand rising from the sea.” Elijah said, “Go and say to Ahab, ‘Harness up and leave the mountain before the rain stops you.’ ” 45In a trice, the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and a heavy rain fell. Ahab mounted his chariot and made for Jezreel. 46But the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, who girded up his clothing and ran before Ahab as far as the approaches to Jezreel.

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