Lectionary Reflection for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 & Kings (BTCB) by Peter J. Leithart, commenting on 1 Kings 19:4-8:

We should not minimize Elijah’s frustration and sense of failure. At Carmel, he announces to the prophets of Baal, “I alone am left a prophet of Yahweh” (18:22). After fire fell from heaven, it seems that this is no longer the case. Elijah appears to win the majority of Israel to his side, but now he sees that nothing changes. Twice, at Sinai, he states: “I alone am left” (19:10, 14). It looks like the one prophet has expanded into a multitude; but Elijah realizes that he is alone again.

Elijah wishes to die, but this is not simple despair. He realizes that he is no more effective than his prophetic fathers in calling Israel back to the covenant. Israel’s renewal is not going to take place, at least not the way that Elijah envisions.

As a prophet, Elijah is bound to bring an accusation against Israel. Like Jonah, he is reluctant to do this, and like Jonah Elijah would rather die than stand against Israel. He has “great sorry and unceasing grief in his heart” concerning his fellow Israelites (Rom. 9:1-5). He is a Moses, desiring to die for the sake of Israel (as the apostle Paul was as well).

At the broom tree in the wilderness he is refreshed. He lies down (a symbolic death), but the angel raises his up and feeds him (a symbolic resurrection). Refreshed by water and bread baked on “live coals” (1 Kgs. 19:6; cf. Isa. 6:6), he continues to his destination, Sinai.

Under the broom tree, Elijah is restored to the prophetic calling he is tempted to renounce.


©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.