Elijah and the prophets of Baal (18:1-46)
After three years unbroken drought, God told Elijah that the time had come to make Ahab and Israel decide clearly whether they would follow him or Baal (18:1-2). Ahab was concerned about the effect of the drought on Israel’s trade and defence (for he was in danger of losing his valuable transport animals), but he was not so concerned about the religious condition of the country. He still tried to serve both God and Baal. While his queen attacked God’s prophets, his God-fearing manager of the royal household tried to protect them (3-6).
Upon returning to Israel, Elijah demanded that he meet Ahab (7-16). He declared clearly to Ahab that divided loyalty was in God’s sight disloyalty. This was Ahab’s sin and a chief cause of Israel’s troubles (17-18).
So zealous was Jezebel in establishing her religion in Israel, that she now had hundreds of Baal prophets working for her. Elijah challenged Ahab to take the prophets of Baal to Mt Carmel (believed to be a sacred Baal site) for a public contest to reveal which was the true God (19-24). Baal was supposed to be the god of nature, but he was shown to be powerless (25-29). Yahweh showed himself to have total power over nature, by defeating Baal in a victory that involved lightning, fire and water (30-39). When the people acknowledged Yahweh’s victory, Elijah took advantage of the favourable circumstances to destroy Baal’s prophets (40).
Elijah gave final proof that God, not Baal, was the controller of nature by announcing that God would now end the drought. As Ahab raced his chariot home to escape the approaching storm, Elijah, in the strength of God, ran before him in triumph (41-46).