About this series: A narrative exploring the stories behind the paintings of late artist Herbert Mandel as explained in the context of the Biblical texts they’re derived from, by his son-in-law, Jim Robidoux.
Elijah went to the brook of Cherith as directed by God. He was to drink the brook water and eat bread and meat that the ravens would bring him there. Elijah needed to hide, far away from King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were the most wicked and evil rulers Israel had ever known. They employed 850 prophets of Baal and his consort, Ashera, and were killing the prophets of Yahweh. After Elijah (God’s major prophet) told Ahab there would be no rain for years to come and not until I say so, they were determined to kill him.
When Ahab married Jezebel he created an unholy alliance with the King of Sidon, Jezebel’s father. Her country worshipped Baal and Ashera and Israel was beginning to do the same. Baal was supposed to be a dominant god that controls storms and rain. Baal and Ashera, his companion, were fertility gods.
During the third year of the drought Yahweh told Elijah it was time to go home. He was to show himself to Ahab – even though Ahab had been looking everywhere far and wide, to kill him. Elijah was going to tell Ahab that rain was about to fall.
The famine from the drought was so severe that King Ahab was looking everywhere for grass to feed his horses and mules. If those animals all died his army would be powerless against their enemies. Elijah sent word to the king that he needed to see him face-to-face.
Elijah challenged Ahab at their meeting to bring all the Israelites and all the prophets of Baal and Ashera (850 of them) to Mount Carmel. He alone would represent Yahweh there, as his name meant “Yah is God.”
On Mount Carmel he asks all the people, “How long will you waver between two different opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” None of the people answered him.
Next, Elijah asked for two bulls to be sacrificed as burnt offerings. “Let the Baal prophets pick first and then make all the preparations for the burnt offering to their god. And I will take the other bull and make all the preparations to sacrifice to Yahweh.” He then announced to everyone, “Let no fire be put to the wood. The true God will light his own sacrifice.”
As soon as the false prophets had made everything ready they began to pray and dance and plead with their God to light his sacrifice and prove himself. They continued hour after hour and even cut themselves and threw themselves on the ground. Elijah mocked them, and then it was his turn.
He then instructed the false prophets to soak his bull and the wood and the ground with water. They poured water all over everything three times as Elijah directed, even filling a trench with water circling the sacrifice. Then Elijah began to pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and asked God to validate himself and his servant and turn the hearts of the people back to himself. Immediately fire fell from heaven and lapped up everything, including the rocks, the dust and the water in the trench.
The people all said surely Yahweh is God, and they fell on their faces. Elijah then had all the false prophets rounded up and took them down the mountain and put them to death.
Elijah went to Ahab and told him to go back to his palace as the flooding rain was about to start. Ahab and Jezebel hung on to power for years to come, but on this day the people turned back to the true God and would worship Him only.
Jim Robidoux is father of four, lives and works in Manchester, and writes about life in The Life Section – specifically, his own. He enjoys bicycling to work, urban gardening, exploring his Christian faith, and watching the Phillies at Billy’s. And he happens to be married to Manchester Ink Link editor Carol Robidoux. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.