This chapter recounts a beautiful example of a woman who trusted God. She was not a part of Israel, yet she trusted the God revealed by Israel. She spoke to Eliyahu (Elijah) about “the Lord your God” and she knew that this drought was due to the God of Israel.
This is a very complex chapter, it is linked to multiple chapters in the Bible from beginning to end. The other events in this chapter and how they are linked to each other are God’s doing.
Messianic images in 1st Kings 17–18:
- God hides Eliyahu from Ahab in the wilderness and then among another people, the people of Sidon, a Gentile land
- The widow is willing to give up her life and the life of her son for the prophet
- Eliyahu is in the wilderness for a time, just as Yeshua was in the wilderness for a time
- Eliyahu took the boy to his own room, taking him away from the family space, above the family space
- Eliyahu laid on the boy three times
- The boy died and was resurrected after three times
- Ravens/angels of God
- Multiplying food and oil
- The famine that lasts for three years (this is mentioned in 1st Kings 18)
The widow goes through a transformation as she hosts Eliyahu in her home. There’s a level of trust between her and the prophet that grows over the year that Eliyahu lives with her. Eliyahu was brought to Sidon because of the widow, for her sake. Eliyahu did not go to Sidon just to save his life, but in a sense, to save the widow’s life.
Eliyahu starts out his ministry by provoking a famine in the land. As a Messianic figure, that famine means. Yeshua in Luke 4 ties that famine to Himself and to a lack of knowledge of God. Eliyahu speaks in the first person when he speaks the famine on the land of Israel. In this story, Eliyahu is acting as God in this story.
God says there’s a famine in the land of Israel, a famine of knowledge of His word. It’s been over 70 years from the time of Solomon to Ahab so most of the people alive at this time have no knowledge of God anymore. Eliyahu hides from God for three years. Ahab wanted Eliyahu so bad that he sent out many people to look for him. Ahab even asks the kings of the nation around him to look for Eliyahu as well. The ancient version of Interpol could not find Eliyahu.
God had already prepared a special hiding place for Eliyahu in the wilderness and among the Gentiles.
Why did God do this? We can find the answer in Luke 4 when the Messiah had His public debut (Luke 4:14-19).
Eliyahu did this work, but Yokhanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) did some of this work more completely:
“And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ And He said to them, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, “Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”‘ And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Eliyahu, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Eliyahu was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.'” (Luke 4:21-27)
If Ahab’s search parties had found Eliyahu, Ahab would have certainly killed Eliyahu. He would not have repented and corrected his course. The people of Israel would not have repented either. They would have killed him too, just as the people of Nazareth had tried to do after Yeshua spoke in the synagogue. Just as Eliyahu had to flee Israel to live among the Gentiles because of Israel’s death sentence against him, Yeshua, in a sense, did the same.
Let’s go back to 1st Kings 17. When Eliyahu leaves the wilderness and goes to Sidon, he meets a widow. She introduces herself:
“But she said, ‘As the LORD your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.'” (1st Kings 17:12-13)
Eliyahu asked her to make a cake for him first and then for herself and her son. She obeyed, and not only did she live but her son did too. The widow’s son became a promised son.
The text specifically says that the woman was gathering “two sticks.” The author goes out of his way to mention the two sticks, possibly a reference to a “two house” restoration (see Ezek. 37:15–23). There is also another reference here to combining Eliyahu to the widow’s son. Their lives are now joined, in a sense.
However, when Eliyahu requested food, he did soften the risk for the widow:
“Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.'”
The widow risked her life and her son’s life to feed the prophet and they were rewarded and survived. Later, we find that the widow’s son becomes ill unto death. The widow asks Eliyahu, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!”
The widow believes that Eliyahu is the cause of her son’s death. God did not tell the widow that Eliyahu was coming. He only told Eliyahu and he was able to recognize her as the one God sent for him even though she didn’t know God has sent her.
The widow says that the son was dead because Eliyahu’s presence in her home caused her sins to come to God’s attention. Eliyahu didn’t know what God was doing. Eliyahu had no knowledge of the widow’s prior life. Eliyahu questioned God about his role in the widow’s suffering:
“O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” (1st Kings 17:20)
Eliyahu represents God who has the power of resurrection, the widow’s son represents the Messiah, who died because of the woman’s sin. The woman represents Israel and all of us.
The resurrection of the son boosted the widow’s trust the God revealed by Yisrael:
“Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth” (1st Kings 17:24).
She first accused Eliyahu of bringing her sins to her face and bringing death to her. But when Eliyahu resurrected her son, she no longer saw death. Death was converted into life.
It took her son’s death and resurrection for the widow to understand that the word of the Lord is true. The widow now understands who God is and God is not just Israel’s God but she understands that Israel’s God cares about her, even though she is not a child of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God cared enough about her that he sent His prophet to her.
Speaker: Daniel Agee. Summary: Tammy.
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