1 Kings 17:8-16 Elijah and the Widow
Posted by adventbiblestudy on September 28, 2013
1 Kings 17:8-16 NLTse Then the LORD said to Elijah, (9) “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” (10) So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” (11) As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.” (12) But she said, “I swear by the LORD your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” (13) But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. (14) For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the LORD sends rain and the crops grow again!” (15) So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days. (16) There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the LORD had promised through Elijah.
The first word that stands out in the above texts is widow. God has a soft in his heart for widows. People often took advantage of widows in Elijah’s time. If a widow did not have a family to rely on, they became easy pickings for anyone wishing to profit by taking advantage of them. Their lives were rough to say the least. Widows became an example of who God helps, why and how he reaches out. Jesus ministered to a number of widows. He raised a widow’s son. He pointed out how religious leaders changed God’s law so people could cheat widows. Jesus also pointed out the actions of a widow as she dropped her life savings into a chest to support the temple. God gave a widow the best gift of all when Anna looked into Jesus’ face when He was eight days old. People look at these stories but seldom look into the personal issues behind them. Jesus restored the widow’s son because he was all she had. Without a son, she was easy prey for anyone looking for an opportunity. Who considers the life Anna lead, living in the temple court ministering to everyone who would listen. She lived a lonely life telling about the Messiah, at a time few people wanted to hear the truth. Anna had a lot in common with the widow dropping all her money into the temple chest. They both gave everything. Both widows saw needs people refused to acknowledge. They gave everything to deliver God’s message – but who will listen? This story leads us to another widow in 2 Kings who met Elisha. As you will see, there are a number of related parallels to pay attention to.
2 Kings 4:1-7 NLTse One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the LORD. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.” (2) “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. (3) And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. (4) Then go into your house with your sonsand shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.” (5) So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. (6) Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. (7) When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”
With all the similarities between these two stories, we can’t help but see how the first story progresses to the next. Elijah met a widow with one son. Elisha met one with two sons. Elijah saved the widow and her sons from starving to death during a drought. We know the drought has spiritual significance. Elisha provides a clue when he saves the widow’s two sons from slavery. To put the drought into proper context, you have to look at the who, what, when, where, and why details. God gave the first widow oil and flour. Notice how the second was only given oil? The second widow sent her sons to borrow containers from friends and neighbors. The two stories compliment one another. Exactly what the spiritual symbols represent can be learned by following the same study methods used and explained here. We begin our study by locating the related New Testament text. In this particular instance, the related text can be quickly located by using a Bible chain reference.
Luke 4:24-27 NLTse But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. (25) “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. (26) Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner–a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. (27) And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”
Its not difficult to see it wouldn’t be difficult to locate this text by searching the for widow and Elijah. That would depend on which translation you are using. The King James version spells Elijah much differently in the New Testament. That can pose a problem. After looking at the New Testament texts, we see Jesus also referred to a second story. We also see Jesus was preaching in His hometown at the time. Jesus consistently pointed people to scripture when they didn’t agree with Him. Why did Jesus do this? Was Jesus showing off His knowledge of scripture? Was Jesus trying to drive home a single point? If you ever took time to look at scriptures Jesus referred to, you would know – Jesus sent them back to scripture for a reason. He wanted them to look beyond the single text He quoted. Each time Jesus sent anyone back to scripture, surrounding texts had a direct bearing on the conversation and taught a lesson He hoped and prayed they will learn. To me, this is evidence Jesus was and is God. I’ve seen and heard people quote a lot of texts. It usually boils down to one of two categories. They memorized a few feel good texts they use for any and every instance without regard to meaning or context. The other group of people also memorize a handful of texts. This group uses a series of texts to straighten out any and everyone in any situation. They strut around like a prize rooster spouting off the few verses they know defending what they consider ground they will die to defend. Little does either group realize the number of texts Jesus quoted or why. They claim to act like Jesus, but never bother to spend time to learn His ways. In this study we’ll only spend time in one chapter Jesus referred to. Once you see how God used His infinite knowledge to weave a story using different writers over hundreds to years, it will be up to you to continue the walk with Jesus through His Word on your own. Next we will use the rules of context to find if these two chapters are parallel to each other by comparing the introductions and summations.
1 Kings 17:1-6 NLTse Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives–the God I serve–there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (2) Then the LORD said to Elijah, (3) “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. (4) Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.” (5) So Elijah did as the LORD told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. (6) The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook.
Luke 4:1-4 NLTse Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, (2) where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. (3) Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.” (4) But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.'”
Its amazing how God placed so many similarities into two parallel chapters. Both mention the Jordan River and bread. In this lesson God also used contrast to teach. Elijah says, “there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” Jesus goes into the wilderness to prepare to give His word. We see how Jesus was temped by the devil. How was Elijah tempted? What about Ahab? What was the result of each? We’re told Jesus didn’t eat for forty days. Elijah was fed by ravens. I’m sure Jesus knew about Elijah when He fasted. Jesus knew God would send food when the time was right. Satan’s first temptation was ridiculous when you look at it in context. Jesus said, “The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.'” If Elijah had more faith, he wouldn’t have displayed doubts when tested. And of course we know Jesus had to drink during His fasting. God provided water for Jesus just as He made sure Elijah’s needs were met. God told Elijah to go. God’s Spirit led Jesus. The main point is — the two chapters have to show a relationship to ensure proper context. No one could’ve ever expected to find such a connection on their own. Only God’s Spirit and His Word have the ability to reveal such details. All you need to do is follow the simple rules of context. Using the same rules, both summations also need to be examined. How many similarities can you find?
1 Kings 17:20-24 NLTse Then Elijah cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” (21) And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” (22) The LORD heardElijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! (23) Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!” (24) Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.”
Luke 4:37-44 NLTse The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region. (38) After leaving the synagogue that day, Jesus went to Simon’s home, where he found Simon’s mother-in-law very sick with a high fever. “Please heal her,” everyone begged. (39) Standing at her bedside, he rebuked the fever, and it left her. And she got up at once and prepared a meal for them. (40) As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one. (41) Many were possessed by demons; and the demons came out at his command, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But because they knew he was the Messiah, he rebuked them and refused to let them speak. (42) Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. (43) But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” (44) So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.
We would expect to see a story about Jesus raising someone from death, or maybe healing a leper. When you think of it…. wouldn’t that be like bragging? Jesus pointed the people He grew up with to a story about Elijah feeding a widow, saving her and her son from starving to death. He also told them about Elijah telling a leper how God would heal him. In Luke chapter 4 Jesus cast a demon from a man and cured am woman from a fever. The chapter points out how people doubted Jesus’ ability to heal. Look at what the widow said to Elijah. First Elijah asked God, ” why have you brought tragedy to this widow.” Then the widow said, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” After living off a a handful of flour and a few drops of oil for some time, it took the near death and healing of her son to finally appreciate God’s concern and power. You can see how these two chapters mesh together to teach a number of deeper lessons. On the surface one deal seems to be missing. Elijah prayed to heal the widow’s son, which led to a spiritual lesson in Luke chapter 4. At the end of the chapter Luke tells us, “Jesus continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.” It takes a good back ground on the Bible, or a distinct message from God’s Spirit to see the deeper message. Jesus also went out to heal a son. “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstborn sons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the LORD.” (Numbers 3:12-13 NLTse). Jesus continued to go into synagogues to reach the religious leaders, God’s chosen sons.
When we follow the simple rules of context, identifying key words by highlighting the same, similar, and related words which are repeated, the authors main idea or theme is identified. Once we locate parallel texts, introductions and summaries in each chapter are compared. Once again repeated similar and related words in the introduction and summary are compared. Once parallel chapters are discovered we see how they compliment one another by explaining the same lesson from different angels. Together they reveal the spiritual side of the lessons involved.
Elijah was sent to a physical widow, who of course was also a spiritual symbol. God used a handful of flour and a few drops of oil to feed her and her son for years while a drought covered Israel. Bread, oil and drought are also spiritual symbols. The story of Elijah and the widow are found only in one Gospel. There is no doubt there is a connection. Finding the spiritual connection between the two chapters is found using the simple rules of context. God sent Elijah into the wilderness at the beginning of the drought. Jesus was led into the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry, which was the end of the drought of spiritual bread and water. God uses similarities and contrasts at the same time to illustrate the same lesson.
Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, while Elijah was fed by ravines. Jesus taught a number of lessons with His fast. He showed how Satan will always attempt to attack a weak point. Jesus showed how His knowledge of scripture gave Him strength. He knew how Elijah’s needs were supplied. Jesus knew God would also see to His needs when the time was right. There was only one answer to Satan’s first temptation.
When the widow’s son fell sick, Elijah prayed until God healed him. It took the healing of her son before the widow recognized God’s power. Why didn’t the widow develop faith in God during the time God fed her and her son with only a handful of flour and a few drops of oil? Jesus had the same problem. He lived a perfect life in front of an entire town that rejected Him at the beginning of His ministry. They doubted Jesus even after He healed some of the people in his hometown. After that, Jesus went to heal His son, the Levites in the synagogues. Together these two chapters show how the Levites became the foreigners. That’s why Jesus pointed out, ” he was sent instead to a foreigner.” It didn’t matter how far the priests separated themselves from God, Jesus made it His top priority to call them back. One of the main lessons we need to learn from these two chapters and Jesus. We can’t argue, Elijah was sent to a widow the world would ignore and the Jews most certainly rejected. It was normal for Jews to claim widows suffering was a judgment from God. How much more a foreigner? God used people the Jews rejected most to show how He could have viewed them. Instead of taking advantage of their fallen state and weakness, God sent His Son to plead with them. God was just as willing to save the Levites as Elijah was determined to save the widow’s son. How many times did Jesus reach out to them? How many times did they reject Him? If they would have turned to Jesus and accepted the miracles He performed, they would have seen He was more than a man of God.