before Ahab, Elijah demanded that all Israel be assembled to meet him and
the prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth on Mount Carmel. "Send," he
commanded, "and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the
prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves
four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table."
was issued by one who seemed to stand in the very presence of Jehovah; and
Ahab obeyed at once, as if the prophet were monarch, and the king a
subject. Swift messengers were sent throughout the kingdom with the
summons to meet Elijah and the prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth. In every
town and village the people prepared to assemble at the appointed time. As
they journeyed toward the place, the hearts of many were filled with
strange forebodings. Something unusual was about to happen; else why this
summons to gather at Carmel? What
was about to fall upon the people and the land?
drought, Mount Carmel had been a place of beauty, its streams fed from
never-failing springs, and its fertile slopes covered with fair flowers
and flourishing groves. But now its beauty languished under a withering
curse. The altars erected to the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth stood now
in leafless groves. On the summit of one of the highest ridges, in sharp
contrast with these was the broken-down altar of Jehovah.
overlooked a wide expanse of country; its heights were visible from many
parts of the kingdom of Israel. At the foot of the mount there were
vantage points from which could be seen much of what took place above. God
had been signally dishonored by the idolatrous worship carried on under
cover of its wooded slopes; and Elijah chose this elevation as the most
conspicuous place for the display of God's power and for the vindication
of the honor of His name.
Early on the
morning of the day appointed, the hosts of apostate Israel, in eager
expectancy, gather near the top of the mountain. Jezebel's prophets march
up in imposing array. In regal pomp the king appears and takes his
position at the head of the priests, and the idolaters shout his welcome.
But there is apprehension in the hearts of the priests as they remember
that at the word of the prophet the land of Israel for three years and a
half has been destitute of dew and rain. Some fearful crisis is at hand,
they feel sure. The gods in whom they have trusted have been unable to
prove Elijah a false prophet. To their frantic cries, their
their tears, their humiliation, their revolting ceremonies, their costly
and ceaseless sacrifices, the objects of their worship have been strangely
Ahab and the false prophets, and surrounded by the assembled hosts of
Israel, Elijah stands, the only one who has appeared to vindicate the
honor of Jehovah. He whom the whole kingdom has charged with its weight of
woe is now before them, apparently defenseless in the presence of the
monarch of Israel, the prophets of Baal, the men of war, and the
surrounding thousands. But Elijah is not alone. Above and around him are
the protecting hosts of heaven, angels that excel in strength.
unterrified, the prophet stands before the multitude, fully aware of his
commission to execute the divine command. His countenance is lighted with
an awful solemnity. In anxious expectancy the people wait for him to
speak. Looking first upon the broken-down altar of Jehovah, and then upon
the multitude, Elijah cries out in clear, trumpetlike tones, "How
long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow Him: but if
Baal, then follow him."
answer him not a word. Not one in that vast assembly dare reveal loyalty
to Jehovah. Like a dark cloud, deception and blindness had overspread
Israel. Not all at once had this fatal apostasy closed about them, but
gradually, as from time to time they had failed to heed the words of
warning and reproof that the Lord sent them. Each departure from
rightdoing, each refusal to repent, had deepened their guilt and driven
them farther from Heaven. And now, in this crisis, they persisted in
refusing to take their stand for God.
abhors indifference and disloyalty in a time of crisis in His work. The
whole universe is watching with inexpressible interest the closing scenes
of the great controversy between good and evil. The people of God are
nearing the borders of the eternal world; what can be of more importance
to them than that they be loyal to the God of heaven? All through the
ages, God has had moral heroes, and He has them now--those who, like
Joseph and Elijah and Daniel, are not ashamed to acknowledge themselves
His peculiar people. His special blessing accompanies the labors of men of
action, men who will not be swerved from the straight line of duty, but
who with divine energy will inquire, "Who is on the Lord's
side?" (Exodus 32:26), men who will not stop merely with the inquiry,
but who will demand that those who choose to identify themselves with the
people of God shall step forward and reveal unmistakably their allegiance
to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Such men make their wills and
plans subordinate to the law of God. For love of Him they count not their
lives dear unto themselves. Their work is to catch the light from the Word
and let it shine forth to the world in clear, steady rays. Fidelity to God
is their motto.
on Carmel doubt and hesitate, the voice of Elijah again breaks the
silence: "I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's
prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two
bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in
pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the
other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and call ye on
the name of your gods, and
I will call
on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be
of Elijah is so reasonable that the people cannot well evade it, so they
find courage to answer, "It is well spoken." The prophets of
Baal dare not lift their voices in dissent; and, addressing them, Elijah
directs, "Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first;
for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire
bold and defiant, but with terror in their guilty hearts, the false
priests prepare their altar, laying on the wood and the victim; and then
they begin their incantations. Their shrill cries echo and re-echo through
the forests and the surrounding heights, as they call on the name of their
god, saying, "O Baal, hear us." The priests gather about their
altar, and with leaping and writhing and screaming, with tearing of hair
and cutting of flesh, they beseech their god to help them.
passes, noon comes, and yet there is no evidence that Baal hears the cries
of his deluded followers. There is no voice, no reply to their frantic
prayers. The sacrifice remains unconsumed.
continue their frenzied devotions, the crafty priests are continually
trying to devise some means by which they may kindle a fire upon the altar
and lead the people to believe that the fire has come direct from Baal.
But Elijah watches every movement; and the priests, hoping against hope
for some opportunity to deceive, continue to carry on their senseless
to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and
aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is
in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they
cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and
lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when
midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the
evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor
any that regarded."
Satan have come to the help of those whom he had deceived, and who were
devoted to his service. Gladly would he have sent the lightning to kindle
their sacrifice. But Jehovah has set Satan's bounds, restrained his power,
and not all the enemy's devices can convey one spark to Baal's altar.
their voices hoarse with shouting, their garments stained with blood from
self-inflicted wounds, the priests become desperate. With unabated frenzy
they now mingle with their pleading terrible cursings of their sun-god,
and Elijah continues to watch intently; for he knows that if by any device
the priests should succeed in kindling their altar fire, he would
instantly be torn in pieces.
on. The prophets of Baal are weary, faint, confused. One suggests one
thing, and another something else, until finally they cease their efforts.
Their shrieks and curses no longer resound over Carmel. In despair they
retire from the contest.
All day long
the people have witnessed the demonstrations of the baffled priests. They
have beheld their wild leaping round the altar, as if they would grasp the
burning rays of the sun to serve their purpose. They have looked
on the frightful, self-inflicted mutilations of the priests, and have had
opportunity to reflect on the follies of idol worship. Many in the throng
are weary of the exhibitions of demonism, and they now await with deepest
interest the movements of Elijah.
It is the
hour of the evening sacrifice, and Elijah bids the people, "Come near
unto me." As they tremblingly draw near, he turns to the broken-down
altar where once men worshiped the God of heaven, and repairs it. To him
this heap of ruins is more precious than all the magnificent altars of
reconstruction of this ancient altar, Elijah revealed his respect for the
covenant that the Lord made with Israel when they crossed the Jordan into
the Promised Land. Choosing "twelve stones, according to the number
of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, . . . he built an altar in the name of
disappointed priests of Baal, exhausted by their vain efforts, wait to see
what Elijah will do. They hate the prophet for proposing a test that has
exposed the weakness and inefficiency of their gods; yet they fear his
power. The people, fearful also, and almost breathless with expectancy,
watch while Elijah continues his preparations. The calm demeanor of the
prophet stands out in sharp contrast with the fanatical, senseless frenzy
of the followers of Baal.
completed, the prophet makes a trench about it, and, having put the wood
in order and prepared the bullock, he lays the victim on the altar and
commands the people to flood the sacrifice and the altar with water.
"Fill four barrels," he directed, "and pour it on the burnt
and on the
wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time.
And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the
water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with
people of the long-continued apostasy that has awakened the wrath of
Jehovah, Elijah calls upon them to humble their hearts and turn to the God
of their fathers, that the curse upon the land of Israel may be removed.
Then, bowing reverently before the unseen God, he raises his hands toward
heaven and offers a simple prayer. Baal's priests have screamed and foamed
and leaped, from early morning until late in the afternoon; but as Elijah
prays, no senseless shrieks resound over Carmel's height. He prays as if
he knows Jehovah is there, a witness to the scene, a listener to his
appeal. The prophets of Baal have prayed wildly, incoherently. Elijah
prays simply and fervently, asking God to show His superiority over Baal,
that Israel may be led to turn to Him.
God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel," the prophet pleads, "let
it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy
servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Hear me, O
Lord, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God, and
that Thou hast turned their heart back again."
oppressive in its solemnity, rests upon all. The priests of Baal tremble
with terror. Conscious of their guilt, they look for swift retribution.
No sooner is
the prayer of Elijah ended than flames of
brilliant flashes of lightning, descend from heaven upon the upreared
altar, consuming the sacrifice, licking up the water in the trench, and
consuming even the stones of the altar. The brilliancy of the blaze
illumines the mountain and dazzles the eyes of the multitude. In the
valleys below, where many are watching in anxious suspense the movements
of those above, the descent of fire is clearly seen, and all are amazed at
the sight. It resembles the pillar of fire which at the Red Sea separated
the children of Israel from the Egyptian host.
The people on
the mount prostrate themselves in awe before the unseen God. They dare not
continue to look upon the Heaven-sent fire. They fear that they themselves
will be consumed; and, convicted of their duty to acknowledge the God of
Elijah as the God of their fathers, to whom they owe allegiance, they cry
out together as with one voice, "The Lord, He is the God; the Lord,
He is the God." With startling distinctness the cry resounds over the
mountain and echoes in the plain below. At last Israel is aroused,
undeceived, penitent. At last the people see how greatly they have
dishonored God. The character of Baal worship, in contrast with the
reasonable service required by the true God, stands fully revealed. The
people recognize God's justice and mercy in withholding the dew and the
rain until they have been brought to confess His name. They are ready now
to admit that the God of Elijah is above every idol.
of Baal witness with consternation the wonderful revelation of Jehovah's
power. Yet even in their
and in the presence of divine glory, they refuse to repent of their
evil-doing. They would still remain the prophets of Baal. Thus they showed
themselves ripe for destruction. That repentant Israel may be protected
from the allurements of those who have taught them to worship Baal, Elijah
is directed by the Lord to destroy these false teachers. The anger of the
people has already been aroused against the leaders in transgression; and
when Elijah gives the command, "Take the prophets of Baal; let not
one of them escape," they are ready to obey. They seize the priests,
and take them to the brook Kishon, and there, before the close of the day
that marked the beginning of decided reform, the ministers of Baal are
slain. Not one is permitted to live.