Elijah's Drought

According to Jacob, the drought in Elijah's time lasted 3 years and 6 months and was remedied a certain way. In book 9 another drought had a similar remedy.

Jacob 5:13-18

13If any among you be afflicted let him pray. If any be merry let him sing psalms. 14If any be sick let him call for the elders of the assembly and let them pray over him and they will anoint him with oil in the name of our master. 15The prayer of belief will heal the sick and our master will raise him up and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven him. Jacob 5:13-1516Confess your faults 1 to 1 and pray 1 with 1 that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful. Jacob 5:1617Also Elijah, a man subject to suffering like us, prayed earnestly that rain might not descend on the land H 1 Kings 17:1 and it did not descend for 3 years and 6 months. H 1 Kings 18:1 18He prayed again and the skies gave rain H 1 Kings 18:42 and the land gave its fruit. Jacob 5:17-18 (Jacob 5:13-18 BRB)


3+6 = 9 = Second Samuel

Second Samuel

The math in Jacob's discussion of Elijah's drought points to the book of Second Samuel. What do we find in this book related to the passage in Jacob? Another 3 year drought. Here's the story of the drought in David's time.

FE 1There was a famine in the days of David for 3 years, year after year; and David inquired of the Master. The Master answered, It is because of Saul and because of his bloody house, because he killed the Gibeonites. 2 Samuel 21:12The king called the Gibeonites and said to them (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn to them, and Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal to cause the children of Israel and Judah to sin), 3therefore David said to the Gibeonites, What will I do for you? With what will I atone you, that you may bless the heritage of the Master? 2 Samuel 21:2-34The Gibeonites said to him, It is not silver and gold that Saul and his house owe us; nor do we wish to kill anyone in Israel. 2 Samuel 21:4aHe said to them, I will do for you whatever you say. 2 Samuel 21:4b5They said to the king, The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us so that we should not remain in all the territory of Israel, 6let 7 of his sons be delivered to us, and we will sacrifice them before the Master in Ramah of Saul. 2 Samuel 21:5-6The king said, I will give them. 2 Samuel 21:67But the king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul, because of the Master's oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8The king took the 2 children of Rizpah daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the 5 children of Nadab daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9and he delivered them to the Gibeonites, and they sacrificed them in the mountain before the Master; and they fell all 7 as 1, and were killed in the 1st days of harvest, in the beginning of barley harvest. 2 Samuel 21:7-910Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it under her on the rock, from the beginning of the harvest until water dropped on them from the skies, and she did not let the birds of the air rest on the bodies by day nor the wild animals of the field by night. 11It was told David what Rizpah daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done. 12David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the lords of Jabesh Gilead, who had stolen them from Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them, on the day the Philistines killed Saul on the mount of Gilboa; 13and he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son and they gathered the bones of those who were killed. 2 Samuel 21:10-1314They buried the bones of Saul and of Jonathan his son in the land of Benjamin in Zela, in the sepulcher of Kish his father; and they did all that the king commanded. After that god was reconciled toward the land. 2 Samuel 21:14 (2 Samuel 21:1-14 BRB)

Jacob cites two stories about a three year drought, two stories that rely on prayer to end the drought. He cites Elijah's story with words. This is the kind of reference everyone is used to. But he also cites David's story with numbers. This is the kind of reference we are documenting in this larger study on Book Numbers.

Both stories must relate to what Jacob is talking about or they would not be cited together. Both stories are about a 3 year drought. Both are also stories about prayer, the primary topic of the originating passage. We are told directly, by Jacob, that Elijah was a man of prayer. David is also cited, but numerically, so we have to read his story to learn that he also used prayer to end a drought. By extension, David, like Elijah, is an example of prayer for us.

When David had a drought on his hands he asked Yahvah why. When he had an answer he was able to take action. It's clear in Elijah's story too, in First Kings 18, that the same kind of process is happening, for as Jacob says, Elijah even prayed the drought into existence. No one would attempt, let alone succeed, at such a thing if they had not heard to do so from Yahvah. The take away is that prayer is not a matter of repetitive asking. Prayer is a matter of taking your questions to Yahvah until you hear his explanation for what's happening and what to do about it. This is the way both David and Elijah were operating.

Given the way these two stories are so similar, might there be other parallels between them? You bet. What Elijah and David were lead to do is quite similar. David turns over some of Saul's descendants to the Gibeonites to be slain because of a contract between Israel and Gibeon that Saul broke. Elijah commanded the slaying of the prophets of lord because Ahab and his forefathers (and many in Israel, though not all) had forsaken the contract with Yahvah. The root problem and solution is the same in both stories.

There's another element shared by both stories. David moved Saul and Jonathan's remains to their rightful resting place in the family plot. Elijah repaired an altar to Yahvah. But how are these alike? Left to guess on your own you might come up with the idea that both of these moves are honoring, or something similar, and you'd be right, but the idea is to learn to use scripture to interpret scripture, and in this case, by a simple math problem, we've been shown what passages to compare. So let's use the stories to figure this out.

I think the symmetry between the two stories wants the reader to infer that when David moved Saul and Jonathan to their family plot, he also rebuilt their father's sepulcher (or rebuilt something related to their burial). Whether Saul and Jonathan's graves were never marked when they were buried the first time or whether they had been vandalized is unknown, though the symmetry suggests they had fallen into disrepair one way or another. So David does some kind of repair or rebuilding in the process of laying them to rest in the right location.

A sidenote on the word "altar" may help put this particular assertion of mine on better footing. The word altar in the original langauge is literally "from sacrifice." That means an altar is what's left from a sacrifice(s). The altar becomes the memorial or marker of a sacrificial event or place. In that light it's very much the same as a headstone or memorial to a loved one who has died. Given that background I imagine Elijah's repairing of an altar has an echo in David's story and I imagine it's a repairing of a memorial.

First Kings 18

Elijah's story, for comparison.

1It came to pass after many days that the word of the Master came to Elijah in the 3rd year saying, Go appear to Ahab and I will give rain on the face of the land. H Jacob 5:17 1 Kings 18:12Elijah went to appear to Ahab and the famine was severe in Samaria. 1 Kings 18:2FE 3Ahab called Obadiah, who was the steward of his house. Obadiah feared the Master greatly, 4for when Jezebel killed the prophets of god Obadiah took 100 prophets and hid them by 50 in a cave and fed them with bread and water. 5Ahab said to Obadiah, Go through the land, to all the fountains of water and to all the brooks. Perhaps we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive that we may not lose all the animals. 6They divided the land between them to pass throughout it. Ahab went 1 way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself. 1 Kings 18:3-67As Obadiah was on the way Elijah met him. He recognized him and fell on his face and said, Is that you my master Elijah? 1 Kings 18:78He answered him, It is I. Then he said to him, Go tell your master, Elijah is here. 1 Kings 18:89Obadiah said, What sin have I committed that you would deliver your servant into the hand of Ahab to kill me? 10As the Master your god lives there is no people or kingdom where my master has not sent seeking you. When they said, He is not here, he took an oath of the kingdoms and peoples that they had not found you. 11Now you say to me, Go tell your master, Elijah is here. 12As soon as I am gone from you the spirit of the Master will take you up and carry you where I do not know and so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you he will kill me, but I your servant have feared the Master from my youth. 13Has it not been told my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of god, how I took 100 of the prophets of the Master and hid them by 50 in a cave and fed them with bread and water? 14Now you say to me, Go tell your master, Elijah is here. He will kill me. 1 Kings 18:9-1415Elijah said, As the Master of hosts lives before whom I stand I will surely show myself to him today. 1 Kings 18:1516Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told Ahab and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17When Ahab saw Elijah Ahab said to him, Are you he who troubles Israel? 1 Kings 18:16-1718Elijah said to him, I have not troubled Israel, but it is you and the house of your father in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Master and have followed the lord. FE 19Now send and gather to me all Israel to the mount of Carmel and the 450 prophets of the lord and the 450 prophets of the asherahs who eat at the table of Jezebel. 1 Kings 18:18-1920Ahab sent to all the children of Israel and gathered the prophets together to the mount of Carmel. 21Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you halt between 2 opinions? If the Master is god follow him, but if the lord follow him. 1 Kings 18:20-21The people did not answer him a word. 1 Kings 18:2122Elijah said, I, even I alone, remain a prophet of the Master, but the prophets of the lord are 450 men. 23Let them give to us 2 bulls and let them choose 1 bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on wood and put no fire under it and I will prepare 1 bull and cut it in pieces and lay it on wood and put no fire under it. 24Call on the name of your gods and I will call on the name of the Master my god and the god who answers by fire is god. 1 Kings 18:22-24All the people answered and they said, You spoke well. 1 Kings 18:2425Elijah said to the prophets of the lord, Choose for yourselves 1 bull and prepare it 1st for you are many. 26They took the bull which was given them and prepared it. 1 Kings 18:25-26They called on the name of the lord from morning until noon, Lord answer us. There was no voice nor any that answered and they fought on the altar which they had made. 1 Kings 18:2627When it was noon Elijah mocked them and said, Cry with a loud voice, because he is a god. Perhaps he is meditating or perhaps he is busy or perhaps he is on a journey or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened. 28They cried with a loud voice and they fought after their custom with swords and lances until their blood was shed on them. 29When noon passed they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no voice nor any to answer nor any to listen. Elijah said to the prophets of fear, Now you can move so that I may prepare my burnt offerings. They moved aside. 1 Kings 18:27-2930Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me. All the people came near to him and he repaired the altar of the Master that was broken down. 31Elijah took 12 stones according to the number of the tribes of the children of Jacob to whom the word of the Master came saying, Israel will be your name. 32With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Master and he made a trench as great as would contain 2 measures of seed around the altar. 33He put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. He said, Fill 4 jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood. 1 Kings 18:30-3334He said, Do it a 2nd time. They did it a 2nd time. 1 Kings 18:34He said, Do it a 3rd time. They did it a 3rd time 35and the water ran around the altar and also the trench filled with water. 1 Kings 18:34-3536At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice Elijah the prophet came near and said, The Master, god of Abraham and of Isaac and of Israel, today it will be known that you are god in Israel and that I am your servant and that I have done all these things at your word. 37Answer me the Master, answer me that this people may know that you the Master are god and that you have turned their perverse hearts. 1 Kings 18:36-3738The fire of the Master fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and the water that was in the trench it licked up. S Isaiah 66:15 1 Kings 18:3839All the people saw it and they fell on their faces and they said, The Master is god. the Master is god. 1 Kings 18:3940Elijah said to them, Seize the prophets of the lord and do not let 1 of them escape. They seized them and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slew them there. 1 Kings 18:4041Elijah said to Ahab, Go up, eat and drink, because there is a sound of rushing rain. 42Ahab went up to eat and to drink. FE Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. He bent himself down on the land and put his face between his knees. H Jacob 5:18 1 Kings 18:41-4243He said to his servant, Go up now and look toward the sea. He went up and looked. 1 Kings 18:43aHe said, There is nothing. 1 Kings 18:43bElijah said to him, Go again, 7 times. 1 Kings 18:43c44At the 7th time he said, There is a little cloud like a palm of a hand rising out of the sea. 1 Kings 18:44aHe said to him, Go up, say to Ahab, Ride your horse and get down before the rain stops you. 1 Kings 18:44b45While he busied himself here and there the skies were black with clouds and wind and there was a great rain. FE Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. 46The hand of the Master was on Elijah and he girded up his loins and ran before Ahab until he entered Jezreel. 1 Kings 18:45-46 (1 Kings 18 BRB)