Thursday, June 26, 2014

The ungrateful widow of Zarephath in the Elijah story

Today, if a stranger comes to you asking for water and bread when you have only one portion left for your own family; would you give it to the stranger?  To any stranger, poor as you are, you may just turn and walk away shaking your head.   That is what I would probably do.

This story is not about Elijah but about the widow.  Most of the preachers today preach about the faith and miracles of Elijah and faithfully recites the story of the trusting widow.   If you think that the life of a prophet of God was full of excitement and events, you are greatly mistaken.  99% of the time was nothing but waiting!  Waiting for the word of God, waiting for God’s promises to come to pass, waiting for the people to come to their senses and fulfil their promises, et cetera.    

Let us take a look at this story from the widow’s point of view. 

Was Elijah’s enigmatic and majestic personality that convinced the widow of Zarephath to give him water and last piece of bread?    What we can safely imagine is that it was when Elijah mentioned what the God of Israel was willing to promise her never ending flour and oil that she was convinced.  The name of the God of Israel was somewhat feared in neighbouring lands but apparently not so among the Israelites themselves considering King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.

Many people normally die during famines and seasons of drought.  

This story is about suspension from death and the value of miracles from God is meaningless to the fallen man.  

The widow was prepared to die being in extreme poverty, while living in one of the richest Kingdoms in the world that is the region of Sidon; where extreme wealth in merchandise are, extreme corruption and hostile people most of the time follows these lands.  A glimpse of the riches of Sidon during Biblical times, you can go to Isaiah 23:2-3 for the description. 

In these rich places, the care of widows and orphans were usually not the main priority of the governors because the condition of each family normally depends on how much inheritance was left to the family by their deceased father.   That is why, the God of Israel, emphasises many times with specific instructions on the care of widows and orphans because Israel must separate themselves apart from the pagans to live righteous life before God as an example before all nations in the world.

In the case of the widow of Zarephath in the region of Sidon, her deceased husband most probably did not leave her much of anything.  She was chosen by the God of Israel to feed and give shelter to Elijah and by doing so, her imminent death was suspended.  

Even after years of continuous first-hand experience with the endless flour and oil miracle, assuming (as it is not mentioned in the Bible) that the endless flour and oil also became their source of income selling them in order to get other means of necessities for their survival during these 3 years in taking care of Elijah; the widow immediately blames Elijah for killing her son when her son fell into illness and died.  Was it Elijah’s fault?  How can you blame the person who was the only reason that you are alive all these years?  Sound familiar?   When you encounter trouble or death or some mishap or anything bad in your life; who do you blame?   For most people, we immediately blame God.  The funny thing is that people who believe in God, usually blames God first for anything bad happening.   I don’t know who Atheists blames for all the bad things that happen – they might blame it on luck, other people or themselves…..

Elijah had to pray for the resurrection of the widow’s son in order to confirm his position as a man of God.   How many miracles does it take for you to believe? 

Jesus himself said in Matthew 16:4 “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.”.

After Elijah had left the widow’s house, although the drought season was over, the endless flour and oil also ceased.   The widow and her son were left to fend for themselves alone again.  How long did she survive without her husband in such a place?   Or will she continue where she left off before Elijah came; in baking her last cake and die. 

Something to think about and consider……………………..


Isaiah 23:2-3
2 Be still, you inhabitants of the coastland, You merchants of Sidon, Whom those who cross the sea have filled.
3 And on great waters the grain of Shihor, The harvest of the River, is her revenue; And she is a marketplace for the nations.

1 Kings 17:8-24   -  New King James Version (NKJV)

Elijah and the Widow
8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying,
9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.”
11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
12 So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son.
14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’”
15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.

Elijah Revives the Widow’s Son
17 Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him.
18 So she said to Elijah, “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?”
19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed.
20 Then he cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?”
21 And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.”
22 Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.
23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives!”
24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.”

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