When I was a child, I found an arrowhead in perfect condition on the banks of the Hudson River in New York. As a young teenager, I found a beautiful Apache ‘canteen’ while on a camping trip with my family in the Black Range mountains of New Mexico. As a young adult I found a change purse crammed with $260 lying underneath a table in a restaurant. Just recently I found a $100 bill on the ground in a parking lot in front of a store. Finding ‘treasure’ is fun and exciting, but it does not compare to the treasures I find in the Scriptures. Here is a treasure embedded in the story of Elijah the prophet and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17) .
On the p’shat (literal) level this chapter continues the ongoing saga of Israel’s waywardness. A disciplinary drought lingered over her and also over nearby Sidon, creating food shortages and hard times. Elijah had confronted wicked King Ahab telling him the drought was his fault. As a result, Elijah had to flee from King Ahab to the land of Sidon, which happened to be the birthplace of King Ahab’s wicked wife, Queen Jezebel. In Sidon, Elijah saw miraculous provisions for himself, and for a Sidonian widow and her son. We can go beyond this p’shat to see wonderful treasures emerge from the text.
The clue for my ‘treasure hunt’ is in the New Testament. I noticed that Yeshua mentioned a detail about Elijah’s sojourn into Sidon that was not included in 1 Kings 17. Elijah had told King Ahab that the drought would last years, but Yeshua said that the drought lasted ‘three and one-half years’. When I saw this phrase, I knew I was onto an adventure.
This time period is expressed in four distinct ways, and occurs only ten times in the Scriptures, each one in some way referring to the future and/or end times. According to E.W. Bullinger in his Number in Scripture, ‘ten’ is the number of completeness or perfection of divine order and ‘four’ refers to the Creation.
Here are the four expressions for this time period:
1. ‘three and one half years’
- Luke 4:25-26 -Yeshua referred to Elijah’s declaration of no rain in Israel for Ahab
- James 5:17 -James repeats Luke 4:25-26
- 1 Kings 17:9 -the actual account of the drought/famin
- Dan 7:25, -a king from the 4th kingdom will persecute the saints for this time
- Dan 12:7 -this length of time for shattering the power of the holy people
- Rev 12:14 -this length of time the woman is nourished in the wilderness
3. ‘forty-two months’
- Rev 11:2 -nations will tread under foot the holy city
- Rev 13:5 -beast with arrogant words has authority to speak for this long
4. ‘1,260 days’
- Rev 11:3 -God’s two witnesses, clothed in sackcloth, witness for 1260 days
- Rev 12:6 -woman nourished in wilderness for 1260 days
This study concerns just the first expression, ‘three and one half years’. The other references in the chart are for your own treasure hunt. You can see just by reading my comments about each verse that there is clearly a theme, with comforting but also challenging insights to be learned.
By saying that the drought of 1 Kings 17 lasted exactly three-and-one-half years, Yeshua was and is yet inviting His disciples to uncover a mystery. (See Mat 13:11 and Luke 8:10) After finding and analyzing each of the above passages, I studied the meaning of the main words in 1 Kings 17. That is when I realized that vs. 1- 16 refer to end times. For the sake of brevity, I will paraphrase (so you will see the end time application) and I will not provide the meanings of all the key words.
Elijah’s name means ‘my God is Yah’. He was from Gilead (it’s root means to quarrel or meddle with) and he had confronted (quarreled with) King Ahab. King Ahab’s wickedness had brought on the drought, which is a form of discipline.
King Ahab was very angry so the Lord told Elijah to leave Israel and hide (cover himself) by the brook Cherith (covenant) so he would be safe. So Elijah went and lived by Cherith (covenant) and the Lord miraculously provided for him there. But the Cherith (covenant, but can also mean ‘cut off’) eventually dried up because of the drought (discipline), so Elijah was told to go to Zarephath (refinery/to purge by fire) in Sidon (hunting). He met a widow (forsaken) in Zarephath (refinery). She feared that she and her household would starve to death. She (the forsaken one) was about to gather two sticks [the stick of Joseph and the stick of Judah (Ez 37:19)?] to make a fire (judgment). Elijah confronted her fearfulness and assured her she would have enough for them all. The final three verses (14-16) of this section are in a chiastic structure. The center of the chiasm, B, is the main point and the message for our hearts right now.
A. “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.’ ”
B. So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate many days.
A. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke through Elijah.
The widow put aside her fear, obeyed the Lord’s command, and He provided for her entire household until their three-and-a-half year tribulation was over.
I have highlighted the comforting insights in this passage, yet there is more discovery waiting. Just who is the widow? What do the bread and oil represent? Is three-and-one-half years to be understood literally? Do these ten passages have something to do with ‘completeness or the perfection of divine order’? Do these four expressions for the same time frame have something to do with the Creation? I hope you accept the challenge to study this passage, along with the other nine listed above, more carefully. Shalom!