Mt. Carmel

The kingdom of Israel existed as a separate kingdom about two hundred and fifty-four years. It was ruled by twenty successive kings, all idolaters, and bad men.

Of all these wicked kings, Ahab seems to have been the worst. His exceeding wickedness was caused, in great part, by his unwise marriage with Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians. She was a worshiper of Baal, and led Ahab not only to worship that god, but to build a temple for him in Samaria, and to set up his worship there.

It was probably to check the worship of this false god that, in answer to the prayer of Elijah, rain was withheld for three years and a half.  During this time, Elijah was obliged to hide himself, in order to escape the wrath of the king, who sought to slay him. He was at first miraculously fed at the brook Chereth, and afterward by a poor widow of Zarephath, whose son, having died, was raised to life in answer to the prophet's prayer.

When the drouth had continued three and a half years, Elijah, instructed by the Lord, went to meet Ahab, and told him to gather all the people, and all the prophets of Baal, to Mount Carmel. It was here that the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal cried all day to their god, without receiving an answer; but when Elijah, in a few simple words, called upon the Lord, fire descended from heaven, consumed the sacrifice, and licked up the twelve barrels of water that had been poured upon the altar. Then Elijah, after having slain the prophets of Baal, prayed for rain, which descended in great profusion.   Jezebel, on hearing how Baal's prophets had fared, threatened to kill Elijah; who, to save his life, fled by the way of Beersheba to the wilderness, where he was fed by an angel. 

After going in the strength of that food forty days, he arrived at Mount Horeb, where he had a remarkable vision. In this vision the Lord told Elijah to go and anoint Elisha to be prophet in his room, Jehu to be king over Israel, and Hazael to be king in Syria.

Not long after this, Benhadad, king of Syria, raised a vast army and besieged Samaria, the capital of the kingdom of Israel. Ahab offered to surrender the city, and give up all his silver and gold; but Benhadad, not satisfied with this, wanted to degrade the Israelites to the last.

Then was Ahab in great distress, and God sent a prophet to tell him that he should be victorious over the Syrians. Ahab, following the instructions of the prophet, sent out to battle only two hundred and thirty-two men; yet the Syrians, being seized with a sudden panic, fled in great confusion.

The next year the Syrians came again to battle, supposing that the gods of the Hebrews were gods of the hills, and consequently, that if the battle were fought on the plain, victory would be more likely to turn in their favor; but they were again defeated, and returned to Syria at least one hundred and twenty-seven thousand fewer in number than when they left home.

Ahab must have known that his victories over the Syrians were due to the help of God, and this should have encouraged him to forsake his evil ways and turn to the Lord ; but it had no such effect, for acts of wickedness mark his history to the very close. He took possession of Naboth's vineyard, which Jezebel had obtained for him at the cost of the owner's blood; refused the counsel of Elijah, and as a consequence was slain in a battle with the Syrians.