Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 18

Elijah rebuilds the altar of the true God

1 Kings 18:30-32

Deuteronomy 12:4-14 tells Israel’s people only to offer animals as sacrifices at the temple (God’s house in Jerusalem). However, in this extraordinary situation, God directed Elijah to offer a sacrifice on the mountain called Carmel. God did that to show the people from northern and central Israel that his covenant (relationship of promises) with them had not ended (Jeremiah 31:36-37).

There had previously been an altar, a place to offer sacrifices to the true God, on Carmel. Perhaps the people had neglected it; or perhaps people who hated the true God, had destroyed it. Elijah led the people to that place. He selected 12 large stones because there were 12 tribes (groups of families) that belonged to Israel. God had made his covenant with the whole of Israel, although the southern part, called Judah, was now a separate country. They had different kings and different governments – but they all came from the family of Jacob. It was to Jacob that God gave the name ‘Israel’ in Genesis 32:28.

In Exodus 20:25, God’s law gives instructions about how to build such an altar. Elijah had to use stones in their natural state, that no workman had cut. This was like the altar that Moses described in Deuteronomy 27:5-6.

When Elijah had set up the stones, he dug round the altar. He was making a channel round it that would hold water. Its purpose will become clear when we read the next few verses, 1 Kings 18:33-35. He wanted Israel’s people to know that God truly was acting among them in an extraordinary manner. So, Elijah prepared his sacrifice in such a way that no person could set it on fire.

Next part: Elijah tells the people to pour water on his sacrifice (1 Kings 18:33-35)


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