Life And Writings Of Sulpitius Severus by Sulpitius Severus
Chapter XLIII. In the time of his reign, Ahab, the son of Ambri√†
In the time of his reign, Ahab, the son of Ambri, was king of the ten tribes, impious above all against God. For having taken in marriage Jezebel, the daughter of Basa, king of Sidon, he erected an altar and groves to the idol Bahal, and slew the prophets of God. At this time, Elijah the prophet by prayer shut up heaven, that it should not give any rain to the earth, and revealed that to the king, in order that he, in his impiety, might know himself to be the cause of the evil. The waters of heaven, therefore, being restrained, and since the whole country, burned up by the heat of the sun, did not furnish food either for man or beast, the prophet had even exposed himself to the side of perishing from hunger. At that time, when he betook himself to the desert, he depended for life on the ravens furnishing him with food, while a neighboring rivulet furnished him with water, until it was dried up. Then, being instructed by God, he went to the town of Sarapt√¶, and turned aside to lodge with a widow-woman. And when, in his hunger, he begged food from her, she complained that she had only a handful of meal and a little oil, on the consumption of which she expected death along with her children. But when Elijah promised in the words of God that neither should the meal lessen in the barrel nor the oil in the vessel, the woman did not hesitate to believe the prophet demanding faith, and obtained the fulfillment of what was promised, since by daily increase as much was added as was day by day taken away. At the same time, Elijah restored to life the dead son of the same widow. Then, by the command of God, he went to the king, and having reproved his impiety, he ordered all the people to be gathered together to himself. When these had hastily assembled, the priests of the idols and of the groves to the number of about four hundred and fifty, were also summoned. Then there arose a dispute between them, Elijah setting forth the honor of God, while they upheld their own superstitions. At length they agreed that a trial should be made to this effect, that if fire sent down from heaven should consume the slain victim of either of them, that religion should be accepted as the true one which performed the miracle. Accordingly, the priests, having slain a calf, began to call upon the idol Bahal; and, after wasting their invocations to no purpose, they tacitly acknowledged the helplessness of their God. Then Elijah mocked them and said, |Cry aloud more vehemently, lest perchance he sleeps, and that thus you may rouse him from the slumber in which he is sunk.| The wretched men could do nothing but shudder and mutter to themselves, but still they waited to see what Elijah would do. Well, he slew a calf and laid it upon the altar, having first of all filled the sacred place with water; and then, calling upon the name of the Lord, fire fell from heaven in the sight of all, and consumed alike the water and the victim. Then truly the people, casting themselves upon the earth, confessed God and execrated the idols; while finally, by the command of Elijah, the impious priests were seized, and, being brought down to the brook, were there slain. The prophet followed the king as he returned from that place; but as Jezebel, the wife of the king, was devising means for taking his life, he retired to a more remote spot. There God addressed him, telling him that there were still seven thousand men who had not given themselves up to idols. That was to Elijah a marvelous statement, for he had supposed that he himself was the only one who had kept free from impiety.