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ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
The place to which Elijah was sent, was a city of Sidon, or Zidon. Our Saviour Himself intimates, that there was something in the character of the widow of Zarephatlı, which rendered her an object of divine compassion, in preference to all the widows in Zidon*; and the Apostle to the Hebrews seems to refer to her as an example of faith+; we may therefore reasonably suppose, that it was for her sake, as well as his own, that the prophet was directed to go to Zidon.
Elijah had before given striking proofs that he had a stedfast faith in the power of God; and it must have influenced his conduct, when, in consequence of the Di. vine command, accompanied by a promise that he should be sustained there, he set off for Zarephath, a city in that very country which had given birth to the cruel queen from whose presence he was before commanded to flee, that he might frustrate her resentment, which burnt against him on account of his prediction; who, in consequence of its completion, had sought for him in every place where there was the least probability of finding him; and who would certainly have exerted her influence with her countrymen, either to execute her vengeance on one whom she regarded as her declared enemy, or to deliver him into her own hands.
This faith in the Divine promises must also have operated strongly in Elijah's mind, when knowing, by a Divine impulse, that the poor woman he saw picking up sticks was his intended benefactress, he applied to her for relief; for there could be nothing in her appearance, at that time, to encourage him to expectsustenance from her hands; on the contrary, he might rather have supposed, that she would have required a recompence from him.
* Lake iv. 35, 36.
+ Heb. xi. 35.
As the ALMIGHTY, to whom all hearts are open, knows the good and bad qualities of each, and always chooses fit instruments to effect His purposes, and so orders events, that moral virtues shall conduce to their own reward, as well as vice to its own punishment, we may reasonably infer, that this poor widow was of a very charitable disposition, and had in her better days delighted in acts of beneficence. Her readiness to fetch water for the prophet, before he had given any intimation of the Lord's intended kindness to her, proves that she was of this amiable temper; for it was certainly a great instance of charity to attend to the necessities of another, when her own were so pressing ; when her mind was torn with a thousand anxieties for her only child. Thus far, the widow of Zarephath acted according to the rule of right reason and genuine humanity, and she must be allowed to have set a pattern worthy of the imitation even of Christians.
After having, with charitable readiness, agreed to do for the stranger what was in her power,
66 fetch him a little water to allay his thirst," the widow of Zarephath modestly excused herself from giving him any farther relief, but in a manner which implied a tender commiseration of his distress, and a wish that her ability to serve him was greater. This is the very disposition of mind which God approves. This is the charity of the extreme indigent. She was a true object of Divine compassion, and the prophet was commissioned to relieve her from despondency by a divine promise of miraculous interposition, to deliver her and her child from impending death. “ Fear not (said the holy man), the evil you dread will be averted, Thou mayest safely
indulge indulge thy darling propensity to benevolence.” For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain
the earth. Convinced, by the conclusion of his speech, that the stranger was a messenger of the Lord (which she might before have guessed from his appearance), the good woman obeyed without hesitation, in full confidence on the Divine promise. This was an act of faith, of a rational faith foạnded on the previous persuasion of the existence and the power of the Lord God *. The intercourse which the Zidonians had long had with the Israelites, had brought to her knowledge the name of the LORD JEHOVAH; and it is not im. probable, that finding the incapacity of the idols of her own country to relieve their votaries, her heart turned from them to the living God, whom she might in secret have implored to be her God. Whether this conjecture be right or not, certain it is, that before the Di. vine message was delivered to her, she believed his existence; for she said to the prophet, “ As the LORD thy God liveth," &c.: and it is evident, that she believed Gon to be a rewarder of them that serve and obey him; for, without any information on this head from Elija!, she no sooner heard the divine promise, than she placed her whole trust in the LORD, and hasted to do honour to His prophet.
From one expression in the passage of Scripture we are considering, it may be supposed, that the LORD had by the sec: et energy of His SPIRIT, implanted faith in a supernatural way. “ Get thee (said the LORD to Elijah) to Zarephath, for I have commanded a widow
to sustain thee.” This certainly means
Heb. xi. 6.
no more, than that the LORD had ordained that she should give him relief; for it does not appear, from the history, that the woman was prepared by Divine revelation to expect the prophet, as the prophet was to expect her. The widow's faith therefore was not an instantaneous irresistible Divine impulse, but (as before observed) a rational faith, and she testified this faith by works of obedience, and it was rewarded accordingly. But it
be asked “ where was this faith when her son died, and she challenged the prophet as the author of her misfortune?" "There is nothing in the history which implies that it had forsaken her, or that she meant to reproach Elijah ; on the contrary, we may infer, from her behaviour, that she believed the LORD to be mighty to destroy as well as to save.
For some time this woman had, through Divine goodness, lived in ease and abundance, happy in possessing the favour of God, and ministering to His prophet. It is likely that this prosperity might have occasioned her to be remiss in the practice of some duty, and when her darling son, who before was preserved to her by a miracle, was taken away by a sudden stroke of Provi. dence, her conscience immediately suggested, that this calamity was a judgment inflicted for her sin; and she regarded the prophet, who before had been the minister of good to her, as the minister of Divine vengeance. Art thou come unto me (said she) to call my sn to remembrance, and to slay my son ? Her resigning the dead child to Elijah shewed, that she had hopes that he might yet be restored to her ; and, from an expres. sion in the Epistle to the Hebrews (before alluded to*) we may judge that her child was restored to her on account of her faith in the power of God. And it is certain that Elijah himself exercised great faith on this occasion. It does not appear that he had received any intimation that the child would be restored to life, but he was confident the LORD could raise him, and in this confidence he prayed that He would do so. This was a rational faith in him who had already seen such wonderful miracles wrought by Divine power.
Heb, xi. 35.
It has been repeatedly observed, that the nation of the Jews was not selected from the rest of the world, to confine the knowledge of the Lord to themselves only, or to exclude others from serving Him: but that, by tlre fame of the mighty works wrought among them, distant nations might be invited to seek the Lord; and by the establishment of a pure and holy worship, all who were inclined might learn how to serve Him.
The king of Israel, in consequence of his marriage with the widow of a Zidonian monarch, had introduced the worship of Baal (the principal idol of the Zidonians) into Samaria, so that Baal may be regarded as the rival of the Lord God; and it was on account of the king and people forsaking the LORD, and worshipping Baal, that the drought and consequent famine, which Elijah predicted, were sent upon the Israelites : it extended also, as we find, to the land of Zidon. Elijah was the person appointed to assert the honour of the LORD; and it was a very remarkable instance of Providence, that he should be sent to Zidon, and that a woman of that country should have the honour of sustaining him. This circumstance helps to confirm the Apostle's declaration *, that in every nation, those who fear God, and work righteousness, are accepted by him.
# Acts x, 34, 85.