By Em Sumaway
Elijah went to King Ahab to predict a coming drought. Now King Ahab is one of the most wicked rulers in Israel (1 Ki. 16:30). For 22 years, he reigned as the champion of evil, leading the nation of Israel to an extreme level of immorality (1 Ki. 16:29-30). King Ahab encouraged not just the worship of the Canaanite goddess, Asherah, but also, of Baal (1 Ki. 16:31-33). The worship of these two gods involved prostitution and infant sacrifice. These are illegal things in the sight of God but made legal in the rule of King Ahab.
Then came Elijah with a bad weather report. He, in no uncertain terms, pronounced judgment on King Ahab and the nation of Israel for their immorality. And this is in line with what Moses already wrote in Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44. According to God’s promise, a disobedient nation will be cursed. It will be destroyed by droughts and floods. It will cease to be a world leader (kulelat). So when Elijah told King Ahab about the drought, he was not just foretelling the future, but also reminding them of the past warnings of God to a disobedient nation.
But what do you think happened next? Did King Ahab listen to Elijah’s warning? The next scenario suggests otherwise. God told Elijah to hide in a desolate region. If that’s not bad enough, I’m sure what God said next did not bring any comfort to the lonesome prophet—“I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.”
God is a God of many surprises. I’m sure what God said here surprised Elijah like a bombshell. You see, for the Jews, ravens are detestable. It’s not an animal that they would want to have as a pet. And the interesting thing is that God Himself commanded them to “feel” this way about ravens.
When God gave the Law to Moses, he declared that ravens were unclean birds:
“These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat” (Lev. 11:13-19, emphasis added).
Because of this declaration by God, no Jew would have anything to do with ravens. But God chose this very bird to minister to a Jewish prophet. But then again, we already acknowledged that He is a God of many surprises, did we not?