Raising of the son of the widow of Zarephath

The raising of the son of the widow of Zarephath is a miracle of the prophet Elijah recorded in the Hebrew Bible, 1 Kings 17, taking place in the Phoenician city of Zarephath.

Painting by Louis Hersent.

BackgroundEdit

1 Kings 17 is the chapter in which Elijah is first mentioned by name in the Bible. It states that he is a Tishbite from Gilead, who visited King Ahab to give him a message from God that there would be no rain in the land until he declared it (v1). In order to avoid the wrath of the king, God told Elijah to hide by the Brook Cherith where he was fed bread and meat by ravens sent from God (vv2-6).

After a while, due to the drought, the brook dried up so God told Elijah to go to the town of Sarepta and to seek out a widow that would find him water and food (vv.7-9). Elijah learns that the widow has a son and between them they only have enough flour and oil for one more meal before they die. Despite this, the widow helps Elijah (vv11-14). Because she did this God caused the flour and the oil never to run out (vv15-16). "[The widow had] a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse ... and the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail". (King James Version).

Elijah, the widow and the widow's sonEdit

 
A sculpture at Sayn Abbey

1 Kings 17:17-18 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him 18 And she said to Elijah, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin and remembrance and to cause the death of my son!"

Victor H. Matthews suggests that the woman "uses sarcasm which is designed to shame the prophet for being the cause of her son's death." Elijah does not try and rationalise with the grieving woman and takes the son up to his bedroom where he prays to God asking for his help.

1 Kings 17:21-22 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, "O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again". 22 And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

He then takes the child downstairs again and presents him, living, to his mother. This causes her to declare "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God" (v24), Elijah therefore "regains his honor and his status."[1]

Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, also known as Rabbi Eliezer Hagadol, relates that the son raised by Elijah was none other than the prophet Jonah, most notably associated with the incident involving a giant fish.[2] Commentators have noted verbal parallels with the raising of the son of the widow of Nain in the Gospel of Luke chapter 7.[3] The miracle is represented in the Dura synagogue murals.[4]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Matthews, Victor H. (1994). "Female Voices: Upholding the Honor of the Household". Biblical Theology Bulletin. 24: 10–11. doi:10.1177/014610799402400103.
  2. ^ Friedlander, Gerald (1916-01-01). Pirkê de Rabbi Eliezer : (the chapters of Rabbi Eliezer the Great) according to the text of the manuscript belonging to Abraham Epstein of Vienna. London : Paul. pp. Chapter 33.
  3. ^ The People's New Testament Commentary - M. Eugene Boring, Fred B. Craddock - 2004 Page 204 "7:11-17 RAISING THE WIDOW'S SON This story is only in Luke, but it has many points of contact with the story of Elijah's raising the widow of Zarephath's son (1 Kgs. 17:8-24), including such verbatim parallels as "he gave him to his mother" ..."
  4. ^ Jacob Neusner Judaism in late antiquity - Page 115 Jonathan A. Goldstein "In WC1, Elijah restores to life the son of the widow from Zarephath (I Kings 17:17- 24)."

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