Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:1
The name Elijah means "Yahweh is my God." It is expressive of the truth which his whole life preached.
The two words rendered "Tishbite" and "inhabitant" are in the original (setting aside the vowel points) "exactly alike." The meaning consequently must either be "Elijah the stranger, of the strangers of Gilead," or (more probably) "Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbi of Gilead." Of Tishbi in Gilead there is no further trace in Scripture; it is to be distinguished from another Tishbi in Galilee. In forming to ourselves a conception of the great Israelite prophet, we must always bear in mind that the wild and mountainous Gilead, which bordered on Arabia, and was half Arab in customs, was the country wherein he grew up.
His abrupt appearance may be compared with the similar appearances of Ahijah Kg1 11:29, Jehu Kg1 16:1, Shemaiah Ch2 11:2, Azariah Ch2 15:1, and others. It is clear that a succession of prophets was raised up by God, both in faithful Judah and in idolatrous Israel, to witness of Him before the people of both countries, and leave them without excuse if they forsook His worship. At this time, when a grosser and more deadly idolatry than had been practiced before was introduced into Israel by the authority of Ahab, and the total apostasy of the ten tribes was consequently imminent, two prophets of unusual vigour and force of character, endowed with miraculous powers of an extraordinary kind, were successively raised up, that the wickedness of the kings might be boldly met and combated, and, if possible, a remnant of faithful men preserved in the land. The unusual efflux of miraculous energy at this time, is suitable to the unusual emergency, and in very evident proportion to the spiritual necessities of the people.
As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand - This solemn formula, here first used, was well adapted to impress the king with the sacred character of the messenger, and the certain truth of his message. Elisha adopted the phrase with very slight modifications Kg2 3:14; Kg2 5:16.
Drought was one of the punishments threatened by the Law, if Israel forsook Yahweh and turned after other gods (Deu 11:17; Deu 28:23; Lev 26:19, etc.).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:3
Brook Cherith - Rather, "the torrent course," one of the many which carry the winter rains from the highlands into that stream.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:4
The ravens - This is the translation of most of the ancient versions; others, omitting the points, which are generally allowed to have no authority, read "Arabians;" others, retaining the present pointing, translate either "merchants" (compare the original of Eze 27:9, Eze 27:27), or "Orbites." Jerome took it in this last sense, and so does the Arabic Version.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:9
The dependence of Zarephath (Sarepta) on Sidon is indicated in the inscriptions of Sennacherib, where it is mentioned as belonging to Luliya (Elulaeus), king of Sidon, and as submitting to the Assyrian monarch on Luliya's flight from his capital. Elijah may have been sent to this place, so near the city of Jezebel's father, as one which it was most unlikely that he would visit.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:12
As the Lord thy God liveth - The words do not prove that the woman was an Israelite, or a worshipper of the true God; any Phoenician, recognizing in Elijah's appearance the garb and manner of a Jehovistic prophet, might have thus addressed him: Baal-worshippers would have admitted Yahweh to be "a" living God. The woman does not say "as the Lord my God liveth."
That we may eat it and die - Phoenicia always depended for its cereal supplies on the harvests of Palestine (Kg1 5:9 note); and it is evident that the famine was afflicting the Phoenicians at this time no less than the Israelites.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:16
This is the first recorded miracle of its kind - a supernatural and inexplicable multiplication of food (compare Kg2 4:42-44; Mat 14:15-21; Mat 15:32-38). The sacred record does not explain these miracles; but if the explanations sometimes suggested - that there was a transformation of previously existing matter into meal, oil, fish, and bread - be the true one, the marvel of the thing would not be much greater than that astonishing natural chemistry by which, in the growth of plants, particles of water, air, and earth are transmuted into fruits and grains of corn, and so fitted to be human food. There would be a difference in the agency employed and in the time occupied in the transmutation, but the thing done would be almost the same.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:17
No breath - Or, "no spirit," "no soul." (Compare Gen 2:7). The word used is translated "spirit" in Pro 20:27; Ecc 3:21; Job 26:4; and elsewhere.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:18
What have I to do with thee? - i. e., "What have we in common?" - implying a further question, "Why hast thou not left me in peace?" The woman imagines that Elijah's visit had drawn God's attention to her, and so to her sins, which (she feels) deserve a judgment - her son's death.
Thou man of God - In the mouth of the Phoenician woman this expression is remarkable. Among the Jews and Israelites Kg1 12:22; Jdg 13:6, Jdg 13:8 it seems to have become the ordinary designation of a prophet. We now see that it was understood in the same sense beyond the borders of the holy land.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:19
Into a loft - Rather, "into the upper chamber;" often the best apartment in an Eastern house.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 17:21
He stretched himself upon the child three times - This action of Elijah is different from that of Elisha (marginal reference), and does not imply the use of any natural means for the restoration of suspended animation. It is nearly parallel to the "touch," through which our Lord performed similar miracles Mat 9:25; Luk 7:14.