1 Kings 17.8-16

Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidonia, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”

So he arose and went to Zarephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her, and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”

And she said, “As your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of wheat in a jar, and a little oil in a cruse; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

And Elijah said to her, “Fear not. Go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me; and afterward make for you and your son.

“For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day the Lord sends rain upon the earth.'”

And she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not spent, neither did the the cruse of oil fail– in accord with the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.

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5 responses

  1. Trying make this story amke sense at a causal level is a lost cause. We need to read this as the folktale it is, underwriting prophetic authority.The parallel story is in the gospels–Feeding of the Five Thousand. And similarly, rather than seeing the gospel story as a "stone soup"–everybody brings out their secret lunch bags and shares–the story of Jesus becomes an affirmation that one greater than Elijah has arrived.

  2. This suggests a limited view of causation. An assumption from the foundational folktale of our day: "The physical world is a closed system, the 'real' mechanism of existence, and we know how it works."But once having realized that our very sentient existence is "outside" that tidy system…

  3. I would not say the physical world is a closed system–I would say ithat it is a myriad of interconnected semi-open systems. What I really want to say here–is this is a miracle story. And undersatnding it doesn't mean trying to find an "explanation" so much as asking questions about the intentions of those telling (and/or retelling) it. Both the story itself and the events it depicts need to be understood as actions–actions of Elijah, of God and of the story teller.

  4. Okay, then, we agree that the explanation of this story should be in terms of the intentions of God, Elijah, and the widow.The intentions of the story-teller are bound to influence what he'll transmit of it… so what are those intentions? This isn't a whopper-contest; the writer in fact believes that the intentions of God, Elijah, and the widow are the significant elements. That sounds problematic to 21st Century readers; but I don't find it so.The action of this story teller– presumably is: telling something he's heard and believes to be true. He no doubt wants to convince people that God's intentions can over-ride what people (even then) normally consider 'natural.' He doesn't expect to see anybody else's jar of wheat to inexplicably become inexhaustible; he does believe that this would be the natural result if God intended it so. And he would be astonished, and awestruck!

  5. Good conversations. I’m in a bit of a fog on author-intentions for the moment. Not because of this text. Because we’re starting (my blog) on Bernard Levinson’s book about legal revision and religious renewal in the Hebrew Scriptures. I don’t have the gist of it yet. Levinson suggests that authorial intent usefully complicates dichotomies between author intentions and texts intended to outlive those intentions. An age old debate. I feel easy and at peace with this text about Elijah and the widow. And the unfailing supplies. I don’t have reasons. Tomorrow I will be in the mood with Levinson to complicate things. Not so on this text. ~ Jim

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