The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday is from the first book of Kings. The text is I Kings 17:8-16 and details the account of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath and the continuous supply of flour and oil. This is a very heart-warming account that is often used as an example of trust and faith—the Widow’s trust and faith in the promise of Elijah. The pairing of this reading with the Mark 12 account of the widow’s mite leads one to this assumption. However, while there is this sub-motif within the text, there is a greater truth being exhibited.
As we note the greater context of the entire chapter 17 of I Kings, we will see how this account is sandwiched between Elijah telling King Ahab a drought would be coming upon the land by command of the LORD (vss. 1-7) and the account of Elijah raising the Widow of Zarephath’s son from the dead (vss. 17-24). This is an extremely important chapter and it speaks to the motif of DEATH and RESURRECTION in a powerful way.
In the first section, the prophecy there will be no dew or rain until the word of Elijah brings it about, which thus ensures drought and famine, is a strong Death and Resurrection theme in Scripture. The Hebrews have always seen drought as the dying of the land which then causes the dying of the body. See Genesis 47:13-19 in the account of Joseph and the famine/drought in Egypt. Dew, rain, and water are all considered to be life-giving and they resurrect the land from death and cause the sprouting of new life. In the third section, obviously, the dead son of the Widow being raised to life by Elijah after he stretches himself on the body three times not only speaks of death and resurrection directly, it also blatantly points to the One who spent three days in the tomb before being raised from the dead. It is also important to note that the famine/drought lasts three years!
Now as we consider the second section of our text for today, the Widow of Zarephath is prepared to die from the famine after her and her son’s last supper. But, Elijah keeps this from happening—indeed he saves her life, raises her from certain death—by giving flour and oil for as long as the famine continues. This is a powerful theme in this chapter and there are many connecting points throughout Scripture which speak the same message of Death and Resurrection—most important, of course, is the message of The One who has saved us from death and the grave and gives us new life—baptismal life and everlasting life. Here is our Christological basis for preaching this text.
17:8 דְבַר-יְהוָה “the Word of the LORD” The text seems to indicate that Elijah is sent to this specific widow by the LORD, and this is the first time he has met her.
17:9 קוּם Qal imperative: “Arise! ; rise up!”
לֵךְe root: הלך Qal imperative: “Go!”
לְכַלְכְּלֶךָ root: כול Pilpolel infinitive: “to sustain; feed; support; nourish”
17:10 מְקֹשֶׁשֶׁת root: קשׁשׁ Polel participle: “To gather (sticks or stubble)” In this case sticks as identified by the noun עֵצִים
קְחִי-נָא root: לקח Qal imperative: “Take! ; Bring” The use of the particle נא softens the command. “Bring, please”
וְאֶשְׁתֶּה> root: שׁתה Piel “to drink”
17:11 וַתֵּלֶךְ, לָקַחַת: “And when, as she went to bring it”
פַּת “scrap; morsel; piece”
17:12 אִם-יֶשׁ-לִי “there is nothing to me”
מָעוֹג Very strange and unusual word. Perhaps, “cake; loaf”
כַף-קֶמַח “palm (full) of flour” בַּכַּד “in a jar”
בַּצַּפָּחַת; “in a pitcher”
17:13 אַל-תִּירְאִי “do not fear; do not be afraid”
עֻגָה קְטַנָּה “a small cake/loaf”
Note that Elijah is telling the Widow to first take care of his needs before she tends to her only son. Not so easy…
17:14 תֶחְסָר root: חסר “to be empty; to be lacking”
Kethib/Qere: “He sends” vs. “The LORD sends”
17:15 Kethib/Qere “she and he” vs. “he and she”
17:16 חָסֵר “to be empty; be lacking”
Another possible and proper direction one could pursue in preaching this text is the theme of “the LORD provides”. It is interesting to note how this idea is repeated throughout Scripture and frequently with the elements of grain, flour, and bread—often in great abundance. Such as the manna in the wilderness and the feeding of the five thousand, as well as the marriage feast of the Lamb which has no end. Personally, as mentioned before, I will focus more on the provision of life out of death with special focus on the reversal in Christ, who dies to make alive, as I preach this text.
Concordia Theology- Multiple resources for preaching I Kings 17:8-16
Chapel Sermons-Multiple sermons on I Kings 17:8-16 preached in Kramer Chapel at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.