Zarephath (1 Kings 17)

Bilderesultat for ancient Zarephath

A city on the Mediterranean coats 22,5 km north of Tyre and 13 km south of Sidon, Zarephath is mentioned in Neo-Assyrian records of the seventh century B.C. (when it surrendered to the Assyrian king Sennacherib), as well as in an Egyptian papyrus from the thirteenth century B.C. Today the small village of Sarafand lies close to the remains of the old city. Excavations have uncovered that this ancient port was not only a commercial centre for the export of wine, olive oil and the purple dye extracted from murex shells but also a manufacturing b\hub for textiles, pottery and glassware. In the Roman period the city featured a shrine to the goddess Tannit, to whom child sacrifices are believed to have been made. By the fourth century A.D. pilgrims were making their way to Zarephath to commemorate Elijah’s miracles there, and a tower was erected to mark the site of the “upper room” in which he had lived (1 Kings 17:19). Though never considered a city of great importance, Zarephath’s location places it in the centre of the Phoenician heartland.

1 Kings 17 demonstrates in no uncertain terms that Yahweh, the God of Israel, was more powerful than the Canaanite god Baal, who was worshiped as the god of rain and fertility and the vanquisher of death. But in 1 Kings 17 the God of Israel provides sustenance during a famine and proves His power over death in the raising of a child (17:22). The next chapter, 1 Kings 18, recounts the triumph of Yahweh and His prophet over Baal and his prophets.

God’s command to Elijah to remain in the home of a pagan widow must have ¨seemed strange. Jesus cited this story as an example of how a prophet is often unwelcome in his own home country (Luke 4:26).


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