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Elias concealed himself, were no Arabs, no Orebim, and no city which bore the name of Arbo. Besides, the Arabs are not called in Hebrew (09270) orebim, but (01270) arbim, and the inhabitants of Arbo, if any city of that name existed, according to the genius of the Hebrew language, must have been called (019270,) arabojim, not orebim. Add to this, Elias was commanded to hide him. self there; but how could he hide himself, if the inhabi. tants of the city or encampment knew of his retreat, as they must have done, if his daily subsistence depended upon their bounty. The place of his retreat must have been discovered in a very short time to Ahab, who sought him with great industry in every direction. The solemn declaration of Obadiah to the prophet, when he went by the divine command to shew himself to the king, proves how impossible it was for him to remain concealed in the inhabited part of the country: “ As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee; and when they said, he is not there, he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.” Hence these haorebim were not merchants, nor human beings of any station or employment; but true ravens; and so the term has been rendered by the whole Christian church, and by many Jewish writers, particularly by their celebrated historian Josephus.P .
These voracious and impure animals received a commandment from their Maker to provide for his prophet by the brook Cherith, near its confluence with the Jordan,
The record is couched in these terms: “ Get thee hence and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan : and it shall be that thou • Ch. xviii, 10.
P Antiq. b. viii, ch. 13, sec. 2.
shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there."! In the history of providence, such commands are by no means uncommon; the locust, the serpent, and the fishes of the sea, have all in their turn received a charge to do the will of their Almighty Creator. Thus he promised to Solomon at the dedication of the temple: “ If I command the locusts to devour the land --- if my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wickedness; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." The marine serpent that lurks in the deepest caverns of the ocean, iri like manner hears his voice, and submits to his authority; for Jehovah directed the prophet to address his guilty countrymen in these memorable terms: 6 Though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them.” Nor was the great fish which he prepared to swallow up the refractory prophet, less prompt in its obedience : “ And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." His providence extends its powerful influence even to inanimate objects: “ I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their hosts have I commanded.”u And David, in the Spirit, complained of his ancestors, that “ they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation; though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven.” Even the furious billows of the sea dare not pass the line which his finger has traced, without his permission : “I made the cloud the garment thereof, and
9 1 Kings xvii, 3. s Amos ix, 3. u Isa. xlv, 12. r 2 Chron. vii, 14.
+ Jon. ii, 10.
Psa. lxxviii, 23.
thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." The inanimate and irrational parts of creation, properly speaking, cannot receive and execute the commands of the Almighty; they are only passive instruments employed by him in his providential dispensations, to produce certain effects. To command the ravens then, is to make use of them in providing for the necessities of his servant; to impart for a time an instinctive care to supply him with food, to which they were by nature entire strangers, and which they ceased to feel when the end was accomplished. A command to sustain the destitute seer, after the brook of which he drank was dried up, was addressed in a very different manner to the widow of Zarephath. It was couched in words addressed to her understanding and heart, while the secret power of Jehovah inclined her to yield a prompt and efficacious obedience.
On this occasion, a number of ravens were employed, because the service of one was not sufficient to supply the prophet with daily food. But the circumstance entirely accords with the native instincts of that bird; for the ravens go in quest of their prey in troops, and share in common the spoils of the chase. Following, therefore, the instincts of their nature, which received for a time a peculiar direction, by the miraculous interposition of Jehovah, a number of ravens associated together, in order to supply the wants of Elijah, whom his country had abandoned to the rage of an impious and cruel monarch ; “ And they brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the brook.” The Septuagint, in many copies rcad the passage; “ They brought bread in the morning, and flesh in the evening;” but the common reading is entitled to the preference. It gives a striking display of divine goodness, that when the whole resources of Israel were exhausted by a long and severe famine, the prophet of the Lord was miraculously and abundantly supplied with nutritious food twice every day. The ravens brought it in the evening and in the morning, which were the stated hours of repast, among the jews and other oriental nations.
w Job xxxviii, 12.
The Hebrew writers eagerly inquire where the ravens found the provisions to supply the wants of Elijah ; and, as may be supposed, very different are the opinions they advance; but on this question, which is of little importance, no certainty can be obtained. The Scriptures are silent on the subject, and we have no other means of information. It was enough for the prophet, that his winged providers regularly supplied his necessities; and it is sufficient to excite our admiration of the power and goodness of God, and our confidence in his providential care, without attempting to discover what the divine wisdom has seen meet to conceal. On another occasion, an angel was sent from heaven to supply the exhausted prophet with bread and water in the desert ; which, in the eye of reason, may seem to be a more becoming messenger of the king of glory, than a raven. But the ways of God are not, as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts; he did not think it beneath his dignity at this time, to employ the ravens in the same office; and he perhaps in: tended to teach us, that all creatures are equally subject
to his authority, and fit for his purpose. When he gives the commandment, a raven is as successful in his service, according to the range of its faculties, as an angel ; and we must not presume to refuse or slight his aid, how mean soever the agent he condescends to employ. The Jewish legislator placed the raven in the list of unclean birds, which imparted pollution to every thing they touched ; but the same God who gave the law, had a right to repeal or suspend it ; and that he did suspend it for a time, in favour of his persecuted servant, cannot be reasonably denied. Nor was this a singular instance of divine clemency; for the observance of ceremonial institutions of ten yielded to urgent necessity. The Jews were forbidden to touch a dead carcase; but Samson was allowed, for a special purpose, to eat of the honey which he found in the dead lion. The priests only were permitted by the law to eat the shew bread; yet David, and his men, were justified by our Lord himself in using the consecrated loaves, when no other could be procured. . .. Many are the reasons assigned by different writers, for the employment of ravens on this occasion, but they are so trifling, or so fanciful, that it is unnecessary to state them; the true reason perhaps was to convince the dejected prophet, that although his nation had forsaken him, the God whom he served continued to watch over him with unceasing care ; and that he would employ the most unpromising means, and counteract the most powerful in stincts, rather than suffer him to want the necessaries of life. And when he saw those voracious birds, the eravings of whose appetite are seldom entirely satisfied, part, of their own accord, with their favourite provision, morning and evening, for many days, and bring it themselves