Elijah and the False Prophets of Baal   

Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study

This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the Elijah and the False Prophets of Baal rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program.  It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:

·        A historical context for understanding the Bible story.

·        A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.

·        The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.

In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.  This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.  It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.

It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.

Note:  This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.  Consult titles cited in the reference list at the end of these notes for more information.



            1 Kings 18:16-46

Memory verse for this rotation:

            “You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other.”  Deuteronomy 4:35 NIV


o    The Lord is the One true God.

o    God has ultimate power over the world.

o    We are called to trust in only God for everything.

o    God asks us to choose only him and then helps us make that choice.

o    We are called to worship God.


Prayer Concerns & Prayer

·        If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.

·        Begin the Bible study by praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.

Reading the text

Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud.  Since this rotation focuses on an entire chapter, you might want to divide the reading among three or four workshop leaders.

Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.  Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.


Historical, Theological, and Biblical Contexts


            Originally presented as a single unit, the books of 1 and 2 Kings should be read together as a whole.  The division into two books was arbitrarily made to make them more manageable (Seow, 3-4).  The books together cover Israelite history “from the death of David and the accession of Solomon (ca. 970 BCE) to the release of the exiled King Jehoiachin from prison in Babylon (561/60 BCE)” (Wilson, 509).  Although there were probably several earlier versions, the books probably took their final form around 586-539 BCE during the time of the Babylonian captivity. 


            1 and 2 Kings are historical books written to give account of a nation’s past to its people.  However, as the writer of Interpretation put it, they are “preached history” and were written to respond to the crisis of faith that the nation faced in exile and to call people back to God (Interpretation 3 and 8).  The writer/s of Kings attempted to answer questions like:  How were the Israelites to still understand themselves as God’s people while living defeated in exile?  How were they to properly worship Yahweh without temple or land?  What about all of God’s promises to them?  (Interpretation, 13-14).


            1 and 2 Kings are written with an overall chronological structure.  However it is complicated by the fact that it alternates back and forth between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  In his commentary for the New Interpreter’s Bible, Choon-Leong Seow offers a simple three-part structure for the two books (5).

I.       Kingdom under Solomon: 1 Kings 1-11

II.     Divided Kingdom: 1 Kings 12 – 2 Kings 17

III.   Kingdom of Judah: 2 Kings 18-25


            Although clearly historical 1 and 2 Kings are obviously theological narratives as well and they have much to say to us about God.  In describing the theological perspective of Kings, the writer of Interpretation offers the following ideas about God that can be gleaned from reading Kings (13).

1.     “God is the central actor in the plot of Israel’s history.”

2.     “God demands the total loyalty of the people and is intolerant of other loyalties and commitments.”

3.     “God rewards virtue and punishes sin, but does not do so mechanically.”

4.     “Repentance leads to restoration, but the outcome of repentance still remains in God’s hands.”

5.     “God is sovereign over the events of history and nature.”

6.     “God keeps promises, but is not bound by human expectations.”


1 Kings 18: 17-36

            King Ahab (married to Jezebel) has been worshipping Baal and has led the people into apostasy as well.  Elijah announced to the King that God would bring a drought upon the land for three years as a punishment for their unfaithfulness.  Fearing for his life and following what God told him to do, Elijah then went into hiding and was kept alive by God.  Now, as this story begins, Elijah is finally presenting himself again to King Ahab.

Interesting Words/Phrases/Ideas

v. 17 “troubler”  This Hebrew word “suggests someone whose action or presence is destructive to others” (Seow, 135).

v. 18 and 19 “Baals” or “Baal”  Elijah lumps any and all other gods into this one god – who it is does not matter because they are all nothing – there is only one true God (Interpretation, 116).  Baal was a storm god who was believed to be “responsible for bringing life-giving rains” and “restoring fertility” (Wilson, 547).

v.20  Elijah issues a challenge to the people of Israel – you must choose who you will worship!

v. 20-25  In the test that Elijah proposes it would seem that Baal has all the advantages – there are 450 prophets to one; they get to choose the first bull; and Baal himself is the storm god afterall. (Seow, 134) and (Interpretation, 117)

v.25-29  Baal’s prophets dance around like fools and Elijah mocks them but no fire comes

v.30-35  Elijah has to repair the alter of the Lord before he can use it.  Note all the 12 symbolism (like the 12 tribes) – 12 stones and 4 jars of water filled 3 times = 12.  Again, it seems God is at quite a disadvantage – Elijah has soaked everything with water and filled the surrounding trench with water as well.

v.36-37 Compare Elijah’s prayer and preparations to those of the other prophets.  In his prayer Elijah is very clear and very specific about who he is calling on so there will be no doubt.  The connection between God and the nation of Israel is made clear also:  “The nation as a whole is being recalled to its national God” (Interpretation, 118).


How are the themes identified above played out in this story?

  1. God acts through Elijah, God sends fire onto the altar, and God brings rain.
  2. God demands the faithfulness of the people – they must choose between the only true God and the false god Baal who is nothing but a joke.
  3. The drought is punishment for Ahab and the people’s apostasy.  The rain rewards the people for choosing God.  The prophets of Baal are killed.
  4. The people are given a chance to return to God.
  5. God is sovereign over nature controlling the drought, rain and fire.

God keeps his promises to Elijah and to the people.

Workshop Summaries

Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.  As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.  Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.

Antioch Arcade:  The children will play a game that illustrates modern ways of “worshiping idols” and will think about some of the things they are tempted to treat as more important than God

Apostles’ Playhouse: The children will act out the story of the contest on Mt. Carmel and will play a game that teaches what it means to trust.

Holywood:  The children will view the video Elijah, discuss the details of the story, and review all five concepts.

Praising Puppets:  The children will use puppets to learn about God’s power and God’s desire that we choose to be his people

Review Questions

Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.  Have they been answered?  Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?

Closing Prayer

Close the Bible study with a prayer.


Seow, Choon-Leong. “1 and 2 Kings.”  The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. III. Leander Keck, et al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1998). (pp.949-967 and 3-12 and 133-138).

 “First and Second Kings.” Interpretation. James Luther Mays, et al. editors. (Louisville, John Knox Press, 1990). (pp. 1-14 and 114-122).

Wilson, Robert R. “1 Kings.”  The HarperCollins Study Bible. Wayne A. Meeks, et al. editors. (HarperCollins Publishers, 1993).