We are studying 1 Kings 17:8-16 for Sunday, October 13; this is first part of the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. [Notes on the text are here.] Here are a few questions about the text for our consideration:
Elijah receives an instruction from God to go to Zarephath – a long way away (v8). The widow receives an instruction from God, via Elijah, to give Elijah water and bread – before she feeds herself and her son (v13). How difficult do these instructions sound to us? Why is that?
If we ourselves were in Elijah’s position, or the widow’s position, do we see ourselves behaving as they did? Why is that?
The woman in the story is a widow, and her son technically an orphan; these are categories of people who are supposed to be protected according to Torah. What difference does this make to the way we understand this story?
Elijah is a prophet of YHWH – also a category of person who has a special relationship with the God of Israel. What difference does this make to the way we understand this story?
The woman in the story identifies God as “your” (Elijah’s) God. Does this suggest that she does, or does not, think of God as also “her” God?
This widow lives outside the territory of Israel, but is being affected by the drought initiated by Elijah in v1. As Jesus points out, there are widows in Israel who are being affected by the drought; Elijah and the provision that goes with him is sent to Zarephath. What are our thoughts and feelings about this? Why is that? What do our responses to the situation implied in the story tell us about ourselves and our understanding of what is right and wrong?
What does the story tell us about God?
The drought began as a direct response to Ahab’s behavior. Does the story tell us, or imply, anything about the consequences of official behavior for the people of the Biblical world? What makes us say that? What does it tell us, do we think?