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1Kings 19:9

There Elijah entered a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10“I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of Hosts,” he replied, “but the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down

Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I am the only one left, and they are seeking my life as well.”

11Then the LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD. Behold, the LORD is about to pass by.”

And a great and mighty wind tore into the mountains and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.

After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.

12After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a still, small voice. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the

mouth of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14“I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of Hosts,” he replied, “but the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down

Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I am the only one left, and they are seeking my life as well.”

15Then the LORD said to him, “Go back by the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you arrive, you are to anoint Hazael

as king over Aram. 16You are also to anoint Jehu sonc of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah to succeed you as prophet.

17Then Jehu will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Jehu.

18Nevertheless, I have reserved seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

We know that Elijah was fed by an angel before he journeyed 40 days and 40 nights to mount Horeb...considering Elijah was running from Jezabel, how did the angel know that he was going to be going to that place?

At mount Horeb, we know that the Lord spoke to Elijah in a dream during the night asking "what are you doing here Elijah?"

we know that the Lord told him to "go and stand on the mountain before the Lord for he is about to pass by"

However, note the next part...

12 "...and after the fire came a still, small voice. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave."

Clearly Elijah did not exit the cave prior to hearing the still small voice. He remained inside as God passed by! However, Elijah then hears a still small voice and only then does he exit the cave. BUT, the question by the still small voice has not yet been asked! He first hears the still small voice, wraps his face in his cloak, and then exits the cave.

It is after he leaves the cave that "Suddenly a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

So what did the still small voice say to Elijah that caused him to wrap his cloak around his face and leave the cave in the first place?

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There appear to be two possible interpretations, but the words of the voice would be the same in either of them: "What doest thou here, Elijah?"

The first interpretation would consider that verse 9 gives a summary first of what happened, followed by a reiteration of the details for the events of that day. In this interpretation, the words of the still small voice are already entered into the record of verse 9:

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? (vs 9)

If this interpretation is correct, the voice asks Elijah the same question twice, not being satisfied with his first answer.

In the second interpretation, the voice recorded in verse 9 comes prior to the great wind, the earthquake, and the fire; God again not being satisfied with Elijah's first response, then repeats the same question while he is still cowering in the cave, drawing him out, where he hears the question yet a third time. The second time the question comes, however, the words are not repeated in the record. It is simply implied that this is still God's question of Elijah, similar to Jesus' thrice-asked question of Peter: "Do you love me?"

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  • @ Polyhat I am thinking that perhaps it might be as was the case with the young boy Samuel in 1Sam 3:1-11? Elijah clearly would have known Gods voice, however, he was too afraid of the power of God and it was not until the still small voice called Elijahs name, that he was willing to leave the cave...even then, he still covered his face with his cloak...clearly afraid to see God! – Adam May 3 at 6:05
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If we begin with the assumption that the narrative in 1 Kings 19 as we have it is correct, then we have the following sequence of events:

  1. Elijah enters the cave at Mt Horeb
  2. the LORD speaks to Elijah, "What are you doing here?" Elijah replies.
  3. God tells Elijah to go out יָצָא and stand on the mountain
  4. God sends a wind, earthquake and fire
  5. God then speaks to Elijah in a still small voice, "What are you doing here?
  6. Elijah recoils, wraps his face in his cloak and goes out יָצָא to the mouth of the cave

Note that the verb יָצָא = go out, is the same verb in both cases (#3 & #6) above.

Now, it is certain, that the narratives we have are brief summaries of the events described - they make no attempt at listing every little detail. It is entirely possible that when Elijah, standing on the mountain saw the earthquake, wind and fire he retreated each time into the cave in fear. If that is true, then the final command to go out and stand in the mouth of the cave where all the other "epiphanies" had occurred, is entirely understandable.

Ellicott (and Matthew Poole) reaches a similar conclusion in commenting on V13 -

And went out and stood, &c. — Which God had commanded him to do; and as he was going toward the mouth of the cave, he was affrighted and stopped in his course by the dreadful wind, and earthquake, and fire; when these were past, he proceeds, and goes on to the month of the cave. Moses was put into the cave when God’s glory passed before him, but Elijah was called out of it: but neither Moses nor Elijah saw any manner of similitude.

Similarly, the Pulp[it commentary says -

and went out, and stood [Same words as in ver. 11. It was the still small voice, apparently, that first brought him to obey the command there given. He would perhaps be afraid to issue from the shelter of his cave during the tempest and the earthquake, which may have followed directly after the instruction to go forth was given. Possibly there was a lesson for him here also, viz., that amid the din and excitement and torture of drought and famine and fire and blood the commands of God are less likely to be heard in the soul and obeyed, than in the hour of peace and stillness. The drought and famine and sword have their work to do, even as the tempest and the earthquake have theirs; but it is by the voice of mercy and love that the hearts of men are turned back again. "Not in the strong east wind that parted the Red Sea, or the fire that swept the top of Sinai, or the earthquake that shook down the walls of Jericho would God be brought so near to man as in the still small voice of the child of Bethlehem" (Stanley)] in the entering in of the cave. [He hardly obeyed the letter of the command of ver. 11 even then. Does not this point to a rebellious and unsubdued heart? Is it not a confirmation of the view taken above, that he fled to Horeb, full of bitter disappointment and murmuring against God; and that the purpose of this revelation was not only to teach him as to God's dealings with men, but also to school and subdue his own rebellious heart?]

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  • I am thinking that the reason for the awesome display of God's power before Elijah heard the still small voice and exited the cave was God's way of illustrating to Elijah that he is far more powerful than Jezebel...and that Elijah running from her is insignificant to the Almighty God (I recall a biblical phrase "fear God and give Him Glory"). However the chronology is that Elijah exits the cave before the voice asks the question. He is called out of the cave by the sound of the still small voice. – Adam May 3 at 18:08

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