From this text, I want to know whether this is precisely how God works through prophets, or there’s something that I’m missing?

7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah." - 1 Kings 17:7-16

If this is how God works through prophets, then I personally think it is possible for some prophets to abuse it. And if they abuse it, others won’t be able to discern the falsehood in their prophecy. But I think people should be able to identify false prophecies, so that they will not be led astray.

  • 2
    Welcome to the site, Daniel. The 10 verses you ask about deal with one prophet (Elijah) being sent by God to a widow in Zarephath but the event does not conclude until verse 24. Several miracles happen, including the resurrection of her child. I cannot understand your Q as God deals with different prophets in different ways and I can't see your link to modern 'prophets' giving false prophecies. Can you please expand your Q so that we can understand how to examine the text in order to explain a particular, related point? Thanks, in anticipation.
    – Anne
    Nov 25, 2021 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


The record of Elijah in 1 Kings 17 & 18 is an example of the way God uses the prophet under inspiration. Note that the Bible is very clear that it is God who controls the prophet and not vis-versa.

Note the example of the prophet Balaam, who wanted to curse Israel but could not, in Numbers:

  • Num 23:11, 12 - Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, and behold, you have only blessed them!” But Balaam replied, “Should I not speak exactly what the LORD puts in my mouth?
  • Num 23:26 - But Balaam replied, “Did I not tell you that whatever the LORD says, I must do?”
  • Num 24:12, 13 - Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not already tell the messengers you sent me that even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD? I will speak whatever the LORD says.

Saul experienced something similar:

  • 1 Sam 10:10, 11 - When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a group of prophets met him. Then the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied along with them. All those who had formerly known Saul and saw him prophesying with the prophets asked one another, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
  • 1 Sam 19:23, 24 - So Saul went to Naioth in Ramah. But the Spirit of God came upon even Saul, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth in Ramah. Then Saul stripped off his robes and also prophesied before Samuel. And he collapsed and lay naked all that day and night. That is why it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Thus, we have the repeated witness that the prophets can prophesy nothing except what the Lord tells to do and say.

This was also true of Elijah - He only performed the miracles he was instructed to perform by the Spirit of God. This is part of the general principle of inspiration recorded in the NT:

2 Peter 1:20, 21 - Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation. For no such prophecy was ever brought forth by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

For more information about how the prophets were "inspired", see the appendix below.

APPENDIX - Prophetic Inspiration

We have this in 2 Tim 3:16 -

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness

The same idea is expressed in various way throughout the Bible such as: 2 Peter 1:19-21. See also 2 Sam 23:2, Neh 9:30, Eze 2:2, 11:5, 24, Micah 3:8, Zech 7:12, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Rom 1:2, 3:2, Heb 3:7, 5:12, 9:8, Mark 12:36, Acts 28:25, 1 Tim 4:1.

The central question here is what does, “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16, 17) or “inspired” mean? That is, Did God inspire men or words? Or, Did the Holy Spirit prompt ideas or dictate? To answer this central question of inspiration we observe the following:

The mechanism of inspiration in the Bible was quite varied.

  • Some writers saw visions and then recorded the vision (Dan 8:1, 2, 10:1-3, Revelation (numerous times), etc.), 2 Cor 12:1, 2,
  • The prophet is awake and talking directly with a messenger (Zech 4:1, 2)
  • Luke researched events and interviewed witnesses before compiling his Gospel and Acts
  • Some passages are direct quotes from non-inspired sources (see table below) that the Bible writer used.
  • Balaam was possessed and unable to curse Israel (Num 23, 24)
  • Some passages are clearly direct quotes from God (eg, the 10 commandments in Ex 20:1-17, 31:18, Deut 10:4, 5)
  • Moses even used another person (Aaron) to deliver his messages (Ex 7:1, compare Ex 4:15, 16)
  • A dictation model of inspiration would have all four Gospels recording the same event in exactly the same language; but significant variations are obvious.

The Apostle Paul had many experiences directly with God such as:

  • Acts 18:9 - One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking; do not be silent.
  • Acts 23:11 - The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so also you must testify in Rome.”
  • Acts 22:17, 18 - Later, when I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem quickly, because the people here will not accept your testimony about Me.’
  • Acts 16:9, 10 - During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
  • 2 Tim 4:17 - But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles would hear it. So I was delivered from the mouth of the lion.
  • Acts 27:23 - For just last night an angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve, stood beside me
  • Acts 12:7 - Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists.
  • Acts 9:3-6 - As Saul drew near to Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” “Who are You, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The language of the Bible is quite varied and depends on the background of prophet. John wrote very simply (at times, stretching Greek grammar); Paul and Luke used quite complex Greek constructions with a large vocabulary; Matthew’s Gospel is very Hebraistic is style; Peter’s two epistles are quite different in style because he used different translator-secretaries to record them (Silas in the first instance, 1 Peter 5:12). If the Holy Spirit had dictated the Bible, its style would be uniform.

Thus, the Bible writers had a variety of experiences showing that there is no single way that God deals with His prophets.


It's not hard to discern what's the will of G'd from those things that aren't as everything G'd wants to happen is already in the Torah, and this is supported in the jewish tradition. The same way, if you see a prophecy, you have first to consult Torah. We read the following, for example (in Deuteronomy 18:18):

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (ESV)

Above we see that a prophet obeys G'd in whatever G'd commands.

One of the major prophecies was when John Baptist said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said, a passage taken from John 1:19-25.

Another simple way to confirm if someone is a prophet or not is the following (Deuteronomy 18:22):

When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (ESV)

As I said nothing G'd does is something not said before (Amos 3:7):

“For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. (ESV)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.