Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest which involves sacrifices at mount Carmel which is somehow outside the jurisdiction of the temple

1 Kings 18:19-20 NASB

Now then, send orders and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and four hundred prophets of [f]the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”20 So Ahab sent orders among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.

But according to God's instructions concerning sacrifices and burnt offerings there were never to be carried outside the temple

Deuteronomy 12:11 NASB

then it shall come about that the place in which the Lord your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring everything that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the [h]contribution of your hand, and all your choice vowed offerings which you will vow to the Lord.

There is no mention of God designating mount Carmel as a place of sacrifice.The temple was still standing around this time which would seem somehow like a violation of Gods instruction

Did Elijah violate God's word?

3 Answers 3


Actually, this is far less complicated than it appears.

The ministry of the prophet Elijah was well-after the time of Solomon and thus during the divided kingdom. Elijah largely worked in the northern kingdom of Israel under the infamous king Ahab (1 Kings 18:1) about 60 years after the death of Solomon and the dividing of the kingdom. 1 Kings 12:16-19.

The northern kingdom of Judah had abandoned the Torah law (1 Kings 18:18) and had established rival centers of apostate worship in Bethel and Dan, 1 Kings 12:25-30.

Thus, when the prophet Elijah called people to a show-down and contest of the gods at Carmel (1 Kings 18:19-24), he did not break the law of the land because the instruction about worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem (Deut 12:11) applied to the southern kingdom of Judah.

  • So, if Jereboam had built altars rather than calves, do you think that would have been legitimate activity? That's not my understanding of 1 Kings 12:25-30, so you may want to explain that. Mar 21, 2022 at 10:11
  • 1
    @KyleJohansen - the entire northern kingdom was, in some respects, illegal because it had rival centers of worship and thus Torah law did not apply. Torah law forbade images to worship, it forbade worship of anything other the LORD, etc. That is, the northern kingdom had torn up the rule book. If the prophet were to keep the Torah entirely, he would not have even been in the northern kingdom - he was there to try and win them back to God.
    – Dottard
    Mar 21, 2022 at 10:16
  • @KyleJohansen: Doubt it. The north is cut off from the temple by the act of the king. Thus Elijah need not go to the temple. But that won't spare the king.
    – Joshua
    Mar 21, 2022 at 22:25
  • @Joshua , the king can't raise up mountains, nor was there any iron curtain. In 12:25-30 an (earlier) king only creates a rival locale, he doesn't forbid the pilgrimage to the Temple. Nothing prevent Elijah from going to the Temple should he wish to go (apart from when in hiding, in which case the danger is specific to Elijah). Mar 22, 2022 at 6:13
  • I suppose my point is: "God's law only has to be obeyed where there are no rival centers of worship " (my paraphrase of Dottard's argument) is a strong doctrine to hold, and where is it actually taught? (And were Daniel and Ezekiel aware of it?) Mar 22, 2022 at 7:52

Elijah did not violate the Law, because he performed no sacrifice

Of course, that is not strictly true. He gave up his time for God, and maybe put himself in danger, and generally presented his body to be a spiritual sacrifice to the Lord. But, that's not what we mean. We mean "זֶבַח" (zebach) and "זָבַח", and we do not see those words in the text.

These are the words that we use consistently for the sort of sacrifices that are regulated in Deuteronomy, and indeed that is the word used.

Now, what book should we go to in order to see what "zebach" means? Leviticus, of course, and the first use of the word appears in Leviticus 3:1 (NASB).

3 ‘Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer from the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the Lord. 2 And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slaughter it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar. 3 From the sacrifice of the peace offerings he shall then present an offering by fire to the Lord, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails,

Emphasis mine, a sacrifice involves the slaughtering of the animal, and the offering by fire. Elijah did not burn anything of the Ox. Thus he performed no sacrifice.

God did. Which is the point of the event: That God can act, and Baal is powerless.

  • 1
    +200 for the last line.
    – bob
    Mar 21, 2022 at 18:13

The fact that God sent down fire to burn the offering shows that God did not consider it an offense. Period. If God was offended, He would have not answered and left Elijah to look like an idiot.

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 28 at 2:52

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.