Verse 24. "The word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth." - Three grand effects were produced by this temporary affliction:
1. The woman was led to examine her heart, and try her ways; 2. The power of God became highly manifest in the resurrection of the child; 3. She was convinced that the word of the Lord was truth, and that not one syllable of it could fall to the ground. Through a little suffering all this good was obtained.
THE subject in the fourth verse of this chapter deserves a more particular consideration.
I have commanded the ravens to feed thee. - It is contended that if we consider µybr[ orebim to signify ravens, we shall find any interpretation on this ground to be clogged with difficulties. I need mention but a few.
The raven is an unclean bird, And these ye shall have in abomination among the fowls-every raven after his kind; Lev. xi. 13-15; that is, every species of this genus shall be considered by you unclean and abominable. Is it therefore likely that God would employ this most unclean bird to feed his prophet? Besides, where could the ravens get any flesh that was not unclean? Carrion is their food; and would God send any thing of this kind to his prophet? Again: If the flesh was clean which God sent, where could ravens get it? Here must be at least three miracles: one to bring from some table the flesh to the ravens; another, to induce the ravenous bird to give it up; and the third, to conquer its timidity towards man, so that it could come to the prophet without fear. Now, although God might employ a fowl that would naturally strive to prey on the flesh, and oblige it, contrary to its nature, to give it up; yet it is by no means likely that he would employ a bird that his own law had pronounced abominable. Again, he could not have employed this means without working a variety of miracles at the same time, in order to accomplish one simple end; and this is never God's method: his plan is ever to accomplish the greatest purposes by the simplest means.
The original word orebim has been considered by some as meaning merchants, persons occasionally trading through that country, whom God directed, by inspiration, to supply the prophet with food. To get a constant supply from such hands in an extraordinary way was miracle enough; it showed the superintendence of God, and that the hearts of all men are in his hands.
But in answer to this it is said, that the "original word never signifies merchants; and that the learned Bochart has proved this." I have carefully read over cap. 13, part. ii., lib. 2, of the Hierozoicon of this author, where he discusses this subject; and think that he has never succeeded less than in his attempt to prove that ravens are meant in this passage. He allows that the Tyrian merchants are described by this periphrasis, ūbr[m ybr[ , the occupiers of thy merchandise, Ezek. xxvii. 27; and asserts that µybr[ orebim, per se, mercatores nusquam significat, "by itself, never signifies merchants." Now, with perfect deference to so great an authority, I assert that ybr[ oreby, the contracted form of µybr[ orebim, does signify merchants, both in Ezek. xxvii. 9 and Ezek. xxvii. 27, and that br[m maarab signifies a place for merchandise, the market-place or bazaar, in Ezek. xxvii. 9, 13, 17, 19; as also the goods sold in such places, Ezek. xxvii. 33; and therefore that µybr[ for aught proved to the contrary, signify merchants in the text.
As to Bochart's objection, that, the prophet being ordered to go to the brook Cherith, that he might lie hid, and the place of his retreat not be known, if any traders or merchants supplied his wants, they would most likely discover where he was, &c., I think there is no weight in it; for the men might be as well bound by the secret inspiration of God not to discover the place of his retreat, as they were to supply his wants; besides, they might have been of the number of those seven thousand men who had not bowed their knees to the image of Baal, and consequently would not inform Ahab and Jezebel of their prophet's hiding place.
Some have supposed that the original means Arabians; but Bochart contends that there were no Arabians in that district: this is certainly more than he or any other man can prove. Colonies of Arabs, and hordes and families of the same people, have been widely scattered over different places for the purpose of temporal sojournment and trade; for they were a wandering people, and often to be found in different districts remote enough from the place of their birth. But, letting this pass merely for what it is worth, and feeling as I do the weight of the objections that may be brought against the supposition of ravens being the agents employed to feed the prophet, I would observe that there was a town or city of the name of Orbo, that was not far from the place where Elijah was commanded to hide himself. In Bereshith Rabba, a rabbinical comment on Genesis, we have these words ayh ry[ wbr[ hmw atyb µwjtb ir hi bithchom Beithshean, veshemo Orbo; "There is a town in the vicinity of Beth-shan, (Scythopolis,) and its name is Orbo." We may add to this from St. Jerome, Orbim, accolae villae in finibus Arabum, Eliae dederunt alimenta; "The Orbim, inhabitants of a town in the confines of the Arabs, gave nourishment to Elijah." Now, I consider Jerome's testimony to be of great worth, because he spent several years in the holy land, that he might acquire the most correct notion possible of the language and geography of the country, as well as of the customs and habits of the people, in order to his translating the sacred writings, and explaining them. Had there not been such a place in his time, he could not have written as above: and although in this place the common printed editions of the Vulgate have corvi, "crows or ravens;" yet in 2 Chron. xxi. 16, St. Jerome translates the same word µybr[ , "the Arabians;" and the same in Neh. iv. 7; it is therefore most likely that the inhabitants of Oreb or Orbo, as mentioned above, furnished the aliment by which the prophet was sustained; and that they did this being specially moved thereto by the Spirit of the Lord. Add to all these testimonies that of the Arabic version, which considers the words as meaning a people, (Arabic) Orabim, and not ravens or fowls of any kind. In such a case this version is high authority.
It is contended that those who think the miracle is lost if the ravens be not admitted, are bound to show,
1.With what propriety the raven, an unclean animal, could be employed?
2. Why the dove, or some such clean creature, was not preferred?
3.How the ravens could get properly dressed flesh to bring to the prophet?
4.From whose table it was taken; and by what means?
5.Whether it be consistent with the wisdom of God, and his general conduct, to work a tissue of miracles where one was sufficient?
6.And whether it be not best, in all cases of this kind, to adopt that mode of interpretation which is most simple; the wisdom, goodness, and providence of God being as equally apparent as in those cases where a multitude of miracles are resorted to in order to solve difficulties?