In this section, since the water is running out where Elijah was sent by God to hide, God sends him elsewhere, and according to my study bible footnote, that is right into the heart of the enemy — “The journey to Zarephath on the Phoenician coast south of Sidon takes the prophet into the heartland of the Baal cult.” Really? How did Elijah feel about that? This land is also full of drought and suffering but God sends him to a widow, and to the second miracle, which is that suddenly she had enough flour and oil to make little cakes for Elijah and herself and her son, when they were facing certain death.
I hope revealing that I think there is some humor, when she replies to Elijah, who has asked her for food, that she is gathering sticks so she can cook the last of her food, “that we may eat it, and die.” It’s so bleak and abrupt. My first reaction is to think it is funny.
Because normally I expect to hear “eat, drink, and be merry”. Or I think that not having food might be a surprise but not necessarily mean that you are going to die. Right? We don’t think “okay the house is empty of food, I have no money, the food bank is closed — guess I’ll just die.” When I was in my twenties with my first apartment, running out of food and money was not an isolated incident, it meant “time to go see the parents and eat their food.” This woman and her son are so isolated from their community they have no help. Or their community is suffering so bitterly as a whole that they cannot help her. This is want and lack on the scope of Haiti or other places.
It isn’t really funny at all. It is isolation and despair and hunger and hopelessness.
God sent Elijah to her. Wow!
I wonder about all the rest of the people. Why did God only save her? Well we don’t know, maybe there are other stories that didn’t get written down. Maybe the other people did have some resources left or some where to go or other help. That’s just not in the story. In the story we have, it is the second time we see God take care of Elijah and this time, that also helps others and in a way creates a type of family unit: a man, woman, and child.
Elijah was completely isolated (except for God and ravens), in foreign land, and now he is back in community, the most fundamental of all. And none of them are going to die. Right?