These verses get Elijah from the house of the widow in Zarephath back to face Ahab, the King who wants to kill him because of the drought. We learn that the drought has caused a terrible famine. We learn that Obadiah still works for Ahab, but he hid away the prophets of the Lord who Jezebel (Ahab’s wife, the one who caused him to worship Baal, turning away from the Lord) wants to kill. So Elijah meets Obadiah on the road and says basically “hey tell Ahab I’m ready to meet with him”. Obadiah says basically “what did I ever do to you that you want me to be killed? Sure I’ll tell him and you won’t show up and then I’ll die, isn’t that the plan? I don’t like that plan.” Elijah assures Obadiah that he’s trustworthy. So Obadiah does this. Ahab and Elijah meet. Ahab says “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”
Now is this fair? Ahab is the one who turned away from the Lord. The Lord is the one who caused the drought. But it is sort of funny. Maybe they exchanged harsher words. Maybe Ahab did not actually recognize him. Maybe the previous meeting, where Elijah said the Lord’s decree about the drought was so brief that Ahab really didn’t recognize him. In fact, maybe the first few days of no rain, the first few weeks, even a couple months passed before Ahab realized, “uh oh. That guy said there was going to be a drought? The one who ran before we could kill him. huh, maybe so.” What was Ahab going through these past three years? Did he, being King, just send for more food and he didn’t worry about the people? Did he just keep having fun with Jezebel? Did he in his heart start to worry when prayers to Baal for rain went unanswered? We know they were hunting for Elijah to kill him and had killed other prophets of Israel from Obadiah. So we know at some point Ahab made a decision to not repent. We also know from the encounter with Obadiah that Ahab was worried about saving horses and mules… but perhaps not people.
Elijah sets the record straight about who is the troubler of Israel and says, basically, okay we’re going to have a big show down. We’re all gathering at Mount Carmel, all your prophets of Baal and Asherah and I’ll prove who’s God is God.
Mostly I think this section is the set-up for the grand battle of prophets. So next time, the magic battle!