1 Kings 18.21-24
“Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”
Elijah proposes a very direct and dramatic contest with the prophets of Baal. They would prepare a bull for sacrifice, and Elijah would do the same. They would then each call upon the name of their god, and the deity that answers by fire is the true God. It would be 450 prophets of Baal against Elijah by himself.
Baal (which meant “lord” in Phoenician) was worshiped throughout the ancient Middle East as the storm and fertility god, and the many people who worshiped him thought Baal to have enormous power. This was certainly the message of the prophets and priests of Baal.
However, the people must have been doubting the power of Baal after the three and a half years of drought that Elijah had prophesied.
By means of this contest by fire, Elijah directly challenges the claims of the prophets of Baal and the beliefs of the people. Elijah’s message is this: You prophets declare things about Baal, and you people believe what the prophets say. Therefore, I declare three things:
1) Baal is a false god.
2) You prophets of Baal are deceivers and frauds.
3) You people of Israel have believed a lie and turned away from the truth.
So let’s put Baal and his prophets to the test and expose the lie. Let’s find out the truth about this so-called god and “lord.”
Needless to say, this was an intense moment. The reality about the true God of Israel and the false gods of Ahab and Jezebel was about to be exposed.