Journey to Galilee Part 2
From the Valley of Elah, we reached the coast and turned north at Ashdod which historically was one of the five capital cities of the Philistine Pentapolis of David’s day. The Philistines were a seafaring people. They swept southward from the Aegean, ravaging Anatolia, Cyprus and pushing at Egypt on their route to settle along the south coast of Israel. They became one of Israel’s chief adversaries throughout the period of her Kings.
We followed the coastal highway up to Haifa, Israel’s northern and most beautiful port. Then we turned east and climbed up the summit of Mt. Carmel. Carmel is a coastal mountain range, 39 kilometres long, 8 wide and rising to an altitude of 1700 feet. It is a rugged and formidable geographical barrier overlooking the Jezreel Valley from it’s eastern summit. Neanderthal remains have been found in cave excavations in this range as well as evidence of human activity dating back as far as 600,000 years.
We only wanted to revisit the 8th century BC when the bible tells us that the prophet Elijah had his famous confrontation with the 450 prophets of Ba’al. There is a Carmelite Monastery built on the traditional site of that famous battle which is recounted in 1 Kings 18. Elijah called Israel back to God on that mountain by challenging these pagan prophets to a contest:
“Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
But the people said nothing.
Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord ’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire —he is God.”” (1 Kings 18:21-24)
The prophets of Ba’al, danced and pranced and shouted and cut themselves for an entire morning without a whisper of response from Ba’al. Finally at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah built an alter with twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. He had them dig a ditch around it. Then he told them to pour four large jars of water over the offering and the wood, which they did. “Do it again” he told them. “Do it a third time,” he commanded and the water drenched the sacrifice, the wood and filled the trench. Then Elijah stepped forward and prayed the simplest prayer to the God who hears and answers:
““ Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.“
Elijah won the hearts of Israel back to the Lord on that day. Holly and I stood on Mount Carmel looking at a group of large stones reminiscent of that day when fire of the Lord fell from heaven.
Click the photos below to view them full-size…