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1King. 18:19-22
Forty miles below Tyre, and little more than half that
distance west of Nazareth, and forming the south-western
boundary towards the sea of the plain of Esdraelon,
extends for several miles the mountain ridge of Carmel,
throwing out a bold promontory right into the sea. The
beauty of Carmel is celebrated in Scripture; and even in
this day of desolation it sustains its ancient praise. The
enlivening atmospherethe sides covered with perpetual
verdurethe brow dark with woodsand the wide
prospects aroundcombine to form a scene which he who
has once beheld forgets no more. And this is saying much;
for there are few travellers who do not forget as much of
what they have seen, as most people do of the books they
have read. The mountain is from a thousand to twelve
hundred feet in height, and the views which it commands
are very extensive. In front, the view extends to the distant
horizon, over the dark blue waters of the Mediterranean;
behind stretches the great plain of Esdraelon, and the
mountains of the Jordan and of Judea; below, on the right
hand, lies the city of Acre, lessened to a mere speckwhile,
in the far distance beyond, the eye rests upon the high
summits of Lebanon.
Where Israel was gathered together unto Carmel, the
scene of the great transactionthe Lords controversy,

which they came to witnesswas doubtless the inner side

of the mountain, where it gradually descends into the
noble plain beneath. This declivity overlooks a vast extent
of country on every side; and from the hills of Galilee and
Samaria the consummating miracle might have been
beheld by the more distant gazers; while, from the plain in
front, the prophets of Baal, their useless altars, and their
frantic movementsas well as the calm majesty of the
avenging prophet, would have been as distinctly visible as
if the whole had been brought to their feet. It was a noble
and fitting spot for one of the greatest transactions in the
history of man; and which the imagination can so
inadequately grasp in all the fulness of its grandeur, that
we know not of any painter that has even attempted to
portray it.
The great assembly gathered there together consisted of
the priests of Baal, and some others, perhaps not very
numerous, who were exclusively worshippers of that idol,
and disavowed all knowledge of, or cared for, Jehovah. The
court party surrounding the person of the king, who could
not but know the claims Jehovah had to their exclusive
reverence, and who, perhaps, had not gone so far as
absolutely to deny him, but who practically ignored his
existence and his claims, by giving all their attention and
all their service to the fashionable idolatry. To them, this
was but another form of the universal world worship. The
worship of Baal was favored at courtto follow it was the
road to advancement and honor; therefore Baal was great,

therefore Baalism was true. And to them it was true; for

Mammon was the real object of their worship, and Baal to
them was Mammon. Then there was the great crowd of
people, who, while they worshipped Baal, had never
formally renounced Jehovah, nor had ceased to regard
themselves as his people, and heirs of the promises made
to the fathers. Sometimes they worshipped Baal,
sometimes Jehovah, as convenience or impulse dictated,
rendering, perhaps, generally their more public service to
Baal, while Jehovah had the higher place in their private
service and in their thoughts, and hoping in their hearts
that they might not be far wrong in serving both. This was
their form of serving two masters, which so many of us do
at this day in some form or other, although the idol we
associate in our worship with Jehovah may bear some
other name than Baal.
It was to this great multitude of time-servers that the
prophet addressed himself. When he stood forth, and
lifted up his hand as one about to speak, there was a dead
silence among that great assembly; and in that thin air his
strong and awful voice was heard afar. Those who
expected a long harangue, full of sharp rebukes and
vehement calls to repentance, were disappointed. Elijah
was habitually a man of the fewest words; but these few
words were always full of power, and produced more effect
than the labored discourses of the most eloquent orators.
He spoke from God, he spoke from the heartfrom his
own heartto the hearts of others.

In the present case, his words were not aimed at the

apostasy, but at the hesitancy, of the peoplenot at their
idolatry, but at their doubleness and indecision. Under the
old dispensation, as under the new, nothing is more
abhorrent to God than a profane neutrality in matters of
vital momentthan the lukewarmness which admits not of
decided opinions. He likes decision. He likes something
real. Be hot; be cold; be something. To be
Everything by turns, and nothing long,
is intolerableis hateful to Him. So now the prophet
How long halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be
God, then follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him. In this
was a boldness characteristic of this wonderful man.
Instead of a tirade against Baal and his worshippers, here
is a simple alternative of choice. His simple cry isDecide
! decide! But decision is the most difficult of all things to
lukewarm and temporizing men. The demand to take a
part at once and for all, is the most cruel task that could be
imposed upon them. This great audience shrunk from it.
Dismay and astonishment held them mute. They
answered him not a word. Some say that they feared to
pronounce for the Lord in the presence of the king and the
priests of Baal. Some say that they feared to pronounce for
Baal, in the presence of that prophet whom they believed
to possess the means of bringing down to the parched
earth the refreshing showers, which could alone fertilize its
barren womb. But we venture to sayit is our humble

opinion, that they were silent as careless men, shrinking

from the trouble and responsibility of decision. It required
something more than they had yet witnessed to rouse
them out of the inertness into which they had fallen.
Let us observe that, although the essential meaning of the
prophet is correctly enough conveyed in the phraseHow
long halt ye between two opinions? this is rather an
explanation than a literal rendering of the original, which
to us has a significance which ought not to be lost.
Literally, the words may be translatedHow long leap ye
upon two branches?a most beautiful and poetical
allusion to the restlessness of a bird, which remains not
long in one posture, but is continually hopping from
branch to branch. Somewhat less expressive, but still very
significant, is the version which others extract from the
original wordsHow long limp ye upon two hams?
alluding to the alternate movements of the bodynow on
one side, and their on the otherof a lame man in his