Showdown on Mt. Carmel…Elijah and the Priests of Baal (1 Kings 18 Lesson)

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Showdown on Mt. Carmel...Elijah and the Priests of Baal (1 Kings 18 Lesson)
The amazing thing about miraculous stories of the Bible is that they tend to be so, well…miraculous! As we view events of Elijah’s life we see him do remarkable things against all odds. In this story, Elijah confronts hundreds of priests and a wicked king and queen, and under seemingly impossible circumstances manages to overcome. Students will see that no matter what we may face, God always wins.
Lesson focus: If we have faith and trust in God and remain true to Him, we can be sure that He will keep His promises and be faithful to us.
Passage: 1 Kings 18
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)
Materials Needed: Blocks, toilet paper tubes, tissue paper (red/orange/yellow), construction paper, spray bottles of water, Bibles.
Optional Coloring Sheet: The picture above is from our Elijah Coloring Pages.
Lesson Opening: Altar-building relay…begin the lesson by splitting children into two teams. Have a relay in a large room or open outside area. At one end of the play area, place containers of blocks (foam or wooden), and line up students at the other end. One at a time, have students run down to the block pile and select one block. After they run back with the block, have the teams of students build a tower or structure. Once all of the blocks are gone, judge the structures on creativity, height, or other features. Alternatively, you may choose to separate two piles of blocks and base the winning building today, and also hear an important lesson of God’s amazing power.

1 Kings 18 Bible Lesson

Remind students of who Elijah was (especially if following up on previous introductory lesson). Discuss his conflict with the wicked king and queen and how God cared for him by the river. After a while, the drought was so rough that even the river dried up, and God told Elijah to find a poor widow who took care of him. When the widow’s son died, God used Elijah to raise him back to life.
Today we will continue Elijah’s excitement as we see him challenge the false gods of the evil king and queen…
So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 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.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 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. 24 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.”
Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” -1 Kings 18:20-24

Elijah was preparing to represent God in a battle with evil. He met Jezebel’s false prophets (450 of them!) and each side built an altar. Discuss with students what an altar is and why people built or used them (to sacrifice to God or remember something special). Provide students with small stones or clay and have them build an “altar” of their own as the story continues.

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. -1 Kings 18:25-29

What is fire’s enemy? Water! If you know anything about camping, you understand that wet wood does not burn well. Here we see Elijah not only going up singlehandedly against hundreds, but also making sure that God receives all the credit for doing the impossible. He pours water everywhere. If the challenge requires a fire, how will water aid that? (As you tell this part, walk around the students three times with the spray bottle, squirting them down to emphasize the water).

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. -1 Kings 18:30-35

It may very well be that the priests of Baal truly believed they were doing the right thing and would be answered. Or perhaps they were acting in interest of the queen. Either way, their master was clearly not the right one, and despite their efforts nothing happened. Elijah has a great opportunity to scoff at them somewhat, and at long last he gets to let God display His glory:
She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. (15-16)
Just as Elijah trusted God to take care of him at the ravine, and trusted that He would follow through on His promises to be with the widow, Elijah’s faith here allowed him to overcome the prophets and the challenges of the queen. Similarly, we can know that if we are following God’s will and doing what He has asked, we can do what may seem impossible.
Craft: A fiery reminder…have students glue toilet paper tubes together (assist as necessary) for “firewood,” attaching flame-colored tissue paper and a caption reminding them of God’s providence and Elijah’s faith.
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Ask God for wisdom and strength in making choices, and also for gratitude in what He has already granted. Ask God to help us honor Him in all that we say and do.
Related Ideas:

  1. Elijah and the Prophets of Baal (Preschool Bible Lesson)
  2. Lesson: Israel’s Northern Kings “King Ahab”
  3. Lesson: Elijah and the Sacrificial Altar
  4. Prophet Elijah Coloring Pages

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