40. One fire

POV Obadiah

Fire on the Altar
How does Elijah feel when he kills the Baal officials? A character’s motivation may seem obvious. Sure, the character wants to find out who killed their pet turtle– but that’s not motivation. That’s a goal. Motivation is the “why?” Does the character want to find closure? Get revenge?

Don’t just stop at a goal, push toward motivation. Understand what’s driving the character to push forward in the story.


“How long do you plan to stumble between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him. But if the Baals, follow them.”

The assembled elders, town fathers, and heads of clans stared at Elijah’s thin, scraggly beard.

“The Asherah officials are afraid to show their faces.[1] But 450 officials of Baal are here,[i]so let Baal’s friends put a bull on his altar, and those who serve the Lord put a bull on a Hebrew altar.”

He faced the Baal officials. “Do you understand? You put a bull on your altar and ask your gods to light the fire. Over here, we’ll put a bull on a Hebrew altar and ask the Lord to send fire.”

The Baal officials gawked. Elijah raised both arms to the Hebrews. “What do you say? The one who sends fire is the real God.”

The Hebrew crowd started to murmur. Then one man yelled, “You said it right, Boy.”

Another called out, “By fire.”

And another, “Fire!”

Elijah raised his hand and stared at the 450. “Then that’s what we’ll do. You build your altar, and we’ll build ours.”

The Baal officials started to build an altar, and Elijah walked over to a broken-down Hebrew altar. He beckoned the crowd. “Gather ’round. Nice and close, so you can see what’s happening.” As they came in, he asked, “Who knows how to build a proper Hebrew altar?” Three men his father’s age stepped forward. “Can you men get good helpers and organize twelve proper stones?”

While the grey beards brought a stone for each son of Israel, Elijah yelled over at the Baal officials, “What makes you think your little gods are listening? I’ll bet those Baals are lost in thought—pondering the mechanics[2] of making fire.”

While the Hebrew men repaired their altar, the pagans started their dance. All morning they shouted. “Baal, answer us. Put your fire under our bull.”

Elijah called, “Are your godlets out of town?”

When the Hebrews agreed their altar was regulation again, they stacked it with firewood, and Elijah shouted to the Baal officials, “Ready over there?”

Both teams butchered their bulls and laid them on their altars.

“Light no fire,” Elijah reminded. “But ask your tiny gods for fire. Too bad you can’t reach them in Tyre. I heard they went to the beach for the day.”

The Baal officials did a desperate, frenzied dance, and shortly after noon, Elijah started laughing. “Louder, Boys. Louder! I bet they’re taking a nap. Could you even wake your brand of deity with a brass band?”

They did turn up the volume. And since they had been cutting themselves all morning, by now their blood was flying all over the dead bull and even out into the crowd. But as the afternoon wore on, the officers of Baal wore down, their leaps lower and steps slower. They finally ground to a halt. No voice answered. No Baal sent fire.

Elijah grabbed a shovel and dug a trench around the Hebrew altar broad enough to plant two full measures of seed. “Fill four barrels with water, please. Let’s soak the bull and the wood.” As they emptied the barrels on the sacrifice, he said, “Again, please.” They poured on four more barrels. “Once more, please.” And they soaked the meat and the wood with four more barrels. The water ran down and filled the trench. “How we fixed for time?”

A grey beard looked at the sun. “The priests in Jerusalem should be preparing the evening sacrifice right about now.”

All eyes turned to Elijah. “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let people know today that you are the God of Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all this at your direction. Hear me, Lord. Hear so this people will know you are Lord and they can turn their hearts back to you.”

And then the fire fell. The fire of the Lord. It burned up the meat and the wood. It burned up the stones, the water in the trench, and even the dirt. Mount Carmel grew quiet.

Elijah looked around. The people lay face down. Nobody said a word, but the first to lift a head was one of the grey beards who supervised the repair of the altar. “The Lord.”

Another grey beard lifted his head. “Yes. It’s the Lord.”

And another. “The Lord is God.”

But the crowd was still laid out face down, no one saying a word.

“Take the prophets of Baal,” Elijah commanded. “Don’t let one escape.”

Still not saying a word, the people surrounded them. But Elijah stepped into the crowd and found Nathan. “You don’t have to watch this, Nate. I will come back up here to you. But right now, maybe you should stay up here on the mountain. Not even look down.”

Elijah faced Nathan, blocking his view of the captives. “We’re going to kill all these men, and maybe our mother does not want you to watch. It’s your call, but I’d rather you didn’t watch.”

Nathan nodded. He stood and let the crowd flow around him as Elijah led the Hebrews and their captives down the mountain.

1 Kings 18:38 – Then the fire of the Lord fell.

[1] “The Showdown at the Mt Carmel Corral.”

[2] I really wanted to say “quantum” mechanics J.

[i] Perhaps the Baal officials worshipped this Melqart.

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