In today’s reading, Ahab consents to Elijah’s plan for a Battle of the Bands or a God Smackdown or Israel Idol, your choice. It’s good reading, full of drama. There is the huge crowd, probably eating and drinking, making bets on the winner. The 450 priests of Baal have their colorful robes and their team chants. Crazy Elijah, possibly a little cracked from all that time in the desert hanging out with crows, glowers in his corner.
Baal goes first. His bull is cut in pieces and put on the altar, but no matter what the priests do, Baal sends no fire to consume the offering. Elijah, his sense of showmanship kicking into high gear, then takes his turn. He lets the crowd watch him rebuild God’s altar. He digs a trench around the whole thing and piles up the wood. He lays out the barbecue. Everyone kind of wonders what he’s doing, but they gasp when he calls for water. Jars and jars of water. He pours them out all over everything, soaking it all and filling up his trench. And then he prays.
God burns up the whole thing and his fire even laps up the water in the trench. The crowd goes wild.
And then it stops being exciting theater. Elijah sics the crowd on the priests of Baal. The losers are driven down toward the river and Elijah kills them all. So much for sportsmanship, not to mention, you know, the possibility of redemption. I’m pretty sure they left that part out in Sunday school.
Somehow I don’t think Moby Dick is going to have a good ending.