Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Elijah and the Apologist of Baal

I Kings 18:17-40
And Ahab went to meet Elijah. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”

And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of Jehovah, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.” So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. For even though this was a ridiculous request, Elijah was some kind of svengali.

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be god, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people answered him not a word, though they couldn't help but think of the little girl from the Old El Paso commercial.
Then said Elijah unto the people, “I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah: and the god that answereth by fire, let him be god.”

And all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.” Though, how Elijah was able to speak to all Israel without the aid of a public address system remained a mystery that none pondered.

And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, “Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.”

And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us.” But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, “Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.”

Then one of them spake unto Elijah. “Now hang on a second, there! Baal is under no obligation to perform such parlor tricks as you desire.”

Elijah inquired of them, “Who then is this prophet of Baal which now speaks?”

“He is not one of our number,” said one of the prophets of Baal. “He is what is called an apologist,” and he did make a dismissive wanking motion as he rolled his eyes. But King Ahab bade him speak.

And the apologist of Baal said unto Elijah, “Our god, Baal, is the one true god over all, not merely god in Israel, as your Jehovah claims to be. He will surely not be put to the test in this way. Just because he did not answer the prayers of these prophets does not mean he is not god.”

And Elijah said unto the apologist of Baal, “Did your own prophets not say that Baal hath said that they should call upon him and that he would answer them? Hath Baal not said unto his followers to ask anything in his name and he will do it? Yet here we are and he hath not responded; neither to their entreaties for fire nor for rain in the midst of this drought.” And Elijah mocked him before the people saying, “If Baal doesn’t answer, even in critical times like this, how can you even know he’s there?”

And the apologist did respond, “Baal works in mysterious ways. And perchance these his many prophets are not asking in accordance with his prefect will. Also, it may be that Baal doth not respond because he is angered that there yet remains in the land a prophet of the false god, Jehovah. Or perhaps one among the number of his prophets hath sinned against him or perchance they are not sincere enough.” And he did continue, “We don’t need this silly test to know that Baal is god for we can feel him in our hearts and indeed he hath spoken to us many years ago in the words of his prophets who recounted many great and mighty things which he hath done in days gone by, some of them in front of, like, 500 witnesses. These two-thousand-year-old somewhat contradictory accounts, when examined closely, would make any reasonable person believe that Baal truly is who he says he is. Furthermore, these wonders would make a little well-timed lightning strike at the top of a mountain seem like no big deal.”

And Elijah answered in the words of the prophetess of Jackson and saith unto him, “What hath he done for thee lately? Lo, we can end this ridiculous nonsense with a simple, empirical, observable demonstration.” And he repaired the altar of Jehovah that was broken down, even though there wasn't supposed to be an altar there in the first place because Moses had commanded that once the temple of Jerusalem was built, Jehovah was only to have offerings presented there, but this was clearly an exception to that rule. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of Jehovah came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of Jehovah: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, “Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.”

And the people said unto him, “Elijah, where are we to find four barrels of water on a mountain in the midst of a three-year-long drought, for surely all the streams have run dry? Which reminds us, how are we to explain the logistics of getting this many people to the top of a mountain twelve miles from the city of Jezreel for this little demonstration?”

And Elijah said unto them, “I don't know. Use sea water or get it from a nearby spring. Yes, a nearby spring. Behold, you are ruining a good story by pointing out plot holes. Go and do as I have commanded.” So the people shrugged and went to fetch the water from either the sea or a spring or somewhere within the storyteller’s imagination.  And Elijah said, “Do it the second time.” And they looked at one another, shrugged again and did it the second time. And he said, “Do it the third time.” And they did it the third time and yet none of them complained about making three separate trips to get water when Elijah could've just asked for twelve barrels to begin with instead of being so dramatic about it. Nor did anyone mention just how miraculous this whole demonstration was in and of itself, what with all the logistics involved. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And many there who thirsted greatly thought of their long-withered crops and dead livestock as they looked on in horror as Elijah mockingly poured out water at such a time, yet they did not object in the slightest for they did not want to be rude and ruin what was shaping up to be a really cool story for fire ‘n’ brimstone preachers.

And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, “Jehovah, god of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art god in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that thou art Jehovah god, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of Jehovah fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 

Lucas Cranach the Younger, Elijah and the Priests of Baal, 1545
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, “Jehovah, he is the god; Jehovah, he is the god.”

“Not so fast,” said the apologist of Baal. “For this is but a test. Baal in his mysterious ways hath allowed a demon posing as the false god, Jehovah, to burn up the altar and sacrifice to test his people. We know that Baal hath told us false prophets would come with signs and wonders. And look, this prophet hath now burned up several gallons of water and brought even more suffering upon us. Truly this is done through the power of the devil."

And everyone with one accord did inquire, “Who is the devil?” And after much time the apologist of Baal did explain about the powerful adversary of Baal which he himself created, but who often opposes him and yadda, yadda, yadda.

As they stood there arguing, a closeted skeptic in the back of the crowd did note that lightning would often naturally occur at the top of the mountain and that this could be mere coincidence and yet another example of religious people falling victim to the post hoc fallacy. She opened not her mouth, for she knew suggesting such a thing would likely get her stoned by either side of the debate. And she went her way feeling like the only sober person in a chariot full of drunks engaged in a pissing contest to decide who should get to drive.

And after enduring much sophistry Elijah did answer and say unto the apologist of Baal, “Look, you admit that Baal tells you to call upon his name and he will do great and mighty things and yet if it’s not ‘according to his will’ he won’t do it? Then when some work is done in another god’s name, you say it is done by some other powerful entity, created by Baal and permitted by him as a test or some such thing? How is this god of yours even falsifiable? I’ve set up this simple test and yet you say Baal is not to be tested in such a way. Lo, this sounds to me like a bunch of bullockshit.” And Elijah said unto them, “Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape."

And one of the prophets of Baal spoke up saying, “Hey, can’t we talk this over? Look, clearly we made a mistake. You’ve shown us that, right? We had no idea we were following the wrong god. We were raised to worship Baal. Our whole culture is immersed in this stuff. We did the best we could with the information we had. We admit that Jehovah is more powerful. Seriously, who wouldn’t now that we’ve seen such a clear display of power? No amount of dissonance reduction is going to overcome a demonstration like this in the midst of such a superstitious and pre-scientific culture, regardless of what that idiot apologist says or what some anachronistic skeptic might think. Are we not going to get a chance to recant? We see Jehovah is powerful, but is he not also merciful?” Yet they heeded not his cries.

And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon (which was pretty much just a dry ditch after three years without rain), and slew them there, which took a while for there were four hundred and fifty of them along with another four hundred prophets of the groves.

And as Elijah was about to put him to the sword, the apologist of Baal said, “Behold all this terrible butchery and bloodshed. See, I told you this was the work of the devil. This is just the sort of thing he would do.”

And Elijah said unto him, “You think this is harsh? Just wait ‘til some kids make fun of my successor’s hairstyle.”


  1. I'm not in the habit of commenting, but I wanted to say that your entire archive, and this post in particular, is awesome.

    1. Thank you. It's always good to get positive feedback.

  2. Best. Blog. EVER!

    Wow. You truly have a gift. This had me laughing the whole way through. Well done!

  3. This was Beautiful. Please keep writing.