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Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. (James 5:17)
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours. James gives an example of how a righteous man’s prayer in faith is effective and can accomplish much, using Elijah as an example. Once again, James uses another Old Testament figure to make his point, which seems to be a common theme now in the book of James. Like Abraham, the prophets, and Job, Elijah was very much respected by all Christians and held in high esteem. For this reason, James would use him as an example of a righteous man’s prayer being effective. Elijah was a mighty prophet used of God, and the account of his life and working can be found in I Kings chapters 17-22 and 2 Kings Chapters 1-4.
James makes the case that although Elijah was a great prophet used of God, he was also a man just like the rest of us. That is why James says that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, to signify that Elijah has flesh, bones, and a spirit like everybody else. James wanted his readers to understand that it was not Elijah himself, who was powerful, but rather it was God who worked through him. James wanted his readers to understand the fact that Elijah was a man just as they were, so they should consider what was accomplished through his prayers because he was a righteous man.
And he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. We do not know much of the life of Elijah apart from what is written in First and Second Kings, and he seems to burst onto the scene of scriptures in First Kings chapter 17. We first meet Elijah during the reign of the evil king Ahab. During his reign, the great prophet Elijah was sent to speak the words of God. First Kings 17:1 reads, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.’”
Elijah tells Ahab upon meeting him that according to God’s power as a judgment upon the land, there would be a famine in the land for the next three years. Shortly after Elijah spoke those words to Ahab, God allowed a great famine to strike the land for three years. Then Elijah was called to go back to Ahab again with another message recorded in I Kings 18:1, informing Ahab that he was going to send rain on the earth.
It should be mentioned that James here specifically speaks of three and a half years of no rain. Jesus gives us the same information in the sermon he delivered in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, “I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land.” (Luke 4:25) Did James and Jesus have a source that gave them some greater detail than the author of Kings, as the account in 1 Kings 18:1 refers to the rain “coming in the third year”? That certainly is not the same as three and a half years. Of course, the Bible critic would say we have an error in the form of a contradiction. There are absolutely no errors in the originals and if there is a reasonable answer; then, there is no issue at all. We should note first that Jesus was in heaven when the account took place and when the book of Kings was written so he would know that his comment was not worded the exact same way.
1 Kings 18:1 says the rain came “in the third year,” which could have meant the third year of actual drought. First, we must consider the dry summer season of ancient Israel, which ran from April to September, i.e., six months. If the three years of drought spoken of in First Kings followed this, both Jesus and James could speak of three and a half years, being more specific in their reference. On this, Kistemaker and Hendriksen offer another possibility when they write, “From Jewish sources, we learn that the expression three and a half years is an idiom which, because of frequent usage, came to mean ‘for quite some time.’ Therefore, we ought to take the expression figuratively, not literally.
Furthermore, the Jewish custom of counting part of a unit of time as a full unit sheds additional light on our understanding of the text.” On this, apologist Norman L. Geisler writes, “There are three possible solutions here. First, the three years may be a round number. Second, the third year in Kings may be reckoned from the time of Elijah’s stay with the widow of Zarephath, not the full time of the drought. Third, it is possible that the drought began six months before the famine did, making both passages precise but referring to different things.” Therefore, we have no error within Scripture, as there are several reasonable and logical explanations.
 Refer to SB, vol. 3, pp. 760–61. For additional information consult Mayor, James, pp. 180–81; and Ropes, James, p. 311.
 Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of James and the Epistles of John, vol. 14, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 181.
 Thomas Howe; Norman L. Geisler. The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation (Kindle Locations 6186-6188). Kindle Edition.
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