Zarephath is in Phoenician territory just north of the border with Israel. When Elijah invokes “the God of Israel” he is talking of a foreign deity.
In his question to the widow he is asking her to put trust in this alien God. Ironically Ahab the king of Israel does not trust his own God (see chapters around) but this foreign widow does.
Is it out of desperation or is it out of real faith? The story does not reveal this. Our reading does not include her later question in v. 18 “What is between you and me?” Jesus quotes this question literally (in Greek – the literalness is lost in translation) in John 2: 4. I wonder whether Jesus’ mother heard the quotation and realised Jesus reference to Zarephath and the miracles that happened there. Maybe that is why she acts positively from what might seem at first glance a rather off-hand reply from Jesus. Between Elijah and the widow is not only a shared faith in “the God of Israel” but also the strong bond that comes from eating together. Elijah has fed the widow in a time of need. Between Mary and Jesus it might be similar. They share faith and they share the bond of feeding and being fed. Mary must have fed Jesus as a baby and child.
I wonder what is between us and Jesus. Do we share a trust in God? Are we being fed by him? Bread from Zarephath and wine from Cana?
29 January 2017
1 Kings 17:8-16
This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Coordinator for the Centre for Encountering the Bible and Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.