The stories of Elijah and Elisha occupy nineteen chapters in the book of Kings, extending from 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 13. Both men spent their ministry among the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. But the first readers of Kings were Southern Kingdom exiles living in Babylon. The Northern Kingdom had been decimated over 130 years earlier. Why does the writer spend so much time on these prophets and on a people who had already ceased to be a national entity?
This is one of the interpretive issues of Kings.
I believe there are at least three reasons: First, God wanted the exiles to know how much he loved them, and he did it by reminding them how great were his efforts to reach their brethren, who spurned His efforts and were now long gone. Second, He wanted them to be reminded that He was serious about the need to be faithful to Him – even in a foreign land. Third, He wanted them to know that their survival would be dependent on their allegiance and obedience to Him.
The story of the great contest on Mt. Carmel is one of the great Bible stories. It says: ‘Only the Lord is God, and he will be revered by His people and have no rivals – or else.” I never doubted my mother loved me, but when she required something, she meant business. Disobedience was always accompanied by serious consequences. Defiance was met with retribution that was swift and memorable. In her love and discipline, Mom was teaching me what God was like. They are the same lessons recounted in these stories of Elijah and Elisha.