The Meaning of 1 Kings 18:21 Explained

1 Kings 18:21

KJV: And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

YLT: and Elijah cometh nigh unto all the people, and saith, 'Till when are ye leaping on the two branches? -- if Jehovah is God, go after Him; and if Baal, go after him;' and the people have not answered him a word.

Darby: Then Elijah drew near to all the people, and said, How long do ye halt between two opinions? if Jehovah be God, follow him; and if Baal, follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

ASV: And Elijah came near unto all the people, and said, How long go ye limping between the two sides? if Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

What does 1 Kings 18:21 Mean?

Context Summary

1 Kings 18:16-29 - The God That Answereth Not
"The God that answereth by fire, let Him be God." We are thrilled as we read these words. Our altars stand unkindled, our sacrifices are unconsumed, our churches do not witness the descending of the holy flame, and our sermons are damp tinder. It ought not so to be. The Baptist said that our Lord would baptize with the Holy Spirit as by fire, Matthew 3:11, and Jesus Himself taught that he came to kindle fire on the earth, Luke 12:49. The seven lamps burn evermore before the throne, Revelation 4:5. It was as fire that the Holy Spirit fell on the sitting group in the upper room-sitting because they had reached an end of praying, and were now only waiting for the fulfillment of the promise, Acts 2:2-3.
Nothing is needed more absolutely than the answer by fire. There are many who, like the prophets of Baal, endeavor to kindle it. But when prevented from putting their own false fire into the stack of wood, they are paralyzed. The frantic entreaties, the self-inflicted wounds, the monotonous chant, are insufficient. They are carnal and arouse only the worst emotions. Spiritual conditions have to be fulfilled, as Elijah showed; then God bears witness "by signs and wonders" and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will. [source]

Chapter Summary: 1 Kings 18

1  In the extremity of famine Elijah, sent to Ahab, meets good Obadiah
9  Obadiah brings Ahab to Elijah
17  Elijah, reproving Ahab, by fire from heaven convinces Baal's prophets
41  Elijah, by prayer obtaining rain, follows Ahab to Jezreel

What do the individual words in 1 Kings 18:21 mean?

And came Elijah to all the people and said until when you will falter between two opinions if Yahweh [is] God follow him but if Baal him but not answered the people Him a word
וַיִּגַּ֨שׁ אֵלִיָּ֜הוּ אֶל־ כָּל־ הָעָ֗ם וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ עַד־ מָתַ֞י אַתֶּ֣ם פֹּסְחִים֮ עַל־ שְׁתֵּ֣י ؟ הַסְּעִפִּים֒ אִם־ יְהוָ֤ה הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ לְכ֣וּ אַחֲרָ֔יו וְאִם־ הַבַּ֖עַל אַחֲרָ֑יו וְלֹֽא־ עָנ֥וּ הָעָ֛ם אֹת֖וֹ דָּבָֽר

וַיִּגַּ֨שׁ  And  came 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: נָגַשׁ  
Sense: to draw near, approach.
אֵלִיָּ֜הוּ  Elijah 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: אֵלִיָּה 
Sense: the great prophet of the reign of Ahab.
הָעָ֗ם  the  people 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine singular
Root: עַם 
Sense: nation, people.
וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙  and  said 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: אָמַר 
Sense: to say, speak, utter.
עַד־  until 
Parse: Preposition
Root: עַד  
Sense: as far as, even to, until, up to, while, as far as.
פֹּסְחִים֮  will  falter 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Participle, masculine plural
Root: פָּסַח 
Sense: to pass over, spring over.
עַל־  between 
Parse: Preposition
Root: עַל 
Sense: upon, on the ground of, according to, on account of, on behalf of, concerning, beside, in addition to, together with, beyond, above, over, by, on to, towards, to, against.
שְׁתֵּ֣י  two 
Parse: Number, fdc
Root: שְׁנַיִם  
Sense: two.
؟ הַסְּעִפִּים֒  opinions 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine plural
Root: סְעִפִּים 
Sense: ambivalence, division, divided opinion.
יְהוָ֤ה  Yahweh  [is] 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙  God 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine plural
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
לְכ֣וּ  follow 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Imperative, masculine plural
Root: הָלַךְ  
Sense: to go, walk, come.
וְאִם־  but  if 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Conjunction
Root: אִם  
Sense: if.
הַבַּ֖עַל  Baal 
Parse: Article, Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: בַּעַל  
Sense: supreme male divinity of the Phoenicians or Canaanites.
וְלֹֽא־  but  not 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Adverb, Negative particle
Root: הֲלֹא 
Sense: not, no.
עָנ֥וּ  answered 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person common plural
Root: לְעַנּׄות 
Sense: to answer, respond, testify, speak, shout.
הָעָ֛ם  the  people 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine singular
Root: עַם 
Sense: nation, people.
דָּבָֽר  a  word 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular
Root: דָּבָר  
Sense: speech, word, speaking, thing.