The Mountain of Carmel or Mount Carmel is a important geographic region between the biblical land of Manasseh to the ancient tribes os Asher and Zebulon, today it is a natural border between Samaria, Sharon Plain and Lower Galilee.
This mountain was an important scenario of many biblical events described in the Old Testament by the prophets.
Elijah is surely one of the greatest prophets, and chapters 17 through 22 feature his conflict with wicked Ahab and Jezebel in Israel. In one of the most dramatic confrontations in history, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. In spite of incredible opposition, Elijah stood for God and proved that one plus God is a majority. If God is on our side, no one can stand against us Romans 8:31.
Life Application Study Bible, Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004, paragraph 2510.
The Carmel is a wooded mountain range along the northern coast of Israel that runs northwest from the plain of Esdraelon to the Mediterranean coast near the modern city of Haifa, where its headland (Mt. Carmel or Jebel Kurmul) forms the harbor and the bay of Acre.
The range separates the coastal plain of Acco to the north from the plains of Sharon and Philistia in the south.
The average height of the mountain range is 457 m. (1500 ft.), with its highest point near Isfiya (530 m. [1742 ft.]).
Because of Carmel’s height and location near the coast, the temperatures during the summer are mild, and annual rainfall averages 91 cm. (36 in.). These factors gave rise to abundant vegetation, which explains why this region was called Carmel or “orchard.”
The most memorable biblical event tied to this area revolved around the issue of fertility and divinity. According to 1 Kgs. 18 Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Carmel. It was here that Yahweh demonstrated to the people of Israel that Baal was not the true God, by consuming the water-logged offering with fire/lightning and then sending what Baal could not, rain. The fire and rain were convincing proof of God’s sovereignty to a people who had been practicing a syncretic religion.
In view of Elijah’s directive that Ahab summon the people from all over Israel, it is likely that hundreds, if not thousands, congregated on Mount Carmel. The Carmel range of mountains, 1,742 feet in elevation at its highest point, extends about 30 miles to the southeast of modern-day Haifa from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a beautiful series of rounded peaks and valleys from which the sea can easily be seen. It is not known exactly where along this ridge Elijah staged this test; any of several sites is possible; Muḥraka is suggested by many as one of the more probable sites.
The extent of Baal worship in Israel can be estimated by the number of priests Jezebel regularly fed: 450 prophets of the male god and 400 ... of the female goddess Asherah, Baal’s consort.
Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?
And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals. Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.
So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it.Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”
So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.
Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.
So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made.
And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water.
And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.
Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!
And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.
1 Kings 18:17–40 NKJV
Thomas L. Constable, 1 Kings, The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:526.
Bibliography. O. Borowski, “The Carmel-Formidable Barrier and Wedge into the Sea,” BibRev 6/5 (1990): 46–52.