The Widow of Zarephath—Obedience’s Miracle

Women Who Rocked the Bible—Stories of Those Who Shaped Their Culture and Still Inspire You Today

Shanna D. Gregor

So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.

1 Kings 17:15-16 NKJV

The Widow of Zarephath’s story begins while she is at the gate gathering a few sticks so she can go home and prepare the last little bit of food for herself and her son. In her mind, the end is near. Her plan—without God’s miraculous intervention, which she must have hoped for—she and her son will starve to death.

God chose to take the life of the prophet Elijah and intertwine it with the life of the one widow. Elijah served as God’s spokesperson, the man who stood in front of King Ahab and prophesied “…the next years are going to see a total drought—not a drop of dew or rain unless I say otherwise” (1 Kings 17:1 MSG). Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, tried to kill all of God’s prophets. At one point, Elijah thought he was the last living prophet (1 Kings 18:22).

Those who worshipped Baal believed he was the god who brought rains and bountiful harvest—so the words Elijah spoke for God were profanity against Jezebel’s god. After declaring no more rain, Elijah hid himself in the Kerith Ravine, east of Jordan, where the Lord sustained him with water from a brook and food ravens brought to him (1 Kings 17:5). When the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to Zarephath with instruction to look to a widow to sustain him.

The woman, only referred to as the “widow of Zarephath,” demonstrates a powerful faith through her obedience in 1 Kings. The city serves as part of her identification. We can assume she is the only widow in her city. Zarephath rest inside the region of Sidon, the native country of Queen Jezebel, the woman who married the wicked King Ahab and required her god, Baal to be worshipped instead of God Almighty (1 King 21:25-26).  We might easily assume this widow is not of Hebrew lineage, but she clearly believed in the Hebrew’s God and trusted Him.

For a Bigger Purpose

God’s purposes are so much higher and wider than what we imagine. God tells us to go here or there—to do this or that—and it’s easy to think it’s about us. Hopefully we can see it as God positioning us for blessing. While that is often a part of his plan, our eyes usually rest on ourselves, when in fact it has less to do with us and more to do with what He wants to do through our relationships with the people to whom He connects us. Our lives are intertwined for mutual provision and blessing.

The Widow of Zarephath had nothing for her own family to eat, much less a prophet. Through her obedience, God sustained the prophet and her household. 

When Elijah sees the woman God told him to meet, he asks her for a cup of water. I can just see her acknowledge him and turn to go get the water. Then behind her, she hears him ask for a piece of bread. 

Can you imagine just a little attitude in her response to him? The Message says she said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die” (1 Kings 17:12 MSG).

This man of God is asking for the last of all she has. 

Perhaps she’s wondering … 

  • Did God send this man? 
  • Do I dare trust him? 
  • Do I trust God?

Elijah tells her not to be afraid, but instead to “Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 

There it was – the promise of a miracle. All she had to do was believe God – the God of Israel – and obey. In that moment she chose to trust God. “So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:15-16 NKJV).

God sent Elijah to a woman who had nothing so that He could provide for her and her family supernaturally as a result of her faith. As she decided to care for God’s spokesperson, God provided miraculously for her household.

The Widow of Zarephath’s story doesn’t end there. Yes, God sustained her household through the drought, but there is more to her relationship with God’s prophet. 

“Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house (where Elijah was staying) became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (1 Kings 17:17-18 NIV).

She’s angry. She lashes out in her pain at the man she trusted, the man who God used to perform a miracle. Perhaps she had come to know him well in the time that had passed. She looked to Elijah for answers.

Elijah asks her to give her son to him. He takes the boy from her arms, carries him upstairs to his room and lays him on his bed. He cried out to God and asked that the boy’s life return to Him. God heard Elijah and the boy lived once again. He scooped him up and carried him back downstairs to his mother.

Upon seeing her son, the widow said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth” (1 Kings 17:24 NKJV).


The story of a widow, who remained unnamed in the Bible, was important enough to have her faith and obedience recorded in the Bible. Her name didn’t matter, but her faith and obedience will forever be remembered. 

For Discussion

  • Who has God sent into your life to help you? 
  • Are you looking for God to answer you through the divine connection of relationship He’s placed in your life?
  • What relationships does He want you to cultivate?
  • Are you open to hearing His voice when He speaks through others?
  • Are you willing to be used by God to speak His truth into the lives of others as He leads you?

Read about other women who rocked in the Bible:

Deborah—a Faithful Focus on What You Can Do

Shanna D. Gregor (copyright 2014)

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