Biblical People

Biblical People: The Widow of Zarephath

During a long drought and famine, God sends Elijah away from Israel to the foreign city of Zarephath in Sidon. When Elijah reaches the town gates, he sees a woman, a widow, and asks her for water and bread. Though she is willing to fetch him water, she has no bread to share. In fact, she plans to use her last remaining bit of oil and flour to make a final meal for herself and her son before they starve to death.

Elijah tells her not to worry, to go home and prepare this meal for herself and her boy—but to first make a small loaf of bread for him. He tells her that her flour and oil will last until it rains again. She does as he asks. As promised, the flour and oil last, providing food for the three of them every day.

After a while, her son dies. The woman blames Elijah. He takes the dead boy to his room, imploring God to restore life to the lad. God does as Elijah asks. When Elijah presents the resurrected boy to the widow, she finally realizes Elijah is a man of God.

Centuries later, Jesus recounts this story, reminding the people that God didn’t send Elijah to any of the needy widows in Israel but to a foreigner. This infuriates them, and they try to kill Jesus, but he walks through the mob and leaves.

Sometimes God asks us to do things that seem ill-advised. The widow of Zarephath did what was illogical and lived.

Are we willing to do what God says even if it doesn’t make sense?

[Discover more about the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:7–24 and Luke 4:24–26.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at