Zarephath is the name of the town to which the prophet Elijah was sent, after he prophesied a drought on the land of Israel to wicked King Ahab. First he went to a brook and was fed by the ravens. Then when the brook dried up, the lord sent him, outside the bounds of Israel, to the town of Zarephath, which was between Tyre and Sidon, in what is now Lebanon.
Then the word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” (1 Kings 17:8-9)
Only when he got there, the cupboard was bare, or just about, and the woman’s heart was as empty as her larder:
And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” (1 Kings 17:12)
However, she obeyed the Lord and his prophet Elijah, and fed him with that last of her supply. Good thing, too, because the Lord was going to expand their provision and take care of all of them:
For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” (1 Kings 17:14)
Later her son became sick and died. But Elijah cried out to the Lord and he came back to life.
The name Zarephath, for us then, is rich with significance:
- It represents being sent by God on mission.
- It represents prophetic ministry.
- It represents ministry to the broken-hearted, and to widows and the fatherless.
- It represents healing and resurrection.
- It represents supernatural provision.
- The name Zarephath means “place of refining.”
- In Elijah’s promise that the flour and wine would continue until the rain fell on the land is a beautiful picture of the combined ministry of God’s Word (flour, bread) and God’s Spirit (oil), looking forward to the day He sends revival on the land (rain).
- In addition to all these Zarephath also “means” France. For some odd historical reason, Zarephath came also to be the Hebrew name for France. Even today, Israelis call France Tsarfat: צָרְפַת