I remember my dad telling me that as well, and how disappointed I was when I read the story and found that those weren't the exact words. Or are they? The version that Jack was reading, the New American Bible, Revised Edition, has 1 Kings 18:27 as, "When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: 'Call louder, for he is a god; he may be busy doing his business, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.'" Now, "doing his business" is as good a phrase as any for using the bathroom, in my mind, but what did other translations say? We pulled out the Bible translations we have around the house to check out Elijah's trash talk.
New American Bible: " Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey."
Revised Standard Edition: "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened."
New Jerusalem Bible: "'Call louder,' he said 'for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.'"
King James Version: "Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked."
These all seem like pretty weak tea: "meditating", "musing", "preoccupied", "pursuing". For comparison, I pulled out our Latin Bible and looked up Liber Tertius Regum, XVIII, 27:
"Clamate voce majore; deus enim est, et forsitan loquitur, aut in diversorio est, aut in itinere, aut certe dormit, ut excitetur."
Now, I'm no Latin scholar, but going solely according to cognates, it looks like Elijah is saying that Baal is diverted. Not exactly potty talk.
But what's the Greek? Courtesy of studybible.info:
Well, okay, but still not enlightening.
But the original language holds some clues. Here's a fascinating article about the Hebrew phrase Elijah uses at this point to mock the prophets: kî śîah wēkí śîg lô. The word śîah and śîg, used together, can be linked to phrases in other Semitic languages that deal with excretion or defecation. So, the scholars have spoken: Elijah, not exactly known for being dainty, is telling the prophets that Baal can't answer because he's off taking a crap.
|Photo courtesy of Ryan Hoggatt, from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago|