Arise, get you to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain you.
Read Chapter 17
Caesarius of Arles
After this, Elijah was commanded to set out for Zarephath of the Sidonians, in order that he might be fed there by a widow. Thus, the Lord spoke to him, “Go to Zarephath of the Sidonians: I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” How and by whom did God command the widow, since there was almost no other prophet at that time except blessed Elijah, with whom God spoke quite plainly? Although the sons of some of the prophets lived at that time, they feared the persecution of Jezebel so much that they could scarcely escape even when hidden. “I have commanded a widow,” said the Lord. How does the Lord command, except by inspiring what is good through his grace within a soul? Thus, God speaks within every person who performs a good work, and for this reason no one should glory in himself but in the Lord. Were there not many widows in Judea at that time? Why was it that no Jewish widow merited to offer food to blessed Elijah, and he was sent to a Gentile woman to be fed? That widow to whom...
God sends Elijah to a city of [Gentile] people in order to change his hardness into mercy. He who had given him power over rain and dew did not want to withdraw by force what he had granted him. He wanted, nevertheless, to help the world which was tormented by starvation, but only with the consent of his servant. That is why he sends to the big city of Zarephath Elijah, who had stayed hidden to that time in the valley of Cherith, so that he may see with his own eyes the distress of its inhabitants, even though they had given no cause for that suffering, as they had not participated in the rebellion of Ahab. And even if they did not observe the law of Moses, they did not ridicule it, because they did not know it. - "On the First Book of Kings 17.2"
Sidonians, and nearer their city than it was to Tyre. (Calmet)
Commanded, or provided that she shall feed thee. So he commanded the ravens, ver. 4. (Menochius)
It appears that the widow had received no precise intimation, ver. 12. She was not an Israelite, (Luke iv. 25.) but probably a pagan. (St. Chrysostom)
Many suppose that Elias did not know, at first, that she was to entertain him. (Calmet)
But both the one and the other might be divinely instructed how to act. In due time the widow and the prophet became acquainted with the will of God, and complied with it. (Haydock)