Context: 1 Kings 18:27-28 New International Version (NIV) 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.
1 Kings 18:28
ESV - 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.
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I would say that they did this in an attempt to show Ba'al (the pagan god they worshipped) the extreme lengths to which they were willing to go (to the point not only of offering blood sacrifices of animals, but of wounding -- and possibly killing -- themselves by the shedding of their own blood) as a result of their devotion to the god. This measure would have been especially appropriate for them (by their own misguiided logic) in this instance, since they were doing so as part of a "contest" between Ba'al and the God of Israel, and they wanted Ba'al to vindicate their faith in him and prove that he was the true deity.
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