The Biblical story of 1 Kings 18:20-40 relates how a lightning strike ignited a bulls carcass, as well as a wood pyre, both of which had been thoroughly wetted with abundant water. Is there enough power in a lightning strike to do this? Does the power of a mountain top lightning strike differ from the power of a lightning strike elsewhere?

  • $\begingroup$ This question is so vague we can't really say. Can a chicken cross a road? It depends on the chicken, the road, the traffic, etc. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Aug 23, 2017 at 4:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Power is the rate of energy flow, you could have very high power for a very short time and so very little energy. See one of these questions for an answer physics.stackexchange.com/search?q=is%3Aq+[lightning]+energy $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2017 at 4:46

2 Answers 2


In this link the following estimates are given

From articles in Windpower Engineering & Development, we learn that lightning bolts carry from 5 kA to 200 kA and voltages vary from 40 kV to 120 kV.

Here we find an average estimate :

An average bolt of lightning, striking from cloud to ground, contains roughly one billion (1,000,000,000) joules of energy. This is no small amount, enough to power a 60-watt lightbulb for six months plus a forgotten open door refrigerator for a day. In the forms of electricity, light, heat and thunder, this energy is all released by the flash in a matter of milli- or even microseconds.


A lightning strike can blow a tree or power pole into splinters. You can see it on Youtube. A "bolt from the blue" can strike from a cloud 10 miles away. Thunderheads reach up to 90,000 feet, so the height of a mountain makes little difference. Some of the deadliest strikes have been in the Tetons. Can what you read in Kings happen? Certainly.

Take a look at fulgurite fragments in the site below, or search "fulgurite and check images. If it can fuse meter long pieces of glass from sand, and as big as your arm, it can easily set a nice fat bull on fire despite being wet.



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