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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

("God-Jehovah".) ( 1 Kings 17:1, etc.). "The Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead." No town of the name has been discovered; some explain it as "Converter." His name and designation mark his one grand mission, to bring his apostate people back to Jehovah as THE true God; compare  1 Kings 18:39 with  Malachi 4:5-6. In contrast to the detailed genealogy of Samuel, Elisha, and other prophets, Elijah abruptly appears, like Melchizedek in the patriarchal dispensation, without father or mother named, his exact locality unknown; in order that attention should be wholly fixed on his errand from heaven to overthrow Baal and Asherah (the licentious Venus) worship in Israel. This idolatry had been introduced by Ahab and his idolatrous wife, Ethbaal's daughter Jezebel (in violation of the first, commandment), as if the past sin of Israel were not enough, and as if it were "a light thing to walk in the sins of Jeroboam," namely, the worship of Jehovah under the symbol of a calf, in violation of the second commandment. (See Ahab ; Aaron

Ahab and his party represented Baal and Jehovah as essentially the same God, in order to reconcile the people to this further and extreme step in idolatry; compare  1 Kings 18:21;  Hosea 2:16. Elijah's work was to confound these sophisms and vindicate Jehovah's claim to be God Alone to the exclusion of all idols. Therefore, he suddenly comes forth before Ahab, the apostate king, announcing in Jehovah's name "As the Lord God of Israel liveth (as contrasted with the dead idols which Israel worshipped) before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." The shutting up of heaven at the prophet's word was, Jehovah's vindication of His sole Godhead; for Baal (though professedly the god of the sky)and his prophets could not open heaven and give showers ( Jeremiah 14:22). The socalled god of nature shall be shown to have no power over nature: Jehovah is its SOLE Lord.

Elijah's "effectual" prayer, not recorded in 1 Kings but in  James 5:17, was what moved God to withhold rain for three years and a half; doubtless, Elijah's reason for the prayer was jealousy for the Lord God ( 1 Kings 19:10;  1 Kings 19:14), in order that Jehovah's chastening might lead the people to repentance. In "standing before the Lord" he assumed the position of a Levitical priest ( Deuteronomy 10:8), for in Israel the Levitical priesthood retained in Judah had been set aside, and the prophets were raised up to minister in their stead, and witness by word and deed before Jehovah against the prevailing apostasy. His departure was as sudden as his appearance. Partaking of the ruggedness of his half civilized native Gilead bordering on the desert, and in uncouth rough attire, "hairy ( 2 Kings 1:8, Hebrew: "lord of hair") and with a girdle of leather about his loins," he comes and goes with the suddenness of the modern Bedouin of the same region.

His "mantle," 'Adereth , of sheepskin, was assumed by Elisha his successor, and gave the pattern for the "hairy" cloak which afterwards became a prophet's conventional garb ( Zechariah 13:4, "rough garment".) His powers of endurance were such as the highlands of Gilead would train, and proved of service to him in his after life of hardship ( 1 Kings 18:46). His burning zeal, bluntness of address, fearlessness of man, were nurtured in lonely communion with God, away from the polluting court, amidst his native wilds. After delivering his bold message to Ahab, by God's warning, he fled to his hiding place at Cherith, a torrent bed E. of Jordan (or else, as many think, the wady Kelt near Jericho), beyond Ahab's reach, where the ravens miraculously fed him with "bread and flesh in the morning ... bread and flesh in the evening." (See Cherith .)

Carnivorous birds themselves, they lose their ravenous nature to minister to God's servant, for God can make the most unlikely instruments minister to His saints. It was probably at this time that Jezebel, foiled in her deadly purpose against Elijah, "cut off Jehovah's prophets" ( 1 Kings 18:4;  1 Kings 19:2). The brook having dried up after a year's stay he retreated next to Zarephath or Sarepta, between Tyre and Sidon, where least of all, in Jezebel's native region, his enemies would have suspected him to lie hid. But apostates, as Israel, are more bigoted than original idolaters as the Phoenicians. From  Joshua 19:28 we learn Zarephath belonged to Asher; and in  Deuteronomy 33:24 Moses saith, "let Asher dip his foot in oil." At the end of a three and a half years of famine, if oil was to be found anywhere, it would be here, an undesigned coincidence and mark of genuineness.

At God's command, in the confidence of faith, he moves for relief to this unpromising quarter. Here he was the first "apostle" to the Gentiles ( Luke 4:26); a poor widow, the most unlikely to give relief, at his bidding making a cake for him with her last handful of meal and a little oil, her all, and a few gathered sticks for fuel; like the widow in the New Testament giving her two mites, not reserving even one,: nor thinking, what shall I have for my next meal? ( Luke 21:2.) So making God's will her first concern, her own necessary food was "added" to her ( Matthew 6:33;  Isaiah 33:16;  Psalms 37:19;  Jeremiah 37:21); "the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the oil fail until the day that the Lord sent rain upon the earth." Blessed in that she believed, she by her example strengthened Elijah's faith in God as able to fulfill His word, where all seemed hopeless to man's eye.

Her strong faith, as is God's way; He further tried more severely. Her son fell sick, and "his sickness was so sore that no breath was left in him." Her trial brought her sins up before her, and she regarded herself punished as unworthy of so holy a man's presence with her. But he restored her son by stretching himself upon the child thrice (as though his body were the medium for God's power to enter the dead child), and crying to the Lord; hereby new spiritual life also was imparted to herself, as she said, "by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth." Toward the close of the three and a half years of famine, when it attacked Samaria the capital, Ahab directed his governor of the palace, the Godfearing Obadiah who had saved and fed a hundred prophets in a cave, to go in one direction and seek some grass to save if possible the horses and mules, while he himself went in the opposite direction for the same purpose.

Matters must have come to a crisis, when the king set out in person on such an errand. It was at this juncture, after upward of two years' sojourn at Zarephath, Elijah by God's command goes to show himself to Ahab. Overcoming the awestruck Obadiah's fear, lest, when he should tell the king, Behold Elijah is here, meanwhile the Spirit should carry him away, Elijah, whom Ahab's servants had been seeking everywhere in vain for three years, now suddenly stands before Ahab with stern dignity. He hurls back on the king himself the charge of being, like another Achan, the troubler of Israel; "I have not, troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have spoken the commandments of Jehovah, and thou hast followed Baalim." On Carmel the issue was tried between Jehovah and Baal, there being on one side Baal's 450 prophets with the 400 of Asherah, "the groves"), who ate at Jezebel's table under the queen's special patronage; on the other side Jehovah's sole representative, in his startling costume, but with dignified mien. (See Carmel ; Ashtoreth

Amidst Elijah's ironical jeers they cried, and gashed themselves, in vain repetitions praying from morning until noon for fire from their god Baal, the sun god and god of fire (!), and leaped upon (or up and down at) the altar. Repairing Jehovah's ruined altar (the former sanctity of which was seemingly the reason for his choice of Carmel) with 12 stones to represent the tribes of all Israel, and calling upon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to let it be known that He is the Lord God, he brought down by prayer fire from heaven consuming the sacrifice, wood, stones, and dust, and licking up the water in the trench. The idolatrous prophets were slain at the Brook Kishon, idolatry being visited according to the law with the penalty of high treason against God the king of the national theocracy ( Deuteronomy 13:9-11;  Deuteronomy 13:15;  Deuteronomy 18:20). Then upon the nation's penitent confession of God follows God's removal of the national judgment.

The rain, beginning with the small hand-like cloud, and increasing until the whole sky became black ( Luke 12:54;  Luke 13:19), returned as it had gone, in answer to Elijah's effectual prayer, which teaches us to not only pray but also wait ( James 5:17-18;  1 Kings 18:41-45). Ahab rides in his chariot across the plain 16 miles to Jezreel, in haste lest the rainflood of the Kishon should make the Esdraelon or Jezreel plain impassable with mud; Elijah, with Spirit-imparted strength from "the hand of the Lord upon" him, running before, but no further than the entrance of the city, for he shrank from the contamination of the court and its luxuries. Jezebel's fury upon hearing of the slaughter of her favorite prophets knew no bounds: "so let the gods do to me and more also, if I make not. thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow" ( 1 Kings 19:2). Elijah fled for his life to Beersheba of Judah, with one attendant, and leaving him there went a day's journey into the wilderness.

His not having heretofore moved to the neighboring land of godly Jehoshaphat, and his now fleeing to its most southerly town, farthest from Ahab's dominion, and thence into the desert, at first sight seems strange. But upon closer search into Scripture it is an undesigned propriety that he avoids the land of the king whose one grand error was his marrying his son Jehoram to Athaliah, Ahab's and Jezebel's daughter, at least as early as the sixth or seventh year of Jehoshaphat and the tenth or eleventh of Ahab (Blunt's Undesigned Coincidences); thereby he became so closely allied to the ungodly Ahab that at the Ramoth Gilead expedition he said to the latter, "I am as thou art, my people as thy people" ( 1 Kings 22:4). In this flight Elijah's spirit of faith temporarily gave way.

After the excitement of the victory over the Baal priests, and the nervous tension which under God's mighty hand sustained him in running to Jezreel, there ensued a reaction physically and an overwhelming depression of mind; for the hope which had seemed so bright at Carmel, of a national repentance and return to God, the one ruling desire of his soul, was apparently blighted; his labors seemed lost; the throne of iniquity unshaken; and hope deferred made his heart sick. Sitting under a juniper ( Retem , rather broom) he cried in deep despondency: "It, is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life." God, with tender considerateness, first relieved his physical needs, by sending to his exhausted frame "tired nature's kind restorer, balmy sleep," and then, by His angel, food; and only when nature was refreshed proceeds to teach him spiritually the lesson he needed.

By God's command, "in the strength of that meat" (the supernatural being based on the natural groundwork) he went, Moses like, 40 days and 40 nights unto a cave at Horeb where he "lodged" for the night (Hebrew Lun ). It was the same wilderness which received Moses fleeing from Pharaoh, and Elijah now fleeing from Ahab, and lastly Paul escaping from the Judaic bondage of ritualism. The lonely wilderness and awful rocks of Sinai were best fitted to draw the spirit off from the depressing influences of man's world and to raise it up to near communion with God. "He sought the ancient sanctuary connected with the holiest, grandest memories of mankind, that his spiritual longings might be gratified, that he might have the deepest sense of the greatness and nearness of God. He wished to be brought down from the soft luxuriant secondary formations of human religion (The Halting Between Two Opinions, Between The Luxurious Baal Worship And The Uncompromising Holy Worship Of Jehovah) to the primary stratification of God's religion ... to the naked, rugged, unyielding granite of the law" (Macmillan, The Garden and City).

Jehovah there said, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" thou whose name implies thy calling to witness for God Jehovah, away from the court and people whom thou wast called to reprove! Elijah pleads his "jealousy for Jehovah God of hosts," and that with all his zeal he is left. the sole worshipper of Jehovah, and that even his life they seek to take away. God directs him to "go forth and stand upon the mountain before the Lord," as Moses did when "the Lord passed by." There by the grand voice of nature, the strong wind rending the rocks, the earthquake, and the fire, (in none of which, though emanating from God, did He reveal Himself to Elijah,) and lastly by "a still small voice," God taught the impatient and desponding prophet that it is not by astounding miracles such as the fire that consumed the sacrifice, nor by the wind and earthquake wherewith God might have swept away the guilty nation, but by the still small voice of God's Spirit in the conscience, that Jehovah savingly reveals Himself, and a revival of true religion is to be expected.

Those astounding phenomena prepared the way for this, God's immediate revelation to the heart. Miracles sound the great bell of nature to call attention; but the Spirit is God's voice to the soul. Sternness hardens; love alone melts. A John the Baptist, Elijah's antitype, the last representative of the Sinaitic law, must be followed by the Messiah and His Spirit speaking in the winning tones of  Matthew 11:29. The still small voice constrained Elijah to wrap his face in his mantle; compare Moses,  Exodus 3:6;  Isaiah 6:2. A second time to the same question he gives the same reply, but in a meeker spirit. Jehovah therefore cheers him amidst despondency, by giving him work still to do for His name, a sure token that He is pleased with his past work: "Go, return ... to the wilderness of Damascus, and anoint Hazael king over Syria, Jehu ... over Israel, and Elisha ... prophet in thy room.

Yet (adds the Lord to cure his depression by showing him his witness for God was not lost, but had strengthened in faith many a secret worshipper) I have left Me 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed unto Baal," etc. Elisha he first sought out and found in Abel Meholah in the valley of the Jordan on his way northward, for spiritual companionship was his first object of yearning. Casting his mantle on him as the sign of a call, he was followed by Elisha, who thenceforth became his minister, and who executed subsequently the former two commands. (See Elisha .) Apostasy from God begets injustice toward man. Puffed up with the success of his war with Syria, and forgetting the Lord who had given him victory (1 Kings 20), Ahab by Jezebel's wicked hardihood, after vainly trying to get from Naboth the inheritance of his fathers, had him and his sons ( 2 Kings 9:26, compare  Joshua 7:24) slain for falsely alleged blasphemy, and seized his property as that of a criminal forfeited to the crown; the elders of Jezreel lending themselves to be Jezebel's ready instruments. (See Naboth .)

With Jehu and Bidkar his retinue riding behind, he proceeded to take possession of the coveted vineyard on the following day (compare "yesterday," 'Emesh , "yesternight," the mock trial and murder of Naboth having taken place the day before); but, like a terrible apparition, the first person he meets there is the enemy of his wickedness, whom his conscience quails before, more than before all other foes. "Hast thou found me (compare  Numbers 32:23) O mine enemy? .... I have found thee, because thou hast sold thyself (as a captive slave bound) to work evil," etc. The dogs should lick his blood "in the place" where they licked Naboth's (fulfilled on his son Jehoram, Ahab's repentance causing judgment to be deferred); Jezebel and Ahab's posterity should be (what Orientals regard with especial horror) the food of dogs and birds ( 1 Kings 21:19-24). Twenty years later Jehu remembered the very words of the curse, so terrible was the impression made by the scene, and fulfilled his part of it ( 2 Kings 9:7-10;  2 Kings 9:25-26;  2 Kings 9:33-37).

Three years later, part of the judgment foretold came to pass upon Ahab, whose blood, after his fall in the battle of Ramoth Gilead, the dogs licked up while his chariot was being washed in the pool of Samaria. His successor Ahaziah after a two years reign, during which Moab rebelled, fell from a lattice and lay sick. Sending to consult concerning his recovery the Philistine oracle of Baalzebub at Ekron, he learned from his messengers that a man met them saying, "Is it not because there is not a God in Israel that thou sendest to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down, .... but shalt surely die" ( 2 Kings 1:6). As usual, Elijah's appearance was sudden and startling, and he stands forth as vindicating Jehovah's honor' before the elect nation. Ahaziah, with his mother's idol-mad vindictiveness, sent a captain with fifty to arrest this "lord of hair" (Hebrew text:  2 Kings 1:8) whom he at once guessed to be Elijah.

Emerging from some recess of Carmel and taking his seat on "the hill" or "mount" (Hebrew), he thence met the captain's demand, "Man of God, the king saith, come down," with "If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty." So it came to pass. Again the same occurred. The third, however, escaped by begging him to hold his life precious and to spare him. Elijah went down, under God's promised protection, and spoke the same message of death to the king in person as he had previously spoken to the king's messenger. This was his last interview with the house of Ahab, and his last witness against Baal worship. The severity of the judgment by fire is due to the greatness of the guilt of the Israelite king and his minions who strove against God Himself in the person of His prophet, and hardened themselves in idolatry, which was high treason against God and incurred the penalty of death under the theocracy.

It is true the Lord Jesus reproved the fiery zeal of James and John, "the sons of thunder," as ignorant of the true spirit of His disciples, when they wished like Elias to call down fire to consume the Samaritans who would not receive Him. But the cases are distinct. He was not yet revealed to the half-pagan Samaritans as clearly as Jehovah had been through Elijah to Israel, the elect nation. His life was not sought by the Samaritans as Elijah's was by Israel's king and his minions. Moreover, the temporal penalties of the theocracy, ordained by God for the time, were in our Lord's days giving place to the antitypes which are abiding.

Shortly afterward Elijah wrote a letter ( Miqtab ) which came subsequently "to Joram," son of the pious Jehoshaphat: "Thus saith the Lord God of David thy father (of whom thou art proving thyself so unworthy a successor), because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor... of Asa, king of Judah, but hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring like ... the house of Ahab, and hast slain (Elijah writes foreseeing the murder, for his translation was before Jehoshaphat's death,  2 Kings 3:11, after which was the murder) the brethren of thy father's house which were better than thyself, behold with a great plague will the Lord smite thy people, thy children, thy wives, and all thy goods, and thou shalt have great sickness ... until thy bowels fall out" (2 Chronicles 21).

Already in Elijah's lifetime Joram had begun to reign jointly with his father Jehoshaphat ( 2 Kings 8:16;  2 Kings 8:18) and had betrayed his evil spirit which was fostered by Athaliah his wife, Ahab's daughter. Jehoshaphat in his lifetime, with worldly prudence, while giving the throne to Joram, gave Joram's brethren "great gifts and fenced cities." But Elijah discerned in Joram the covetous and murderous spirit which would frustrate all Jehoshaphat's forethought, the fatal result of the latter's carnal policy in forming marriage alliance with wicked Ahab. Therefore, as Elijah had committed to Elisha the duty laid on himself by God of foretelling to Hazael his elevation to the Syrian throne (Elisha being Elijah revived in spirit), so Elijah committed to him the writing which would come after Elijah's translation to Joram with all the solemnity of a message from Elijah in the unseen world to condemn the murder when perpetrated which Elijah foresaw he would perpetrate.

The style is peculiarly Elijah's, and distinct from the narrative context. So Isaiah foretold concerning Cyrus' future kingdom (Isaiah 44-45); and Ahijah concerning Josiah ( 1 Kings 13:2). Fairbairn makes it be called "a letter from Elijah" because he was ideal head of the school of prophecy from which it emanated, and his spirit still rested upon Elisha. But the language,  2 Chronicles 21:12, implies in some stricter sense it was Elijah's writing delivered by Elisha, his successor, to Joram. But see Lord A. C. Hervey's view Jehoram . Elijah's ministry was now drawing to its close. Symptoms appear of his work beginning to act on the nation, in the increased boldness of other prophets to the king's face, besides Elijah himself: e.g.  1 Kings 20:35-36; again, Micaiah, 1 Kings 22. Hence, we find not less than fifty called "sons of strength" at Elijah's translation ( 2 Kings 2:3;  2 Kings 2:7); and these settled at Bethel, one of the two head quarters of idolatry.

To these sons of the prophets, as well as to Elisha, it was revealed that their master Elijah was about to be caught up front them. Elijah sought that privacy which he felt most suitable to the coming solemn scene; but Elisha would not leave him. To Gilgal (the one on the W. border of the Ephraimite hills), Bethel, and Jericho successively, by the Lord's mission, Elijah went, giving probably parting counsels to the prophets' schools in those places. Finally, after parting asunder the Jordan with his mantle, he gave Elisha leave to ask what he would, and having promised that he should have a double portion of Elijah's spirit, a chariot and horses of fire parted the two, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. The "hardness" of Elisha's request, and its granting being dependent on his seeing Elijah ascend, imply that it is to be got from God not ( Matthew 19:26) man; that therefore he must look up to Him who was about to translate Elijah, not to Elijah himself.

The "double portion" is not "double" what Elijah had, for Elisha had not tidal; but, as the firstborn son and heir received two portions, and the other children but one, of the father's goods ( Deuteronomy 21:17), so Elisha, as Elijah's adopted son, begs a preeminent portion of Elijah's spirit, of which all the other "sons of the prophets" should have their share (Grotius); compare  Deuteronomy 21:15. But the comparison in the context is not with other prophets but with Elijah. Double, literally, "a mouth of two," is probably used generally for the spirit in large or increased measure, the spirit of prophecy and of miracles. Elisha performed double as many miracles, namely, 16 as compared with Elijah's eight; and the miracles of a like kind to Elijah's; compare  1 Kings 17:17-24 with  2 Kings 4:29-37;  1 Kings 17:16 with  2 Kings 4:1-7. Elisha, when getting his choice, asked not for gains, honors, or pleasures, but for spiritual gifts, with a view, not to his own glory, but to the glory of God and the edification of the church.

Seeing that the national evils were so crying, he sought the only remedy, an increased measure of the Spirit, whose power had already began somewhat to improve the state of the nation. As Elijah's ascension was the forerunner of Elisha's possessing an influence such as Elijah had not, Elisha becoming the honored adviser of kings whereas Elijah had been their terror, Elisha on his deathbed being recognized as "the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof" by king Joash just as Elijah had been by Elisha, so Christ's ascension was the means of obtaining for the church the Holy Spirit in full measure, whereby more souls were gathered in than by Jesus' bodily presence ( John 16:6-15;  Ephesians 4:8-14). When the Old Testament canon was being closed, Malachi, its last prophet, threw a ray over the dark period of 400 years that intervened until the New Testament return of revelation, by announcing, "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." Our Lord declares that John the Baptist was the Elias to come ( Matthew 11:14;  Matthew 17:12). This is explained in  Luke 1:11;  Luke 1:17, which refers to  Malachi 4:5-6; "he shall go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers (Jacob, Levi, Moses, Elijah,  Malachi 1:2;  Malachi 2:4;  Malachi 2:6;  Malachi 3:3-4;  Malachi 4:4, who had been alienated as it were by their children's apostasy) to the children (made penitent through John's ministry), and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just." John was an Elijah, but not the Elijah, from whence to the query ( John 1:21), "Art thou Elias?" he answered, "I am not." "Art thou that prophet?" "No."

Elijah is called by Malachi "the prophet," not the Tishbite, as he here represents the whole series of prophets culminating in the greatest, John (though he performed no miracles as Elijah). The Jews always understood a literal Elijah, and said, "Messiah must be anointed by Elijah." As there is a second consummating advent of Messiah, so also of His forerunner (possibly in person as at the transfiguration,  Matthew 17:3, even after which He said ( Matthew 17:11), "Elias shall first come and restore all things," namely, at "the times of restitution of all things"), possibly a prophet clothed with Elijah's miraculous power of inflicting judgments, which John had not. The miracles foretold of the two witnesses ( Revelation 11:4-5, "fire out of their mouth," i.e. at, their word;  1 Kings 17:1;  2 Kings 1:10; "power to shut heaven that it rain not,"  James 5:17;  Luke 4:25; and "to turn the waters to blood and smite the earth with all plagues ") are the very ones characteristic of Moses and Elijah.

The forerunning "the great and dreadful day of Jehovah" can only exhaustively refer to Messiah's second coming, preceded by a fuller manifestation of Elijah than that of John before Messiah's first coming. Moses and Elijah's appearance at the transfiguration in glorified bodies is a sample of the coming transfiguration (Moses, buried by the Lord, of the sleeping saints; and Elijah, translated without death, of living saints) and of their reign with Christ over the earth in glorified bodies, as Peter, James, and John are a sample of the nations in the flesh about to be reigned over.

The subject of Moses' and Elijah's discourse with Jesus on the mount was His decease, for this is the grand center to which the law as represented by Moses, and the prophets represented by Elijah, converge. Elijah's translation was God's witness for His faithful servant to the apostate postdiluvial world, as Enoch's to the antediluvial, against their unbelief. God's voice, "This is My beloved Son, hear Him," attests that the servants must bow to the Son for whose coming they prepared the way (compare  Revelation 19:10 end). Rome's barefooted Carmelites have many absurd traditions as to the derivation of their order from Elijah himself, and as to the "cloud out of the sea" typifying the Virgin Mary, to whom a chapel is dedicated on the imaginary site of Elijah's seeing the cloud!

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

Old Testament . Elijah of Tishbe was a lone figure from the remote part of Gilead east of the Jordan. One of the better known characters in the Old Testament, he also made an impact on later Judaism and on the New Testament writers. A contemporary of the Israelite kings Ahab and Ahaziah (874-852 b.c.), Elijah represented a class of prophets who were normally not associated with any sanctuary or prophetic guild (but see  2 Kings 2:3-7 ). He challenged Ahab, whose policies were designed to replace the Israelite idea of kingship with the ancient Near Eastern concept of monarchy and royal law. Elijah defended Yahweh's sovereignty over history and justice, as well as over false gods ( 1 Kings 17-18 ).

The stories of Elijah (known as the Elijah cycle) dominate much of the latter half of 1Kings (17-19,21) and the early chapters of 2Kings (1-2). The chronological order of the cycle is uncertain, making the course of Elijah's life obscure. The cycle was incorporated into the theological history of Israel and Judah, without which our knowledge for the reign of Ahab would be almost unknown. It contained six separate narratives that included several anecdotal stories about Elijah's life that may have circulated independently among his disciples in the northern kingdom. All but the last were concerned with the clash of Baal and Yahweh. Elijah appeared to vindicate the distinctive character of the people of God when their identification was threatened by Ahab's liberal policies. He also answered Jehoshaphat's question ( 2 Kings 3:11 ) and sent a letter to Jehoram ( 2 Chronicles 21:12-15 ).

Elijah appeared on the scene without warning, introduction, or genealogy ( 1 Kings 17:1 ) to deliver an oracle to Ahab announcing a drought, presumably a punishment for defection to the Baal cult. Afterward, he returned to Zarephath where he was miraculously sustained ( 1 Kings 17:17-24 ). God then chose a Gentile believer (the Phoenician woman of Zarephath) to shame his people and to rebuke Jezebel, Ahab's Phoenician queen, showing that there was a Yahwistic believer in her own country. The unfailing water supply shows that God—not the kingwas the dispenser of the water of life. Chrysostom said that Elijah learned compassion in the house of the widow so he could be sent to his own people. Yahweh did not just intervene at critical times in the affairs of people, but was now accessible to believers in the ordinary affairs of life ( 1 Kings 17:12 ).

Three years later there was a break in the drought and Elijah was successful in ending Baal worship at Carmel. The Baal priests were not completely destroyed; they actually continued on past the end of the Ahab dynasty, until the time of Athaliah of Judah (who was related to Ahab's royal house). Elijah helped Israel understand that Yahweh guided the fortunes of the nations; even the Baal cult was under his control. Yahweh, not Baal, had the power of life and death, and was the giver of rain and good things. The Carmel story showed a reminiscence of the change of political and religious sovereignty from Tyre to Israel. Israel was not truly synchretistic; Baal or Yahweh would be king, but not both ( 1 Kings 18:21 ). Ahab was not wholly Baalist; his family bore Yahwistic names, and he consulted with Yahweh after the encounter with Elijah ( 1 Kings 20:13-15,22,28 ). The Tyrian cult of Baal Melqart may have been a pseudo-monotheistic movement that precipitated this struggle. Israel now saw the mediation of God's will in history and the interpretation of his divine will.

Elijah's success was merely temporary; he fled to Mount Horeb (although this may not be in chronological order) to escape Jezebel's wrath ( 1 Kings 19 ). Here, the small voice of God was in direct opposition to the noisy and primitive sounds of the Canaanite deities, which pointed toward a more spiritual and transcendent concept of Yahweh. The theophany in  1 Kings 19 is similar to   Exodus 33:19 , and like the story of the widow, may show that God is to be found in the daily affairs of humans, rather than in supernatural phenomena.

Like Amos in a later period, Elijah showed an astute social concern, emerging as a leader with strong ethical ideals ( 1 Kings 21 ). The Naboth incident shows a social dimension in the clash between Israelite law and Canaanite kingship. By appropriating Naboth's land as crown property, Ahab was out of his jurisdiction. Inalienable land in Israel was in principle hereditary, although Yahweh was the true owner. In this position, God demanded the rule of law and justice, and watched over ethical and legal morals. Elijah, whom Ahab saw as a blood avenger (v. 20), is introduced with dramatic suddenness only at the end of this section, confronting Ahab for taking possession of the vineyard. The king was indicted for infringing on two of the ten commandments that were recognized as the basis for society: murder and forcible appropriation, both capital offenses. The curse concerning Ahab was not literally executed on him, however, but on his successor. This may have been because of his repentance, but probably was due to the Hebrew idea of the extended self, taking for granted the cohesion of life and liability between generations. Ahab's dynasty ended because of the Naboth incident, not because of the Baal struggle. Later, Elijah protested Ahaziah's appeal to Baal-Zebub, the local god of Ekron ( 2 Kings 1:9-15; Josephus called this god "the lord of the flies, " as did the Ras Shamra texts ). Elijah was here described as a hairy man with a shaggy cloak, evidently the insignia of a prophet ( 2 Kings 1:8 ).

The translation of Elijah into heaven occurs in an anecdotal section concerned mainly with Elisha ( 2 Kings 2:1-12 ). Elijah was associated with the prophetic guilds in Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho. He did not bequeath his staff to Elisha, but his cloak, which had a spiritual not a magical power. Elisha desired a double portion of Elijah's spirit, a stipulation in Hebrew law whereby the eldest son received his share and was equipped as the true successor to his father. The whirlwind and sudden disappearance of Elijah, with the addition of a theophany, emphasize God's presence in the incident.

In later Old Testament prophetic tradition, Elijah was associated with the day of the Lord ( Malachi 4:5-6 ), and was soon to be sent by God on the behalf of the people. He was described as similar to the messenger in  Malachi 3:1 (which also may have been an allusion to Elijah, since both prepared the way for Yahweh). The purpose of Elijah's coming was either to pacify family quarrels (  Malachi 2:10-16 ), culminating in a new social order, or to restore the covenant relationship.

Later Jewish Tradition . Elijah was prominently featured in popular legend and theological discussion of eschatological expectation during the intertestamental period. The reason for this may be his enigmatic rapture in  2 Kings 2:11 (the reward for his zeal for the law, according to   1 Maccabees 2:58 ,; which fostered the idea of his sinlessness ), and the prophecy of his return in Malachi, which nurtured the idea of him becoming a messianic figure from the heavenly kingdom who came to purify the priesthood. He was said to be an intercessor for Israel in heaven, a heavenly scribe who recorded the Acts of men, and who had an eternal existence ( Sirach 48:1-14 ).

New Testament . The New Testament, which mentions the prophet nearly thirty times, shows the influence of the late Jewish tradition of Elijah being the forerunner of the Messiah. The expectation of Elijah's return occurs frequently in the Gospels ( Matthew 17:10;  Mark 9:11 ). Many were convinced that either Jesus ( Matthew 16:14;  Mark 6:15;  8:28;  Luke 9:8,19 ) or John the Baptist ( John 1:21,25 ) were the expected prophet. Although John denied that he was Elijah, he wore the prophet's style of clothing (a mantle of camel's hair and a leather girdle  Matthew 3:4;  Mark 1:6 ). Moreover, Jesus said that John went forth as Elijah in spirit; he was thus the symbolic fulfillment of the prophet's mission ( Matthew 11:14;  Mark 8:28;  Luke 1:17 ).

Although the tradition that Moses and Elijah would appear together in the last days was not to be found in rabbinic Judaism, both of these Old Testament characters were present and spoke at the transfiguration of Jesus, testifying to the importance of the impending events as eschatological ( Matthew 17:3-4;  Mark 9:4-5;  Luke 9:30,33 ). Some have seen the two as representing the Law and the Prophets, which were now both considered to be subservient to Christ.

Jesus' prayer on the cross with the opening words of  Psalm 22:1 , "Eli, Eli" (My God, My God) was either misunderstood or willfully misinterpreted as a petition for help to Elijah ( Matthew 27:46-49;  Mark 15:34-36 ). Jewish lore identified Elijah as a helper in time of need, and since Elijah did not come, Jesus' petition was considered a failure. The church, however, did not accept this figure of Elijah; only Christ himself would be called on in stressful times.

Various events of Elijah's life are alluded to in the New Testament. James uses Elijah as a powerful example of a supplicant (5:17), relying on Jewish tradition, which credited Elijah with a reputation for prayer (although this is not specifically mentioned in  1 Kings 17-18 ). He also describes the passage of time of the drought in  1 Kings 18:1 as three and a half years (cf.   Luke 4:25;  Revelation 11:6 ). James attempts to refute the Jewish tradition of the sinlessness and eternal nature of the prophet by stating that Elijah was a man "just like us." His prayers were effective because he was righteous.

Jesus used the story of God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath to show that the Gentiles were not to be excluded from salvation ( Luke 4:25-26 ). Later church tradition takes the two witnesses of Revelation to be modeled after Moses and Elijah ( Revelation 11:3-6 ). They were given the power to shut up the heavens and to bring the fire of judgment like Elijah in  1 Kings 17-18 (cf.   Malachi 4:5;  Sirach 48:1-14 ). In a similar vein, Jesus rebuked the sons of Zebedee for wondering whether they should call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan village ( Luke 9:54 ).

Paul uses the rabbinic model of Elijah and the idea of the remnant of Israel in  Romans 11:2-5 (see   1 Kings 19:10-18 ). Just as Elijah became aware that a remnant of true believers still existed in Israel, Paul understands that there was still a sacred remnant of Jews who were elected by grace.

Mark W. Chavalas

See also Israel; First and Second Theology ofKings; Prophetess ProphecyProphet

Bibliography . F. Anderson, JBL 85 (1966): 46-57; H. Bietenhard, NIDNTT, 1:543-45; J. Gray, I-II Kings  ; J. Jeremias, TDNT, 2:928-41; H. H. Rowley, BJRL 43 (1960): 190-219; R. W. Wallace, Elijah and Elisha .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

Elijah or Elias, a prophet, was a native of Tishbe beyond Jordan in Gilead. Some think that he was a priest descended from Aaron, and say that one Sabaca was his father; but this has no authority. He was raised up by God, to be set like a wall of brass, in opposition to idolatry, and particularly to the worship of Baal, which Jezebel and Ahab supported in Israel. The Scripture introduces Elijah saying to Ahab,  1 Kings 17:1-2 , A.M. 3092, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." It is remarkable, that the number of years is not here specified; but in the New Testament we are informed that it was three years and six months. By the prohibition of dew as well as ruin, the whole vegetable kingdom was deprived of that moisture, without which neither the more hardy, nor more delicate kinds of plants could shoot into herbage, or bring that herbage to maturity. The Lord commanded Elijah to conceal himself beyond Jordan, near the brook Cherith. He obeyed, and God sent ravens to him morning and evening, which brought him flesh and bread. Scheutzer observes, that he cannot think that the orebim of the Hebrew, rendered "ravens," means, as some have thought, the inhabitants of a town called Oreb, nor a troop of Arabs called orbhim; and contends that the bird called the raven, or one of the same genus, is intended. Suppose that Elijah was concealed from Ahab in some rocky or mountainous spot, where travellers never came; and that here a number of voracious birds had built their nests upon the trees which grew around it, or upon a projecting rock, &c. These flying every day to procure food for their young, the prophet availed himself of a part of what they brought; and while they, obeying the dictates of nature, designed only to provide for their offspring, Divine providence directed them to provide at the same time for the wants of Elijah. What, therefore, he collected, whether from their nests, from what they dropped, or under a supernatural influence, brought to him, or occasionally from all these means, was enough for his daily support. "And the orebim furnished him bread or flesh in the morning, and bread or flesh in the evening." But as there were probably several of them, some might furnish bread and others flesh, as it happened; so that a little from each formed his solitary but satisfactory meal. To such straits was the exiled prophet driven! Perhaps these orebim were not strictly ravens, but rooks. The word rendered raven, includes the whole genus, among which are some less impure than the raven, as the rook. Rooks living in numerous societies, are supposed by some to be the kind of birds employed on this occasion, rather than ravens, which fly only in pairs. But upon all these explanations we may observe, that when an event is evidently miraculous, it is quite superfluous, and often absurd, to invent hypotheses to make it appear mere easy. After a time the brook dried up, and God sent Elijah to Zarephath, a city of the Sidonians. At the city gate he met with a widow woman gathering sticks, from whom he desired a little water, adding, "Bring me, I pray thee, also a morsel of bread." She answered, "As the Lord liveth, I have no bread, but only a handful of meal, and a little oil in a cruse; and I am gathering some sticks, that I may dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die." Elijah said, "Make first a little cake, and bring it me, and afterward make for thee and thy son: for thus saith the Lord, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth." His prediction was fully accomplished, and he dwelt at the house of this widow. Some time after, the son of this woman fell sick, and died. The mother, overwhelmed with grief, intreated the assistance and interposition of Elijah, who taking the child in his arms, laid him on his own bed, and cried to the Lord for the restoration of the child's life. The Lord heard the prophet's petition, and restored the child.

2. After three years of drought, the Lord commanded Elijah to show himself to Ahab. The famine being great in Samaria, Ahab sent the people throughout the country, to inquire after places where they might find forage for the cattle. Obadiah, an officer of the king's household, being thus employed, Elijah presented himself, and directed him to tell Ahab, "Behold, Elijah is here!" Ahab came to meet the prophet, and reproached him as the cause of the famine. Elijah retorted the charge upon the king, and his iniquities, and challenged Ahab to gather the people together, and the prophets of Baal, that it might be determined by a sign from heaven, the falling of fire upon the sacrifice, who was the true God. In this the prophet obeyed the impulse of the Spirit of God; and Ahab, either under an influence of which he was not conscious, or blindly confident in the cause of idolatry, followed Elijah's direction, and convened the people of Israel, and four hundred prophets of Baal. The prophets of Baal prepared their altar, sacrificed their bullock, placed it on the altar, and called upon their gods. They leaped upon the altar, and cut themselves after their manner, crying with all their might. Elijah ridiculed them, and said, "Cry aloud, for he is god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked." When midday was past, Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord; and with twelve stones, in allusion to the twelve tribes of Israel, he built a new altar. He then laid his bullock upon the wood, poured a great quantity of water three times upon the sacrifice and the wood, so that the water filled the trench which was dug round the altar. After this he prayed, and, in answer to his prayer, the Lord sent fire from heaven, and consumed the wood, the burnt sacrifice, the stones, and dust of the place, and even dried up the water in the trench. Upon this, all the people fell on their faces, and exclaimed, "The Lord, he is the God." Elijah then, having excited the people to slay the false prophets of Baal, said to Ahab, "Go home, eat and drink, for I hear the sound of abundance of rain;" which long-expected blessing descended from heaven according to his prediction, and gave additional proof to the truth of his mission from the only living and true God.

3. Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, threatened Elijah for having slain her prophets. He therefore fled to Beersheba, in the south of Judah, and thence into Arabia Petrea. In the evening, being exhausted with fatigue, he laid himself down under a juniper tree, and prayed God to take him out of the world. An angel touched him, and he arose, and saw a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water; and he ate and drank, and slept again. The angel again awakened him, and said, "Rise and eat, for the journey is too great for thee;" and he ate and drank, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights, unto Horeb, the mount of God. Here he had visions of the glory and majesty of God, and conversed with him; and was commanded to return to the wilderness of Damascus, to anoint Hazael king over Syria, and Jehu king over Israel, and to appoint Elisha his successor in the prophetic office. Some years after, Ahab having seized Naboth's vineyard, the Lord commanded Elijah to reprove Ahab for the crime he had committed. Elijah met him going to Naboth's vineyard to take possession of it, and said, "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall they lick thy blood, even thine. And the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." Both of which predictions were fulfilled in the presence of the people. Ahaziah, king of Israel, being hurt by a fall from the platform of his house, sent to consult Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, whether he should recover. Elijah met the messengers, and said to them, "Is it because there is no God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron? Now, therefore, saith the Lord, Thou shalt surely die." The messengers of Ahaziah returned, and informed the king, that a stranger had told them he should certainly die; and Ahaziah knew that this was the Prophet Elijah.

The king, therefore, sent a captain with his company of fifty men, to apprehend him; and when the officer was come to Elijah, who was sitting upon a hill, he said, "Thou man of God, the king commands thee to come down." Elijah answered, "If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty." The prophet's words were followed with the effect predicted. The king sent another captain, who was also consumed; but a third captain going to Elijah, intreated him to save him and his people's lives, and Elijah accompanied him to the king. By these fearful miracles he was accredited to this successor of Ahab as a prophet of the true God, and the destruction of these companies of armed men, was a demonstration of God's anger against the people at large.

Elijah could not in this case act from any other impulse than that of the Spirit of God.

4. Elijah, understanding by revelation that God would soon translate him out of this world, was desirous of concealing this fact from Elisha, his inseparable companion. He therefore said to Elisha, "Tarry thou here, for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel." But Elisha answered, "I will not leave thee." At Bethel, Elijah said, "Tarry thou here, the Lord hath sent me to Jericho;" but Elisha replied, he would not forsake him. At Jericho Elijah desired him to stay; but Elisha would not leave him. They went therefore together to Jordan, and fifty of the sons of the prophets followed them at a distance. When they were come to the Jordan, Elijah took his mantle, and with it struck the waters, which divided, and they went over on dry ground. Elijah then said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken away from thee." "I pray thee," said Elisha, "let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me;" that is, obtain the gift of prophecy from God for me, in the same measure that thou possessest it. Double may signify like; or the gift of prophecy, and of miracles, in a degree double to what thou dost possess, or to what I now possess. Elijah answered, "Thou hast asked me a very hard thing; yet, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so." As they journeyed, a fiery chariot, with horses of fire, suddenly separated them, and Elijah was carried in a whirlwind to heaven; while Elisha exclaimed, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof!"

5. Elijah was one of the most eminent of that illustrious and singular race of men, the Jewish prophets. Every part of his character is marked by a moral grandeur, which is heightened by the obscurity thrown around his connections, and his private history. He often wears the air of a supernatural messenger suddenly issuing from another world, to declare the commands of heaven, and to awe the proudest mortals by the menace of fearful judgments. His boldness in reproof; his lofty zeal for the honour of God; his superiority to softness, ease, and suffering, are the characters of a man filled with the Holy Spirit; and he was admitted to great intimacy with God, and enabled to work miracles of a very extraordinary and unequivocal character. These were called for by the stupid idolatry of the age, and were in some instances equally calculated to demonstrate the being and power of Jehovah, and to punish those who had forsaken him for idols. The author of Ecclesiasticus has an encomium to his memory, and justly describes him as a prophet "who stood up as fire, and whose word burned as a lamp." In the sternness and power of his reproofs, he was a striking type of John the Baptist, and the latter is therefore prophesied of, under his name.   Malachi 4:5-6 , has this passage: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Our Saviour also declares that Elijah had already come in spirit, in the person of John the Baptist. At the transfiguration of our Saviour, Elijah and Moses both appeared and conversed with him respecting his future passion,  Matthew 17:3-4;  Mark 9:4;  Luke 9:30 . Many of the Jews in our Lord's time believed him to be Elijah, or that the soul of Elijah had passed into his body,  Matthew 16:14;  Mark 6:15;  Luke 9:8 . In conclusion, we may observe, that to assure the world of the future existence of good men in a state of glory and felicity, and that in bodies changed from mortality to immortality, each of the three grand dispensations of religion had its instance of translation into heaven; the patriarchal in the person of Enoch the Jewish in the person of ELIJAH, and the Christian in the person of Christ

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]

ELIJAH . 1. Elijah, the weirdest figure among the prophets of Israel, steps across the threshold of history when Ahab is on the throne ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 876 854), and is last seen in the reign of Ahaziah (854 853), although a posthumous activity is attributed to him in   2 Chronicles 21:12 ff. A native of This be in Gilead (  1 Kings 17:1 ), he appears on the scene unheralded; not a single hint is given as to his birth and parentage. A rugged Bedouin in his hairy mantle (  2 Kings 1:8 ), Elijah appears as a representative of the nomadic stage of Hebrew civilization. He is a veritable incarnation of the austere morals and the purer religion of an earlier period. His name (‘Jah is God’) may be regarded as the motto of his life, and expresses the aim of his mission as a prophet. Ahab had brought on a religious crisis in Israel by marrying Jezebel, a daughter of the Tyrian king Ethbaal, who, prior to his assuming royal purple, had been a priest of Melkart, the Tyrian Baal, and in order to ascend the throne had stained his hand with his master’s blood. True to her early training and environment, Jezebel not only persuaded her husband to build a temple to Baal in Samaria (  1 Kings 16:32 ), but became a zealous propagandist, and developed into a cruel persecutor of the prophets and followers of Jehovah. The foreign deity, thus supported by the throne, threatened to crush all allegiance to Israel’s national God in the hearts of the people.

Such was the situation, when Elijah suddenly appears before Ahab as the champion of Jehovah. The hearts of the apostate king and people are to be chastened by a drought ( 1 Kings 17:3 ). It lasts three years; according to a statement of Menander quoted by Josephus ( Ant . VIII. xiii. 2), in the reign of Ithobal, the Biblical Ethbaal, PhÅ“nicia suffered from a terrible drought, which lasted one year. Providence first guides the stern prophet to the brook Cherith ( Wady Kelt in the vicinity of Jericho), where the ravens supply him with food. Soon the stream becomes a bed of stones, and Elijah flees to Zarephath in the territory of Zidon. As the guest of a poor widow, he brings blessings to the household (cf.   Luke 4:25 ,   James 5:17 ). The barrel of meal did not waste, and the cruse of oil did not fail. Like the Great Prophet of the NT, he brings gladness to the heart of a bereaved mother by restoring her son to life (  1 Kings 17:8 ff., cf.   Luke 7:11 ff.).

The heavens have been like brass for months upon months, and vegetation has disappeared. The hearts of Ahab’s subjects have been mellowed, and many are ready to return to their old allegiance. The time is ripe for action, and Elijah throws down the gauntlet to Baal and his followers. Ahab and his chief steward, Obadiah, a devoted follower of the true God, are traversing the land in different directions in search of grass for the royal stables, when the latter encounters the strange figure of Jehovah’s relentless champion. Obadiah, after considerable hesitation and reluctance, is persuaded by the prophet to announce him to the king ( 1 Kings 18:7-15 ). As the two meet, we have the first skirmish of the battle. ‘Art thou he that troubleth Israel?’ is the monarch’s greeting; but the prophet’s reply puts the matter in a true light: ‘I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father’s house.’ At Elijah’s suggestion the prophets of Baal are summoned to Carmel to a trial by fire. The priests of the Tyrian deity, termed ‘prophets’ because they practised the mantic art, select a bullock and lay it upon an altar without kindling the wood. From morn till noon, and from noon till dewy eve, they cry to Baal for fire, but all in vain. Elijah cuts them to the quick with his biting sarcasm: ‘Cry aloud; for he is a god: either he is musing, or he is gone aside, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked.’ Towards evening a dismantled altar of Jehovah is repaired, and a trench is dug round it. After the sacrificial animal has been prepared, and laid upon the wood, water is poured over it, until every thing about the altar is thoroughly soaked and the trench is full. At the prayer of Elijah, fire falls from heaven, devouring the wood, stone, and water as well as the victim. The people are convinced, and shout, ‘Jehovah, he is God; Jehovah, he is God.’ That evening, Kishon’s flood, as of old (  Judges 5:21 ), is red with the blood of Jehovah’s enemies. The guilt of the land has been atoned for, and the long hoped for rain arrives. Elijah, in spite of his dignified position, runs before the chariot of Ahab, indicating that he is willing to serve the king as well as lead Jehovah’s people (  1 Kings 18:41-46 ). The fanatical and implacable Jezebel now threatens the life of the prophet who has dared to put her minions to death. Jehovah’s successful champion loses heart, and flees to Beer-sheba on the extreme south of Judah. Leaving his servant, he plunges alone into the desert a day’s journey. Now comes the reaction, so natural after an achievement like that on Carmel, and Elijah prays that he may be permitted to die. Instead of granting his request, God sends an angel who ministers to the prophet’s physical needs. On the strength of that food he journeys forty days until he reaches Horeb, where he receives a new revelation of Jehovah (  1 Kings 19:1-8 ). Elijah takes refuge in a cave, perhaps the same in which Moses hid (  Exodus 33:22 ), and hears the voice of Jehovah, ‘What doest thou here, Elijah?’ The prophet replies, ‘I have been very jealous for Jehovah, God of Hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’ Then Jehovah reveals His omnipotence in a great wind, earthquake, and fire; but we read that Jehovah was not in these. Then followed a still small voice (Heb. lit. ‘a sound of gentle stillness’), in which God made known His true nature and His real purpose (  1 Kings 19:9-14 ). After hearing his complaint, Jehovah gives His faithful servant a threefold commission: Hazael is to be anointed king of Syria, Jehu of Israel; and Elisha is to be his successor in the prophetic order. Elijah is further encouraged with information that there are still 7000 in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal (  1 Kings 19:15;   1 Kings 19:18 ). As far as we know, only the last of these three commissions was executed by the prophet himself, who, after this sublime incident, made his headquarters in the wilderness of Damascus ( Ki 19: 15); the other two were carried out either by Elisha or by members of the prophetic guilds (  2 Kings 8:7 ff;   2 Kings 9:2 ).

Elijah is also the champion of that civic righteousness which Jehovah loved and enjoined on His people. Naboth owns a vineyard in the vicinity of Jezreel. In the spirit of the Israelitish law ( Leviticus 25:23 ,   Numbers 36:8 ) he refuses to sell his property to the king. But Jezehel is equal to the occasion; at her suggestion false witnesses are bribed to swear that Naboth has cursed God and the king. The citizens, thus deceived, stone their fellow-townsman to death. Abah, on his way to take possession of his ill-gotten estate, meets his old antagonist, who pronounces the judgment of God upon him: ‘In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine,’ is the prophet’s greeting. For Ahab’s sins, every male child of his house will be swept off by an awful fate (  1 Kings 21:19;   1 Kings 21:21;   1 Kings 21:24 ). By the ramparts of Jezreel itself, the dogs will devour the body of Jezebel (  1 Kings 21:23 ). These predictions, although delayed for a time on account of the repentance of Ahab, were all fulfilled (  1 Kings 22:38 , 2Ki 9:25 f.,   2 Kings 9:30 f.,   2 Kings 10:7 ff.).

Ahaziah is a true son of Ahab and Jezebel. Meeting with a serious accident, after his fall he sends a messenger to Ekron to inquire of Baal-zebub, the fly-god, concerning his recovery. Elijah intercepts the emissaries of the king, hidding them return to their master with this word from Jehovah: ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? Thou shalt not come down from the bed whither thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.’ Ahaziah recognizes the author of this message, and sends three captains of fifties to capture the prophet, who calls down fire from heaven on the first two. The third approaches him in a humble spirit, and at God’s bidding Elijah accompanies the soldier to the palace and reiterates the message of doom ( 2 Kings 1:1-18 ).

Like all the great events of his life, the death of this great man of God was dramatic. Accompanied by his faithful follower Elisha, he passes from Bethel to Jericho, and from thence they cross the Jordan, after Elijah has parted the waters by striking them with his mantle. As they go on their way, buried in conversation, there suddenly appears a chariot of fire with horses of fire, which parts them asunder; and Elijah goes up by a whirlwind to heaven (cf. Elisha).

In the history of prophecy Elijah holds a prominent position. Prophetism had two important duties to perform: (1) to extirpate the worship of heathen deities in Israel, (2) to raise the religion of Jehovah to ethical purity. To the former of these two tasks Elijah addressed himself with zeal; the latter was left to his successors in the eighth century. In his battle against Baal, he struggled for the moral rights and freedom of man, and introduced ‘the categorical imperative into prophecy.’ He started a movement which finally drove the PhÅ“nician Baal from Israel’s confines.

Elijah figures largely in later Scriptures; he is the harbinger of the Day of the Lord ( Malachi 4:5 ); in the NT he is looked upon as a type of the herald of God, and the prediction of his coming in the Messianic Age is fulfilled in the advent of John the Baptist (  Matthew 11:10 ff.). On the Mount of Transfiguration he appears as the representative of OT prophecy (  Matthew 17:3 ,   Mark 9:4 ,   Luke 9:36 ). The prophet whose ‘word burned like a torch’ ( Sir 48:1 ) was a favourite with the later Jews; a host of Rabbinical legends grew up around his name. According to the Rabbis, Elijah was to precede the Messiah, to restore families to purity, to settle controversies and legal disputes, and perform seven miracles (cf. JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] , s.v.  ; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb . on   Matthew 17:10; Schoettgen, Hor. Heb . ii. 533 ff.). Origen mentions an apocryphal work, The Apocalypse of Elijah , and maintains that   1 Corinthians 2:9 is a quotation from it. Elijah is found also in the Koran (vi. 85, xxxvii. 123 130), and many legends concerning him are current in Arabic literature.

2. A Benjamite chief (  1 Chronicles 8:27 ). 3. 4. A priest and a layman who had married foreign wives (  Ezra 10:21;   Ezra 10:26 ).

James A. Kelso.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

This remarkable prophet is introduced abruptly in scripture in the midst of the apostasy of the kingdom of Israel, which was brought to a head in the reign of Ahab. The object of his ministry was to recover the people to the God they had forsaken. This will explain the miraculous displays accompanying his testimony, by which the people were left without excuse. It may be noted however that the miracles had a judicial character. He shut heaven that it did not rain, and he called fire down on the captains and their fifties. They were intended to recall the people to their allegiance and responsibility to God.

He is called "Elijah the Tishbite who was of the inhabitants of Gilead" ( 1 Kings 17:1 ), and with no further introduction he delivered a message to Ahab of fearful import to Israel, that there should be no rain or dew these years but according to his word. In the Epistle of James we learn that what was pronounced so boldly in public was the outcome of inward exercise and earnest prayer. He forthwith retired from the public eye, and was miraculously cared for at the brook Cherith, being fed with bread and flesh morning and evening by ravens. The brook at length becoming dry, he went to Zarephath belonging to Zidon at the commandment of the Lord, where he lodged with a poor widow, whose faith was tested at the outset by the prophet's request that she should provide for his need first from her slender store of meal and oil, on the assurance of the Lord God of Israel that her barrel of meal and cruse of oil should not waste till He sent rain on the earth. She was further tested by the death of her son, upon which the power of God in resurrection was taught her through the instrumentality of the prophet. The soul of the child came again into him and he revived. This widow is referred to in Luke's Gospel along with the case of Naaman the Syrian, as illustrating the abounding of the grace of God beyond the limits of Israel.   1 Kings 17 .

In the third year the time had at length arrived for the rights of Jehovah to be vindicated before all Israel, to the confusion of the followers of Baal. Elijah under the full direction of the Lord came forth from his mysterious retreat, and showed himself to Obadiah, the governor of Ahab's house, who was engaged in searching the land for provender. This man, though in such apostate surroundings, was truly pious, and had befriended Jehovah's prophets when Jezebel had sought to slay them. Assured by Elijah that he was ready to show himself to Ahab (though this latter had in vain sought him in many kingdoms to wreak vengeance on him for the prolonged drought), he reported Elijah's appearance, and the prophet and king were soon face to face. Charged with troubling Israel, the prophet in the power of God rejoined that the guilt of this lay on Ahab and on his house, in forsaking Jehovah for Baal. He directed him to call all the prophets of Baal together to mount Carmel, and there before the assembled throng of Israel he stood alone for God. Nothing can exceed the interest of this moment when the question raised was whether Jehovah or Baal was the God. Sustained by the mighty power of Jehovah, His faithful servant directed everything. The issue is presented: the prophets of Baal offered their sacrifice, and from morning till noon in vain implored the intervention of their god. There was no voice nor any that regarded. Their failure being patent to all, Elijah then invited the people to draw near. He repaired Jehovah's altar that was broken down, building it of twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of Israel, he offered his sacrifice, deluged three times with water the altar, wood, and victim, till the trench around the altar was full; then offered up in the hearing of Israel an affecting prayer to the "Jehovah God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel," upon which the fire of the Lord fell, and all was consumed, the sacrifice, wood, stones, dust, and water. "Jehovah, He is the God" was the twice repeated cry of Israel in view of these things; and, controlled by the power of God in the prophet, they, at his bidding, seized the prophets of Baal, who were to a man slain by him. Upon this he told Ahab that there was a sound of abundance of rain, while he himself retired to the top of Carmel to note the first indications of the approaching blessing; and then, still in the power of God, he ran before Ahab's chariot to the entrance of Jezreel.  1 Kings 18 .

Jezebel let him know that her vengeance was at hand; and at the threat of this terrible woman, the prophet, lately so bold, fled the country. We now see Elijah in the wilderness, a weak and timid man, weary of the conflict, occupied with himself rather than the Lord, and asking to be allowed to die. Sustained by miraculous food, he went in the strength of it for forty days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God. Here the Lord dealt most graciously with his poor and feeble servant, who is found pleading his own jealousy for God while interceding against Israel. Wind, earthquake, and fire would have well suited the prophet in his frame of mind, but the still small voice was that of the Lord, and Elijah had to learn that He had not given up His people. He had yet 7000 whose knees had not bowed to Baal. But Elijah was to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, Jehu to be king over Israel, and Elisha to be prophet in his room. Judgement should be executed where necessary and by instruments prepared of God. Elijah thereupon departed, and finding Elisha threw upon him his mantle.  1 Kings 29 .

For a time Elijah was in retirement, but he again reappeared on the occasion of Naboth's murder, and with the old energy of faith prophetically announced the doom of Ahab and Jezebel to Ahab's face. Once more the prophet is seen, confronting Ahab's successor and son Ahaziah, who, following closely in his parents' steps, had sent messengers to Baalzebub the god of Ekron to inquire whether he should recover from his sickness. Two captains and their fifties, who had been sent to arrest him, were smitten with fire from heaven at Elijah's word. Accompanying the third, who humbly begged for their lives, the prophet announced to the apostate king the judgement of the God he had despised.  1 Kings 21;  2 Kings 1 .

We have now reached the closing scene of this truly remarkable man's long and faithful service for Jehovah. The ordinary lot of man should not be his. Traversing in the close company of Elisha the spots which, however now perverted, told of certain great truths — Gilgal, of the necessity of the judgement of self, the place of circumcision — Bethel, of the faithfulness of God and the resources which are His for His own, the place where God had appeared to Jacob — Jericho, of the power of God as against all that of the enemy — they reached the Jordan through which they passed dry shod, the waters being separated hither and thither by Elijah smiting them with his mantle. The land of Israel is left by the well-known figure of death, "and it came to pass, that as they still went on and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Figuratively he had passed through death, and ascended to heaven: this forms the basis of Elisha's ministry.  2 Kings 2 .

In the N.T. John the Baptist was in the character of Elijah as the prophet who was to come before "the great and terrible day of the Lord," to affect the hearts of the people, if he had been received; but not being received, except by a few, John declared to the Jews that he was not Elijah. So it remains for Elijah's ministry to be fulfilled ere Christ appears in glory.  Malachi 4:5,6;  Matthew 11:14;  Luke 1:17;  John 1:21 .

Moses and Elijah were seen on the mount of transfiguration, as representatives of the law and the prophets; but theirs was then a subordinate place, for the proclamation was "This is my beloved Son; hear him."  Matthew 17:3; Mark 9: 4; Luke 9: 30. Elijah's testimony was given in righteousness: his ministry demanded that the righteous claims of God as the Jehovah of His people should be satisfied. Elisha's ministry differed from this, and was more of grace.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

The chief purpose for which God raised up Elijah was to preserve in Israel the worship of Yahweh, Israel’s covenant God. Israel had always been tempted to mix the worship of their God with the religious practices of local Baalism (see Baal ), but matters suddenly worsened after Jezebel became queen. Jezebel was daughter of the king-priest of Philistia and had married King Ahab of Israel. She brought with her a new and more dangerous form of Baalism, which she then tried to make the national religion of Israel. This was the Baalism of the god Melqart, whose influence had already spread south along the Mediterranean coast as far as Mt Carmel ( 1 Kings 16:30-33).

Early resistance to Baalism

Baal was supposed to control nature and fertility. Therefore, to show the powerlessness of Baal, Elijah announced a three-year drought throughout Israel and Phoenicia. God’s miraculous provisions of food, both in Israel and in Phoenicia, showed that he, not Baal, was the God of nature ( 1 Kings 17:1-4;  1 Kings 17:9;  1 Kings 17:16; cf.  Luke 4:25-26). Elijah’s healing of the widow’s son confirmed the woman’s faith in the one true God ( 1 Kings 17:24).

After three years of drought, Elijah challenged Ahab to gather Baal’s prophets to Mt Carmel for a public contest to show who was the true God, Yahweh or Baal ( 1 Kings 18:19-21). The Baal priests considered Mt Carmel to be one of their sacred sites, yet even there they were shamefully defeated ( 1 Kings 18:40). As a final proof that Israel’s God, not Baal, controlled nature, Elijah announced that God would end the drought by sending a storm. That same day the drought ended ( 1 Kings 18:41-46; cf.  James 5:17-18).

Elijah felt that he was fighting alone in his battle with Jezebel’s Baalism ( 1 Kings 18:22;  Romans 11:1-5). This feeling was strengthened when, in spite of his spectacular victory over Baal at Mt Carmel, nothing in Israel seemed to have changed. The people did not cease from their Baal worship, and Jezebel did not cease from her efforts to kill him. He therefore fled for his life ( 1 Kings 19:1-3).

God directed Elijah south to Mt Sinai, the place where, centuries earlier, he had established his covenant with Israel. There he showed Elijah the difference between spectacular public events and the quiet work of God within people’s hearts. The former may have some use, but Israel would have truly lasting benefits only as people listened to the voice of God in their hearts and responded to it. God assured Elijah that a minority of people in Israel would make the quiet response of faithfulness to him ( 1 Kings 19:10-12;  1 Kings 19:18).

For Israel’s idolatrous majority, however, there would be further violent and spectacular events, but these would be in judgment against them rather than against Baal. God’s instruments of judgment against Israel would be an enemy king Hazael, an Israelite king Jehu, and Elijah’s successor Elisha ( 1 Kings 19:15-21).

Ministry fulfilled

In addition to opposing Ahab and Jezebel because of their Baalism, Elijah opposed them because of their greed and injustice. After their seizure of Naboth’s vineyard, Elijah announced the judgment of God upon them ( 1 Kings 21:20-24). Ahab’s son Ahaziah, who came to the throne after Ahab’s death, continued the worship of Baal and likewise met opposition from Elijah. God preserved Elijah from Ahaziah’s attempts to capture him, and then used Elijah to pronounce certain death upon the Baalist king ( 2 Kings 1:2-4;  2 Kings 1:13-17).

The time had now come for Elijah to pass on to Elisha the responsibility for preserving the faithful and preparing judgment for the Baalists. Elijah tested his young successor to see whether he was prepared for the difficult and wide-ranging work ahead, or whether he would rather settle at one of the schools of the prophets ( 2 Kings 2:1-6). Elisha stayed with Elijah to the end, and in due course received Elijah’s spiritual inheritance ( 2 Kings 2:9). Elijah’s earthly life ended when he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind ( 2 Kings 2:11).

Jews of a later era expected the return of Elijah immediately before the coming of the Messiah ( Malachi 4:5-6;  Mark 6:15;  Mark 8:27-28). Jesus pointed out that this ‘Elijah’, this forerunner of the Messiah, was John the Baptist ( Matthew 11:10-14;  Matthew 17:10-13;  Luke 1:17).

On the occasion of Jesus’ transfiguration, Elijah and Moses appeared together talking with Jesus about his coming death, and witnessing something of his coming glory. These two men, the great lawgiver and the great prophet, were representative figures from the former era. Their presence symbolized that the one to whom the law and the prophets pointed had now arrived. All the expectations of the former era were now fulfilled in Jesus Christ ( Luke 9:28-31; cf.  Luke 24:27; see Transfiguration ).

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]

 2 Kings 2:18

He was a complex man of the desert who counseled kings. His life is best understood when considered from four historical perspectives which at times are interrelated: his miracles, his struggle against Baalism, his prophetic role, and his eschatological relationship to Messiah.

Miracles His first miracle was associated with his prophecy before King Ahab ( 1 Kings 17:1 ) in which he said there would be no rain or dew apart from his declaration. Immediately after the prophecy, he retreated to the brook Cherith where he was fed by ravens.

His next refuge was Zarephath where he performed the miracle of raising the widow's dead son ( 1 Kings 17:17-24 ). Here he was first called “a man of God.”

On Mount Carmel his greatest public miracle involved his encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah ( 1 Kings 18:19-40 ). The contest was to determine the true God. The false prophets called on their gods, and Elijah called on His God to see which would rain fire from heaven. After the false prophets failed to hear from their gods, Elijah wet the wood on his altar to the true God by pouring four jars of water over it three times. In response of Elijah's prayer, Yahweh rained fire from heaven to consume the wet wood. As a result of their deception, Elijah ordered the false prophets killed.

Elijah next prophesied that the drought was soon to end ( 1 Kings 18:41 ) after three rainless years. From Carmel, Elijah prayed. He sent his servant seven times to see if rain was coming. The seventh time a cloud the size of a hand appeared on the horizon. Ahab was told to flee before the storm. Elijah outran his chariot and the storm to arrive at Jezreel.

Baalism Interwoven in the life of Elijah is his struggle with Baalism. Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon and Tyre ( 1 Kings 16:31 ), was Ahab's wife and Israel's queen. She brought the worship of her god Baal into Ahab's kingdom. Even “Ahab served Baal a little” ( 2 Kings 10:18 ). The contest on Carmel showed a contrast between the contesting deities. Yahweh's power and Baal's impotence was further revealed through the drought. A later involvement with Naboth showed the moral superiority of Elijah's faith ( 2 Kings 9:25-37 ).

Jezebel planned revenge toward Elijah for ordering the false prophets slain, so Elijah retreated to Judah and finally Mount Horeb. There he observed the power of the wind, earthquake, and fire; but the Lord was not seen in these forces. In a small voice the Lord commanded him to go anoint Hazael king of Syria, Jehu king of Israel, and Elisha as his own successor ( 1 Kings 19:1-17 ).

Prophet His prophetic role constantly placed Elijah in opposition to the majority of the people of his nation. His prophetic confrontations involved King Ahab and later his son Ahaziah. Their toleration of polytheism was the ongoing reason for Elijah's prophetic denunciations.

When Ahaziah fell and injured himself, he sent messengers to ask Baal-zebub (lord of flies) about his fate. Elijah intercepted them and sent word back to Ahaziah that he was soon to die ( 2 Kings 1:1 ). Ahaziah sent three different detachments of fifty soldiers each to arrest Elijah. The first two units were destroyed by fire from heaven. The captain of the third group pleaded for his life. He safely escorted Elijah to the king where he delivered the prophecy of his pending death personally.

Relationship to Messiah Elijah and Elisha were involved in the schools of the prophets when Elijah struck the waters of the Jordan and they parted to allow their crossing ( 2 Kings 2:1-12 ). There, immediately after conferring a double portion of his spirit on Elisha ( 2 Kings 2:9 ), the two were separated by a chariot and horses of fire which carried Elijah away in a whirlwind as Elisha watched shouting, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.”

Malachi promised God would send Elijah the prophet before the coming “day of the Lord” ( Malachi 4:5 ). John the Baptist was spoken of as the one who would go before Messiah “in the spirit and power” of Elijah ( Luke 1:17 ). John personally denied that he was literally Elijah reincarnate ( John 1:21 ,John 1:21, 1:25 ). Some considered Jesus to be Elijah ( Matthew 16:14;  Mark 6:15 ).

Elijah appeared along with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus to discuss His “departure.” Here Peter suggested that three tabernacles be built for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah ( Matthew 17:4;  Mark 9:5;  Luke 9:33 ).

Paul used as an illustration of faithfulness the 7,000 faithful worshipers in the time of Elijah ( Romans 11:2-5 ).

The two witnesses referred to in  Revelation 11:6 are not identified by name, but their capacity “to shut heaven, that it rain not” leads many to conclude they are Moses and Elijah.

Nelson Price

Smith's Bible Dictionary [8]

Eli'jah. (My God Is Jehovah). Elijah has been well entitled "the grandest and the most romantic character that Israel ever produced." "Elijah, the Tishbite, ... of the inhabitants of Gilead" is literally all that is given us to know of his parentage and locality. Of his appearance as he "stood before" Ahab, (B.C. 910), with the suddenness of motion, to this day, characteristic of the Bedouins, from his native hills, we can perhaps realize something from the touches, few but strong, of the narrative.

His chief characteristic was his hair, long and thick, and hanging down his back. His ordinary clothing consisted of a girdle of skin around his loins, which he tightened when about to move quickly.  1 Kings 18:46. But in addition to this, he occasionally wore the "mantle," or cape of sheepskin which has supplied us with one of our most familiar figures of speech.

His introduction, in what we may call the first act of his life, is the most startling description. He suddenly appears before Ahab, prophesies a three-years drought in Israel, and proclaims the vengeance of Jehovah for the apostasy of the king. Obliged to flee from the vengeance of the king, or more probably of the queen, (compare  1 Kings 19:2, he was directed to the brook, Cherith. There, in the hollow of the torrent bed, he remained, supported in the miraculous manner with which we are all familiar, till the failing of the brook obliged him to forsake it.

His next refuge was at Zarephath. Here, in the house of the widow woman, Elijah performed the miracles of prolonging the oil and the meal, and restored the son of the widow to life after his apparent death. 1 Kings 17. In this or some other retreat, an interval of more than two years must have elapsed. The drought continued, and at last, the full horrors of famine, caused by the failure of the crops, descended on Samaria.

Again Elijah suddenly appears before Ahab. There are few more sublime stories in history than the account of the succeeding events - with the servant of Jehovah and his single attendant on the one hand, and the 850 prophets of Baal on the other; the altars, the descending fire of Jehovah consuming both sacrifice and altar; the rising storm, and the ride across the plain to Jezreel. 1 Kings 18.

Jezebel vows vengeance, and again Elijah takes refuge in flight into the wilderness, where he is again miraculously fed, and goes forward, in the strength of that food, a journey of forty days to the mount of God, even to Horeb, where he takes refuge in a cave, and witnesses a remarkable vision of Jehovah .  1 Kings 19:9-18. He receives the divine communication, and sets forth in search of Elisha, whom he finds ploughing in the field, and anoints him prophet in his place. 1 Kings 19.

For a time, little is heard of Elijah, and Ahab and Jezebel probably believed they had seen the last of him. But after the murder of Naboth, Elijah, who had received an intimation from Jehovah of what was taking place, again suddenly appears before the king, and then follow Elijah's fearful denunciation of Ahab and Jezebel, which may possibly be recovered by putting together the words recalled by Jehu,  2 Kings 9:26;  2 Kings 9:36-37, and those given in  1 Kings 21:19-25.

A space of three or four years now elapses, (compare  1 Kings 22:1;  1 Kings 22:51;  2 Kings 1:17, before we again catch a glimpse of Elijah. Ahaziah is on his death-bed,  1 Kings 22:51;  2 Kings 1:1-2, and sends to an oracle or shrine of Baal to ascertain the issue of his illness; but Elijah suddenly appears on the path of the messengers, without preface or inquiry utters his message of death, and as rapidly disappears.

The wrathful king sends two bands of soldiers to seize Elijah, and they are consumed with fire; but finally the prophet goes down and delivers to Ahaziah's face, the message of death. No long after, Elijah sent a message to Jehoram denouncing his evil doings, and predicting his death.  2 Chronicles 21:12-15.

It was at Gilgal - probably on the western edge of the hills of Ephraim - that the prophet received the divine intimation that his departure was at hand. He was at the time with Elisha, who seems now to have become his constant companion, and who would not consent to leave him. "And it came to pass as they still went on and talked, that, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (B.C. 896).

Fifty men of the sons of the prophets ascended the abrupt heights behind the town, and witnessed the scene. How deep was the impression which he made on the mind of the nation may be judged of from the fixed belief which many centuries after prevailed that Elijah would again appear for the relief and restoration of his country, as Malachi prophesied.  Malachi 4:5. He spoke, but left no written words, save the letter to Jehoram king of Judah.  2 Chronicles 21:12-15.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [9]

Elijah ( E-Lî'Jah ), My God Is Jehovah. 1. That most renowned prophet of Israel who, with no introduction as to his birth or parentage, or even account of the divine commission given to him, bursts forth in sacred story as the stern denouncer of judgment on apostate Israel, and who, after his marvelous course of miracle and bold vindication of God's authority, is translated without tasting death. He first appears as a messenger from God to Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, probably in the tenth year of his reign. He was sent to prophesy three years' drought in the land of Israel. After delivering this startling and distressing prophecy, he was directed to flee to the brook Cherith, where he was miraculously fed by ravens. When the brook had dried up he was sent to a widow woman of Zarephath, and again the hand of the Lord supplied his wants and those of his friends. He raised the widow's son to life.  1 Kings 17:1-24. After the famine had lasted the predicted period, Elijah encountered Ahab, and then ensued the magnificent display of divine power and of human trust upon the ridge of Carmel.  1 Kings 18:1-46. See Ahab. The reaction from such a mental strain left the prophet in a weak, nervous condition, and in a fit of despondency he fled from Jezebel into the "wilderness" and desired death. In Mount Sinai the downcast man of God was witness of Jehovah's strength and experienced Jehovah's tenderness in a very remarkable vision.  1 Kings 19:9-18. He anointed Elisha to be prophet in his room.  1 Kings 19:1-21. He then retired into privacy, but after the dastardly murder of Naboth he suddenly appeared before the guilty king and announced the judgment of Jehovah against the royal pair.  1 Kings 21:1-29. Several years after occurred the prophecy of Ahaziah's death.  2 Kings 1:1-1 See Ahaziah. The slaughter by fire of the two companies of troops sent to take Elijah must have greatly increased the popular awe of the prophet. Elijah was translated to heaven in a miraculous manner.  2 Kings 2:1-25. The character of Elijah made a deep impression upon the Jews. He was expected to return to earth as the forerunner of Messiah; an expectation encouraged by the remarkable prophecy,  Malachi 4:5-6, already referred to. The prophecy was indeed fulfilled, but not in the way they imagined. John Baptist, though not personally Elijah,  John 1:21, was to go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of the ancient prophet,  Luke 1:17; and thus our Lord himself explained the matter to his disciples.  Matthew 17:10-13. There was, it is true, a personal appearance of Elijah with Moses, when the two in glory stood beside the transfigured Saviour on the holy mount, and talked with him of his coming death—a proof how both the law and the prophets pointed to a Redeemer suffering ere he was triumphant.  Matthew 17:1-8;  Mark 9:2-8;  Luke 9:28-36. There are those who believe that the prediction of Elijah's coming has not yet had its full accomplishment; and they expect, before the second appearing of the Lord, that the old stern prophet of Gilead, who never died, will tread the earth again. Such a question, however, cannot be discussed here.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [10]


One incident in the life of Elijah is recalled by St. Paul ( Romans 11:2-4) and another by St. James (james 5:17f.).

(1) Much is to be learned from a great man’s mistakes; the memory of his lapses may save others from falling. In a mood of despair Elijah imagined that the worst had happened to Israel, and that the worst was likely to overtake himself. The prophets were slain, the altars were digged down, he was left alone, and his enemies were seeking his life. Ahab and Jezebel and the false prophets had triumphed; it was all over with the cause of righteousness and truth for which he had laboured. Seeing that all Israel had proved unfaithful to God, there was nothing for the lonely, outlawed prophet to live for, and he requested that he might die. But the answer-ὁ χρηματισμός, the Divine oracle-proved him to be the victim of a morbid fancy, and brought him back to facts. Among the faithless many others were as faithful as he. God had reserved for Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. All Israel had not forsaken Him, and-what was still more important-He had in no wise forsaken Israel. There is but one thing that could ever conceivably justify pessimism-the failure of Divine power or love; and the fear of that calamity is but a human weakness. Now St. Paul could not help seeing the close analogy between the conditions of Elijah’s critical time and those of his own. Israel as a whole seemed once more to have forsaken God, in rejecting the Messiah. In certain moods St. Paul might be tempted to compare himself-lonely, hated, hunted-to the sad prophet. But did the ‘great refusal’ of the majority prove either that all Israel was unfaithful or that God had cast off His people? No, for ( a ) now as in Elijah’s time there were splendid exceptions, forming a remnant (λεῖμμα = שְׁאָר) which was the true Israel; and ( b ) God’s immutable faithfulness made the idea of a rejection incredible and almost unthinkable.

(2) St. James (5:17f.) takes an illustration from the story of Elijah, and in doing so reminds his readers that, though so great in life and so remote from ordinary humanity in the manner of his exodus from the world, the prophet was yet a man of like passions (or ‘nature,’ Revised Version margin) with us-ἄνθρωπος ὁμοιοπαθὴς ἡμῖν-so that his experiences may serve as a help to weak, ordinary mortals. The success of his prayer for a time of drought, and again for rain in a time of famine, is cited as an evidence of the fact that ‘the prayer of a righteous man availeth much in its working.’ It has to be noted, however, that the OT narrative (1 Kings 17) contains no reference whatever to the former petition, while the latter is scarcely deducible from  1 Kings 18:42, where it is only stated that the prophet bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. Sirach (48:2, 3), however, affirms that he ‘brought a famine,’ and ‘by the word of the Lord he shut up the heaven’. In 4 Ezra (7:109) Elijah is cited as an example of intercession pro his qui pluviam acceperunt .

James Strahan.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [11]

The prophet, a native of Tishbeh in Gilead,  1 Kings 17:1 . His parentage and early history are unknown. His bold faithfulness provoked the wrath of Ahab and Jezebel, especially when he threatened several years of drought and famine as a punishment for the sins of Israel, B. C. 908. By the divine direction the prophet took refuge on the bank of the brook Cherith, where he was miraculously fed by ravens. Thence he resorted to Zarephath, in Phoenicia; where one miracle provided him with sustenance and another restored to life the child of his hostess. Returning to King Ahab, he procured the great assembling at mount Carmel, where God "answered by fire," and the prophets of Baal were destroyed. Now too the long and terrible drought was broken, and a plentiful rain descended at the prophet's prayer. Finding that not even these mighty works of God would bring the nation and its rulers to repentance, Elijah was almost in despair. He fled into the wilderness, and was brought to Horeb, the mount of God, where he was comforted by a vision of God's power and grace. Again he is sent on a long journey to Damascus to anoint Hazael as king of Syria. Jehu also he anoints to be king of Israel, and Elisha he summons to become a prophet. Six years later he denounces Ahab and Jezebel for their crimes in the matter of Naboth; and afterwards again is seen foretelling the death of king Ahaziah, and calling fire from heaven upon two bands of guards sent to arrest him. Being now forewarned of the approach of his removal from earth, he gives his last instructions to the school of the prophets, crosses the Jordan miraculously, and is borne to heaven in a fiery chariot without tasting death, leaving his mantle and office to Elisha,  1 Kings 17:1-19:21   21:29   2 Kings 1:1-2:18 .

His translation occurred about B. C. 896. Previously, it is supposed, he had written the letter which, eight years afterwards, announced to king Jehoram his approaching sickness and death,  2 Chronicles 21:12-19 .

Elijah was one of the most eminent and honored of the Hebrew prophets. He was bold, faithful, stern, self-denying, and zealous for the honor of God. His whole character and life are marked by peculiar moral grandeur. He bursts upon our view without previous notice; he disappears by a miracle. He bears the appearance of a supernatural messenger of heaven, who has but one work to do, and whose mind is engrossed in its performance. His history is one of the most extraordinary on record, and is fraught with instruction. It was a high honor granted to Moses and Elijah, that they alone should appear on the mount of Transfiguration, many centuries after they had gone into heaven-to bear witness of its existence, and commune with the Savior concerning his death,  Luke 9:28-35 .

John the Baptist was foretold under the name of Elias, or Elijah, from his resemblance in character and life to the ancient prophet of Israel,  Malachi 4:5,6   Matthew 17:10-13 .

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [12]

Though the history of this highly favoured servant of the Lord would afford much improvement to enlarge upon, according to the Scripture testimony concerning him, yet it would swell this work to a size much beyond the limits intended, for the writer to indulge himself in it. I have therefore noticed this prophet, only with a view to remark the greatness of his name. Elijah is a compound word, including two of the names of JEHOVAH. Eli, my God; and Jah, the Lord. It would be thought presumptuous to call our children in the present hour by such names, in the plain English of the words, but with the Hebrews it was done in honour of the Lord God of their fathers. And so particular do the pious fathers of the Old Testament seem to have been, in naming their children, that they studied to give them such as might have some allusion to the Lord, or to retain one of the letters of JEHOVAH in them. If I venture to add another observation concerning this great man, it would be but just to remark, that in that memorable prophecy of Malachi, concerning the coming of Elijah before the day of Christ, ( Malachi 4:5) though our Lord explained this to his disciples, in making reference to the spirit of Elias in the person of John the baptist, ( Matthew 17:11-12) yet our Lord did not limit the coming of Elijah to that season only. The Evangelists, in describing the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus, relate that Elijah and Moses were present at the solemn scene. ( Matthew 17:3-4) And there doth not seem an objection, wherefore Elijah may not again appear before the Lord Jesus comes in glory, as is supposed, he will in his reign upon earth. The expression of Malachi seems to warrant this conclusion, for it is said, that this mission of Elijah will be "before the great and dreadful day of the Lord." The first coming of Christ, was indeed a great and glorious, but not a dreadful day. Whereas, the second coming is uniformly spoken of as the terrible day of the Lord. For while it will be "to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe," it is no less said to be "in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ." ( 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2Th 1:10)

Easton's Bible Dictionary [13]

  • The Elijah spoken of in  2 Chronicles 21:12-15 is by some supposed to be a different person from the foregoing. He lived in the time of Jehoram, to whom he sent a letter of warning (Compare   1 Chronicles 28:19;  Jeremiah 36 ), and acted as a prophet in Judah; while the Tishbite was a prophet of the northern kingdom. But there does not seem any necessity for concluding that the writer of this letter was some other Elijah than the Tishbite. It may be supposed either that Elijah anticipated the character of Jehoram, and so wrote the warning message, which was preserved in the schools of the prophets till Jehoram ascended the throne after the Tishbite's translation, or that the translation did not actually take place till after the accession of Jehoram to the throne ( 2 Chronicles 21:12;  2 Kings 8:16 ). The events of  2 Kings 2 may not be recorded in chronological order, and thus there may be room for the opinion that Elijah was still alive in the beginning of Jehoram's reign.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Elijah'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/e/elijah.html. 1897.

  • Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [14]

     1 Kings 17:1 (c) He is a type of CHRIST as Lord, as King, as the Lion, and as the Eagle. The word means "GOD is the Lord."

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

    (Hebrews Eliyah', אֵלַיָּה , whose God Is Jehovah,  2 Kings 1:3-4;  2 Kings 1:8;  2 Kings 1:12;  1 Chronicles 8:27;  Ezra 10:21;  Ezra 10:26;  Malachi 4:5; elsewhere in the prolonged form Eliya'Hu, אֵלַיָּהוּ  ; Sept. ᾿Ηλιού v.r. ᾿Ηλίας ; N.T. ῾Ηλίας ; Josephus, ᾿Ηλίας , Ant. 8:13, 4; Vulg. Elias), the name of several men in the O.T., but the later ones apparently all namesakes of the famous prophet.

    '''I.''' "Elijah The Tishbite" the Elias" of the N.T., a character whose rare, sudden, and brief appearances, undaunted courage and fiery zeal the brilliancy of whose triumphs the pathos of whose despondency-the glory of whose departure, and the calm beauty of whose reappearance on the Mount of Transfiguration throw such a halo of brightness around him as is equalled by none of his compeers in the sacred story.

    1. Origin. This wonder-working prophet is introduced to our notice like another Melchizedek ( Genesis 10:4;  Genesis 10:18;  Hebrews 7:3), without any mention of his father or mother, or of the beginning of his days as if he had dropped out of that cloudy chariot which, after his work was done on earth, conveyed him back to heaven. "Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead," is literally all that is given us to know of his parentage and locality ( 1 Kings 17:1). The Hebrew text is אֵלַיָּהוּ הִתַּשְׁבַּי מַתּשָׁבְי גַלְעָד . The third word may be pointed (1), as in the present Masoretic text, to mean "from the inhabitants of Gilead," or (2) "from Tishbi of Gilead," which, with a slight change in form, is what the Sept. has ( Ἐκ Θεσσεβῶν ). The latter is followed by Ewald (Isr. Gesch. 3:486, note). Lightfoot assumes, but without giving his authority, that Elijah was from Jabesh-Gilead. By Josephus he is said to have come from Thesbon Ἐκ Πολεως Θεσβώνης Τῆς Γαλααδίτιδος Χώρας (Ant. 8:13, 2). Perhaps this may have been read as Heshbon, a city of the priests, and given rise to the statement of Epiphanius that he was "of the tribe of Aaron," and grandson of Zadok. (See also the Chron. Pasch. in Fabricius, Cod. Pseudep. V.T. p. 1070, etc.; and Quaresmius, Elucid. 2:605.) According to Jewish tradition grounded on a certain similarity between the fiery zeal of the two-Elijah was identical with Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest. He was also the angel of Jehovah who appeared in fire to Gideon (Lightfoot on  John 1:21; Eisenmenger, 1:686). Arab tradition places his birthplace at Gilhad (Jalud), a few miles north of es-Salt (Irby, page 98), and his Tomb near Damascus (Mislin, 1:490). The common assumption perhaps originating with Hiller (Onom. page 947) or Reland (Pal. page 1035) is that he was born in the town of Thisbe (q.v.), mentioned in  Tobit 1:2. But, not to insist on the fact that this Thisbe was not in Gilead, but in Naphtali, it is nearly certain that the name has no real existence in that passage, but arises from a mistaken translation of the same Hebrew word which is rendered "inhabitants" in  1 Kings 17:1. (See Tishbite).

    2. Personal Appearance. The mention of Gilead, however, is the key- note to much that is most characteristic in the story of the prophet. Gilead was the country on the further side of the Jordan a country of chase and pasture, of tent-villages and mountain castles, inhabited by a people not settled and civilized like those who formed the communities of Ephraim and Judah, but of wandering, irregular habits, exposed to the attacks of the nomad tribes of the desert, and gradually conforming more and more to the habits of those tribes; making war with the Hagarites, and taking the countless thousands of their cattle, and then dwelling in their stead ( 1 Chronicles 5:10;  1 Chronicles 5:19-22). (See Gilead).

    With Elijah this is seen at every turn. Of his appearance as he "stood before" Ahab with the suddenness of motion to this day characteristic of the Bedouins from his native hills we can perhaps realize something from the touches, few, but strong, of the narrative. Of his height little is to be inferred that little is in favor of its being beyond the ordinary size. His chief characteristic was his hair, long and thick, and hanging down his back, and which, if not betokening the immense strength of Samson, yet accompanied powers of endurance no less remarkable. (See Hair). His ordinary clothing consisted of a girdle of skin round his loins, which he tightened when about to move quickly ( 1 Kings 18:46). But in addition to this he occasionally wore the "mantle" (q.v.), or cape, of sheep-skin, which has supplied us with one of our most familiar figures of speech. In this mantle, in moments of emotion, he would hide his face ( 1 Kings 19:13), or when excited would roll it up as into a kind of staff. On one occasion we find him bending himself down upon the ground with his face between his knees. Such, so far as the scanty notices of the record will allow us to conceive it, was the general appearance of the great prophet an appearance which there is no reason to think was other than uncommon even at that time. The solitary life in which these external peculiarities had been assumed had also nurtured that fierceness of zeal and that directness of address which so distinguished him. It was in the wild loneliness of the hills and ravines of Gilead that the knowledge of Jehovah, the living God of Israel, had been impressed on his mind, which was to form the subject of his mission to the idolatrous court and country of Israel.

    3. History. The northern kingdom had at this time forsaken almost entirely the faith in Jehovah. The worship of the calves had been a departure from him, it was a violation of his command against material resemblances; but still it would appear that even in the presence of the calves Jehovah was acknowledged, and they were at any rate a national institution, not directly imported from the idolatries of any of the surrounding countries. (See Calf).

    They were announced by Jeroboam as the preservers of the nation during the great crisis of its existence: "Behold thy gods, O Israel, that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" ( 1 Kings 12:28). But the case was quite different when Ahab, not content with the calf-worship "as if it had been a light thing to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat" married the daughter of the king of Sidon, and introduced on the most extensive scale (Josephus, Ant. 9:6, 6) the foreign religion of his wife's family, the worship of the Phoenician Baal. What this worship consisted of we are ignorant doubtless it was of a gay, splendid, and festal character, and therefore very opposite to the grave, severe service of the Mosaic ritual. Attached to it and to the worship of Asherah (A.V. "Ashtaroth," and "the groves") were licentious and impure sites, which in earlier times had brought the heaviest judgments on the nation ( Numbers 15:1-41;  Judges 2:13-14;  Judges 3:7-8). But the most obnoxious and evil characteristic of the Baal religion was that it was the worship of power, of mere strength, as opposed to that of a God of righteousness and goodness a foreign religion, imported from nations the hatred of whom was inculcated in every page of the law, as opposed to the religion of that God who had delivered the nation from the bondage of Egypt, had "driven out the heathen with his hand, and planted them in," and through whom their forefathers had "trodden down their enemies, and destroyed those that rose up against them." It is as a witness against these two evils that Elijah comes forward. (B.C. cir. 907.)

    (1.) What we may call the first act in his life embraces between three and four years three years and six months for the duration of the drought, according to the statements of the New Testament ( Luke 4:25;  James 5:17), and three or four months more for the journey to Horeb and the return to Gilead (1 Kings 17:50 19:21). His introduction is of the most startling description: he suddenly appears before Ahab, as with the unrestrained freedom of Eastern manners he would have no difficulty in doing, and proclaims the vengeance of Jehovah for the apostasy of the king. This he does in the remarkable formula evidently characteristic of himself, and adopted after his departure by his follower Elisha a formula which includes everything at issue between himself and the king the name of Jehovah his being the God of Israel the Living God Elijah being his messenger, and then the special lesson of the event that the god of power and of nature should be beaten at his own weapons. "As Jehovah, God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand," whose constant servant I am, "there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." Before, however, he spoke thus, it would seem that he had been warning this most wicked king as to the fatal consequences which must result both to himself and his people from the iniquitous course he was then pursuing, and this may account for the apparent abruptness with which he opens his commission. What immediate action followed on this we are not told; but it is plain that Elijah had to fly before some threatened vengeance, either of the king, or more probably of the queen (compare 19:2). Perhaps it was at this juncture that Jezebel "cut off the prophets of Jehovah" ( 1 Kings 18:4). We can imagine Ahab and Jezebel being greatly incensed against Elijah for having foretold and prayed that such calamities might befall them. For some time they might attribute the drought under which the nation suffered to natural causes, and not to the interposition of the prophet; and, therefore, however they might despise him as a vain enthusiast, they would not proceed immediately to punish him. When, however, they saw the denunciation of Elijah taking effect far more extensively than had been anticipated, they would naturally seek to wreak their vengeance upon him as the cause of their sufferings. But we do not find him taking one step for his own preservation till the God whom he served interposed. He was directed to the brook Cherith, either one of the torrents which cleave the high table-lands of his native hills, or on the west of Jordan, more in the neighborhood of Samaria, perhaps the present wady Kelt. (See Cherith). There, in the hollow of the torrent-bed, he remained, supported in the miraculous manner with which we are all familiar, till the failing of the brook obliged him to forsake it. How long he remained in the Chelith is uncertain. The Hebrew expression is simply "at the end of days;" nor does Josephus afford us any more information. A vast deal of ingenuity has been devoted to explaining away Elijah's "ravens." The Hebrew word, עֹרְבִים , Orebim', has been interpreted as "Arabians," as "merchants," as inhabitants of some neighboring town of Orbo or Orbi. By others Elijah has been held to have plundered a raven's nest, and this twice a day regularly for several months! (See Raven).

    His next refuge, under the divine guidance ( 1 Kings 17:9), was at Zarephath, a Phoenician town lying between Tyre and Sidon, certainly the last place at which the enemy of Baal would be looked for. The widow woman in whose house he lived is thought, however, to have been an Israelite, and no Baal-worshipper, by some who take her adjuration by "Jehovah thy God" as an indication. But the obvious circumstances of the case, and her mention by our Savior ( Luke 4:26), imply her heathen character. Here Elijah performed the miracles of prolonging the oil and the meal, and restored the son of the widow to life after his sudden death. The traditional scene of his meeting with the widow was in a wood to the south of the town (Mislin, 1:532, who, however, does not give his authority). In the time of Jerome the spot was marked by a tower (Jerome, Ep. Paulk). At a later period a church dedicated to the prophet was erected over the house of the widow, in which his chamber and her kneading-trough were shown (Anton. Martyr and Phocas, in Reland, p. 985). This church was called Τὸ Χηρεῖον (Acta Sanctorum). The Jewish tradition, quoted by Jerome, was that the resuscitated boy was the servant who afterwards accompanied Elijah, and finally became the prophet Jonah (Jerome, Pref. To Jonah; and see the citations from the Talmuds in Eisenmenger, 2:725).

    The drought continued, and at last the full horrors of famine, caused by the failure of the crops, descended on Samaria. During this time the prophet was called upon passively to suffer God's will; now he must once again resume the more active duties of life; he must make one great public effort more to reclaim his country from apostasy and ruin. According to the word of the Lord, he returned to Israel; Ahab was yet alive, and unreformed; Jezebel, his impious consort, was still mad upon her idols; in a word, the prophets of Baal were prophesying lies, the priests were bearing rule by Their Means, And The People Loved To Have It So. The king and his chief domestic officer had divided between them the mournful duty of ascertaining that neither round the springs, which are so frequent a feature of central Palestine, nor in the nooks and crannies of the most shaded torrent-beds, was there any of the herbage left, which in those countries is so certain an indication of the presence of moisture. No one short of the two chief persons of the realm could be trusted with this quest for life or death "Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself." It is the moment for the reappearance of the prophet. Wishing not to tempt God by going unnecessarily into danger, he first presented himself to good Obadiah ( 1 Kings 18:7). There, suddenly planted in his path, is the man whom he and his master have been seeking for more than three years. Before the sudden apparition of that wild figure, and that stern, unbroken countenance, Obadiah could not but fall on his face. Elijah requested him to announce to Ahab that he had returned. Obadiah, apparently stung by the unkindness of this request, replied, "What have I sinned, that thou shouldest thus expose me to Ahab's rage, who will certainly slay me for not apprehending thee, for whom he has so long and so anxiously sought in all lands and in confederate countries, that they should not harbor a traitor whom he looks upon as the author of the famine," etc.

    Moreover, he would delicately intimate to Elijah how he had actually jeoparded his own life in securing that of one hundred of the Lord's prophets, and whom he had fed at his own expense. Satisfied with Elijah's reply to this touching appeal, wherein he removed all his fears about the Spirit's carrying him away (as  2 Kings 2:11-16;  Ezekiel 3:4;  Acts 8:39), he resolves to be the prophet's messenger to Ahab. Intending to' be revenged on him, or to inquire when rain might be expected, Ahab now came forth to meet Elijah. He at once charged him with troubling Israel, i.e., with being the main cause of all the calamities which he and the nation had suffered. But Elijah flung back the charge upon himself, assigning the real cause to be his own sin of idolatry. Regarding, however, his magisterial position, while he reproved his sin, he requests him to exercise his authority in summoning an assembly to Mount Carmel, that the controversy between them might be decided by a direct miracle from heaven (compare  Matthew 16:1). Whatever were his secret motives, Ahab accepted this proposal. As fire was the element over which Baal was supposed to preside, the prophet proposes (wishing to give them every advantage), that, two bullocks being slain, and laid each upon a distinct altar, the one for Baal, the other for Jehovah, whichever should be consumed by fire must proclaim whose the people of Israel were, and whom it was their duty to serve. The people consent to this proposal, because, it may be, they were not altogether ignorant how God had formerly answered by fire ( Genesis 4:4;  Leviticus 9:24;  Judges 6:21;  Judges 13:20;  1 Chronicles 21:26;  2 Chronicles 7:1).

    Elijah will have summoned not only all the elders of Israel, but also the four hundred priests of Baal belonging to Jezebel's court, and the four hundred and fifty who were dispersed over the kingdom. The former, however, did not attend, being, perhaps, glad to shelter themselves under the plea that Jezebel would not allow them to do so. Why Mount Carmel, which we do not hear of until now, was chosen in preference to the nearer Ebal or Gerizim, is not evident. Possibly Elijah thought it wise to remove the place of the meeting to a distance from Samaria. Possibly in the existence of the altar of Jehovah (18:30) in ruins, and therefore of earlier erection we have an indication of an ancient sanctity attaching to the spot. On the question of the particular part of the ridge of Carmel which formed the site of the meeting, there cannot be much doubt. (See Carmel).

    There are few more sublime stories in history than this. On the one hand the solitary servant of Jehovah, accompanied by his one attendant, with his wild shaggy hair, his scanty garb, and sheepskin cloak, but with calm dignity of demeanor, and the minutest regularity of procedure; on the other hand, the prophets of Baal and Ashtaroth, doubtless in all the splendor of their vestments ( 2 Kings 10:22), with the wild din of their "vain repetitions" and the maddened fury of their disappointed hopes, and the silent people surrounding all these things form a picture which brightens into fresh distinctness every time we consider it. Having reconstructed an altar which had once belonged to God, with twelve stones as if to declare that the twelve tribes of Israel should again be united in the service of Jehovah and having laid thereon his bullock, and filled the trench by which it was surrounded with large quantities of water, lest any suspicion of deceit might occur to any mind, the prophet gives place to the Baalites- allows them to make trial first. In vain did these deceived and deceiving men call, from morning till evening, upon Baals in vain did they now mingle their own blood with that of the sacrifice: no answer was given no fire descended. Elijah having rebuked their folly and wickedness with the sharpest irony, and it being at last evident to all that their efforts to obtain the wished-for fire were vain, now, at the time of the evening sacrifice, offered up his prayer. The Baalites' prayer was long, that of the prophet is short charging God with the care of his covenant, of his truth, and of his glory when, "behold, the fire came down, licked up the water, and consumed not only the bullock, but the very stones of the altar also." The effect of this on the mind of the people was what the prophet desired: acknowledging the awful presence of the Godhead, they exclaim, as with one voice, " The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God!" Seizing the opportunity while the people's hearts were warm with the fresh conviction of this miracle, he bade them take those juggling priests and kill them at Kishon, that their blood might help to fill that river which their idolatry had provoked God to empty by drought.

    All this Elijah might lawfully do at God's direction, and under the sanction of his law ( Deuteronomy 13:5;  Deuteronomy 18:20). Ahab having now publicly vindicated God's violated law by giving his royal sanction to the execution of Baal's priests, Elijah informed him that he may go up to his tent on Carmel to take refreshment, for God will send the desired rain. In the mean time he prayed earnestly ( James 5:17-18) for this blessing: God hears and answers: a little cloud arises out of the Mediterranean Sea, in sight of which the prophet now was, diffuses itself gradually over the entire face of the heavens, and now empties its refreshing waters upon the whole land of Israel! Here was another proof of the divine mission of the prophet, from which, we should imagine, the whole nation must have profited; but subsequent events would seem to prove that the impression produced by these dealings of God was of a very partial and temporary character. Impressed with the hope that the report of God's miraculous actings at Carmel might not only reach the ear, but also penetrate and soften the hard heart of Jezebel, and anxious that the reformation of his country should spread in and about Jezreel also, Elijah, strengthened, as we are told, from on high, now accompanies Ahab thither on foot. The ride across the plain to Jezreel was a distance of at least 16 miles; the prophet, with true Arab endurance, running before the chariot, but also, with true Arab instinct, stopping short of the city, and going no further than the "entrance of Jezreel."

    So far the triumph had been complete; but the spirit of Jezebel was not to be so easily overcome, and her first act is a vow of vengeance against the author of this destruction. "God do so to me, and more also," so ran her exclamation, "if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." It was no duty of Elijah to expose himself to unnecessary dangers, and, as at his first introduction, so now, he takes refuge in flight. The danger was great, and the refuge must be distant. The first stage on the journey was Beersheba "Beersheba which belongeth to Judah," says the narrative, with a touch betraying its Israelitish origin. Here, at the ancient haunt of those fathers of his nation whose memory was so dear to him, and on the very confines of cultivated country, Elijah halted. His servant according to Jewish tradition, the boy of Zarephath he left in the town, while he himself set out alone into the wilderness the waste uninhabited region which surrounds the south of Palestine. The labors, anxieties, and excitement of the last few days had proved too much even for that iron frame and that stern resolution. His spirit is quite broken, and he wanders forth over the dreary sweeps of those rocky hills wishing for death "It is enough! Lord, let me die, for I am not better than my fathers." The man whose prayer had raised the dead, had shut and opened heaven, he who had been so wonderfully preserved by God at Cherith and Zarephath, and who dared to tax Ahab to his face with being Israel's troubler, is now terrified and disconsolate, thus affording a practical evidence of what the apostle James says of him, that he was a man of like passions with us. His now altered state of mind would seem to have arisen out of an exaggerated expectation of what God designed to effect through the miracles exhibited to, and the judgments poured upon this guilty nation. He seems to have thought that, as complete success did not crown the last great effort he had made to reform Israel, there could not be the slightest use in laboring for this end any longer. It is almost impossible not to conclude from the terms of the story that he was entirely without provisions for this or any journey. But God, who had brought his servant into this difficulty, provided him with the means of escaping from it. He now, alone in the wilderness and at Mount Horeb, will at once touch his heart and correct his petulancy by the ministration of his angel, and by a fearful exhibition of his divine power. The prophet, in a fit of despair, laid himself down beneath a lone "juniper-tree" (Hebrew רֹתֶם אֶחָד , One Rothem-Tree). (See Juniper).

    The indented rock opposite the gate of the Greek convent Deir Mar-Elyas, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which is now shown to travelers as the spot on which the prophet rested on this occasion, appears at an earlier date not to have been so restricted, but was believed to be the place on which he was "accustomed to sleep" (Sandys, lib. 3, page 176; Maundrell, Ear. Trav. page 456), and the site of the convent as that where he was born (Gaysforde, 1506, in Bonar, page 117). Neither the older nor the later story can be believed; but it is possible that they may have originated in some more trustworthy tradition of his having rested here on his southward journey, in all probability taken along this very route. (See a curious statement by Quaresmius of the extent to which the rock had been defaced in his own time "by the piety or impiety" of the Christian pilgrims, Elucidatio, 2:605; comp. Doubdan, Voyage, etc. page 144.) In this position the prophet was wakened from his despondent dream beneath the solitary bush of the wilderness, was fed with the bread and the water which to this day are all a Bedouin's requirements, and went forward, "in the strength of that food," a journey of forty days, "to the mount of God, even to Horeb." Here, in "the cave" ( הִמְּעָרָה ), one of the numerous caverns in those awful mountains perhaps some traditional sanctuary of that hallowed region, at any rate well known he remained for certainly one night ( וִיֶּלֶן ). In the morning came the "word of Jehovah" the question, "What doest thou here, Elijah? Driven by what hard necessity dost thou seek this spot, on which the glory of Jehovah has in former times been so signally shown?" In answer to this invitation the prophet opens his griefs. He has been very zealous for Jehovah; but force has been vain; one cannot stand against a multitude; none follow him, and he is left alone, flying for his life from the sword which has slain his brethren. The reply comes in that ambiguous and indirect form in which it seems necessary that the deepest communications with the human mind should be couched to be effectual. He is directed to leave the cavern and stand on the mountain in the open air, face to face with Jehovah.

    Then, as before with Moses ( Exodus 34:6), "the Lord passed by;" passed in all the terror of his most appalling manifestations. The fierce wind tore the solid mountains and shivered the granite cliffs of Sinai; the earthquake crash reverberated through the defiles of those naked valleys; the fire burnt in the incessant blaze of Eastern lightning. Like these, in their degree, had been Elijah's own modes of procedure, but the conviction is now forced upon him that in none of these is Jehovah to be known. Then, penetrating the dead silence which followed these manifestations, came the fourth mysterious symbol "the still small voice." What sound this was whether articulate voice or not, we cannot determine; but low and still as it was, it spoke in louder accents to the wounded heart of Elijah than the roar and blaze which had preceded it. To him, no less unmistakably than to Moses centuries before, it was proclaimed that Jehovah was "merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth." Elijah knew the call, and at once stepping forward and hiding his face in his mantle, stood waiting for the divine communication. It is in the same words as before, and so is his answer; but with what different force must the question have fallen on his ears, and the answer left his lips! "Before his entrance to the cave he was comparatively a novice; when he left it he was an initiated man. He had thought that the earthquake, the fire, the wind, must be the great witnesses of the Lord. But He was not in them; not they, but the still small voice had that awe in it which forced the prophet to cover his face with his mantle. What a conclusion of all the past history! What an interpretation of its meaning!" (Maurice, Prophets and Kings, page 136). Not in the persecutions of Ahab and Jezebel, nor in the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, but in the 7000 unknown worshippers who had not bowed the knee to Baal, was the assurance that Elijah was not alone as he had seemed to be.

    Three commands were laid on him three changes were to be made. Instead of Ben-hadad, Hazael was to be king of Syria; instead of Ahab, Jehu the son of Nimshi was to be king of Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat was to be his own successor. These per. sons shall revenge God's quarrels: one shall begin, another shall prosecute, and the third shall perfect the vengeance on Israel. Of these three commands, the first two were reserved for Elisha to accomplish; the last only was executed by Elijah himself. It would' almost seem as if his late trials had awakened in him a yearning for that affection and companionship which had hitherto been denied him. His first search was for Elisha. Apparently he soon found him; we must conclude at his native place, Abel-meholah, probably somewhere about the center of the Jordan valley. (See Abel-Meholah).

    Elisha was ploughing at the time, and Elijah "passed over to him" possibly crossed the river and, without uttering a sword, cast his mantle, the well-known sheepskin cloak, upon him, as if, by that familiar action (which was also a symbol of official investiture), claiming him for his son. A moment of hesitation but the call was quickly accepted; and then commenced that long period of service and intercourse which continued till Elijah's removal, and which after that time procured for Elisha one of his best titles to esteem and reverence "Elisha the son of Shaphat, who poured water on the hands of Elijah." (See Elisha).

    (2.) For about six years from this calling of Elisha we find no notice in the sacred history of Elijah, till God sent him once again to pronounce sore judgments upon Ahab and Jezebel for the murder of unoffending Naboth ( 1 Kings 21:17, etc.). How he and his associate in the prophetic office employed themselves during this time we are not told. We may conceive, however, that they Were much engaged in prayer for their country, and in imparting knowledge in the schools of the prophets, which were at Jericho and Beth-el. Ahab and Jezebel now probably believed that their threats had been effectual, and that they had seen the last of their tormentor. At any rate, this may be inferred from the events of chapter 21. (See Ahab). Foiled in his wish to acquire the ancestral plot of ground of Naboth by the refusal of that sturdy peasant to alienate the inheritance of his fathers, Ahab and Jezebel proceed to possess themselves of it by main force, and by a degree of monstrous injustice which shows clearly enough how far the elders of Jezreel had forgotten the laws of Jehovah, how perfect was their submission to the will of their mistress. At her orders Naboth is falsely accused of blaspheming God and the king, is with his sons ( 2 Kings 9:26; romp.  Joshua 7:24) stoned and killed, and his vineyard then as having belonged to a criminal-becomes at once the property of the king. (See Naboth).

    Ahab loses no time in entering on his new acquisition. Apparently the very next day after the execution he proceeds in his chariot to take possession of the coveted vineyard. Behind him probably in the back part of the chariot ride his two pages Jehu and Bidkar ( 2 Kings 9:26). But the triumph was a short one. Elijah had received an intimation from Jehovah of what was taking place, and rapidly as the accusation and death of Naboth had been hurried over, he was there to meet his ancient enemy, and as an enemy he does meet him as David went out to meet Goliath on the very scene of his crime; suddenly, when least expected and least wished for, he confronts the miserable king. Then follows the curse, in terms fearful to any Oriental peculiarly terrible to a Jew, and most of all significant to a successor of the apostate princes of the northern kingdom "I will take away thy posterity; I will cut off from thee even thy very dogs; I will make thy house like that of Jeroboam and Baasha; thy blood shall be shed in the same spot where the blood of thy victims was shed last night; thy wife and thy children shall be torn in this very garden by the wild dogs of the city, or as common carrion devoured by the birds of the sky" the large vultures which in Eastern climes are always wheeling aloft under the clear blue sky, and doubtless suggested the expression to the prophet. How tremendous was this Scene we may gather from the fact that after the lapse of at least twenty years Jehu was able to recall the very words of the prophet's burden, to which he,and his companion had listened as they stood behind their master in the chariot. The whole of Elijah's denunciation may possibly be recovered by putting together the words recalled by Jehu,  2 Kings 9:26;  2 Kings 9:36;  2 Kings 9:7, and those given in  1 Kings 21:19-25. Fearing that these predictions would prove true, as those about the rain and fire had done, Ahab now assumed the manner of a penitent; and, though subsequent acts proved the insincerity of his repentance, yet God rewarded his temporary abasement by a temporary arrest of judgment. We see, however, in after parts of this sacred history, how the judgments denounced against him, his abandoned consort, and children took effect to the very letter. (See Jezebel).

    (3.) A space of three or four years now elapses (compare  1 Kings 22:1;  1 Kings 22:51;  2 Kings 1:17) before we again catch a glimpse of Elijah. The denunciations uttered in the vineyard of Naboth have been,partly fulfilled. Ahab is dead, and his son and successor, Ahaziah, has met with a serious accident, after a troubled reign of less than two years ( 2 Kings 1:1-2;  1 Kings 22:51). Fearing a fatal result, as if to prove himself a worthy son of an idolatrous parentage, he sends to an oracle or shrine of Baal at the Philistine town of Ekron to ascertain the issue of his illness. But the oracle is nearer at hand than the distant Ekron. An intimation is conveyed to the prophet, probably at that time inhabiting one of the recesses of Carmel, and, as on the former occasions, he suddenly appears on the path of the messengers, without preface or inquiry utters his message of death, and as rapidly disappears. The tone of his words is as national on this as on any former occasion, and, as before, they are authenticated by the name of Jehovah "Thus saith Jehovah, Is it because there is no God in Israel that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub, god of Ekron?" The messengers returned to the king too soon to have accomplished their mission. They were possibly strangers; at any rate they were ignorant of the name of the man who had thus interrupted their journey. But his appearance had fixed itself in their minds, and their description at once told Ahaziah, who must have seen the prophet about his father's court or have heard him described in the harem, who it was that had thus reversed the favorable oracle which he was hoping for from Ekron. The "hairy man" ( אַישׁ בִּעִל עָרשֵׂ , A Man, A Lord of hair), with a belt of rough skin round his loins, who came and went in this secret manner, and uttered his fierce words in the name of the God of Israel, could be no other than the old enemy of his father and mother; Elijah the Tishbite. But, ill as he was, this check only roused the wrath of Ahaziah, and, with the spirit of his mother, he at once seized the opportunity of possessing himself of the person of the man who had been for so long the evil genius of his house. A captain was dispatched, with a party of fifty, to take Elijah prisoner. He was sitting on the top of "the mount" ( הָהָר ), i.e., probably of Carmel. The officer approached and addressed the prophet by the title which, as before noticed, is most frequently applied to him and Elisha "O man of God, the king hath spoken: come down." "And Elijah answered and said, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty! And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty." A second party was sent, only to meet the same fate. The altered tone of the leader of a third party, and the assurance of God that his servant need not fear, brought Elijah down. But the king gained nothing. The message was delivered to his face in the same words as it had been to the messengers, and Elijah, so we must conclude, was allowed to go harmless. This was his last interview with the house of Ahab. It was also his last recorded appearance in person against the Baal-worshippers. It was this occasion to which the fiery sons of Zebedee alluded ( Luke 9:51-56) in a proposal that brought out from the lips of the Savior the contrast with his own benign mission (Trench, Miracles, chapter 4).

    (4.) It must have been shortly after the death of Ahaziah that Elijah made a communication with the southern kingdom. It is the only one of which any record remains, and its mention is the first and last time that the name of the prophet appears in the Books of Chronicles. Mainly devoted, as these books are, to the affairs of Judah, this is not surprising. The alliance between his enemy Ahab and Jehoshaphat cannot have been unknown to the prophet, and it must have made him regard the proceedings of the kings of Judah with more than ordinary interest. When, therefore, Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, who had married the daughter of Ahab, began "to walk in the ways of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab, and to do that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah," Elijah sent him a letter ( מַכְתָּב , A Writing, different from the ordinary word for an epistle, סֵפֶר , A book), denouncing his evil doings, and predicting his death ( 2 Chronicles 21:12-15). This letter has been considered as a great difficulty, on the ground that Elijah's removal must have taken place before the death of Jehoshaphat (from the terms of the mention of Elisha in  2 Kings 3:11), and therefore before the accession of Joram to the throne of Judah. But, admitting that Elijah had been translated before the expedition of Jehoshaphat against Moab, it does not follow that Joram was not at that time, and before his father's death, king of Judah, Jehoshaphat occupying himself during the last eight or ten years of his life in going about the kingdom ( 2 Chronicles 19:4-11), and in conducting some important wars, amongst others that in question against Moab, while Joram was concerned with the more central affairs of the government ( 2 Kings 3:7, etc.). That Joram began to reign during the lifetime of his father Jehoshaphat is stated in  2 Kings 8:16. According to one record ( 2 Kings 1:17), which immediately precedes the account of Elijah's last acts on earth, Joram was actually on the throne of Judah at the time of Elijah's interview with Ahaziah; and though this is modified by the statements of other places ( 2 Kings 3:1;  2 Kings 8:16), yet it is not invalidated, and the conclusion is almost inevitable that Joram ascended the throne as viceroy or associate some years before the death of his father. (See Joram); (See Jehoshaphat); (See Judah). The ancient Jewish commentators get over the apparent difficulty by saying that the letter was written and sent after Elijah's translation. Others believed that it was the production of Elisha, for whose name that of Elijah had been substituted by copyists. The first of these requires no answer. To the second, the severity of its tone, as above noticed, is a sufficient reply. Josephus (Ant. 9:5, 2) says that the letter was sent while Elijah was still on earth. (See Lightfoot, Chronicle, etc., "Jehoram." Other theories will be found in Fabricius, Cod. Pseudepig. page 1075, and Otho, Lex. Rabb. page 167). In its contents the letter bears a strong resemblance to the speeches of Elijah, while in the details of style it is very peculiar, and quite different from the narrative in which it is imbedded (Bertheau, Chronik, ad loc.).

    (5.) The prophet's warfare being now accomplished on earth, God, whom he had so long and so faithfully served, will translate him in a special manner to heaven. Conscious of this, he determines to spend his last moments in imparting divine instruction to, and pronouncing his last benediction upon, the students in the colleges of Bethel and Jericho; accordingly, he made a circuit in this region ( 2 Kings 2:1, etc.). It was at Gilgal (q.v.) probably not the ancient place of Joshua and Samuel, but another of the same name still surviving on the western edge of the hills of Ephraim that the prophet received the divine intimation that his departure was at hand. He was at the time with Elisha, who seems now to have become his constant companion. Perhaps his old love of solitude returned upon him, perhaps he wished to spare his friend the pain of a too sudden parting, or perhaps he desired to test the affection of the latter; in either case he endeavors to persuade Elisha to remain behind while he goes on an errand of Jehovah. "Tarry here, I pray thee, for Jehovah hath sent me to Bethel." But Elisha will not so easily give up his master "As Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." They went together to Bethel. The event which was about to happen had apparently been communicated to the sons of the prophets at Bethel, and they inquire if Elisha knew of his impending loss. His answer shows how fully he was aware of it. "Yea," says he, with emphasis, "indeed I do know it ( יָדִעִתַּי גִּם 9 אֲנַי ): hold ye your peace." But, though impending, it was not to happen that day. Again Elijah attempts to escape to Jericho, and again Elisha protests that he will not be separated from him. Again, also, the sons of the prophets at Jericho make the same unnecessary inquiries, and again he replies as emphatically as before. Elijah makes a final effort to avoid what they both so much dread. "Tarry here, I pray thee, for Jehovah hath sent me to the Jordan." But Elisha is not to be conquered, and the two set off across the undulating plain of burning sand to the distant river-Elijah in his mantle or cape of sheep-skin, Elisha in ordinary clothes ( בֶּגֶד ,  2 Kings 2:12).

    Fifty men of the sons of the prophets ascend the abrupt heights behind the town the same to which a late tradition would attach the scene of our Lord's temptation and which command the plain below, to watch with the clearness of Eastern vision what happens in the distance. Talking as they go, the two reach the river, and stand on the shelving bank beside its swift brown current. But they are not to stop even here. It is as if the aged Gileadite cannot rest till he again sets foot on his own side of the river. He rolls up ( נָּלסְ ) his mantle as into a staff, and with his old energy strikes the waters as Moses had done before him strikes them as if they were an enemy ( נָכָה ); and they are divided hither and thither, and they two go over on dry ground. What follows is best told in the simple words of the narrative. "And it came to pass when they were gone over, that Elijah said to Elisha, 'Ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken away from thee.' And Elisha said, 'I pray thee let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.' And he said, 'Thou hast asked a hard thing: if thou see me taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.' And it came to pass as they still went on and talked, that, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder, and Elijah went up by the whirlwind into the skies." The tempest ( סְעָרָה ), which was an earthly substratum for the theophany, was accompanied by a fiery phenomenon, symbolizing the translation, which appeared to the eyes of Elisha as a chariot of fire with horses of fire, in which Elijah rode to heaven (Keil). Well might Elisha cry with bitterness ( צָעִק ), "My father, my father." He had gone who, to the discerning eye and loving heart of his disciple, had been "the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof" for so many years; and Elisha was at last left alone to carry on a task to which he must often have looked forward, but to which in this moment of grief he may well have felt unequal. He saw him no more; but his mantle had fallen, and this he took up at once a personal relic and a symbol of the double portion of the spirit of Elijah with which he was to be clothed. Little could he have realized, had it been then presented to him, that he whose greatest claim to notice was that he had "poured water on the hands of Elijah" should hereafter possess an influence which had been denied to his master should, instead of the terror of kings and people, be their benefactor, adviser, and friend, and that over his death-bed a king of Israel should be found to lament with the same words that had just burst from him on the departure of his stern and silent master, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" ( 2 Kings 13:14).

    4. Traditionary Views And Character. Elijah and Moses are the only men whose history does not terminate with their departure out of this world. Elijah appeared with Moses on Mount Hermon at the time of our Lord's transfiguration, and conversed with him respecting the great work of redemption which he was about to accomplish ( Matthew 17:1-3). The author of the book of Ecclesiasticus (chapter 48) justly describes him as a prophet "who stood up as a fire, and whose word burned as a lamp." But, with the exception of the eulogiums contained in that catalogue of worthies, and  1 Maccabees 2:58, and the passing allusion in  Luke 9:54, none of the later references allude to his works of destruction or of portent. They all set forth a different side of his character from that brought out in the historical narrative. They speak of his being a man of like passions with ourselves ( James 5:17); of his kindness to the widow of Sarepta ( Luke 4:25); of his "restoring all things" ( Matthew 17:11); "turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just" ( Malachi 4:5-6;  Luke 1:17). In the sternness and power of his reproofs, however, he was a striking type of John the Baptist, and the latter is therefore prophesied of under his name: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" ( Malachi 4:5-6). Our Savior also declares that Elijah had already come in spirit, in the person of John the Baptist. Many of the Jews in our Lord's time believed him to be Elijah, or that the soul of Elijah had passed into his body ( Luke 9:8). (See John The Baptist).

    How deep was the impression which he made on the mind of the nation may be judged from the fixed belief which many centuries after prevailed that Elijah would again appear for the relief and restoration of his country. The prophecy of Malachi was possibly at once a cause and an illustration of the strength of this belief. Each remarkable person, as he arrives on the scene, be his habits and characteristics what they may the stern John, equally with his gentle Successor is proclaimed to be Elijah ( Matthew 16:14;  Mark 6:15;  John 1:21). His appearance in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration does not seem to have startled the disciples. They were "sore afraid," but not apparently surprised. On the contrary, Peter immediately proposes to erect a tent for the prophet whose arrival they had so long been expecting. 'Even the cry of our Lord from the cross, containing as it did but a slight resemblance to the name of Elijah, immediately suggested him to the bystanders. "He calleth for Elijah." "Let be, let us see if Elijah will come to save him."

    In the Talmud (see the passages cited by Hamburger, Real-Encykl. s.v. Eliahu) he is recorded as having often appeared to the wise and good rabbis at prayer in the wilderness, or on their journeys generally in the form of an Arabian merchant (Eisenmenger, 1:11; 2:402-7). At the circumcision of a child a seat was always placed for him, that, as the zealous champion and messenger of the "covenant" of circumcision ( 1 Kings 19:14;  Malachi 3:1), he might watch over the due performance of the rite. During certain prayers,the door of the house was set open that Elijah might enter and announce the Messiah (Eisenmenger, 1:685). His coming will be three days before that of the Messiah, and on each of the three he will proclaim, in a voice which shall be heard all over the earth, peace, happiness, salvation, respectively (Eisenmenger, 2:696). So firm was the conviction of his speedy arrival, that when goods were found and no owner appeared to claim them, the common saying was, "Put them by till Elijah comes" (Lightfoot, Exercit.  Matthew 17:10;  John 1:21). The same customs and expressions are even still in use among the stricter Jews of this and other countries (see Revue Des Deux Mondes, 24:131, etc.).

    Elijah has been canonized in both the Greek and Latin churches. Among the Greeks Mar Elygis is the patron of elevated spots, and many a conspicuous summit in Greece is called by his name (Clark, Peloponnessus, p. 190). The service for his day ᾿Ηλίας Μεγαλώνυμος will be found in the Menaion on July 20, a date recognized by the Latin Church also. (See the Acta Sanctorum, July 20). By Cornelius h Lapide it is maintained that his ascent happened on that day, in the 19th year of Jehoshaphat (Keil, On Kings, page 331). The convent bearing his name, Deir Mar Elyas, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, is well known to travelers in the Holy Land. It purports to be situated on the spot of his birth, as already observed. Other convents bearing his name once existed in Palestine: in Jebel Ajlun, the ancient Gilead (Ritter, Syrien, page 1029, 1066, etc.); at Ezra, in the Hauran (Burckhardt, Syria, page 59), and the more famous establishment on Carmel.

    It is as connected with the great Order of the barefooted Carmelites that Elijah is celebrated in the Latin Church. According to the statements of the Breviary (Off. B. Marim Virginis de Monte Carmelo, Julii 16), the connection arose from the dedication to the Virgin of a chapel on the spot from which Elijah saw the cloud (an accepted type of the Virgin Mary) rise out of the sea. But other legends trace the origin of, the order to the great prophet himself, as the head of a society of anchorites inhabiting Carmel; and even as himself dedicating the chapel in which he worshipped to the Virgin! (St. John of Jerusalem, as quoted by Mislin, Lieux Saints, 2:49; and the bulls of various popes enumerated by Quaresmius, volume 2) These things are matters of controversy in the Roman Church, Baronius and others having proved that the order was founded in 1181, a date which is repudiated by the Carmelites (see extracts in Fabricius, Codex Pseudepig. page 1077).

    In the Mohammedan traditions Ilyas is said to have drank of the Fountain of Life, "by virtue of which he still lives, and will live to the day of judgment." He is by some confounded with St. George, and with the mysterious el-Khidr, one of the most remarkable of the Moslem saints (see Lane's Arabian Nights, Introd. note 2; also Selections from the Kuran; page 221, 222). The Persian Sojis are said to trace themselves back to Eli. jah (Fabricius, page 1077); and he is even held to have been the teacher of Zoroaster (D'Herbelot, Bib. Or. s.v.).

    Among other traditions, it must not be omitted that the words "Eye hath not seen," etc.,  1 Corinthians 2:9, which are without doubt quoted by the apostle from  Isaiah 64:4, were, according to an ancient belief, from " the Apocalypse, or mysteries of Elijah," Τὰ ᾿Ηλία Ἀπόκρυφα . The first mention of this appeal to Le Origen (Hon. On  Matthew 27:9), and it is no

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [16]

    ē̇ - lı̄´ja ( אליּהוּ , 'ēlı̄yāhū or (4 times) אליּה , 'ēlı̄yāh , "Yah is God"; Septuagint Ἠλειού , Ēleioú , New Testament Ἠλείας , Ēleı́as or Elı̄́as , the King James Version of New Testament Elias ):

    I. The Works of Elijah

    1. The Judgment of Drought

    2. The Ordeal by Prayer

    3. At Horeb

    4. The Case of Naboth

    5. Elijah and Ahaziah

    6. Elijah Translated

    7. The Letter to Jehoram

    II. The Work of Elijah

    III. Character of the Prophet

    IV. Miracles in the Elijah Narratives

    V. Elijah in the New Testament


    (1) The great prophet of the times of Ahab, king of Israel. Elijah is identified at his first appearance ( 1 Kings 17:1 ) as "Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the sojourners of Gilead." Thus his native place must have been called Tishbeh. A T ishbeh (Thisbe) in the territory of Naphtali is known from Tobit 1:2; but if (with most modern commentators) the reading of the Septuagint in 1 Ki is followed, the word translated "sojourners" is itself "Tishbeh," locating the place in Gilead and making the prophet a native of that mountain region and not merely a "sojourner" there.

    I. The Works of Elijah

    In  1 Kings 16:29-34 we read of the impieties of Ahab, culminating in his patronage of the worship of the Tyrian Baal, god of his Tyrian queen Jezebel (  1 Kings 16:31 ).  1 Kings 16:34 mentions as another instance of the little weight attached in Ahab's time to ancient prophetic threatenings, the rebuilding by Hiel the Bethelite of the banned city of Jericho, "with the loss" of Hiel's eldest and youngest sons. This is the situation which calls for a judgment of Yahweh, announced beforehand, as is often the case, by a faithful prophet of Yahweh.

    1. The Judgment of Drought

    Whether Elijah was already a familiar figure at the court of Ahab, the narrative beginning with  1 Kings 17:1 does not state. His garb and manner identified him as a prophet, in any case (  2 Kings 1:8; compare  Zechariah 13:4 ). Elijah declared in few words that Yahweh, true and only rightful God of Israel, whose messenger he was, was even at the very time sending a drought which should continue until the prophet himself declared it at an end. The term is to be fixed, indeed, not by Elijah but by Yahweh; it is not to be short ("these years"), and it is to end only when the chastisement is seen to be sufficient. Guided, as true prophets were continually, by the "word of Yahweh," Elijah then hid himself in one of the ravines east of ("before") the Jordan, where the brook Cherith afforded him water, and ravens brought him abundant food ("bread and flesh" twice daily),  1 Kings 17:2-6 . As the drought advanced the brook dried up. Elijah was then directed, by the "word of Yahweh," as constantly, to betake himself beyond the western limit of Ahab's kingdom to the Phoenician village of Zarephath, near Sidon. There the widow to whom Yahweh sent him was found gathering a few sticks from the ground at the city gate, to prepare a last meal for herself and her son. She yielded to the prophet's command that he himself should be first fed from her scanty store; and in return enjoyed the fulfillment of his promise, uttered in the name of Yahweh, that neither barrel of meal nor cruse of oil should be exhausted before the breaking of the drought. (Josephus, Ant , VIII, xiii, 2, states on the authority of Menander that the drought extended to Phoenicia and continued there for a full year.) But when the widow's son fell sick and died, the mother regarded it as a Divine judgment upon her sins, a judgment which had been drawn upon her by the presence of the man of God. At the prayer of Elijah, life returned to the child ( 1 Kings 17:17-24 ).

    "In the third year,"  1 Kings 18:1 (  Luke 4:25;  James 5:17 give three years and six months as the length of the drought), Elijah was directed to show himself to Ahab as the herald of rain from Yahweh. How sorely both man and beast in Israel were pressed by drought and the resulting famine, is shown by the fact that King Ahab and his chief steward Obadiah were in person searching through the land for any patches of green grass that might serve to keep alive some of the king's own horses and mules (  1 Kings 18:5 ,  1 Kings 18:6 ). The words of Obadiah upon meeting with Elijah show the impression which had been produced by the prophet's long absence. It was believed that the Spirit of God had carried Elijah away to some unknown, inaccessible, mysterious region ( 1 Kings 18:10 ,  1 Kings 18:12 ). Obadiah feared that such would again be the case, and, while he entreated the prophet not to make him the bearer of a message to Ahab, appealed to his own well-known piety and zeal, as shown in his sheltering and feeding, during Jezebel's persecution, a hundred prophets of Yahweh. Elijah reassured the steward by a solemn oath that he would show himself to Ahab ( 1 Kings 18:15 ). The king greeted the prophet with the haughty words, "Is it thou, thou troubler of Israel?" Elijah's reply, answering scorn with scorn, is what we should expect from a prophet; the woes of Israel are not to be charged to the prophet who declared the doom, but to the kings who made the nation deserve it ( 1 Kings 18:17 ,  1 Kings 18:18 ).

    2. The Ordeal by Prayer

    Elijah went on to challenge a test of the false god's power. Among the pensioners of Jezebel were 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah - still fed by the royal bounty in spite of the famine. Accepting Elijah's proposal, Ahab called all these and all the people to Mt. Carmel ( 1 Kings 18:19 ,  1 Kings 18:20 ). Elijah's first word to the assembly implied the folly of their thinking that the allegiance of a people could successfully be divided between two deities: "How long go ye limping between the two sides?" (possibly "leaping over two thresholds," in ironical allusion to the custom of leaping over the threshold of an idol temple, to avoid a stumble, which would be unpropitious; compare  1 Samuel 5:1-5 ). Taking the people's silence as an indication that they admitted the force of his first words, Elijah went on to propose his conditions for the test: a bullock was to be offered to Baal, a bullock to Yahweh, but no fire put under; "The God that answereth by fire, let him be God." The voice of the people approved the proposal as fair ( 1 Kings 18:22-24 ). Throughout a day of blazing sunshine the prophets of Baal called in frenzy upon their god, while Elijah mocked them with merciless sarcasm ( 1 Kings 18:25-29 ). About the time for the regular offering of the evening sacrifice in the temple of Yahweh at Jerusalem, Elijah assumed control. Rebuilding an ancient altar thrown down perhaps in Jezebel's persecution; using in the rebuilding twelve stones, symbolizing an undivided Israel such as was promised to the patriarch Jacob of old; drenching sacrifice and wood with water from some perennial spring under the slopes of Carmel, until even a trench about the altar, deep and wide enough to have a two- ṣe'āh (half-bushel) measure set in it, was filled - the prophet called in few and earnest words upon the God of the fathers of the nation ( 1 Kings 18:30-37 ). The answer of Yahweh by fire, consuming bullock, wood, altar and the very dust, struck the people with awe and fear. Convinced that Yahweh was God alone for them, they readily carried out the prophet's stern sentence of death for the prophets of the idol god ( 1 Kings 18:38-40 ). Next the prophet bade Ahab make haste with the meal, probably a sacrificial feast for the multitude, which had been made ready; because rain was at hand. On the mountain top Elijah bowed in prayer, sending his servant seven times to look out across the sea for the coming storm. At last the appearance of a rising cloud "as small as a man's hand" was reported; and before the hurrying chariot of the king could cross the plain to Jezreel it was overtaken by "a great rain" from heavens black with clouds and wind after three rainless years. With strength above nature, Elijah ran like a courier before Ahab to the very gate of Jezreel ( 1 Kings 18:41-46 ).

    3. At Horeb

    The same night a messenger from Jezebel found Elijah. The message ran, "As surely as thou art Elijah and I am Jezebel" (so the Septuagint), "so let the gods do to me, and more also" (i.e. may I be cut in pieces like a sacrificed animal if I break my vow; compare  Genesis 15:8-11 ,  Genesis 15:17 ,  Genesis 15:18;  Jeremiah 34:18 ,  Jeremiah 34:19 ), "if I make not thy life as the life of one of" the slain prophets of Baal "by to-morrow about this time." Explain Elijah's action how we may - and all the possible explanations of it have found defenders - he sought safety in instant flight. At Beersheba, the southernmost town of Judah, he left his "servant," whom the narrative does not elsewhere mention. Going onward into the southern wilderness, he sat down under the scanty shade of a desert broom-bush and prayed that he might share the common fate of mankind in death ( 1 Kings 19:1-4 ). After sleep he was refreshed with food brought by an angel. Again he slept and was fed. In the strength of that food he then wandered on for forty days and nights, until he found himself at Horeb, the mountain sacred because there Yahweh had revealed Himself to Moses ( 1 Kings 19:5-8 ). The repetition of identical words by Elijah in  1 Kings 19:10 and   1 Kings 19:14 represents a difficulty. Unless we are to suppose an accidental repetition by a very early copyist (early, since it appears already in the Septuagint), we may see in it an indication that Elijah's despondency was not easily removed, or that he sought at Horeb an especial manifestation of Yahweh for his encouragement, or both. The prophet was bidden to take his stand upon the sacred mount; and Yahweh passed by, heralded by tempest, earthquake and thunderstorm (  1 Kings 19:9-12 ). These were Yahweh's fore-runners only; Yahweh was not in them, but in the "still small voice," such as the prophets were accustomed to hear within their souls. When Elijah heard the not unfamiliar inner voice, he recognized Yahweh present to hear and answer him. Elijah seems to be seeking to justify his own retreat to the wilderness by the plea that he had been "very jealous," had done in Yahweh's cause all that mortal prophet could do, before he fled, yet all in vain! The same people who had forsaken the law and "covenant" of Yahweh, thrown down His altars and slain His prophets, would have allowed the slaughter of Elijah himself at the command of Jezebel; and in him would have perished the last true servant of Yahweh in all the land of Israel ( 1 Kings 19:13 ,  1 Kings 19:14 ).

    Divine compassion passed by Elijah's complaint in order to give him directions for further work in Yahweh's cause. Elijah must anoint Hazael to seize the throne of Syria, Israel's worst enemy among the neighboring powers; Jehu, in like manner, he must anoint to put an end to the dynasty of Ahab and assume the throne of Israel; and Elisha, to be his own successor in the prophetic office. These three, Hazael and his Syrians, Jehu and his followers, even Elisha himself, are to execute further judgments upon the idolaters and the scorners in Israel. Yahweh will leave Himself 7,000 (a round number, a limited but not an excessively small one, conveying a doctrine, like the doctrine of later prophets, of the salvation of a righteous remnant) in Israel, men proof against the judgment because they did not share the sin. If Elijah was rebuked at all, it was only in the contrast between the 7,000 faithful and the one, himself, which he believed to number all the righteous left alive in Israel ( 1 Kings 19:15-18 ).

    4. The Case of Naboth

    The anointing of Hazael and of Jehu seems to have been left to Elijah's successor; indeed, we read of no anointing of Hazael, but only of a significant interview between that worthy and Elisha ( 2 Kings 8:7-15 ). Elijah next appears in the narrative as rebuker of Ahab for the judicial murder of Naboth. In the very piece of ground which the king had coveted and seized, the prophet appeared, unexpected and unwelcome, to declare upon Ahab, Jezebel and all their house the doom of a shameful death (1 Ki 21). There was present at this scene, in attendance upon the king, a captain named Jehu, the very man already chosen as the supplanter of Ahab, and he never forgot what he then saw and heard ( 2 Kings 9:25 ,  2 Kings 9:26 ).

    5. Elijah and Ahaziah

    Ahab's penitence ( 1 Kings 21:28 ,  1 Kings 21:29 ) averted from himself some measure of the doom. His son Ahaziah pulled it down upon his own head. Sick unto death from injuries received in a fall, Ahaziah sent to ask an oracle concerning his recovery at the shrine of Baal-zebub in Ekron. Elijah met the messengers and turned them back with a prediction, not from Baal-zebub but from Yahweh, of impending death. Ahaziah recognized by the messengers' description the ancient "enemy" of his house. A captain and fifty soldiers sent to arrest the prophet were consumed by fire from heaven at Elijah's word. A second captain with another fifty met the same fate. A third besought the prophet to spare his life, and Elijah went with him to the king, but only to repeat the words of doom (2 Ki 1).

    6. Elijah Translated

    A foreboding, shared by the "sons of the prophets" at Beth-el and Jericho, warned Elijah that the closing scene of his earthly life was at hand. He desired to meet the end, come in what form it might, alone. Elisha, however, bound himself by an oath not to leave his master. Elijah divided Jordan with the stroke of his mantle, that the two might pass over toward the wilderness on the east. Elisha asked that he might receive a firstborn's portion of the spirit which rested upon his master. "A chariot of fire, and horses of fire" appeared, and parted the two asunder; "and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" ( 2 Kings 2:1-11 ).

    7. The Letter to Jehoram

    In  2 Chronicles 21:12-15 we read of a "writing" from Elijah to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. The statements of   2 Kings 3:11 ,  2 Kings 3:12 admit of no other interpretation than that the succession of Elisha to independent prophetic work had already occurred in the lifetime of Jehoshaphat. It has been pointed out that the difficult verse,   2 Kings 8:16 , appears to mean that Jehoram began to reign at some time before the death of his father; it is also conceivable that Elijah left a message, reduced to writing either before or after his departure, for the future king of Judah who should depart from the true faith.

    II. The Work of Elijah

    One's estimate of the importance of the work of Elijah depends upon one's conception of the condition of things which the prophet confronted in Northern Israel. While it is true that the reign of Ahab was outwardly prosperous, and the king himself not without a measure of political sagacity together with personal courage, his religious policy at best involved such tolerance of false faiths as could lead only to disaster. Ever since the time of Joshua, the religion of Yahweh had been waging its combat with the old Canaanite worship of the powers of Nature, a worship rendered to local deities, the "Baalim" or "lords" of this and that neighborhood, whose ancient altars stood "upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree" ( Deuteronomy 12:2 ). The god imported from Phoenicia by Jezebel bore also the title Baal; but his character and his worship were worse and more debasing than anything that had before been known. Resistance offered by the servants of Yahweh to the claims of the queen's favored god led to persecution, rightly ascribed by the historian to Jezebel ( 1 Kings 18:4 ). In the face of this danger, the differences between the worship of Yahweh as carried on in the Northern Kingdom and the same worship as practiced at Jerusalem sank out of sight. The one effort of Elijah was to recall the people from the Tyrian Baal to Yahweh, the God of their fathers. The vitality of the true religion in the crisis is shown by the fidelity of such a man as Obadiah ( 1 Kings 18:3 f), or by the perseverance of a righteous remnant of 7,000, in spite of all that had happened of persecution (  1 Kings 19:18 ). The work begun by Elijah was finished, not without blood, by Jehu; we hear no more of the worship of the Tyrian Baal in Israel after that anointed usurper's time (2 Ki 9; 10). To say that Elijah at Horeb "learns the gentleness of God" (Strachan in HDB ) is to contradict the immediate text of the narrative and the history of the times. The direction given Elijah was that he should anoint one man to seize the throne of Syria, another to seize that of Israel, and a prophet to continue his own work; with the promme and prediction that these three forces should unite in executing upon guilty Israel the judgment still due for its apostasy from Yahweh and its worship of a false god. Elijah was not a reformer of peace; the very vision of peace was hidden from his eyes, reserved for later prophets for whom he could but prepare the way. It was his mission to destroy at whatever cost the heathen worship which else would have destroyed Israel itself, with consequences whose evil we cannot estimate. Amos and Hosea would have had no standing-ground had it not been for the work of Elijah and the influences which at Divine direction he put in operation.

    III. Character of the Prophet

    It is obvious that the Scripture historian does not intend to furnish us with a character-study of the prophet Elijah. Does he furnish even the material upon which such a study may profitably be attempted? The characterization found in  James 5:17 , "Elijah was a man of like passions (margin, "nature") with us," is brief indeed; but examination of the books which have been written upon the life of Elijah leads to the conclusion that it is possible to err by attaching to events meanings which those events were never intended to bear, as well as by introducing into one's study too much of sheer imagination. It is easy, for example, to observe that Elijah is introduced to the reader with suddenness, and that his appearances and disappearances in the narrative seem abrupt; but is one warranted in arguing from this a like abruptness in the prophet's character? Is not the sufficient explanation to be reached by observing that the historian's purpose was not to give a complete biography of any individual, whether prophet or king, but to display the working of Yahweh upon and with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah through the prophets? Few personal details are therefore to be found recorded concerning even such a prophet as Elijah; and none at all, unless they have a direct bearing upon his message. The imagination of some has discerned a "training of Elijah" in the experiences of the prophet; but to admit that there must have been such a training does not oblige us to discover traces of it in the scenes and incidents which are recorded.

    Distrusting, for the reasons above suggested, any attempt at a detailed representation of the prophet's inner life, one may seek, and prize, what seems to lie upon the surface of the narrative: faith in Yahweh as God of Nature and as covenant God of the patriarchs and their descendants; consuming "zeal" against the false religion which would displace Yahweh from the place which must be His alone; keen vision to perceive hypocrisy and falsehood, and sharp wit to lash them, with the same boldness and disregard of self that must needs mark the true prophet in any age.

    IV. Miracles in the Elijah Narratives

    The miraculous element must be admitted to be prominent in the experiences and works of Elijah. It cannot be estimated apart from the general position which the student finds it possible to hold concerning miracles recorded in the Old Testament. The effort to explain away one or another item in a rationalistic way is wholly unprofitable. Elijah's "ravens" may indeed be converted by a change of vowel-points into "Arabians"; but, in spite of the fact that Orientals would bring offerings of food to a holy hermit, the whole tenor of the narrative favors no other supposition than that its writer meant "ravens," and saw in the event another such exercise of the power of Yahweh over all things as was to be seen in the supply of meal and oil for the prophet and the widow of Zarephath, the fire from heaven, the parting of the Jordan, or the ascension of the prophet by whirlwind into heaven. Some modern critics recognize a different and later source in the narrative of 2 Ki 1; but here again no real difficulty, if any difficulty there be, is removed. The stern prophet who would order the slaughter of the 450 Baal prophets might well call down fire to consume the soldiers of an apostate and a hostile king. The purpose and meaning of the Elijah chapters is to be grasped by those who accept their author's conception of Yahweh, of His power, and of His work in Nature and with men, rather than by those who seek to replace that conception by another.

    V. Elijah in the New Testament

    Malachi ( Malachi 4:5 ) names Elijah as the forerunner of "the great and terrible day of Yahweh," and the expectation founded upon this passage is alluded to in  Mark 6:15 parallel   Luke 9:8;  Matthew 16:14 parallel   Mark 8:28 parallel   Luke 9:19;  Matthew 27:47-49 parallel   Mark 15:35 ,  Mark 15:36 . The interpretation of Malachi's prophecy foreshadowed in the angelic annunciation to Zacharias  Luke 1:17 ), that John the Baptist should do the work of another Elijah, is given on the authority of Jesus Himself ( Matthew 11:14 ). The appearance of Elijah, with Moses, on the Mount of Transfiguration, is recorded in  Matthew 17:1-13 parallel   Mark 9:2-13 parallel   Luke 9:28-36 , and in  Matthew 11:14 parallel   Mark 9:13 Jesus again identifies the Elijah of Malachi with John the Baptist. The fate of the soldiers of Ahaziah (2 Ki 1) is in the mind of James and John on one occasion (  Luke 9:54 ). Jesus Himself alludes to Elijah and his sojourn in the land of Sidon ( Luke 4:25 ,  Luke 4:26 ). Paul makes use of the prophet's experience at Horeb ( Romans 11:2-4 ). In  James 5:17 ,  James 5:18 the work of Elijah affords an instance of the powerful supplication of a righteous man.

    (2) A "head of a father's house" of the tribe of Benjamin ( 1 Chronicles 8:27 , the King James Version "Eliah").

    (3) A man of priestly rank who had married a foreign wife ( Ezra 10:21 ).

    (4) A layman who had married a foreign wife ( Ezra 10:26 ).


    The histories of Israel and commentaries on Kings are many. Those which tend to rationalizing tend also to decrease the importance of Elijah to the history. F. W. Robertson, Sermons , 2nd series, V; Maurice, Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament , Sermon VIII; Milligan, Elijah ("Men of the Bible" series); W. M. Taylor, Elijah the Prophet .

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [17]

    Eli´jah (Jehovah is God). This wonderworking prophet is introduced to our notice like another Melchizedek , without any mention of his father or mother, or of the beginning of his days. From this silence of Scripture as to his parentage and birth, much vain speculation has arisen. Some suppose that Elijah is called a Tishbite from Tishbeh, a city beyond the Jordan. The very first sentence that the prophet utters is a direful denunciation against Ahab; and this he supports by a solemn oath: 'As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew or rain these years (i.e. three and a half years,; ), but according to my word' . Before, however, he spoke thus, it would seem that he had been warning this most wicked king as to the fatal consequences which must result both to himself and his people, from the iniquitous course he was then pursuing: and this may account for the apparent abruptness with which he opens his commission.

    We can imagine Ahab and Jezebel being greatly incensed against Elijah for having foretold and prayed that such calamities might befall them. For some time they might attribute the drought under which the nation suffered to natural causes, and not to the interposition of the prophet. When, however, they saw the denunciation of Elijah taking effect far more extensively than had been anticipated, they would naturally seek to wreak their vengeance upon him as the cause of their sufferings. But we do not find him taking one step for his own preservation, till the God whom he served said, 'Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan: and it shall be that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there' . Other and better means of protection from the impending danger might seem open to him; but, regardless of these, he hastened to obey the divine mandate, and 'went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is before Jordan' .

    A fresh trial now awaits this servant of God (B.C. 909), and in the manner in which he bears it, we see the strength of his faith. For one year, as some suppose, God had miraculously provided for his bodily wants at Cherith; but the brook which, heretofore, had afforded him the needful refreshment there, became dried up. Encouraged by past experience of his heavenly Father's care of him, the prophet still waited patiently till He said, 'Arise , get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.' He then, at once, set out on the journey, and now arrived at Zarephath, he, in the arrangement of God's providence, met, as he entered its gate, the very woman who was deputed to give him immediate support. But his faith is again put to a sore test, for he found her engaged in a way which was well calculated to discourage all his hopes; she was gathering sticks for the purpose, as she assured him, of cooking her last meal, and now that the famine prevailed there, as it did in Israel, she saw nothing before her and her only son but starvation and death. How then could the prophet ask for, and how could she think of giving, a part of her last morsel? The same Divine Spirit inspired him to assure her that she and her child should be even miraculously provided for during the continuance of the famine: and also influenced her heart to receive, without doubting, the assurance! The kindness of this widow in baking the first cake for Elijah was well requited with a prophet's reward she afforded one meal to him, and God afforded many to her (see ). While residing here God accordingly saw fit to visit the family with a temporary calamity. 'And it came to pass that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick: and his sickness was so sore that there was no life left in him' . contains the expostulation with the prophet of this bereaved widow; she rashly imputes the death to his presence. Elijah retaliates not, but calmly takes the dead child out of the mother's bosom, and lays it on his own bed , that there he may, in private, pray the more fervently for its restoration. His prayer was heard, and answered by the restoration of life to the child, and of gladness to the widow's heart.

    Since now, however, the long-protracted famine, with all its attendant horrors, failed to detach Ahab and his guilty people from their abominable idolatries, God mercifully gave them another opportunity of repenting and turning to Himself. For three years and six months the destructive famine had spread its deadly influence over the whole nation of Israel. The prophet was then called by the word of the Lord to return to Israel. Wishing not to tempt God by going unnecessarily into danger, he first presented himself to good Obadiah . This principal servant of Ahab was also a true servant of God; and on recognizing the prophet he treated him with honor and respect. Elijah requested him to announce to Ahab that he had returned. Obadiah, apparently stung by the unkindness of this request, replied, 'What have I sinned, that thou shouldest thus expose me to Ahab's rage, who will certainly slay me for not apprehending thee, for whom he has so long and so anxiously sought in all lands and in confederate countries, that they should not harbor a traitor whom he looks upon as the author of the famine,' etc. Moreover, he would delicately intimate to Elijah how he had actually jeoparded his own life in securing that of one hundred of the Lord's prophets, and whom he had fed at his own expense. Satisfied with Elijah's reply to this touching appeal, wherein he removed all his fears about the Spirit's carrying himself away (as;; ), he resolves to be the prophet's messenger to Ahab. Intending to be revenged on him, or to inquire when rain might be expected, Ahab now came forth to meet Elijah. He at once charged him with being the main cause of all the calamities which he and the nation had suffered. But Elijah flung back the charge upon himself, assigning the real cause to be his own sin of idolatry. Regarding, however, his magisterial position, while he reproved his sin, he requests him to exercise his authority in summoning an assembly to Mount Carmel, that the controversy between them might be decided, whether the king or the prophet was the troubler of Israel. Whatever were the secret motives which induced Ahab to comply with this proposal, God directed the result. Elijah offered to decide this controversy between God and Baal by a miracle from Heaven. As fire was the element over which Baal was supposed to preside, the prophet proposes (wishing to give them every advantage) that, two bullocks being slain, and laid each upon a distinct altar, the one for Baal, the other for Jehovah, whichever should be consumed by fire must proclaim whose the people of Israel were, and whom it was their duty to serve. The people consent to this proposal. Elijah will have summoned not only all the elders of Israel, but also the four hundred priests of Baal belonging to Jezebel's court, and the four hundred and fifty who were dispersed over the kingdom. Confident of success, because doubtless God had revealed the whole matter to him, he enters the lists of contest with the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal. Having reconstructed an altar which had once belonged to God, with twelve stones—as if to declare that the twelve tribes of Israel should again be united in the service of Jehovah—and having laid thereon his bullock, and filled the trench by which it was surrounded with large quantities of water, lest any suspicion of deceit might occur to any mind I the prophet gives place to the Baalites—allows them to make trial first. In vain did these deceived and deceiving men call, from morning till evening, upon Baal—in vain did they now mingle their own blood with that of the sacrifice: no answer was given—no fire descended.

    Elijah having rebuked their folly and wickedness with the sharpest irony, and it being at last evident to all that their efforts to obtain the wished-for fire were vain, now, at the time of the evening sacrifice, offered up his prayer. The prayer of the Baalites was long, that of the prophet was short—charging God with the care of His covenant, of His truth, and of His glory—when, behold, 'the fire came down, licked up the water, and consumed not only the bullock, but the very stones of the altar also.' The effect of this on the mind of the people was what the prophet desired: acknowledging the awful presence of the Godhead, they exclaim, as with one voice, 'Jehovah He is the God! Jehovah He is the God!' Seizing the opportunity while the people's hearts were warm with the fresh conviction of this miracle, he bade them take those juggling priests and destroy them; and this he might lawfully do at God's direction, and under the sanction of His law . Ahab having now publicly vindicated God's violated law by giving his royal sanction to the execution of Baal's priests. Elijah informed him that he may go up to his tent on Carmel to take refreshment, for God will send the desired rain. In the meantime he prayed earnestly for this blessing: God heard and answered: a little cloud arose out of the Mediterranean sea, in sight of which the prophet now was, diffused itself gradually over the entire face of the heavens, and then emptied its refreshing waters upon the whole land of Israel. Here was another proof of the Divine mission of the prophet, from which, we should imagine, the whole nation must have profited; but subsequent events would seem to prove that the impression produced by these dealings of God was of a very partial and temporary character. Impressed with the hope that the report of God's miraculous action at Carmel might not only reach the ear, but also penetrate and soften the hard heart of Jezebel; and anxious that the reformation of his country should spread in and about Jezreel also, Elijah, strengthened, as we are told, from on high, now accompanies Ahab thither on foot. How ill-founded the prophet's expectation was, subsequent events too painfully proved. Jezebel, instead of receiving Elijah obviously as the messenger of God for good to her nation, now secretly conceived and openly declared her fixed purpose to put him to death. Dreading the vile woman's design, and probably thinking that there was no hope of producing any reformation among the people, he fled into the wilderness, and there longed for death. But God is still gracious to him, and at once touches his heart and corrects his petulancy by the ministration of His angel, and by an awful exhibition of His Divine power. And having done this, revealing Himself in the gentle accents of a still voice, He announces to him thathe must go and anoint Hazael king over Syria, Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha prophet in his own place, ere death can put a period to his labors. When God had comforted His prophet by telling him of these three instruments he had in store to vindicate his own insulted honor, then he convinced him of his mistake in saying 'I only am left alone,' etc. by the assurance that there were seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

    Leaving the cave of Horeb (B.C. 906), Elijah now proceeded to the field where he found Elisha in the act of plowing, and he cast his prophet's mantle over him, as a symbol of his being clothed with God's spirit. The Divine impression produced upon the mind of Elisha by this act of Elijah made him willing to leave all things and follow him.

    For about six years from this calling of Elisha we find no notice in the sacred history of Elijah, till God sent him once again to pronounce sore judgments upon Ahab and Jezebel for the murder of unoffending Naboth (, etc.). How he and his associate in the prophetic office employed themselves during this time we are no told. We need not dwell upon the complicated character of Ahab's wickedness (1 Kings 21), in winking at the murderous means whereby Jezebel procured for him the inalienable property of Naboth [[[Ahab; Naboth]]] When he seemed to be triumphing in the possession of his ill-obtained gain, Elijah stood before him, and threatened him, in the name of the Lord (. inclusive), that God would retaliate blood for blood, and that not on himself only—'his seventy sons shall die, and Jezebel shall become meat for dogs.' Fearing that these predictions would prove true, as those about the rain and fire had done, Ahab now assumed the manner of a penitent; and, though subsequent acts proved that his repentance was not permanent, yet God rewards his temporary abasement by a temporary arrest of judgment. We see, however, in after parts of this sacred history, how the judgments denounced against him, his abandoned consort, and children, took effect to the very letter.

    Elijah again retired from the history till an act of blasphemy on the part of Ahaziah, the son and successor of Ahab, causes God to call him forth. Ahaziah met with an injury, and, fearing that it might be unto death, he, as if to prove himself worthy of being the son of idolatrous Ahab and Jezebel, sent to consult Baalzebub, the idol-god of Ekron; but the angel of the Lord told Elijah to go forth and meet the messengers of the king , and assure them that he should not recover. Suddenly reappearing before their master, he said unto them, 'Why are ye now turned back?' when they answered, 'There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord: Is it not because there is no God in Israel that thou sendest to inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron? Wherefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.' Conscience seems to have at once whispered to him that the man who dared to arrest his messengers with such a communication must be Elijah, the bold but unsuccessful reprover of his parents. Determined to chastise him for such an insult, he sent a captain and fifty armed men to bring him into his presence; but at Elijah's word fire descended from Heaven and consumed the whole band. Attributing this destruction of his men to some natural cause, he sent forth another company, on whom though the same judgment fell, this impious king is not satisfied till another and a similar effort is made to capture the prophet. The captain of the third band implored and found mercy at the hands of the prophet, who at once descended from Carmel and accompanied him to Ahaziah. Fearless of his wrath, Elijah now repeats to the king himself what he had before said to his messengers, and agreeably thereto, the sacred narrative informs us that Ahaziah died.

    The above was the last more public effort which the prophet made to reform Israel. His warfare being now accomplished on earth, God, whom he had so long and so faithfully served, will translate him in a chariot of fire to Heaven. Conscious of this, he determines to spend his last moments in imparting divine instruction to, and pronouncing his last benediction upon, the students in the colleges of Bethel and Jericho; accordingly, he made a circuit from Gilgal, near the Jordan, to Bethel, and from thence to Jericho. Wishing either to be alone at the moment of being caught up to Heaven; or, what is more probable, anxious to test the affection of Elisha (as Christ did that of Peter), he delicately intimates to him not to accompany him in this tour. But the faithful Elisha, to whom, as also to the schools of the prophets, God had revealed His purpose to remove Elijah, declares his fixed determination not to forsake his master now at the close of his earthly pilgrimage. Ere yet, however, the chariot of God descended for him, he asks what he should do for Elisha. The latter, conscious of the complicated and difficult duties which now awaited him, asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit. Elijah, acknowledging the magnitude of the request, yet promises to grant it on the contingency of Elisha seeing him at the moment of his rapture. Possibly this contingency was placed before him in order to make him more on the watch, that the glorious departure of Elijah should not take place without his actually seeing it. While standing on the other side of the Jordan, whose waters were miraculously parted for them to pass over on dry ground, angels descended, as in a fiery chariot, and, in the sight of fifty of the sons of the prophets and Elisha, carried Elijah into Heaven. Elisha, at this wonderful sight, cried out, like a bereaved child, 'My Father, my Father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof;' as if he had said, Alas! the strength and savior of Israel is now departed! But it was not so; for God designed that the mantle which fell from Elijah as he ascended should now remain with Elisha as a pledge that the office and spirit of the former had now fallen upon himself.

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [18]

    A Jewish prophet, born at Tishbe, in Gilead, near the desert; prophesied in the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, in the 10th century B.C.; revealed himself as the deadly enemy of the worship of Baal, 400 of whose priests he is said to have slain with his own hand; his zeal provoked persecution at the hands of the king and his consort Jezebel, but the Lord protected him, and he was translated from the earth in a chariot of fire, "went up by a whirlwind into heaven." See The Prophets .