Fausset's Bible Dictionary
("God-Jehovah".) (1Ki 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 1Ki 18:39 with Mal 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.
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; compare1Ki 18:21 ; Hos 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 ( Jer 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 inJam 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 ( 1Ki 19:10 ; 1Ki 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 ( Deu 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 ( 2Ki 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 ( Zec 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 ( 1Ki 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."
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" (1Ki 18:4 ; 1Ki 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 Jos 19:28 we learn Zarephath belonged to Asher; and in Deu 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 (Luk 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? ( Luk 21:2 .) So making God's will her first concern, her own necessary food was "added" to her ( Mat 6:33 ; Isa 33:16 ; Psa 37:19 ; Jer 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.
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 (Deu 13:9-11 ; Deu 13:15 ; Deu 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 (Luk 12:54 ; Luk 13:19 ), returned as it had gone, in answer to Elijah's effectual prayer, which teaches us to not only pray but also wait ( Jam 5:17-18 ; 1Ki 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" ( 1Ki 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" (1Ki 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 (Hebrewlun). 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 ofMat 11:29 . The still small voice constrained Elijah to wrap his face in his mantle; compare Moses, Exo 3:6 ; Isa 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. 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 (2Ki 9:26 , compare Jos 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.
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 Num 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 ( 1Ki 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 ( 2Ki 9:7-10 ; 2Ki 9:25-26 ; 2Ki 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" (2Ki 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: 2Ki 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, 2Ki 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 (2Ki 8:16 ; 2Ki 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 (1Ki 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, 2Ch 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. 1Ki 20:35-36 ; again, Micaiah, 1 Kings 22. Hence, we find not less than fifty called "sons of strength" at Elijah's translation ( 2Ki 2:3 ; 2Ki 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 (Mat 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 (Deu 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 Deu 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 1Ki 17:17-24 with 2Ki 4:29-37 ; 1Ki 17:16 with 2Ki 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 (Joh 16:6-15 ; Eph 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 (Mat 11:14 ; Mat 17:12 ). This is explained in Luk 1:11 ; Luk 1:17 , which refers to Mal 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, Mal 1:2 ; Mal 2:4 ; Mal 2:6 ; Mal 3:3-4 ; Mal 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 ( Joh 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,Mat 17:3 , even after which He said ( Mat 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 ( Rev 11:4-5 , "fire out of their mouth," i.e. at, their word; 1Ki 17:1 ; 2Ki 1:10 ; "power to shut heaven that it rain not," Jam 5:17 ; Luk 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 (compareRev 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!
|Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)|