Smith's Bible Dictionary
(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
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.1Ki_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, (compare1Ki_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.1Ki_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,2Ki_9:26; 2Ki_9:36-37, and those given in 1Ki_21:19-25.
A space of three or four years now elapses, (compare1Ki_22:1; 1Ki_22:51; 2Ki_1:17, before we again catch a glimpse of Elijah. Ahaziah is on his death-bed, 1Ki_22:51; 2Ki_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.2Ch_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.Mal_4:5. He spoke, but left no written words, save the letter to Jehoram king of Judah. 2Ch_21:12-15.
|Taken from: Smith's Bible Dictionary by Dr. William Smith (1884)|