Posted by: Dr Churchill | May 15, 2020

Sons of Prophets

Elijah (/ɪˈlaɪdʒə/ ih-LY-jə; Hebrew: אֵלִיָּהוּ, Eliyahu, meaning “My God is Yahweh / YHWH” or latinized form Elias (/ɪˈlaɪəs/ ih-LY-əs) according to the Books of Kings in the Hebrew Bible, was a prophet and a miracle worker who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab (9th century BC).

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah defended the worship of the Hebrew God over that of the Canaanite deity Baal. God also performed many miracles through Elijah, including resurrection (raising the dead), bringing fire down from the sky, and entering Heaven alive “by fire”. He is also portrayed as leading a school of prophets known as “the sons of the prophets”.

Following his ascension, Elisha, his disciple and most devoted assistant took over his role as leader of this school. The Book of Malachi prophesies Elijah’s return “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD”, making him a harbinger of the Messiah and of the eschaton in various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible.

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References to Elijah appear in Ecclesiasticus, the New Testament, the Mishnah and Talmud, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and Bahá’í writings.

In Judaism, Elijah’s name is invoked at the weekly Havdalah rite that marks the end of Shabbat, and Elijah is invoked in other Jewish customs, among them the Passover Seder and the brit milah (ritual circumcision). He appears in numerous stories and references in the Haggadah and rabbinic literature, including the Babylonian Talmud.

The Christian New Testament notes that some people thought that Jesus was, in some sense, Elijah, but it also makes clear that John the Baptist is “the Elijah” who was promised to come in Malachi 3:1; 4:5. According to accounts in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, Elijah appeared with Moses during the Transfiguration of Jesus.

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In Islam, Elijah appears in the Quran as a prophet and messenger of God, where his biblical narrative of preaching against the worshipers of Baal is recounted in a concise form. Due to his importance to Muslims, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians, Elijah has been venerated as the patron saint of Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1752.

According to the Bible, by the 9th century BC, the Kingdom of Israel, once united under Solomon, divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah (which retained the historical capital of Jerusalem along with its Temple). Omri, King of Israel, continued policies dating from the reign of Jeroboam, contrary to religious law, that were intended to reorient religious focus away from Jerusalem: encouraging the building of local temple altars for sacrifices, appointing priests from outside the family of the Levites, and allowing or encouraging temples dedicated to Baal, an important deity in ancient Canaanite religion. Omri achieved domestic security with a marriage alliance between his son Ahab and princess Jezebel, a priestess of Baal and the daughter of the king of Sidon in Phoenicia. These solutions brought security and economic prosperity to Israel for a time, but did not bring peace with the Israelite prophets, who advocated a strict deuteronomic interpretation of the religious law.

Under Ahab’s kingship tensions exacerbated. Ahab built a temple for Baal, and his wife Jezebel brought a large entourage of priests and prophets of Baal and Asherah into the country. In this context Elijah is introduced in 1 Kings 17:1 as Elijah “the Tishbite”. He warns Ahab that there will be years of catastrophic drought so severe that not even dew will form, because Ahab and his queen stand at the end of a line of kings of Israel who are said to have “done evil in the sight of the Lord”.

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As told in the Hebrew Bible, Elijah’s challenge to Baal and his priests and religious authorities is rather bold, direct and without any artifice, since Baal was the Canaanite idol-god responsible for rain, thunder, lightning, the waters of the rivers and the wadis and even the god of the morning dew and all thirst quenching for the plants the animals and the people…

Elijah thus, when he initially announced the drought, not only he challenged Baal on behalf of God himself, but he also challenged the priests of Baal and Jezebel the high priestess and wife of the King of Israel Ahab, and in a serious way, he challenged all the people of Israel as well.

After Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab, God tells him to flee out of Israel, to a hiding place by the brook Chorath, east of the Jordan, where he will be fed by ravens.

The prophet Elijah given name in Hebrew is Elias and it means “My God is Yahweh”, and may also be a title applied to him because of his challenge to those who worshipped the false idols of Baal, and their priests as Satanic people as they have come to be called the followers of Baal-Belzebul, who is always fond of fleshy delights and debauchery … and all those things that Elias renounced as an ascetic who had lived in the desert prosecuted and alone and fed by the ravens and the wild beasts that brought him the necessary victuals to survive, when the prophet Elias had come back from defeating the multitudes of the priests of the False God Baal — and Jejebel the mistress of the King of Israel wanted his head on the plater.

But let us not run ahead of the story…

When the brook dries up, God sends him to a widow living in the town of Zarephath in Phoenicia. When Elijah finds her and asks to be fed, she says that she does not have sufficient food to keep her and her own son alive. Elijah tells her that God will not allow her supply of flour or oil to run out, saying, “Do not be afraid… For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” The widow then feeds him the last of their food, and Elijah’s promise miraculously comes true. God gave her “manna” from heaven even while he was withholding food from his unfaithful people in the promised land.

Some time later the widow’s son dies and the widow cries, “You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” Elijah prays that God might restore her son so that the trustworthiness of God’s word might be demonstrated. 1 Kings 17:22 relates how God “listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.”

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This is the first instance of raising the dead recorded in Scripture.

This widow was granted the life of her son, the only hope for a widow in ancient society. The widow cried, “the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

After more than three years of drought and famine, God tells Elijah to return to Ahab and announce the end of the drought: not occasioned by repentance in Israel but by the command of the Lord, who had determined to reveal himself again to his people.

While on his way, Elijah meets Obadiah, the head of Ahab’s household, who had hidden a hundred Jewish prophets from Jezebel’s violent purge. Obadiah fears that when he reports to Ahab about Elijah’s whereabouts, Elijah would disappear, provoking Ahab to execute him. Elijah reassures Obadiah and sends him to Ahab.

When Ahab confronts Elijah, he denounces him as being the “troubler of Israel” but Elijah takes notice of his hypocrisy and tells Ahab that he is the one who troubled Israel by allowing the worship of false gods. Elijah then berates both the people of Israel and Ahab for their acquiescence in Baal worship. “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

And the people were silent. The Hebrew for this word, “go limping” or “waver”, is the same as that used for “danced” in 1 Kings 18, verse 26, where the prophets of Baal frantically dance. Elijah speaks with sharp irony about the religious ambivalence of Israel.

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Elijah proposes a direct test of the powers of Baal and the Jewish God. The people of Israel, 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of Asherah are summoned to Mount Carmel. An altar is built for Baal. Wood is laid on the altar. An ox is slaughtered and cut into pieces; the pieces are laid on the wood. Elijah then invites the priests of Baal to pray for fire to light the sacrifice. They pray from morning to noon without success. Elijah ridicules their efforts. “At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.'” They respond by cutting themselves and adding their own blood to the sacrifice (such mutilation of the body was strictly forbidden in the Mosaic law). They continue praying until evening without success.

Elijah builds an altar from twelve stones, digs a huge trench around it, lays wood on it, slaughters another ox, cuts it up, and lays it on the wood. He then orders that the sacrifice and altar be drenched with water from “four large jars” poured three times, filling also the trench.[29] He asks God to accept the sacrifice. Fire falls from the sky, consuming the sacrifice, the stones of the altar itself, the earth and the water in the trench as well. Elijah then orders the deaths of the priests of Baal.

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Elijah prays earnestly for rain to fall again on the land.

Then the rains begin, signaling the end of the famine.

Yours,
Dr Churchill

PS:

We are the Sons of Prophets, so best we behave like that…

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