Elijah the Tishbite

The prophet Elijah from the Bible appears and delivers some very powerful messages to the king, the people of Israel and even to us in this day and age. One of the few people in the bible who does not die, and who reappears with Moses at the Mount of “transfiguration” when they meet with Jesus. The Elijah of the Bible is a fascinating character in the Word of God. So, what is it about Elijah in the Bible, that makes him so unique among the prophets?

Elijah the Tishbite, a prophet of God, appears on the scene without any lead up or introduction. We are introduced to Elijah in the Bible when he is sent to King Ahab of Israel, to deliver a message from the LORD. Ahab did what was evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him. Even more than the dreaded “Jeroboam son of Nebat.”.

Elijah and King Ahab of Israel

Without any prior intoduction in the Bible, Elijah proclaims the LORD’s message to Ahab, that there will be no rain on the land. Then the LORD tells Elijah to head for the hills. The Wadi actually, to hide from Ahab where the LORD commands the ravens to feed Elijah. They bring him bread and meat every morning and evening.

Elijah fed by ravens

Then the word of the LORD comes to Elijah telling him to go to Zaraphath where the LORD has commanded a widow to feed him. When Elijah gets to Zaraphath he meets a widow gathering sticks and he asks her to bring him some water and bread. Since the drought has caused a famine in the land, the widow is nearly out of food herself.

1 Kings 17:12-15

12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no food, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks so that I may go in and prepare it for me and my son, so that we may eat it and die.” 13 However, Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said. Just make me a little bread loaf from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘The bowl of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil become empty, until the day that the Lord provides rain on the face of the earth.’” 15 So she went and did everything in accordance with the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days.

Later the widow’s son becomes sick and dies. Elijah laid him on his bed and stretches himself over the boy three times and prays to the LORD for the child’s life to come into him again. The Lord listens to Elijah and the boy comes back to life. Then in the third year of the drought, the LORD sends Elijah back to king Ahab, and Ahab is still searching for Elijah.

Elijah brings the widows son back to life
Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the Widow of Sarepta (oil on canvas) by Hersent, Louis (1777-1860)

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

When king Ahab sees Elijah after these three years, he asks him,”Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”. Elijah answers:

1 Kings 18:18-19

18 He said, “I have not brought disaster to Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals. 19 Now then, send orders and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and four hundred prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.

So Ahab assembles all Israel, and the prophets at mount Carmel. Elijah confronts the people asking them, “. How long will you go limping with two different opinions?”. If the LORD is God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. But, nobody answered him. Elijah tells them “look, I’m only one prophet, but there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let’s build two altars one for the LORD and one for Baal and we will sacrifice a bull on each one but not light the fire.”.

Then Elijah tells then to call on Baal and that he will call on the LORD and the god who answers by lighting the fire is indeed God. The assembled people agree and Elijah tells the prophets of Baal to go first. So, they prepare their bull and begin to call on Baal. They call on him all morning, but there is no answer. Elijah begins mocking them. Telling them, maybe he’s sleeping, you need to be louder. Or, maybe he is away on a journey. They continue until evening and still no answer from Baal.

Now it’s Elijah’s turn. He tells the people to come closer as he prepares the altar of the LORD. He places the pieces of the bull on the altar digs a trench around it and arranges the wood for the fire. Then three times he has someone fill four jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood. So much water that everything is soaked and the trench is full of water.

Then Elijah prays to the LORD:

1 Kings 18:36-39

36 Then at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached and said, “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that You, Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood, and the stones and the dust; and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God!”

Then Elijah command that they seize the prophets of Baal and not let any escape. They take them to the Wadi Kishon and kill them all there. Things were harsh in the old testament, in fact the entire Bible is full of evil men doing evil things and the punishment of the LORD is swift and harsh. The story does have a happy ending, but the trip is not for the faint of heart.

Elijah prophets of Baal contest

Elijah then tells Ahab that the rain is coming. Ahab goes up to the top of Mount Carmel but sees nothing. Elijah says to him “go seven times.”. On the seventh time Ahab sees a small cloud no bigger than a person’s hand. But, soon the heavens grow black with clouds and there comes a heavy rain.

Elijah and Jezebel

When Ahab gets back to the Palace he tells his wife, Jezebel, all that Elijah had done and how he killed all the prophets of Baal. Now, Baal worship was Jezebel’s thing, so she is not happy with Elijah. She sends messengers to him telling him that she intends to kill him just like he did all of her prophets.

So, Elijah flees for his life and gets to feeling pretty sorry for himself about now. After traveling a days journey into the wilderness, he sits under a tree and prays for the Lord to take his life, and he lies down and falls asleep. Suddenly an Angel wakes him up and tells him to get up and eat. There is food and water there beside him where he was sleeping. Elijah eats then falls asleep again and the angel comes to him a second time. Again telling him to eat and drink. He eats and drinks and this food lasts him for 40 days and 40 nights. (where have we heard 40 before?)

Elijah fed by an Angel

Then the word of the LORD comes to him asking “what are you doing here Elijah?”. Elijah’s answer is basically, I have been zealous for the LORD but the people of Israel have forsaken you and thrown down your altars and killed all of your prophets until I am the only one left, and they are seeking to kill me too.

The LORD get up and go to Damascus, he has a list of tasks for him to do.

1 Kings 19:15-18

15 The Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 You shall also anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 And it shall come about that the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

On his way to Damascus, Elijah finds Elisha plowing a field and as he passes him he throws his mantel over him. Elisha follows him and becomes his servant.

Elijah and the Curse of the House of Ahab

There is man Nabooth who has a vineyard next to king Ahab’s palace. Ahab decides he wants it and offers to buy it from Nabooth. But, he refuses because it is part of his families inheritance from the LORD. Ahab is disappointed and his wife Jezebel comes up with a plan to have Nabooth accused of cursing the LORD and the King so he will be stoned to death. Then they can just take the vineyard.

There plan succeeds and Nabooth is killed. Ahab takes the vineyard. Then the word of the LORD comes to Elijah and tells him to go down to the vineyard and confront Ahab with a message from the LORD;

1 Kings 21:19-24

19 And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Have you murdered and also taken possession?”’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘The Lord says this: “In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick up your blood, yours as well.”’”20 Then Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, enemy of mine?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have given yourself over to do evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I am bringing disaster upon you, and I will utterly sweep you away, and will eliminate from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have misled Israel into sin. 23 The Lord has also spoken of Jezebel, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel.’ 24 The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat; and the one who dies in the field, the birds of the sky will eat.”

The LORD has had his fill of Ahab, and later in a battle with the Arameans, Ahab disguises himself thinking that the enemy won’t find him. Yet an enemy archer kills him. The final epitaph of Ahab is:

1 Kings 22:37-38

37 So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried the king in Samaria. 38 They washed out the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood (it was there that the prostitutes bathed themselves) in accordance with the word of the Lord which He had spoken.

So Ahab dies and his son Ahaziah succeeds him. Ahaziah returns to Baal worship, does what is evil in the sight of the LORD, and provokes the anger of the God of Israel just as his father had done.

Elijah and the Messengers of King Ahaziah

King Ahaziah falls and injures himself. He sends messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron as to whether he will recover or not. The angel of the LORD tells Elijah to go and meet the messengers of Ahaziah. The message from the LORD is:

2 Kings 1:3-4

3 But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’ 4 Now therefore, this is what the Lord says: ‘You will not get down from the bed upon which you have lain, but you shall certainly die.’” Then Elijah departed.

When the messengers give Ahaziah the message, he sends a captain and his fifty men to Elijah to bring him to Ahaziah. When they get there, Elijah tells them, “. IF I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume your and your fifty.”. The fire does come down and consume them. The King sends another group of fifty and they meet the same fate. Then a third group is sent. This time the Angel of the LORD tells Elijah to go with them.

Elijah and the messengers of king Ahaziah

So Elijah goes to the king and delivers the same message to him in person. And, Ahaziah dies “according to the word of the LORD that Elijah had spoken. Now Elijah will soon be taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. One of the few people of the Bible who does not die, but is simply taken to heaven.

Elijah, appears out of nowhere, is fed by ravens, brings the widow’s son back to life, calls fire down from heaven to consume the prophets of Baal, has an angel cook for him and is repeatedly called on by the “angel of the LORD”. Then he will be suddenly taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. A remarkable life, a life lived for the LORD and in obedience to the word to the LORD. The LORD can use any of us in the same way if we will only listen and obey.

Rex McMahon

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