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ELIJAH

Prediction of Drought ( 1).
Contest with Baal-Prophets ( 2).
Flight from Jezebel ( 3).
Varied Activities ( 4).
Character and Miracles ( 5).

Elijah (" My God is Yahweh ") was perhaps the greatest of the prophets of the northern kingdom. He was of Tishbeh in Gilead (I Kings xvii. 1 according to the correct reading; cf. the Septuagint). The narrative concerning him (I Kings xvii.-xix. 21; II Kings i., ii.) is taken from a separate source and contains the tradition of the prophetical companies. It is possible that the last sections belong to another Eliaha-source.

1. Prediction of Drought

The public appearance of Elijah occurred during the reign of Ahab (now placed about 876--854) and Ahaziah (854-853). Ahab suffered himself to be unhappily influenced in his domestic life and in religious matters by his queen Jezebel, the daughter of Eth- baal, king of Tyre, a priest of Astarte and a regicide (Josephus, Contra Apion, I. xviii.). Fanatical, scheming, and ener getic, she procured the establishment of her native cult in Israel, and had erected in Samaria a grand temple of Bawl of Tyre. When heathenish confusion had become dominant in the country and the faithful among the Yahweh-prophets were silenced by persecution, Elijah appeared and an nounced in the name of Yahweh a long drought, and then suddenly disappeared. He dwelt mean while by the brook Cherith (Wadi Kelt near Jericho, or an eastern tributary of the Jordan?), where he " was fed by the ravens "; after the brook dried up he lived at Zarephath (now Sarfend) in the territory of Zidon in the house of a widow. For two years no rain fell. Menander (Josephus, Ant. VIII., xiii. 2) knew of an extraordinary drought which lasted one year under the Tyrian king Ithobal (i.e., Ethbaal, father of Jezebel), and this accords well with the Hebrew mode of computing time. The later Jewish tradition, however, differs (Luke iv. 25 and Jas. v. 17), stating that the heaven was shut up three years and six months.

2. Contest with Baal-Prophets

At last Elijah came again before the king, who like his people had been humbled by the famine. He asked of him an ordeal to decide which God should rule the country. The outcome of this ordeal is described in full, I Kings xviii. 20 sqq. The scene of this act was most likely a place on the south eastern height of mount Carmel (now called el Mohraka, " place of fire "). In spite of all their penances and ecstatic dances "the prophets of Baal," whom we may conceive as like the modern dervishes or fakirs, were unable to elicit a sign of life from their god, whereas in answer to the simple prayer of Elijah a fire from heaven consumed the sacrifice, so that the assembled people did homage to the God of Israel. The 450 ministers of the false god received the punishment merited according to the strict principle of theocracy (cf. Ex. xx. 3; Deut. v. 7, xvii. 2-7). Having thus expiated the guilt, Elijah could promise rain and went as forerunner (I Kings xviii. 46) before the royal chariot to show that he was no rebel but was ready to render the smallest service to the king as soon as he obeyed his God.

Soon, however, Elijah had to escape from the vengeance of Jezebel. This time he went to mount Horeb (I Kings xix.). There he witnessed a grand theophany after the manner of Ex. xxxiii. 20-21, xxxiv. 5 sqq.

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