Mid-ninth century B.C. (approximately 899 to 840 B.C.)
Elijah prophesied in the northern kingdom during the reigns of Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram (873-843 B.C.).
Rather than experiencing death, Elijah was “translated” directly into the heavens. As he did so, his prophet’s mantel fell to Elisha in a symbolic transfer of authority and position to his heir apparent to the prophet’s calling.
Preparation and Calling
We know nothing about Elijah’s birth and early life, not even the name of his father (which was a common Old Testament practice to show legitimacy and heritage). He is a native of Tishbe in Gilead, the exact location of which is uncertain today.
Interaction with God
Elijah’s recorded relationship with God often comes in connection with the prophet’s frequent confrontations with the idolatrous political and religious leaders of the land. Thus, Elijah shuts the heavens from rain and causes drought, then later challenges Ahab and his priests to a “duel” of sorts to determine whose God can end the drought. When Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume not only the animal sacrifice but also the priests of Baal, Elijah’s witness demonstrates the superiority of his God.
However, not all of Elijah’s interactions with God were accompanied by lightning and drama. One of his more powerful recorded experiences takes place in 1 Kings 19:11-12: “And [God] said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and afte the fire a still small voice.” It was here in this quiet whispering that Elijah found the Lord and had a one-on-one discussion with the great Almighty.
Elijah was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom during a time when most of the people were worshipers of the fertility god Baal. His mission was so impressive that the Israelites seemed to believe that Elijah would someday return to them, for many people mistook Jesus for Elijah during his ministry.
Elijah had several recorded confrontations with Ahab, the king. These rather powerful experiences helped cement Elijah’s reputation as prophet, along with a significant theophany when Elijah heard the voice of the Lord as “a still small voice.”
Elijah’s teachings were wrapped up in his actions. During a time when idolatry was encouraged by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, Elijah challenged both the political leaders and the false priests of Baal and Asherah. He was relentless in calling on the powers of heaven to prove to all that his God was the true God, and as such was more powerful in every way than the popular but false fertility gods of the day.
Living with the Prophet
Elijah was known for destroying 450 false prophets. He defended God and truth at all times. However, he also miraculously fed a widow and brought a dead child back to life. True strength always includes the ability to show compassion, and true compassion includes a willingness to stand up for truth at all times. Challenge yourself to firmly represent God in your life and to quietly share compassionate service to someone in need this coming week.
The Learning Bible (CEV)
Oxford Companion to the Bible, eds. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan
The Holy Bible (KJV)