Elijah, also known as Elias, is one of the most celebrated biblical figures in the Holy Bible. He is credited with raising the dead, bringing fire down from the sky and when his days were done here on Earth, along with Enoch, he didn’t suffer an earthly death but was whisked up into heaven in a whirlwind while a chariot pulled by horses of flames flew by. Elijah is acknowledged as an Old Testament prophet of great importance by all three of the world’s major religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam whose life and times can be found in the books of Kings 1 and 2.
Very little is known about his upbringing or background, except that he lived during the reign of King Ahab who at that time ruled the Northern kingdom. He is referred to in the Holy Bible as the “The site” which has led biblical scholars to believe that he was born in The site, which is a small village in Gilead Heights, near Ajoon in Jordan. His physical description, according to the Bible, is that he had long hair, wore sheepskins and lived in the deserts and mountainous regions of Palestine.
Because he lived during the reign of King Ahab, this places him in the first half of the 9th century B.C. According to Jewish traditions, he is a historic figure who came to prominence when he took the bold and direct stand against King Ahab, who through his wife Jezebel introduced the worship of the pagan deity Baal into the Jewish kingdom, in effect turning away from the one true God. Elijah warned King Ahab that, if he failed to turn back to God, the land he ruled would be stricken with drought. This angered the king, who ordered his capture and death. God intervened told Elijah to hide from the king’s wrath by going to Wadi Cherith, a brook situated east of the Jordan River, and whilst there he would be fed by a flock of ravens.
The king through his aide Obadiah pursued Elijah relentlessly; then after three years of searching, he found Elijah. Having witnessed the fruition of Elijah’s prediction concerning the drought, Obadiah was reluctant to turn in his captive; however, he feared the consequences if he did not. Sensing his dilemma, Elijah decided to voluntarily present himself to the king, not out of fear, but out of obedience to God, who promised to send rain if he were to do so.
The power of God against Baal
When he appeared before King Ahab, the King and Jezebel challenged Elijah to prove the power of his God against Baal. 450 prophets of Baal and 400 Asherah priests assembled to the foot of Mount Carmel. Once there Elijah challenged the prophets to prove that their God was the righteous God. Two sacrificial alters were prepared and two oxen were slaughtered, cut into small pieces then laid one on each alter. The Baal prophets began to perform a variety of dances, said prayers and chanted loudly from morning to noon and when this failed they mutilation themselves and added their own blood to that of the oxen then continued to pray until evening, all of which ultimately failed.
It was then Elijah’s turn to prove the power of his God.
He first ordered the alters to be cleansed with water, he then looked to the heavens and asked Jehovah God to accept the sacrifice. Immediately a great fire fell from the heavens and consumed the slaughtered animals, together with the wood and stones on which they were laid. All those who witnessed believed and committed there and then to monotheism.
Elijah then ordered all the prophets of Baal to be killed and soon thereafter the rain began to fall. From that moment onwards this event has been held sacred by the Jewish people and commemorated annually at the feast of Yom Kippur.
Unfortunately, that was far from the end of the matter. Jezebel had suffered great public humiliation at the hands of Elijah and wanted revenge for the death of the 450 prophets. Elijah fled to Judah and into the wilderness fearing death at the hands of Jezebel and prayed for the gift a natural death instead. In a state of utter exhaustion, Elijah arrived at a place where a huge juniper tree grew, there he sat and fell into a deep slumber. Whilst asleep an angel sent from God brought him bread and water, then woke him up to eat. After eating he fell asleep once more, only to be roused again by the angel. This time the angel told him to eat some more food, because he had a long journey ahead of him, one that would take forty days and nights to complete.
His destination was to take him to Mount Horeb, (where Moses was given the Ten Commandments) and whilst there God spoke to Elijah and demonstrated his mighty power through earthquakes, wind, and fire. After which he instructed Elijah to return to the city of Damascus where he was charged with the tasks of anointing King Hazael of Syria, King Jehu of Israel and Elisha the one chosen as his replacement.
Elijah was given many tasks to accomplish by God, amongst them was prophesying the death of Jezebel and her son, King Ahab had prayed fervently for God’s mercy and forgiveness and was spared. When his assignments were completed, it became time for Elijah to go home to meet the lord, all of which took place in a most miraculous way. According to the bible, Elijah and Elisha his anointed replacement were walking along the banks of the Jordan River, when quite suddenly out of the heavens a chariot pulled by a team of flaming horses descended from the sky and in a whirlwind of fire and took Elijah bodily up into the heavens.
After his sensational departure, Elijah made a subsequent and perhaps his most important reappearances on earth. It was at the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Jesus took three of his closest and most trusted disciples Peter, James and his brother John up to Mount Tabor where the group of four was spoken to by God in the presence of Moses and Elijah.