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Elijah and the Book of Kings

Elijah and the Book of Kings

One of the curious things I’ve found in the Bible is the story of Elijah.  Here’s this guy who is just mysteriously swept up and away in a “chariot of fire” without any story of why or how he died and supposedly according to Scripture, he will return at the time of the end to pave the way before the Lord. There are many different perspectives on the nature of Elijah and his role in history and Bible prophecy.

The Jewish people eagerly await the return of Elijah.  It is common practice during Passover seder to leave an empty cup for Elijah at their dinner table just in case he arrives. 

The Bahai’ faith believes Elijah, along with John the Baptist has already returned in 1844 in the form of the founder of their faith and prophet “the Bab.”

Muslims equate Elijah with an Islamic Prophet.  In the Qu’ran, 6:85, “And Zechariah and John and Jesus and Elijah, all in the ranks of the righteous”

I’d like to explore this Bible character a bit since he’s without argument, a quite curious figure.

First, let’s look at the meaning of the name Elijah. Common to Hebrew, Elijah is made up of two smaller names. “El” which means God, a shortened version of the prolonged plural form of Elohiym and “Jah” or (Yahh), a shortened form of Yahweh.  Meaning, “I am.”  Therefore the word Elijah is commonly translated into English as “the Lord is my God.”

In the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:4-6 it says, “"Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb (Sinai) for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…”

Quite curiously since the law of Moses is referenced, we see that Elijah’s role in the Hebrew Scriptures parallels Moses in a ton of ways:

Elijah: Went head to head with King Ahab (1 Kings 17:1)  Moses: Went head to head with Pharaoh (Exod. 5:1) Elijah: Fled into the wilderness (1 Kings 19:3) Moses: Fled into the wilderness (Exod. 2:15)  Elijah: Spoke on behalf of God (1 Kings 17:1) Moses: Spoke on behalf of God (Deut. 5:1) Elijah: Gathered all Israel to Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:19) Moses: Gathered all Israel to Mount Sinai (Exod. 19:17) Elijah: Defeated the prophets of Ba’al (1 Kings 18:20-40) Moses: Defeated the magicians of Pharaoh (Exod. 7:8-13, 20-22; 8:1-7)  Elijah: Successful in his intercession for Israel to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (1 Kings 18:36-39) Moses: Successful in his intercession for Israel to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Exod. 32:11-14)  Fasted for 40 days and 40 nights (1 Kings 19:8) Fasted for 40 days and 40 nights (Exod. 34:38; Deut. 9:9)  Elijah recommissioned at Horeb (Sinai) (1 Kings 19) Moses commissioned at Sinai (Exod. 3)  The Lord brought down fire from heaven upon his enemies. (2 Kings 1:9-12) The Lord brought down fire from heaven upon those who rebelled against him. (Num. 16; cf. Lev. 10:1-3)   Elijah was mysteriously whisked away with the Lord in the Transjordan. (2 Kings 2:9-11) Moses mysteriously died in the Transjordan but his burial is unknown. (Deut. 34:5)

I think you get the point.  Unarguably, Moses number one contribution is giving God’s people the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai.  He provided them with the moral law, an image of the character of God himself, written with His very finger. 

So then, a key to understanding the prophecy of Elijah in the future might be to see if there are other parallels to Elijah in Scripture, other than Moses.  Another character being referenced with the Spirit of Elijah is John the Baptist.  

In the New Testament, in Mark 1, we see John the Baptist as being the messenger who will “be a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (the same quote from Malachi)

John is also said to have the same mission as Elijah did in the OT:  “turning the hearts of the son to the fathers” So was this Elijah incarnate since we know these were said to be Elijah’s responsibilities in Bible prophecy? 

Well, John the Baptist didn’t think so.  In John 1:19, he is asked point blank “Are you Elijah?” and he answers with “No.  I am not.”  So why do the Disciples believe John the Baptist is Elijah? 

Because they both share the same Spirit and power of God himself with the same life calling:

1)  Prepare the way of the Lord’s return

2)  “Turn the hearts of the son to the Fathers and the Fathers to the Sons” 

But what the heck does that mean?  Well, I can tell you what I think it might mean…

Israel is God’s first-born son (Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9) The duty of Elijah and John the Baptist was to pave the way for the Jews (sons) to return to true worship of their ancestors, Isaac, Abraham, Jacob etc. (spiritual fathers) God.  But how did they do this?  By boldly pointing to the Father and the Son.

In Luke 1:16 John the Baptist is not only said to “bring the hearts of the father’s to the sons”, but Luke goes on to tells us what bringing the hearts of the sons back to the father’s actually means:  “he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist all have a similar message To bring the disobedient people of God back to righteousness.  But how did they tell the people to return to righteousness?

Moses did it by providing the Law of God to Israel. Elijah did it by demanding people obey the law and choose what God they will worship.  And John the Baptist did it by telling the people to seek Jesus, repent of their sins and be clean again. But what else was John's mission..."bring the DISOBEDIENT TO THE WISDOM OF RIGHTEOUS

So, all three carry out their task by tapping into the Spirit and Power of God.  AND, all three have a very similar message:  Like us, tap into the Holy Spirit, repent, be clean again, and with the Spirit of God, be OBEDIENT people!!!!  Not by your own might (since we know they weren't raising the dead and defeating Kings by their own power) but with the Spirit of God which by Faith, can make you righteous.

So, should Christians expect to see another Elijah type and will this Elijah type be a symbol of the coming of the end?  Well, I think so.  But I'll save my take on Elijah and the end time prophecy seen in the Book of Revelation for my next post since this one is getting a bit long....  And remember, this is Jess Theology 101.  So take that for what it's worth:)

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  • Scott

    Scott July 22, 2010

    Matthew 17:10-13 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?  (11)  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.  (12)  But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.  (13)  Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

  • Jessica

    Jessica July 22, 2010

    Hi Scott.  Nice to “see you”.

    Why do you think John the Baptist said he wasn’t Elijah?  Would love to get your take on whether you think the Two Witnesses in Revelation are Elijah and Moses.

  • Jenny

    Jenny July 22, 2010

    Interesting… I love the descriptions and the comparisons!

  • Scott

    Scott July 24, 2010

    The two witnesses in Revelation we do not know who they will be. People like to guess that the witnesses could be Elijah and Moses or Elijah and Enoch.

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