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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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One incident in the life of Elijah is recalled by St. Paul (Romans 11:2-4) and another by St. James (james 5:17f.).

(1) Much is to be learned from a great man’s mistakes; the memory of his lapses may save others from falling. In a mood of despair Elijah imagined that the worst had happened to Israel, and that the worst was likely to overtake himself. The prophets were slain, the altars were digged down, he was left alone, and his enemies were seeking his life. Ahab and Jezebel and the false prophets had triumphed; it was all over with the cause of righteousness and truth for which he had laboured. Seeing that all Israel had proved unfaithful to God, there was nothing for the lonely, outlawed prophet to live for, and he requested that he might die. But the answer-ὁ χρηματισμός, the Divine oracle-proved him to be the victim of a morbid fancy, and brought him back to facts. Among the faithless many others were as faithful as he. God had reserved for Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. All Israel had not forsaken Him, and-what was still more important-He had in no wise forsaken Israel. There is but one thing that could ever conceivably justify pessimism-the failure of Divine power or love; and the fear of that calamity is but a human weakness. Now St. Paul could not help seeing the close analogy between the conditions of Elijah’s critical time and those of his own. Israel as a whole seemed once more to have forsaken God, in rejecting the Messiah. In certain moods St. Paul might be tempted to compare himself-lonely, hated, hunted-to the sad prophet. But did the ‘great refusal’ of the majority prove either that all Israel was unfaithful or that God had cast off His people? No, for (a) now as in Elijah’s time there were splendid exceptions, forming a remnant (λεῖμμα = שְׁאָר) which was the true Israel; and (b) God’s immutable faithfulness made the idea of a rejection incredible and almost unthinkable.

(2) St. James (5:17f.) takes an illustration from the story of Elijah, and in doing so reminds his readers that, though so great in life and so remote from ordinary humanity in the manner of his exodus from the world, the prophet was yet a man of like passions (or ‘nature,’ Revised Version margin) with us-ἄνθρωπος ὁμοιοπαθὴς ἡμῖν-so that his experiences may serve as a help to weak, ordinary mortals. The success of his prayer for a time of drought, and again for rain in a time of famine, is cited as an evidence of the fact that ‘the prayer of a righteous man availeth much in its working.’ It has to be noted, however, that the OT narrative (1 Kings 17) contains no reference whatever to the former petition, while the latter is scarcely deducible from 1 Kings 18:42, where it is only stated that the prophet bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. Sirach (48:2, 3), however, affirms that he ‘brought a famine,’ and ‘by the word of the Lord he shut up the heaven’. In 4 Ezra (7:109) Elijah is cited as an example of intercession pro his qui pluviam acceperunt.

James Strahan.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Elijah'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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Elijah (2)