- —Biblical Data:
- Ahab and Elijah.
- Elijah at Mount Horeb.
- —In Rabbinical Literature:
- In the Times of Ahab.
- Elijah's Zeal for God.
- Elijah in the Guise of an Arab.
- Elijah the Friend of the Pious.
- Joshua b. Levi and Elijah.
- Elijah Explains His Actions.
- Elijah as the Forerunner of the Messiah.
- The Seven Miracles.
- —In Mohammedan Literature:
- —In Medieval Folk-Lore:
- —Critical View:
The name means "
Elijah, therefore, came from the land east of the Jordan, to wage war, in the name of the God of his fathers, against the worship of Baal. He was marked as an adherent of the old customs by his simple dress, consisting of a mantle of skins girt about the loins with a leather belt (II Kings i. 8). He began his activities with the announcement that the drought then afflicting the land should not cease until he gave the word (comp. Josephus, "Ant." viii. 13, § 2).Ahab and Elijah.
This announcement, addressed to Ahab and his wife, marked the beginning of a life of wandering and privation for the prophet. He fled from hiding-place to hiding-place, the first being by the brook Cherith (). Since Robinson's explorations in Palestine (ii. 533 et seq.) this brook has been identified with the Wadi el-Ḳelt, which discharges into the Jordan near Jericho. But the resemblance between the two names is really less close than appears, for it must be remembered that "Ḳelt" is pronounced with the emphatic "k." Moreover, since the expressions and refer to the land east of the Jordan, the brook Cherith must have been there, even if there is no modern river-name with which to identify it. After the brook Cherith had dried up, the prophet was forced to seek refuge beyond the boundaries of Israel, and found it in the Phenician Zarephath, about four hours' journey south of Sidon, where a widow sustained him. She was rewarded by the prophet's miraculous benefits (I Kings xvii. 9-24).
The greatest achievement of Elijah's life was his victory over the priests of Baal at Mt. Carmel. Having heard that the other prophets of
But this victory brought no rest to Elijah. He had to leave Israel in order to escape the vengeance of Jezebel (ib. xix. 3 et seq.), and fled to the place where Israel's Law had been promulgated by Moses. As he lay under a juniper-tree, exhausted by his journey, he was miraculously provided with food; and on reaching Horeb, the mountain of God, he heard the voice of the Lord exhorting him to patience. This is the sense of the famous passage (ib. xix. 11-13). God manifested Himself neither in the great wind that rent the mountains,nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the "still small voice." The three following measures were suggested: the appointing of a foreign enemy of Israel; the anointing of an Israelitic rival king to Ahab's dynasty; and the anointing of Elisha to continue the spiritual work of the prophet. This, the chief work of the prophet, Elijah himself carried on to the end of his life. After the election of Elisha (xix. 19-21), he prophesied both punishments and promises (xxi. 17-28; II Kings i. 3 et seq.), and left the field of his activities as suddenly as he had appeared (II Kings ii. 11).
Elijah is also mentioned in later Biblical and apocryphal passages as follows: II Chron. xxi. 12. et seq.; Mal. iii. 24; Ecclus. (Sirach) xlviii. 1; 1 Macc. ii. 58; Isaiah's Martyrdom, ii. 14 (in Kautzsch, "Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments," 1898, ii. 125).
Elijah, "let him be remembered for good," or "he who is remembered for good" (Yer. Sheb. iii., end); or, as he is commonly called among the Jews, "the prophet Elijah" (Eliyahu ha-nabi'), has been glorified in Jewish legend more than any other Biblical personage. The Haggadah which makes this prophet the hero of its description has not been content, as in the case of others, to describe merely his earthly life and to elaborate it in its own way, but has created a new history of him, which, beginning with his death or "translation," ends only with the close of the history of the human race. From the day of the prophet Malachi, who says of Elijah that God will send him before "the great and dreadful day" (Mal. iii. 23 [A. V. iv. 5]), down to the later marvelous stories of the Ḥasidic rabbis, reverence and love, expectation and hope, were always connected in the Jewish consciousness with the person of Elijah. As in the case of most figures of Jewish legend, so in the case of Elijah the Biblical account became the basis of later legend. Elijah the precursor of the Messiah, Elijah zealous in the cause of God. Elijah the helper in distress—these are the three leading notes struck by the Haggadah, endeavoring to complete the Biblical picture with the Elijah legends. Since, according to the Bible, Elijah lived a mysterious life, the Haggadah naturally did not fail to supply the Biblical gaps in its own way. In the first place, it was its aim to describe more precisely Elijah's origin, since the Biblical (I Kings xvii. 1) "Elijah, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead," was too vague.
Three different theories regarding Elijah's origin are presented in the Haggadah: (1) he belonged to the tribe of Gad (Gen. R. lxxi.); (2) he was a Benjamite from Jerusalem, identical with the Elijah mentioned in I Chron. viii. 27; (3) he was a priest. That Elijah was a priest is a statement which is made by many Church fathers also (Aphraates, "Homilies," ed. Wright, p. 314; Epiphanius, "Hæres." lv. 3, passim), and which was afterward generally accepted, the prophet being further identified with Phinehas (Pirḳe R. El. xlvii.; Targ. Yer. on Num. xxv. 12; Origen, ed. Migne, xiv. 225). Mention must also be made of a statement which, though found only in the later cabalistic literature (Yalḳuṭ Reubeni, Bereshit, 9a, ed. Amsterdam), seems nevertheless to be very old (see Epiphanius, l.c.), and according to which Elijah was an angel in human form, so that he had neither parents nor offspring. See Melchizedek.In the Times of Ahab.
If the deeds which the Scripture records of Phinehas be disregarded, Elijah is first met with in the time of Ahab, and on the following occasion: God bade the prophet pay a visit of condolence to Hiel, who had suffered the loss of his sons because of his impiety. Elijah was unwilling to go, because profane words always angered and excited him. Only after God had promised to fulfil whatever words the prophet might utter in his righteous indignation did Elijah go to Hiel. Here the prophet met Ahab and warned him that God fulfils the maledictions of the godly, and that Hiel had been deprived of his sons because Joshua had anathematized the rebuilding of Jericho. The king derisively asked: Is Joshua greater than his teacher Moses? For Moses threatened all idolaters with hunger and distress, and yet he—Ahab-was faring very well. At this Elijah said (I Kings xvii. 1): "As the Lord God of Israel liveth," etc.; thereupon God had to fulfil His promise, and a famine came in consequence of the want of rain (Sanh. 113a; Yer. Sanh. x.). God sent ravens to supply the wants of the prophet during the famine. Some think "'ore-bim" (ravens) refers to the inhabitants of Oreb (Gen. R. xxxviii. 5; Ḥul. 5a; so also the Jewish teacher of Jerome in his commentary on Isa. xv. 7). The ravens brought meat to Elijah from the kitchen of the pious Jehoshaphat (Tan., ed. Buber, iv. 165; Aphraates, l.c. p. 314; different in Sanh. 113). God, however, who is merciful even toward the impious, sought to induce Elijah to absolve Him from His promise, so that He might send rain. He accordingly caused the brook from which the prophet drew water to dry up, but this was of no avail. God finally caused the death of the son of the widow in whose house the prophet lived, hoping thereby to overcome the latter's relentless severity. When Elijah implored God to revive the boy (compare
The bulls, which were selected for sacrifice by lot, were twins which had grown up together. But while Elijah brought his bull quickly to the place of sacrifice, the 450 priests of Baal labored in vain to induce the other to move a step. The animal even began to speak, complaining that while it was his twin brother's glorious privilege to be offered upon the altar of God, he was to be offered to Baal. Only after the prophet had convinced him that his sacrifice would also be for the glorification of Godcould the priests of Baal lead him to the altar (Tan., ed. Buber, iv. 165). They then commenced to cry "Baal! Baal!" but there was no response. In order to confound them utterly, "God made the whole world keep silent as if it were void and waste"; so that the priests of Baal might not claim that the voice of Baal had been heard (Ex. R. xxix., end). These proceedings consumed much time, and Elijah found it necessary to make the sun stand still: "Under Joshua thou stoodst still for Israel's sake; do it now that God's name be glorified!" (Aggadat Bereshit, lxxvi.). Toward evening Elijah called his disciple Elisha and made him pour water over his hands. Then a miracle took place: water commenced to flow from the fingers of Elijah as from a fountain, so that the ditch around the altar became full (Tanna debe Eliyahu R. xvii.). The prophet prayed to God that He would send fire down upon the altar, and that the people might see the miracle in its proper light and not regard it as sorcery (Ber. 9b). In his prayer he spoke of his mission as the precursor of the Messiah, and petitioned God to grant his request that he might be believed in future (Midr. Shir ha-Shirim, ed. Grünhuth, 25a; Aggadat Bereshit, lxxvi.).Elijah's Zeal for God.
In spite of Elijah's many miracles the great mass of the Jewish people remained as godless as before; they even abolished the sign of the covenant, and the prophet had to appear as Israel's accuser before God (Pirḳe R. El. xxix.). In the same cave where God once appeared to Moses and revealed Himself as gracious and merciful, Elijah was summoned to appear before God. By this summons he perceived that he should have appealed to God's mercy instead of becoming Israel's accuser. The prophet, however, remained relentless in his zeal and severity, so that God commanded him to appoint his successor (Tanna debe Eliyahu Zuṭa viii.). The vision in which God revealed Himself to Elijah gave him at the same time a picture of the destinies of man, who has to pass through "four worlds." This world was shown to the prophet in the form of the wind, since it disappears as the wind; storm () is the day of death, before which man trembles (); fire is the judgment in Gehenna, and the stillness is the last day (Tan., Peḳude, p. 128, Vienna ed.). Three years after this vision (Seder 'Olam R. xvii.) Elijah was "translated." Concerning the place to which Elijah was transferred, opinions differ among Jews and Christians, but the old view was that Elijah was received among the heavenly inhabitants, where he records the deeds of men (Ḳid. 70; Ber. R. xxxiv. 8), a task which according to the apocalyptic literature is entrusted to Enoch. But as early as the middle of the second century, when the notion of translation to heaven was abused by Christian theologians, the assertion was made that Elijah never entered into heaven proper (Suk. 5a; compare also Ratner on Seder 'Olam R. xvii.); in later literature paradise is generally designated as the abode of Elijah (compare Pirḳe R. El. xvi.), but since the location of paradise is itself uncertain, the last two statements may be identical.
It is one of the duties of Elijah to stand at the cross roads of paradise and to lead the pious to their proper places, to bring the souls of the impious out of hell at the beginning of the Sabbath, to lead them back again at the end of the Sabbath, and after they have suffered for their sins, to bring them to paradise forever (Pirḳe R. El. l.c.). In mystic literature Elijah is an angel, whose life on earth is conceived of as a merely apparitional one, and who is identified with Sandalfon. The cabalists speak also of the struggle between Elijah and the Angel of Death, who asserts his right to all children of men, and who endeavored to prevent, Elijah from entering heaven (Zohar Ruth, beginning, ed. Warsaw, 1885, 76a). The taking of Elijah into heaven or supramundane regions did not mean his severance from this world; on the contrary, his real activity then began. From Biblical times there is his letter to Jehoram, written seven years after his translation (Seder 'Olam R. xvii.; compare, however, Josephus, "Ant." ix. 5, § 2), and his interference in favor of the Jews after Haman had planned their extinction (see
Elijah appeared to many while they were awake, and this in various ways. He often elected to appear in the guise of an Arab () or, more exactly, in that of an Arab of the desert (see
To the pious, Elijah is in many cases a guardian angel, for whom no place is too remote, and who leaves nothing undone to help them in their distress or to save them from misery. Thus, Nahum of Gimzo was once sent on a political mission to Rome and given certain gifts to carry to the emperor; on the way he was robbed of these, but Elijah replaced them, and procured for Nahum riches and honor (Sanh. 109a). He saved the tanna Meïr from the persecuting bailiffs. During the religious persecutions under Hadrian he saved another tanna, Eleazar ben Prata, from the Roman government, which wished to sentence him to death, by removing those who were to testify against him and by bringing him to a place 400 miles distant ('Ab. Zarah 17b). He acted as witness for the amora Shila, when he was accused of exercising jurisdiction according to Jewish law (Ber. 58a), and appeared as comforter to Akiba when the latter was in distress (Ned. 50a). As physician he helped Simi b. Ashi (Shab. 109b), and R. Judah I., whose awful and incessant pains he stopped by laying his hand upon him. This healing had at the same time the effect of reconciling Rabbi with Ḥiyyah, for Elijah appeared to Rabbi in the form of Ḥiyyah, and caused him thereby to hold Ḥiyyah in great respect (Yer. Kil. ix. 32b). Elijah was a daily guest in the academy of Rabbi, and on one occasion he even disclosed a great celestial mystery, for which he was severely punished in heaven (B. M. 85b). Elijah, however, is not only the helper in distress and the peacemaker, but he acted also as teacher of Eleazar ben Simon, whom he taught for thirteen years (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, x. 92b; see
The following is an Elijah story which was very widely circulated, and which was even given a place in the liturgy: To a pious but very poor man Elijah once appeared and offered himself as servant. The man, at first refusing, finally took him. He did not keep him long, however, for the king needed a skilful builder for a palace which he was about to build; Elijah offered his services, and the pious man received a high price for his servant. Elijah did not disappoint his new master, but prayed to God, whereupon suddenly the palace of the king stood there in readiness. Elijah disappeared (Rabb. Nissim, "Ḥibbur Yafeh meha-Yeshu'ah," near end). This story has been beautifully worked over in the piyyuṭ. "Ish Ḥasid," which is sung, according to the German-Polish ritual, on Sabbath evening.Elijah the Friend of the Pious.
In olden times there were a number of select ones with whom Elijah had intercourse as with his equals, they being at the time aware of his identity. In Talmudic-Midrashic literature are the following stories: Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was brought by Elijah to Jerusalem to receive instruction there from Johanan ben Zakkai (Pirḳe R. El. i.). In the great controversy between this teacher and his colleagues, Elijah communicated to Rabbi Nathan what the opinion concerning this controversy was in heaven (B. M. 59b). The same Nathan was also instructed by him with reference to the right measure in eating and drinking (Giṭ. 70a). A special pet of Elijah seems to have been Nehorai, whom he instructed with reference to Biblical passages, and explained to him also some of the phenomena of nature (Yer. Ber. ix. 13c; Ruth R. iv.). Another teacher, called "Jose" (probably not Jose b. Ḥalafta), was so familiar with Elijah that he was not afraid to declare openly that Elijah had a rough temper (Sanh. 113a). The words of Elijah to Judah, the brother of Salla the Pious, read: "Be not angry, and you will not sin; drink not, and you will not sin" (Ber. 29b). Besides this friendly advice the pious Judah received important instructions from Elijah (Yoma 19b; Sanh. 97b). Rabbah ben Shila (Ḥag. 15b), Rabbah ben Abbahu (Ḥag. 15b; B. M. 114b), Abiathar (Giṭ. 6b), Kahana (Ḳid. 41a), Bar He He (Ḥag. 9b), are also mentioned as among the pious who personally communicated with Elijah. Besides these, some others whose names are not given are mentioned as having been in friendly relations with Elijah (B. B. 7b; Yer. Ter. i. 40d; see also Ket. 61a). What kind of people Elijah selected may be seen from the following: Of two pious brothers, one allowed his servants to partake only of the first course at meals, whereas the other allowed them to partake of every course. Elijah did not visit the first, whereas he frequently visited the latter. In like manner he treated two brothers, one of whom served himself first, and then his guests, whereas the other cared for his guests first (Ket. l.c.). The demands of Elijah upon his friends were very strict, and the least mistake alienated him. One of his friends built a vestibule, whereby the poor were at a disadvantage in that their petitioning voices could be heard in the house only with great difficulty; as a result Elijah never came to him again (B. B. 7b).
Very characteristic of Elijah is his relation to the Babylonian amora Anan. A man brought Anan some small fish as a present, which he would not accept, because the man wished to submit to him a law case for decision. The petitioner, however, sooner than have the rabbi refuse his gift, decided to take his case elsewhere, and requested Anan to direct him to another rabbi; this Anan did. The rabbi before whom the case was tried showed himself very friendly toward the man because he had been recommended to him by Anan, and decided in his favor. Elijah, till then Anan's teacher and friend, deserted him from that moment, because, through his carelessness, judgment had been biased (Ket. 105b). The Midrash Tanna debe Eliyahu, in which Elijah often speaks of himself in the first person, recounting his experiences and teaching many lessons, is likewise associated with Anan, who is said to have compiled the work from Elijah's own discourses.Joshua b. Levi and Elijah.
None of the pious could boast of such a close relation to Elijah as could Joshua b. Levi, to fulfill whose wishes Elijah was always ready, although he sometimes showed himself very severe toward him (Yer. Ter. viii. 4b; Yer. Sheb. ix. 31a; Mak. 11a). Elijah once brought about an interview between Joshua and the Messiah (Sanh. 98a), and he also showed Joshua the precious stones which, according to the words of the prophet (Isa. liv. 11, 12), shall replace the sun in giving light to Jerusalem (Pesiḳ. xviii. 136a). But more precious than these sacred revelations were the lessons which Joshua received from Elijah, especially the doctrine of the theodicy, which Elijah tried to explain to his friend by means of illustrations. Joshua once asked Elijah to take him along on his journeys through the world. To this the prophet yielded on condition that Joshua should never question him concerning the causes of his actions, strange as they might appear; should this condition be violated, the prophet would be obliged to part from him. Both set out upon their journey. The first halt was at the house of a poor man who owned only a cow, but who, with his wife, received the strangers most kindly, and entertained them to the best of his ability. Before they continued their journey next morning, the rabbi heard Elijah pray that God might destroy the poor man's cow, and before they had left the hospitable house the cow was dead. Joshua could not contain himself, but in great excitement said to Elijah: "Is this the reward which the poor man receives for his hospitality toward us?" The prophet reminded him of the condition upon which they had undertaken the journey, and silently they continued on their way. Toward evening they came to the house of a rich man who did not even look at them, so that they had to pass the night without food and drink. In the morning when they left the inhospitable house, Joshua heard Elijah pray that God would build up a wall which had fallen in one of the rich man's houses. At once the wall stood erect. This increased the agitation of the rabbi still more; but remembering the condition which had been imposed upon him, he kept silent. On the next evening they came to a synagogue adorned with silver and gold, none of whose rich members showed any concern for the poor travelers, but dismissed them with bread and water. Upon leaving the place Joshua heard Elijah pray that God would make them all leaders ("heads"). Joshua was about to break his promise, but forced himself to go on in silence again. In the next city they met very generous people who vied with one another in performing acts of kindness toward the strangers. Great, then, was the surprise of Joshua when, upon leaving the place, he heard the prophet pray that God might give them only "one head."Elijah Explains His Actions.
Joshua could not refrain any longer, and asked, Elijah to explain to him his strange actions, although he knew that by asking he would forfeit the prophet's companionship. Elijah answered: "The poor but generous man lost his cow because of my prayer, for I knew that his wife was about to die, and I asked God to take the life of the cow instead of that of the wife. My prayer for the heartless rich man was because under the fallen wall was a great treasure which would have come into the hands of this unworthy man had he undertaken to rebuild it. It was also no blessing which I pronounced upon the unfriendly synagogue, for a 'place which has many heads will not be of long duration'; on the other hand, I wished for the others, the good people, 'one head,' that union and peace may always be among them." This is a widely circulated legend, first found in Nissim ben Jacob's "Ḥibbur Yafeh," 1886, pp. 9-12, and reprinted in Jellinek's "Bet ha-Midrash," v. 133-135 (vi. 131-133 gives another version). For Judæo-German and other renderings of this legend see Zunz, "G. V." 2d ed., p. 138. The antiquity of the legend may be seen from the fact that Mohammed mentions it in the Koran, sura xviii. 59-82; compare also "R. E. J." viii. 69-73.
Besides Joshua ben Levi, Elijah showed another rabbi, Baroka by name, that things must not be judged from outward appearances. Once they were in a lively street of a great city, when the rabbi asked Elijah whether there were any in the multitude who would have a place in the world to come. The prophet could give an affirmative answer in regard to three men only: a jailer and two jesters—the first, because he saw to it that chastity and morality prevailed among the inmates of the prison; the latter, because they tried by their jests to banish all anxious thoughts from the people (Ta'an. 22a).
The Tannaim and Amoraim are not the only ones who could boast of the special favor of Elijah. The mystics and cabalists of all times frequently appealed to Elijah as their patron. Among them was the gaon Joseph, of whom it was said that Elijah was a daily visitor at his academy (First Epistle of Sherira, ed. Neubauer, p. 32). The introduction of the Cabala to Provence is traced directly to Elijah, who revealed the secret doctrine to Jacob ha-Nozer. Similarly Abraham b. Isaac and Abraham ben David of Posquières are mentioned as privileged ones, to whom Elijah appeared (see Jellinek, "Auswahl Kabbalistischer Mystik," pp. 4, 5). The pseudonymous author of the "Ḳanah" asserted that he had received his teachings directly from Elijah. In the Zohar, Simon ben Yoḥai and his son Eleazar are mentioned as among those who enjoyed the special friendship of Elijah. This work, as well as the Tiḳḳun Zohar and the Zohar Ḥadash, contains muchthat is ascribed to Elijah (compare Friedmann, "Seder Eliyahu Rabba we-Seder Eliyahu Zuṭa," pp. 38-41). When, toward the middle of the fourteenth century, the Cabala received new prominence in Palestine, Elijah again took a leading part. Joseph de la Regna asks Elijah's advice in his combat with Satan. The father of the new cabalistic school, Isaac Luria, was visited by Elijah before his son was born. In like manner, the father of Israel Ba'al Shem-Ṭob received the good news from Elijah that a son would be born unto him, "who would be a light in Israel" ("Ma'asiyyot Peliot," pp. 24, 25, Cracow, 1896, which contains an interesting narrative of Elijah's meeting with the father of Ba'al Shem-Ṭob).Elijah as the Forerunner of the Messiah.
The climax of Elijah's activity is his appearance shortly before the Messianic time. "He is appointed to lead aright the coming ages, to restore the tribes of Jacob," says Ben Sira of him (Ecclus. [Sirach] xlviii. 10, 11). In the second half of the first Christian century it was expected that Elijah would appear shortly before the coming of the Messiah, to restore to families the purity which in the course of time had become doubtful ('Eduy. viii. 7; this is the opinion of Johanan b. Zakkai). A century later the notion prevailed that Elijah's office was "to bring peace and adjust all differences" (ib.). It was expected that all controversies and legal disputes which had accumulated in the course of time would be adjusted by him, and that difficult ritual questions and passages of Scripture seemingly conflicting with each other would be explained, so that no difference of opinion would exist concerning anything (Men. 45b; Ab. R. N. xxxiv.; Num. R. iii., near the end; compare also
But he will do more than this, in that he will perform seven miracles before the eyes of the people: (1) He will bring before them Moses and the generation of the wilderness; (2) he will cause Korah and his company to rise out of the earth; (3) he will revive the Messiah, the son of Joseph; (4) he will show them again the three mysteriously lost sacred utensils of the Temple, namely, the Ark, the vessel of manna, and the vessel of sacred oil (see Antichrist); (5) he will show the scepter which he received from God; (6) he will crush mountains like straw; (7) he will reveal the great mystery (Jellinek, l.c. iii. 72). At the bidding of the Messiah, Elijah will sound the trumpet, and at the first blast the primitive light will appear; at the second, the dead will rise; and at the third, the Divine Majesty will appear (Jellinek, l.c. v. 128). During the Messianic reign Elijah will be one of the eight princes (Micah v. 4), and even on the Last Day he will not give up his activity. He will implore God's mercy for the wicked who are in hell, while their innocent children who died in infancy on account of the sins of their fathers, are in paradise. Thus he will complete his mission, in that God, moved by his prayer, will bring the sinful fathers to their children in paradise (Eccl. R. iv. 1). He will bring to an end his glorious career by killing Samael at the behest of God, and thus destroy all evil (Yalḳuṭ Ḥadash, ed. Radawil, 58a). Compare Elijah's Chair.
- Bousset, The Antichrist Legend, s.v.;
- Friedmann, Seder Eliyahu Rabba we-Seder Eliyahu Zuṭa, pp. 1-44, Warsaw, 1902;
- S[amuel] K[ohn], Der Prophet Elia in der Legende, in Monatsschrift, xii. 241 et seq., 361 et seq.;
- Ginzberg, Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern, i. 76-80.
Elijah is mentioned in the Koran as a prophet together with Zechariah, John, and Jesus (sura vi. 85); while in sura xxxvii. 123-130 it is said: "Verily, Elijah [Ilyas] was of the prophets, when he said to his people, 'Will ye call upon Baal and leave the best of creators, God, your Lord?'" In verse 130 he is called "Ilyasin": "Peace upon Ilyasin, thus do we reward those who do well."
According to Baiḍawi, the people to whom Elijah was sent were the inhabitants of Baalbek in Cle-Syria. When Elijah made his appearance as a prophet the king (Ibn al-Athir says that the king's name was Ahab, but places him after Ezekiel) believed in him, though the people did not. The king made Elijah his vizier, and both worshiped God. But the king soon apostatized, and Elijah separated from him. The prophet then afflicted the country with famine, and no one save himself had bread to eat; so that if one noticed the odor of bread he said: "Elijah must have passed this way."
One day Elijah came into the house of an old woman who had a paralytic child named Elisha ibn Ukhṭub. Elijah cured the child, who remained with the prophet, and, after Elijah's translation, became his successor.
The Jewish tradition that Elijah is identical with Phinehas is current among the Moslems also. They have, moreover, another tradition borrowed from the Jews. Elijah, they say, will appear on the last day, and either he or one of his descendants will await, in the interior of a mountain, the second coming of the Messiah.
Certain Islamic authorities confound Elijah with Al-Khiḍr (= "the green" or "fresh one"), famous in Mohammedan literature on account of his having discovered the fountain of perpetual youth. Even their names have been combined in "Khiḍr-Ilyas" or "Khiḍralas." Other authorities, among them the author of the "Ta'rikh Muntaḥab," distinguish Elijah from Al-Khiḍr, whom they identify with Elisha. They believe that, while the latter is the guardian of the sea, Elijah is the guardian of the desert (the idea originating, doubtless, in the fact that Elijah hid himself in the desert; I Kings xix. 4).
Elijah's translation is thus described by the Moslems: God had told Elijah in a vision to go out of the town and to mount anything which he might see before him. He departed with his disciple Elisha, and, seeing a horse, mounted it. God covered him with feathers, enveloped him with fire, took away from him the desire of eating and drinking, and joined him to His angels. According to Ibn al-Athir, God made Elijah of a twofold nature: man and angel, earthly and heavenly.
- Ibn al-Athir, Al-Ta'rikh al-Kamil, i. 90, 91, Cairo, 1891-92;
- Tabari, Chroniques (French transl. of Zotenberg), i. 374, 381, 409-411;
- Rampoldi, Annali Musulmani, iv. 491, vi. 549, Milan, 1822-25;
- E. Rödiger, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section i., part 33, p. 324;
- D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, iii. 345, s.v. Ilia;
- Hughes, Dict. of Islam, s.v.
Owing to his ubiquitousness and to the universal belief that he remained after his departure from the earth the ever-ready helper of the Jew, Elijah the prophet became the prototype of the Wandering Jew. Many characteristics of wandering deities and heroes like those of Buddha, of Zeus, and of Thor and Wodan who were believed to wander about the earth to test the piety and hospitality of the people, hence also those of Khiḍr, the Arabic legendary hero, were incorporated in the history of Elijah. He was accordingly expected to appear from time to time, especially on solemn occasions, as "the angel of the covenant," the genius of Jewish home sanctity who keeps a record of every mésalliance (Ḳid. 70a). He was believed to be present as the angel of the covenant at the circumcision (see Elijah's Chair), or to appear as a guest at the Seder and as protector of the Jewish household whenever the door was opened on that night. Every Saturday evening his blessedintervention was invoked for the work of the new week; hence the many mystic formulas in the cabalistic liturgy for the close of the Sabbath.
He was often identified with other heroes of Jewish legend to whom immortality was attributed, such as Melchizedek, who had no father or mother, and Enoch-Meṭaṭron, who is said to have been a shoemaker by profession (Yalḳ. Reubeni, Bereshit, 27a and 9d), and this seems to explain the original story of the Wandering Jew.
- A. Tendlau, Sprichwörter und Redensarten Deutsch-Jüdischer Vorzeit, pp. 14-16, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1860;
- idem, Das Buch der Sagen und Legenden Jüdischer Vorzeit, notes to Nos. 3, 28, Frankfort, 1873;
- L. Geiger, Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, iii. 297;
- Mannhardt, Germanische Mythen, pp. 118, 725, Berlin, 1858;
- Nork, Etymologisches Mythologisches Wörterbuch, s.v. Elias.
The stories of Elijah are not all derived from the same author. This is evident, first, from the fact that the longer form of the name () is used (about sixty times) everywhere except in II Kings i. 3-12 and (in reference to other persons of the name) in I Chron. viii. 27; Ezra x. 21, 26. Then, too, there is a significant disagreement between I Kings xix. 15 et seq., where Elijah is commissioned to anoint Kings Hazael and Jehu, and II Kings viii. 7 et seq., ix. 1 et seq., where it is said that these two kings were appointed by Elisha. Neither of these stories, however, bears marks of exilic or post-exilic origin, for the compound prepositions (I Kings xviii. 19) or (xxi. 29) are not a proof of such origin, although the latter preposition is often used by preference in the post-exilic period. It is also obvious that the mention of the sacrifice (I Kings xviii. 36) does not stamp the story as post-exilic (contrary to G. Rösch, "Der Prophet Elia," in "Theologische Studien und Kritiken," 1892, pp. 557 et seq.; comp. Ed. König, "Einleitung ins Alte Testament," p. 264).
Many scholars, nevertheless, consider the stories legendary; and, although something extraordinary must have happened at Mt. Carmel, it can not be denied that the miraculous incidents of the prophet's career may have been magnified as they passed on from generation to generation. The account of the destruction of the two captains and their soldiers may be taken as an example of this; and, indeed, the fact that the shorter form of the prophet's name is used proves the account to be undoubtedly of later origin.
Some modern scholars regard the stories as mythological—Hugo Winckler, for instance, in his "Geschichte Israels" (1900, ii. 273).
Three other persons by the name of Elijah are mentioned in the Old Testament: a Benjamite who lived before the time of Saul (I Chron. viii. 27), and two persons of the post-exilic period (Ezra x. 21, 26).
- The various histories of Israel, including those of Guthe (1899) and Winckler (1900);
- H. Gunkel, Der Prophet Elia, in Preussische Jahrbücher, 1897, pp. 18 et seq.