The story of Elijah

John Deehan

This article looks at the story of the great prophet and hero of Israel Elijah, as told in the Old Testament books 1 Kings and Sirach. John Deehan is parish priest of St Thomas More, Pinner, in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

City of Baal LebanonRabbi Jonathan Sacks in his recent book, Not in God's Name, writes of the Bible, 'The Hebrew Bible is the supreme example of that rarest of phenomena, a national literature of self-criticism. Other ancient civilisations record their victories. The Israelites recorded their failures. It is what the Mosaic and Prophetic Books are all about'1.

The story of Elijah is remembered for his great battle against the Baals, the gods of rain and fertility and their prophets on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18.21-46. Great praise is lavished on him by the author of Ecclesiasticus who portrays him as a tower of strength, able to 'drag kings down to destruction' (Sirach 48.6). However the texts with which Sirach was working, 1 Kings 17-19, 21, present a more rounded picture of this great prophet.

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