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Elijah

1 Kings 17 2 Kings 2

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived; he performed great miracles that displayed the power of God when fully manifested through the priesthood.  The scriptures say that Elijah was a Tishbite from Gilead.  There is disagreement over what this means.  He may have been from Tishbeh in upper Galilee, or from Gilead beyond the Jordan where the tribe of Gad dwelt.  His ministry was to the northern kingdom of Israel, which was ripening in iniquity.  Ahab had become king, an extremely wicked man, but perhaps not so wicked as his wife, Jezebel.

Elijah calls down fire from heaven mormonIn the very beginning of Elijah’s story, we see him manifest the “sealing power” for which he is known.  The sealing power is the priesthood power that seals in heaven that which is sealed on earth.  This is the power through which family members are sealed together into the eternities; this is the power that binds eternal marriages; this is the power that seals covenants in heaven that are performed on earth, such as baptism; this is the power that seals and unseals the heavens.  Thus, Elijah proclaimed because of Israel’s wickedness that there would be neither rain nor dew unless he commanded it.  Dew appears in the mornings in Israel, and is an extremely important part of its water resources.

“In fact, dew and rain are equally important to the crops in Israel. If there is no rain in the winter season, the grass and early crops do not grow, if no dew in summer, later crops dry up and fruit does not mature. If there are many nights without dew, it is a drought, in their thinking. ” [1]

The rainy season in Israel is October through April, and during the remaining months, there is no rain at all.  Thus, rain “in its season” and dew in its season is extremely important to the survival of the inhabitants.

The Lord told Elijah to hide by the brook Cherith, where he was fed morning and evening by ravens.  When the brook dried up because of the drought, the Lord directed him to a widow’s house for sustenance.  Elijah’s first miracle in the Bible record was to seal up the heavens.  The second, he performed in Zerephath (between Tyre and Sidon in what is now Lebanon), when he provided food for the widow throughout the drought:

“And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

 

 “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.  For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day thatthe Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.  And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.  And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:12 – 16).

 

However, the son of this faithful widow fell sick and died.  Elijah prayed mightily over the child, and “the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:22).

 

The drought continued, because Elijah had sealed the heavens, and the resulting famine grew more severe.  The Lord commanded Elijah to present himself to king Ahab (1 Kings 18:1).  The famine was especially serious in Samaria, the capital.  Ahab had sent the governor of his house to search for some pasture to save the cattle.  His name was Obadiah, and he was a brave and god-fearing man.  He had fed and rescued one hundred prophets, after Jezebel had cut them off.  Obadiah had gone one way to find pasture, and Ahab had gone another.  Obadiah met Elijah on the way and recognized him.  Obadiah revered Elijah, but protested when Elijah bid him go and tell Ahab he was there.  Obadiah worried that Ahab would present himself and Elijah would be nowhere to be found.  Obadiah was certain that Ahab would then kill him.  Elijah swore to Obadiah that he would stay where he was and meet Ahab face to face.  Ahab’s greeting for Elijah was, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel” (1 Kings 18:17)?

 

Elijah responded, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim” (1 Kings 18:18).  Elijah told Ahab to gather all Israel to Mt. Carmel with the 450 prophets of Baal, and the 400 prophets of the groves to other deities supported by Jezebel.  At this gathering Elijah performed a miracle that would stun the Israelites.  He commanded the priests of Baal to put a sectioned bullock on top of wood, but to start no fire to burn the offering.  Elijah did the same.  He then proposed that the priests call upon their heathen gods to send down fire to consume their sacrifice.  Elijah would do the same.  Whichever god sent down fire would be the very God.  The Israelites thought this was a fair show of power.

 

The priests called upon Baal from morning until noon; then they cut themselves until blood gushed forth.  They continued until evening, and no answer from Baal was forthcoming.  Elijah mocked them, saying that perhaps their god was traveling or sleeping.  Elijah called the people to gather close, and he rebuilt the altar that the priests had trampled in their desperation.  He built it of twelve stones to represent the tribes of Israel.  Then he dug a trench around the altar.  He had the people pour water upon the bullock upon the altar three times, so much water that it overflowed and filled the trench.  At the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah came to the altar and prayed, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.  Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (1 Kings 18:36, 37).

 

“The priests of Baal were so unscrupulous that they rigged their altars with fires beneath them to make the sacrifices appear to ignite spontaneously. One ancient writer said he “had seen under the altars of the heathens, holes dug in the earth with funnels proceeding from them, and communicating with openings on the tops of the altars. In the former the priests concealed fire, which, communicating through the funnels with the holes, set fire to the wood and consumed the sacrifice; and thus the simple people were led to believe that the sacrifice was consumed by a miraculous fire.” (In Clarke, Commentary, 2:459.)

“Elijah undoubtedly drenched the altar and sacrifice with water as much for the heathen priests as for the people. He wanted to convince them that there was no trickery and to show them that the power of the Lord was manifest. It was a bold and dramatic move that demonstrated his absolute confidence in the power of the true God.”

 

The fire from the Lord consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust, and the water in the trench.  The people fell on their faces and worshipped the God of Israel.  At Elijah’s command, the people took the prophets of Baal and slew them all.  Elijah then told Ahab to eat and drink, because the drought was ending.  Elijah went up to Mt. Carmel and prayed mightily, sending his servant seven times to look for storm clouds arising in the west from the Mediterranean.   Soon a tiny cloud arose and Elijah sent word to Ahab to go to Jezreel ahead of the storm.  Soon a wild tempest had arisen.

 

The slaying of the prophets of Baal ignited Jezebel’s ire, and she sent a message to Elijah that she would kill him that very day.  Elijah fled far south to Beersheba in the deserts of Judah, leaving his servant there and then traveling still another day into the wilderness.  There, Elijah pleaded with the Lord to take his life, claiming he was no better than his fathers.  Instead, the Lord sent angels with food for Elijah.  The food was enough to stay Elijah for 40 days and 40 nights, a symbol of the Savior’s future 40-day fast.  Elijah traveled to holy Mt. Horeb.  There he hid in a cave.  When the Lord inquired of him what was the matter, Elijah said that all the prophets of the Living God had been slain; he only was left alive, and Ahab and Jezebel were trying to kill him, too.  Then come some famous verses of scripture that well describe the promptings of the Holy Ghost:

 

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11, 12).

 

The Lord then told Elijah to go to Damascus and anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat to be the next prophet.  The Lord then prophesied that he who escaped the sword of Hazael would be slain by Jehu; and whoever escaped the sword of Jehu would be slain by Elisha.  Yet, said the Lord…

 

“…I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18).

 

Elijah needed to minister to these few righteous people.  He immediately cast his mantle upon Elisha, who left his family to minister with Elijah.

 

Ben Hadad, the king of Syria then decided to attack Samaria, demanding Ahab’s fortune, wives, and children.  However, a prophet visited Ahab, wishing to demonstrate the power of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He told Ahab to lead his  provincial princes against Ben Hadad.  Ahab did this and triumphed.  The prophet then warned him that Syria would attack again.  The Syrians thought they had been defeated by the gods of the hills, so they determined to battle in the plains.  The Syrian troops filled the countryside, but the Israelite troops were like “two little flocks of kids” (1 Kings 20:27).   God determined again to testify of Himself to the Syrians, and they were roundly defeated by the small army of Israelites.  Ahab spared the life of Ben Hadad, and a prophet testified to him that in so doing, his own life was forfeit.

 

Ahab coveted the vineyard of Naboth, which was adjacent to the palace.  In an honest gesture, he offered money or an exchange of land, but Naboth would not agree.  Ahab retired to his chamber, saddened, and Jezebel asked what was wrong.  She assured Ahab that she would procure the land, which she did by having Naboth falsely accused of blasphemy and stoned to death.  The Lord sent Elijah to Naboth’s vineyard to accuse Ahab, who had gone there to take possession of the land,

 

“In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine….Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall (all the men), and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger and made Israel to sin.  And of Jezebel…the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel” (1 Kings 21:19, 21 – 23).

 

“Ahab’s offer to buy Naboth’s vineyard may seem fair at first glance, but Naboth could not sell. His land had been inherited from his forefathers, and the law of Moses did not permit the sale of one’s inheritance, except in cases of extreme destitution, and then it could be sold or mortgaged only until the time of jubilee, when it would be reclaimed. Ahab wished to acquire the land permanently. Hence Naboth’s reply: “The Lord forbid it me” ( v. 3 ). Ahab’s tantrum over being refused (see v. 4 ) gives an insight into the character of Ahab. The king owned ten-twelfths of the land of Israel already, but he was miserable because he could not get everything he wanted.”These verses also show how Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, arranged her husband’s affairs without hindrance of any sort (see v. 16 ). The phrase “sons of Belial,” was a catch-all term that applied to almost any evil persons—liars, thieves, murderers. Notice how the punishment pronounced on Ahab and Jezebel matched their character (see vv. 19, 23 ).

 

Ahab humbled himself, and the Lord told Elijah that the curse would not come during Ahab’s lifetime, but during his son’s.  After three years of relative peace, Jehoshaphat king of Judah sought to join forces with Ahab to go up against Syria.  Ahab’s heathen prophets foretold success, but a true prophet, Micaiah, foretold defeat as well as Ahab’s death.  The prophecy came true.  Ahab was buried in Samaria.  His servants washed his blood from his chariot, and the dogs licked up his blood as prophesied.  His Baal-worhipping son Ahaziah then ascended to the throne.  Meanwhile, in Judah, Jehoshaphat ruled in righteousness and then Jehoram, his son.

 

After the death of Ahab, Moab rebeled against Israel.

 

“The Moabites occupied the territory east of the Dead Sea. They were the descendants of Lot (see Genesis 19:37 .) Years earlier David had conquered them and their distant relatives the Ammonites, who were also descendants of Lot and who occupied a territory just north of Moab. The Moabites now saw an opportunity to break connection with the Israelites, and they were determined to make the most of it. Their king, a man named Mesha, was so proud of the Moabites’ rebellion that he wrote about it on a large black stone that has been discovered by archaeologists. More details of the rebellion are found on this stone than are recorded in the Bible. Mesha recorded on the stone the account of hundreds of cities being added to his kingdom and how he built reservoirs, aqueducts, and fortifications.”

 

After suffering a fall, Ahaziah turned to heathen sooth-sayers to find out if he would survive.  Elijah met the messengers and foretold Ahaziah’s death.  Angered, Ahaziah sent a captain and fifty men to slay Elijah.  Instead, the Lord consumed the troops with fire at Elijah’s request.  This event was repeated when Ahaziah sent another captain with fifty.  Ahaziah sent a third group, but this time, the captain fell at Elijah’s feet and petitioned him.  The Lord told Elijah to go with this more trustworthy captain.  Elijah prophesied Ahaziah’s death to his face this time, and the king did die.

 

Elijah is translated

Elijah and the prophets knew that Elijah would be translated.  When a person is translated, he is quickened, so that his body is no longer corruptible.  This means he is no longer subject to disease and death, but this is not the same as resurrection.  In the future, John the Beloved would be translated and serve on the earth until the Savior’s Second Coming.  The people of the City of Enoch were translated and will return to this earth during the millennium.  The Book of Mormon prophets explain that Moses was translated, and three of the Book of Mormon apostles were also translated.

 

In Elijah and Moses’ case, translation allowed them to perform something special during the ministry of Christ, for which they needed physical bodies.  Remember that no person was resurrected until the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration to confer priesthood keys on Peter, James, and John.

 

“Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead. ‘Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.’ (See Hebrews 11:35 .)

 

“Now it was evident that there was a better resurrection, or else God would not have revealed it unto Paul. Wherein then, can it be said a better resurrection. This distinction is made between the doctrine of the actual resurrection and translation: translation obtains deliverance from the tortures and sufferings of the body, but their existence will prolong as to the labors and toils of the ministry, before they can enter into so great a rest and glory.” ( Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 170–71.)

 

Elijah and Elisha and other prophets went to Jericho and then to the Jordan River nearby.  Elijah removed his mantle and smote the river with it, so that the water divided, and he and Elisha crossed on dry ground (2 Kings 2:8).  Elisha requested of Elijah a double portion of his spirit.  Elijah said that if Elisha saw him during his translation, his wish would be granted.  Elisha did see the chariot of fire, horses of fire, and whirlwind that took Elija away.  Elisha retrieved Elijah’s fallen mantle and smote the river with it.  The waters separated, and he crossed over.  Elisha healed the springs of Jericho  and then returned to Samaria.

 

Elijah’s Return

Jews look forward to the return of Elijah the prophet as a forerunner to the Messiah.  It is told that when Elijah returns, it will be as if the Messiah has hold of his cloak, so close will his return be followed by the Messiah’s arrival.  An empty chair at the front of the synagogue is reserved for Elijah, and a place set for him at the Passover table.  Part of the Passover ritual includes standing as a door is opened to greet him.

 

Elijah has returned.  His visit is recorded in Section 110 of  the Doctrine and Covenants:

 

“After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

 “After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.  After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:

 

“Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:11 – 16).

*Parts of this article have been quoted from the LDS Institute Old Testament Manual.

Next: Elisha

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