Elijah the Prophet

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The Doctrine of Elijah



            Elijah was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom around 850 BC, during the reigns of Ahab and Jezebel, Ahaziah, and Jehoram, all of whom had rejected Bible doctrine. God chose Elijah to take God’s message to these rulers and their subjects, and to represent God in Israel. In order to fulfill this commission, Elijah had to know and practice the plan of God for his life. The world system’s viewpoint and practice would not have helped him to do God’s will – in fact, it was precisely this habit of relying upon the world’s viewpoint and practice by Israel’s kings and citizens which Elijah was commissioned to preach against.

Highlights from the Study of Elijah the Prophet:

  1. Elijah believed the Lord.
  2. He had the courage to rest, to act, to speak at the appropriate times.
  3. He was involved in risk-taking prayer.
  4. He spoke out against spiritual apostasy, including its effects upon the nation and people.
  5. He tended to overestimate his own importance at times, which resulted in worry, confusion, disillusionment, self-pity, and defeat.
  6. He prepared for the future.


  1. Scripture: Central passages dealing with Elijah are
    1 Kings 17-22; 2 Kings 1, 2, 3, 9, 10; 2 Chronicles 21:12; Ezra 10:11; James 5:17-18.
  2. Prophet: Elijah was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom. His hometown was Tishbe [about seven miles east of the Jordan and about seven miles south of the Caesarea line, near present day Pella] (1 Kings 17:1, 24; 18:22).
  3. Ahab, Rain, and Ravens: Elijah told Ahab (King of Israel 874-853 BC) that God would judge Israel for her idolatry by withholding rain for three years (1 Kings 17:1; 18:1). Elijah then went into hiding by the brook Cherith which ran east of the Jordan, to escape Ahab’s anger. It was here that the ravens brought food to Elijah to sustain him during the drought (1 Kings 17:1). Elijah prayed and God answered (James 5:17-18).
  4. Zarephath: God then moved Elijah to Zarephath, a city located between Sidon and Tyre, about a mile inland from the Mediterranean, where he stayed with the widow and her son. The incidents of the flour and oil which were miraculously renewed and the resuscitation of the widow’s son occurred here (1 Kings 17:8-24).
  5. God’s Spokesman: The prophet was the spokesman for God. His judgment of Israel was simply the transmission of God’s judgment which had already been pronounced
    (1 Kings 17:8-24).
  6. False Prophets Challenged: Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal (the fertility god of Canaan whose worship included lascivious rites and child sacrifice) and the prophets of Asherah (Canaanite mother goddess, the consort of Ei and associated with Baal) to make an altar and to ask that their sacrifice be miraculously consumed by their gods. These false prophets called upon their gods for hours and gashed themselves with knives to no avail. Elijah then built an altar to the Lord, drenched it with water, and asked the Lord to burn his sacrifice. The Lord sent down fire from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, the altar, and the water. Elijah then had the prophets of Baal killed (1 Kings 8:19-40).
  7. Prayer for Rain Answered: At the conclusion of the three-year drought judgment, Elijah prayed for relief (James 5:17-18), and the Lord sent a heavy rain to Israel (1 Kings 18:41-46).
  8. Jezebel’s Revenge: Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, sought to take revenge on Elijah because of his involvement in the deaths of the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:1-2).
  9. Elijah’s Failure: As a result of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah shifted his occupation from the Lord, His plan, His provision, and the ministry which He had given Elijah, to himself and his circumstances. Elijah fell into the “I alone am left” syndrome of self-pity and overemphasis upon his own importance. He became occupied with himself and the details of life. This shift in occupation resulted in worry, confusion, disillusionment, and a mental attitude of defeat (1 Kings 19:1-14; Romans 11:3-5). Note how his shift in occupation dominated his mental attitude, confidence, purpose, faith, and activity. Elijah was useless at this time.
  10. The Lord’s Solution: The Lord’s solution was for Elijah to reorient to the divine plan, and then to carry out that plan. Elijah was to go and anoint three men whom the Lord would then use to execute divine judgment. They were the king of Aramaea, the king of Israel, and Elisha
    (1 Kings 19:15-18).
  11. Elisha the Servant-Prophet: Elijah anointed Elisha as a prophet. Elisha served Elijah until the Lord promoted them both: Elijah to heaven, and Elisha to Elijah’s job
    (1 Kings 19:19-21).
  12. Divine Judgment on Ahab: Elijah pronounced divine judgment upon Ahab because Ahab had taken part in the conspiracy against Naboth (1 Kings 21:17-26). When Ahab heard of this judgment, he repented (a moral change of thinking involving the whole person, including a change in viewpoint, intent, and will), and therefore the Lord removed the divine discipline from Ahab
    (1 Kings 21:27-29).
  13. Divine Judgment of Ahaziah: Elijah pronounced the sin unto death upon Ahaziah, who became king of Israel after his father Ahab (2 Kings 1:8), because of Ahaziah’s strong negative volition (idolatry and demon inquiry) (2 Kings 1:1-6, 15-18). Ahaziah then sent three consecutive military units of 51 men each against the prophet. The first two units were destroyed. The leader of the third unit asked Elijah to call off the destruction (2 Kings 1:9-14). Elijah was told by the angel of the Lord, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” Elijah was to personally deliver God’s message to Ahaziah. Elijah obeyed
    (2 Kings 1:15-16), and King Ahaziah died (2 Kings 1:17).
  14. Divine Judgment on Jehoram: Near the end of his life Elijah sent a letter to Jehoram, king of Judah. The letter communicated divine judgment upon Jehoram (the sin unto death) because of Jehoram’s negative volition and idolatry (2 Chronicles 21).
  15. Three Stops: On Elijah’s last day on earth, he went to Bethel and to Jericho, where he apparently had business with the prophets in each place, and to the Jordan River. Elisha went with him against the initial desire of Elijah.
    At Bethel and Jericho the local schools of prophets told Elisha that the Lord would take Elijah that day
    (2 Kings 2:1-7). From this we learn that Elisha is recognized by the other prophets as the servant and possibly the heir to Elijah.
  16. Five Final Events: Five major events occurred at the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:8-15).
    1. At Elijah’s command, the river parted and a path formed through it (a miracle that attested that God was guiding and working His will).
    2. Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (this possibly refers to the prophetic ability from God and the authority which goes with it).
    3. A chariot and horses of fire and a windstorm took Elijah to heaven (translation without physical death).
    4. After witnessing all of this, Elisha picked up Elijah’s fallen mantle, and commanded the river to part again, thus demonstrating that Elijah’s prophetic ability and authority had fallen to him.
    5. The local school of prophets quickly recognized that Elisha had taken Elijah’s place as prophet (here we see demonstrated a continuity in the ministry where there is a desire and willingness for it.
  17. Prototype of John the Baptist: Elijah was the prototype for John the Baptist (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 11:14;
    Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17).
  18. Elijah and Moses: Elijah and Moses appeared with the Lord at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). Moses was the great lawgiver from the priestly tribe of Levi, the one who led the Israelites out of slavery and into nationhood, and Elijah was the great prophet in a time of apostasy who called the nation and its leaders back to God. There were many similarities between the two men:
    1. Both witnessed about the Son of God.
    2. Both were examples for the disciples in times of pressure (rejection, apostasy, unbelief).
    3. Both were great communicators for the Lord. They supported the Son and His kingdom.
    4. They were two different personalities, from different times in the nation’s history, but with the mission of communicating the Word of the Lord and calling people into right relationship with Him.
    5. Both courageously delivered the Word of God to negative political rulers. They stood in the gap.
    6. The physical lives of both were miraculously ended by God. Moses was privately taken in death and to heaven by God. Elijah was publicly taken to heaven without undergoing physical death. Both then returned at the transfiguration to witness to the reality of heaven and the kingdom of God.

Principles and Warnings:

  1. Principle. Have the courage to communicate the Word of God and to serve God even when it includes going against the political or religious flow (1 Kings 17:1; 18:1-24; 21:17-26; 2 Kings 1:1-15; 2 Chronicles 21).
    Warning! Do not fall for crusader self-righteousness or arrogance. Believers are not commissioned to run other people’s lives. Believers are not to be self-righteous or arrogant.
  2. Principle. There is a time to run and a time to fight. Elijah did each at the appropriate time.
    Warning! Evaluate the issues, the objectives, the short-term and long-term plan of God, and God’s timing. Be sensitive to His leading.
  3. Principle. God is able to provide every requirement for life in His service. The unusual and the miraculous are the usual and the natural to the Lord.
    Warning! God has promised t provide the needs for life in His service. He is not obligated to fulfill a believer’s every whim or provide extras unless He so chooses.
  4. Principle. The prophet in the Old Testament period (pre-incarnation) was a spokesman for the Lord. He was to communicate the Word of God. In later dispensations (post-incarnation), God uses other special communicators. Today, in the church age, the Word of God is transferred to people by the pastor/teacher and evangelist
    (2 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 3:15; 1 Kings 18:16-18).
    Warning! Study so that you have the Word of God to communicate. Traditions, fads, and popularism will not do.
  5. Principle. Believing, persistent prayer is a risk-taking venture in man’s eyes, but is effective and pleasing in God’s eyes.
    Warning! This requires fellowship with the Lord
    (John 15:7), knowledge of the word (John 15:7), and
    faith (James 1:6).
  6. Principle. Faith will be tested. God may answer in increments instead of all at once. This tests and strengthens our faith.
    Warning! Do not quit too soon. If God said it, believe it. He will answer. The rain in 1 Kings 18 is an example.
  7. Principle. Whenever/whatever God commands us to do, He will give us the ability to carry this out until His plan for us is fulfilled.
    Warning! Execution requires faith in action on all fronts.
  8. Principle. Do not overemphasize your own importance. This will result in worry, confusion, disillusionment, self-pity, and defeat. Your activity will be neutralized as a result.
    Warning! Do not underestimate God’s desire to use you.
  9. Principle. Occupation with self, circumstances, people, and things will also result in worry, confusion, disillusionment, self-pity, and defeat. Again, neutralization results.
    Warning! Be occupied with and apply the doctrines of “Fear of the Lord” and “Occupation with Christ.”
    Warning! You live in the world. Do not divorce yourself from Biblical common sense and reality.
  10. Principle. If you fail through preoccupation with the details of life, then recover, get up, and move on. Recovery requires that you find out where you are in the plan of God, execute God’s plan for you, and confess. Recovery always includes confession, a search for the appropriate doctrine to apply, and faith application of the doctrine.
    Warning! Do not give up. Failure does not mean you are finished, nor does it eliminate you.
  11. Principle. God’s sovereign grace plan keeps going. There is always a job to do, and a remnant to do it.
    Warning! The functional remnant is made up of positive, growing, active believers.
  12. Principle. Prepare for teamwork and continuity in the ministry. Elijah was known by the school of prophets. When he selected Elisha to continue the prophetic ministry, the prophets also recognized him.
    Warning! Operate under divine guidance through the Word of God, not through any desire to build an empire or to secure a following for yourself and your ideas.
  13. Principle. The Lord desires believers to respond to Him by faith, and to depend upon Him. This pleases Him. The Lord responds to faith.
    Warning! Do not expect the Lord to do that which is contrary to His Word. All of the “faith” in the world will not cause Him to act contrary to His stated will.