Elijah, the mysterious prophet, who is introduced in 1 Kings 17 announcing a drought on Israel is a powerful figure, both in Judaism and Christianity. John the Baptist and Elijah are linked together because of prophecies in Isaiah, Malachi and an angel of the Lord (Luke 1), the tradition of Jewish elders, and the testimony of Jesus. Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:2, and Luke 1: 11-17 and 76 refer to Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 and 4:5. John does not quote the Old Testament but refers to the Baptist as a witness of the Light. Jesus instructs the Three on the Mount of Transfiguration of the John/Elijah connection. Elijah’s miracles of the drought, blazing offering, and the killing of the prophets of Baal are focused in 1 Kings 18:37 while he was praying and acknowledged that God was “turning their hearts back again”. This idea is reinforced in Malachi 4:5, which also opens the door for John the Baptist and the empty chair at Passover.
The Jewish custom of an empty chair or an extra glass of wine at Passover is linked with him reportedly visiting each circumcision because he is checking on the people’s heart and turning them to God (check the websites below). John the Baptist fulfills this by his message in Matthew 3:2 – “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near”. John’s baptism or ritual washing echoes requirements of the Law, but also carries the idea of leaving Egypt. It is amazing that this wild man of the desert, this deliverer of fire has become a signal fire of hope as we wander through this wilderness of our lives.
As I read Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 17 I get the feeling that he was well known before the drought. He had an audience with Ahab in verse 1 and Obadiah recognized him. For two powerful officials to know you, it should mean that they were accustomed to seeing you.
Elijah in the New Testament
Elijah is mentioned twenty-nine times in the NIV New Testament. I am going to list a loose timeline of when Elijah is mentioned. I am doing this more by event because Matthew and Mark share the same references.
- Luke 1:17 + 47 – Gabriel and Zechariah talking about John’s mission and how it related to Elijah.
- John 1:21+25 – John being questioned if he is Elijah. He says no and then quotes Isaiah 40:3.
- Luke 4:24 – Jesus at Nazareth teaching about prophets.
- Matthew 11:24 – Jesus links Elijah to John the Baptist.
- Matthew 16:14 – People think Jesus is Elijah.
- Matthew 17: 3-12 – Elijah is at the Transfiguration and Jesus teaches the Disciples about John.
- Matthew 27: 47+49 – Jesus on the cross, the people think He is calling for Elijah.
Elijah is also mentioned in Romans 11:2 and James 5:17.
Luke 1:17 has given me a lot to think about! Gabriel said, “In the spirit and power of Elijah.” John did not do miracles! So, the concept of “spirit and power” has made me think hard about Elijah and then how it manifested in John. I can see “the spirit” part fairly well – both had no problem being alone in the desert, and both got kings and queens mad because of their stand for righteousness. “The power” part is another story. Elijah had fire fall three times and the chariot of fire. No rain, then rain and he divided the Jordan River; so, he was given power over water. My solution was easy! I have the wrong idea of power. James 5:17 talks about Elijah’s power of prayer, not fire falling. 1 Kings 1:17 – it was by his word that it stopped raining. I do believe that today’s church needs the miraculous acts of God but in themselves miracles may not cause revival, they are to confirm the Gospel. The power of Elijah in John the Baptist was his message and deeds – repent and be baptized.
The Apostle/writer John quotes John the Baptist in John 1:21+25 that he is not Elijah but the voice of one in the wilderness. Was this statement humility or cluelessness? Gabriel said he was; Jesus said he was, why would John say anything different? I really don’t think it is either of those! Like Elijah, in 2 Kings 1, John knew he was a man of God and he knew his mission.
Elijah and the Miraculous
Elijah means God of Jehovah #452 (Strong’s Concordance) which is a combination of #410 and #3050. #410, however, is also power (definition 7,8); so, Elijah could be “the power of Jehovah”.
Moses, Elijah, and Elisha are the main people in the Old Testament that walked in the miraculous. Yes, others had powerful encounters but not at the intensity of these three. It has become popular to jump on Elisha’s bandwagon of the double portion of Elijah’s anointing. There are many websites that count individual miracles to show the “double” blessing. It was disturbing to realize that one claimed eight/sixteen and another seventeen/thirty-four and other sites had different numbers and different miracles. Elisha, however, asked for “ruwach” or spirit which, for the most part, means breath or life. So, I will try to list the miraculous in Elijah’s life but also some of the other things he had in his life. (Note – the miraculous is not just what Elijah spoke, but what God did for him. Elijah did not “ask” for every miracle.)
- One servant and Elisha
- He had dealings with three kings – Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram (Judah, 2 Chronicles 21:12)
- Did one of the commands from the cave.
Okay, this list is very subjective but I am listing the miraculous not just miracles. This is a combination of Elijah spoke, the Lord says, or angels did something.
- 1 Kings 17: 1 – Announces no rain
- 17:2+3 – go hide
- The ravens did feed him
- 17:8+9 – go to Sidon
- Widow to feed you
- 17:14 – Elijah was specific on the flour and the oil
- 17:19 – widow’s son healed
- 18:1 – go to Ahab
- 18:36 – prayed and the fire fell
- 18:41 – he heard the sound of the heavy rain
- 18:46 – the power to run with Ahab’s chariot approximately 40 miles
- 19:5 – angel delivered food and water
- 19:7 – angel delivered food and water
- 19:8 – traveled 40 days and nights on the two meals
- 19:7 – meeting God and receiving the instructions
- 21:17 – took a word to Ahab
- 21:28 – the word about Ahab’s change
- 2 Chronicles 21:12 – word to Jehoram
- 2 Kings 1:3 – word to Ahaziah
- 1:10 – fire fell
- 1:12 – fire fell again
- 1:15 – okay to go with the third captain
- 2:8 – struck the river and it divided
- 2:10 – he knew how he would be taken (implied); the school of prophets and Elisha also knew he would be taken.
I will do a comparison list of things for Elisha. See Elisha.
Turn the Hearts
The idea that Elijah turns hearts toward God is still part of his legend today in Jewish culture. That really is a great idea/ministry. In 1 Kings 18: 37 Elijah credits that action to the Lord God, which is why fire came down and burned the sacrifice on Carmel. This also was the ministry of John the Baptist before the revealing of Jesus. People who were baptized did believe while the Pharisees did not. Malachi 4:5 gives Elijah the same responsibility. This in turn leads many to wonder about the two witnesses in Revelation.
Here is a list from Bible Gateway when I used the word “turn” in a search. I felt turning was the key word and these are examples of that idea. There are others!
- Isaiah 6:10
- Isaiah 40:3
- Malachi 4:6
- Matthew 13:15
- Luke 1:17
- John 12:40
- Acts 28:27