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eTeacherBiblical Official Newsletter
Issue #130 - 06/13
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Eli Dahan

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The fire in Elijah's life

Every time I start to teach Course D as a Biblical Hebrew teacher, I get very excited. It means that by the time my students reach this level, they have successfully completed three courses with our tremendous teachers. These students have been taught to swim confidently in the river of Hebrew, with an awareness of both the nominal and verbal systems. Another reason to be happy is that we get a chance to speak about Elijah the Prophet once we review the materials from the first three courses and that’s always fun.

Elijah, for me, has always been a bit of riddle. On one hand, he was a very committed prophet who wished the spread the word of God to anyone and everyone; on the other, he was zealous about the fact that sometimes the mind could not always accept certain actions. As a prophet that came out of nowhere and just as abruptly left us, only to reappear at Passover and a few other selected days (as can be sourced at the end of the Book of Malachi), it seems that fire is a consistent element in Elijah's life. Today we will try to characterize his life by studying that fire; hopefully we won’t be burned by it.

The fire in Elijah's life appears first when he needs to prove to Baal's prophets, and to the Israelites, that there's only one true God, as written:

Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fireof the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”(1 Kings 18:37-39)

"עֲנֵנִי יְהוָה עֲנֵנִי וְיֵדְעוּ הָעָם הַזֶּה, כִּי-אַתָּה יְהוָה הָאֱלֹהִים; וְאַתָּה הֲסִבֹּתָ אֶת-לִבָּם אֲחֹרַנִּיתוַתִּפֹּל אֵשׁ-יְהוָה וַתֹּאכַל אֶת-הָעֹלָה וְאֶת-הָעֵצִים וְאֶת-הָאֲבָנִים וְאֶת-הֶעָפָר; וְאֶת-הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר-בַּתְּעָלָה לִחֵכָהוַיַּרְא כָּל-הָעָם וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם; וַיֹּאמְרוּ-יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים"

Elijah and the fire

The fire proved to the people that the God is indeed the Lord, but apparently it wasn't enough for Elijah. Elijah went and killed all the prophets of the Baal himself, and would go on use the fire to kill others the future. This occurred even after God explained to Elijah the essence of His being in the next verse -"וְאַחַר הָרַעַשׁ אֵשׁ, לֹא בָאֵשׁ יְהוָה"-"After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire." Elijah continued to use fire in order to fight with God's enemies. When he was commanded to appear before the King, he refused, saying that he was only one able to speak with one ruler, and that ruler is God, as written:

 

"Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him, and behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. And he said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’” Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.(2 Kings 1:9-10)

"וַיִּשְׁלַח אֵלָיו שַׂר-חֲמִשִּׁים וַחֲמִשָּׁיו; וַיַּעַל אֵלָיווְהִנֵּה יֹשֵׁב עַל-רֹאשׁ הָהָר וַיְדַבֵּר אֵלָיו אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים הַמֶּלֶךְ דִּבֶּר רֵדָהוַיַּעֲנֶה אֵלִיָּהוּ וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל-שַׂר הַחֲמִשִּׁיםוְאִם-אִישׁ אֱלֹהִים אָנִי תֵּרֶד אֵשׁ מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְתֹאכַל אֹתְךָ וְאֶת-חֲמִשֶּׁיךָ; וַתֵּרֶד אֵשׁ מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם וַתֹּאכַל אֹתוֹ וְאֶת-חֲמִשָּׁיו"

The beautiful word play in Hebrew between the word man -אִישׁ - and the word fire אֵשׁ reveals an element of Elijah’s uglier side here. Only after killing 100 people twice by using the fire of God did the the Angel of God stop him from killing 50 more people. Elijah felt he could listen only to God or to God’s angels, not to mere mortals, with whom he had God’s message to share.As a zealot, he was entirely convinced that his behavior was upright and correct.  Perhaps for that reason, Elijah ended his life summarily, returning only in glimpses of fire, as written:

"As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven"(2 Kings 2:11)

"וַיְהִי הֵמָּה הֹלְכִים הָלוֹךְ וְדַבֵּר, וְהִנֵּה רֶכֶב-אֵשׁ וְסוּסֵי אֵשׁוַיַּפְרִדוּ בֵּין שְׁנֵיהֶם; וַיַּעַל אֵלִיָּהוּ בַּסְעָרָה הַשָּׁמָיִם"

A fire should burn within every person, but we need to remember that we must not create fires that rage beyond our control, since they have the power to destroy. It’s good to be committed to an idea, to have burning passion;just perhaps, for safety’s sake, not as strongly as Elijah had!

Have a blessed week,

Eli

 
Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

English

Transliteration

Hebrew

Elijah

'ēliyāhû

אֵלִיָּהוּ

Fire

'ēš

אֵשׁ

Man

'îš

אִישׁ

The Heavens

haššamayim

הַשָּׁמַיִם

The water

hammayim

הַמַּיִם

Zealousness

Qanā'ût

קַנָּאוּת

Surprise

Haftā'āh

הַפְתָּעָה

 
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