Moses and Elijah- the most important prophets | eteacherbiblical newsletter
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Issue #76 - 05/11
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Moses and Elijah- the most important prophets

 In one of the stories from the sages of Israel, Rabbi Tanhum tells of two prophets that were "the prophets"- Moses and Elijah. Both came from the Levi tribe, both redeeming the people of Israel, Moses in the past and Elijah in the future.

When you compare those two prophets, you can find a lot of similarity in their biography. When I started to learn Biblical Hebrew in the university the first word that I needed to investigate was "prophet". I have learned that the function of the prophet isn't an easy one. On the one hand, he is very close to The Lord. He can speak with him, whether in a dream, whether in reality. However, on the other hand, the message that he needs to deliver is usually a message of punishment or warnings or rules that the people need to keep.

Elijah and Moses were the Israelites prophets in two critical points in history; Moses was the prophet in the time of the exile from Egypt, when the people of Israel discovered their G-d as a nation, not as individuals, as it was in the times of the fathers. Elijah was the prophet of Israel when they decided to check other gods, for example, Baal, the northern G-d, The G-d of storm and rain.

Let us see some points of similarity. Both built an altar for their people as written in Exodus 24:4 and 1 Kings 18:31-32-


" וַיִּכְתֹּב מֹשֶׁה, אֵת כָּל-דִּבְרֵי יְהוָה, וַיַּשְׁכֵּם בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיִּבֶן מִזְבֵּחַ תַּחַת הָהָר; וּשְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה מַצֵּבָה, לִשְׁנֵים עָשָׂר שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל."

"Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel"


" וַיִּקַּח אֵלִיָּהוּ, שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה אֲבָנִים, כְּמִסְפַּר, שִׁבְטֵי בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב--אֲשֶׁר הָיָה דְבַר-יְהוָה אֵלָיו לֵאמֹר, יִשְׂרָאֵל יִהְיֶה שְׁמֶךָ.  וַיִּבְנֶה אֶת-הָאֲבָנִים מִזְבֵּחַ, בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה; וַיַּעַשׂ תְּעָלָה, כְּבֵית סָאתַיִם זֶרַע, סָבִיב, לַמִּזְבֵּחַ."

"Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed"

Both escaped from a foreign figure: Moses from the King of Egypt, Elijah from Jezebel, as written in Exodus 2:15 and 1 Kings 19:2-3-


" וַיִּשְׁמַע פַּרְעֹה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, וַיְבַקֵּשׁ לַהֲרֹג אֶת-מֹשֶׁה; וַיִּבְרַח מֹשֶׁה מִפְּנֵי פַרְעֹה, וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּאֶרֶץ-מִדְיָן וַיֵּשֶׁב עַל-הַבְּאֵר"

"When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well"

"וַתִּשְׁלַח אִיזֶבֶל מַלְאָךְ, אֶל-אֵלִיָּהוּ לֵאמֹר:  כֹּה-יַעֲשׂוּן אֱלֹהִים, וְכֹה יוֹסִפוּן, כִּי-כָעֵת מָחָר אָשִׂים אֶת-נַפְשְׁךָ, כְּנֶפֶשׁ אַחַד מֵהֶם.  וַיַּרְא, וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל-נַפְשׁוֹ, וַיָּבֹא, בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע אֲשֶׁר לִיהוּדָה; וַיַּנַּח אֶת-נַעֲרוֹ, שָׁם"

" So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there"

Both were at the mountain of God. Moses was there for forty days and nights in order to get the Torah from G-d without eating; Elijah walked to these mountains for 40 days and night, after he ate as we can read in Exodus 34:28 and 1 Kings 19:8-


" וַיְהִי-שָׁם עִם-יְהוָה, אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לַיְלָה--לֶחֶם לֹא אָכַל, וּמַיִם לֹא שָׁתָה; וַיִּכְתֹּב עַל-הַלֻּחֹת, אֵת דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית--עֲשֶׂרֶת, הַדְּבָרִים."

"Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments"

" וַיָּקָם, וַיֹּאכַל וַיִּשְׁתֶּה; וַיֵּלֶךְ בְּכֹחַ הָאֲכִילָה הַהִיא, אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לַיְלָה, עַד הַר הָאֱלֹהִים, חֹרֵב"

"So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God"


When you compare those two characters you can learn not just from the similarities between them but also from the differences. One was dead before he got the chance to enter the promised land, the other didn't die at all. One is closer to G-d in his life (Deuteronomy 5:25). The other is not supposed to run away from his people (1 Kings 19:9).

As a Biblical Hebrew teacher it is always important for me to make the comparisons, they are making the Hebrew Bible to be read as a book that never starts and ends with one chapter…


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