In an earlier post I mentioned that Elijah is, prophetically speaking, the prophet of the end days. Elijah’s life, and ministry speak of eternal Truths, Truths that will need to be established in the earth as the day of the Lord approaches.
The defining pinnacle of Elijah’s ministry took place on Mount Carmel. Against the greatest opposition imaginable, he stood alone and defied an entire nation. The kingdom of Israel, once the chosen people of God, had turned themselves so against God that they had become completely unrecognizable as God’s people. They had long since destroyed from their midst any semblance of the law of God, or the worship of Jehovah; in fact they attempted to resemble the pagan idol worshipers around them, and in their attempts became far worse in cruelty and evil than those they emulated.
The people of the nation ritualistically burned their infant children to death in the fire of Molech, whom they honored along with Baal, the ‘Lord of the flies’ (if you ever wondered where William Golding got the idea for his book, there it is.), and Asherahs (gods of the groves)
The true priests of God, and the Levites who refused to sell out to the idolatry of the nation had been forced to escape to the land of Judah – which had broken off from the nation of Israel during the reign of King Solomon‘s son: Rehoboam. When Israel and Judah broke apart, the kings of Israel immediately turned from the Lord unto idolatry for political reasons (Jeroboam, the first king of Israel following the schism feared that the people would return to the kingdom of Judah if they continued following the Jewish religion (1 Kings 12:25-28)).
After the reign of Jeroboam the kings of Israel grew more and more lascivious, and entered more and more into idolatry. The nation grew more wicked and violent, then, finally a pinnacle of wickedness was reached. A man named Ahab became king.
1 Kings 16:30-33
30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him.
31 And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. [<- This marrying Jezebel is a big deal; we’ll get to that in a moment]
32 And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.
33 And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.
Now, the nation of Israel had already forsaken the worship of the one True God, they had already installed a false priesthood, and no longer had the resemblance of the people of Israel at all. They were now just like the pagan kingdoms around them.
But then, Ahab arises. Ahab has not rejected the True God for political reasons, no, that was already done. Ahab directly, and intentionally rebels against the things of God because he hates them. The son of Omri, he was raised with no respect for the things of God, but with disdain toward them, and he out-went all of his fathers in his intentional provocation of the Almighty, so much so that he married Jezebel.
Ahab is the prophetic typology of the Antichrist.
Daniel 8:11 & 12
11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down [that is, God’s True Sanctuary].
12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, AND HE CAST DOWN THE TRUTH TO THE GROUND; and it practiced, and prospered.’
(Notice, in the passage I quoted from Kings that Ahab had built an altar, and a temple for Baal – this holds great signifigance (as will the ‘daily sacrifice’ thought mentioned in Daniel) – particularly when we get to the events on Mount Carmel.)
Jezebel had, apparently, no morals at all – she didn’t think twice about murdering someone on a whim. Jezebel was not satisfied that the priests of God had been all run out of Israel – there were still those who followed the Jewish religion in the nation! Jezebel systematically hunted down everyone in the kingdom who called on the name of the Lord and had them killed.
8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
This was the setting – Those who were supposed to be the people of God, whom God had redeemed and blessed, were now – as a nation – the enemies of God. Wickedness was introduced, then was added compromise and greater wickedness as king after king did as they pleased for generations. Finally, the antichrist, himself, arises and hunts down every remaining Believer in the nation, and has them killed.
After the systematic slaughter of the prophets, only a handful of righteous people remained in the nation, and these were forced to hide in caves to survive (or feign loyalty to the king, and live their true worship of Jehovah in secret, as Obadiah appears to have done).
The bible does not declare much of the background of Elijah, nor of his lineage, he simply appears on the scene at the worst possible moment in their history up to that time. We know that Elijah was from Gilead, so he was reared in Israel on the east side of the Jordan. He had, somehow, escaped Jezebel’s slaughter of the prophets, and he is clearly no stranger to the horrible wickedness of the nation at large. He is now – as far as he knows, the only remaining prophet of God in Israel – STUFF IS BLEAK.
The first thing Elijah does in the biblical narrative is to appear to Ahab, and prophesy that because of his wickedness, there will be no dew or rain in the land but by his own word. Gutsy.
Elijah delivers his message and escapes from the face of the murderous king. Enraged, King Ahab has everyone who is even suspected of knowing the whereabouts of Elijah interrogated (probably tortured to death). In fact he searched for Elijah not only within his own borders, but forced the kings of all neighboring nations, to swear under oath under pain of death that they had committed as thorough a search, and neither could find him.
The famine continued for three years. The nation was starving, doubtless hundreds of families starved to death as Elijah hid alone in the underground.
14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
Finally God brought Elijah out of confinement, yet rather than taking him to a place of peace and blessing for his patience, God showed Elijah the suffering of His people. Elijah was sent to a widow who was gathering sticks to bake the last meal that she and her son would ever eat. This woman knew that when the food was gone, she and her only son would watch each other starve to death. Doubtless they had seen this happen to others; despair, and hopelessness clung to them ruthlessly.
After three years, the famine was so great that even the livestock of the royalty was beginning to starve. The special provisions set aside for the royalty, and pasture for their cattle was completely depleted, and the King was forced to scour the nation for pasture in order to sustain their dwindling herds – without which they, too, would shortly perish.