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The Prophet Elias (Elijah) of Thesbite

Today we celebrate the life and works of Elias of Thesbite, aka "Elijah," revered as "the pillar of the prophets and their leader":

"Elijah (Elias) the Thisbite lived in the ninth century bc, in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab. Five hundred years had passed since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Several generations had come and gone since David and Solomon ruled in God’s name. Their kingdom had been divided in two and thereby weakened by rivalries among its leaders. The Israelites had grown lax in their conviction that there was but one God. Proximity to and intermarriage with neighboring Canaanites had made them more accepting of these other gods, such as Baal, favorite of the king’s wife, Jezebel. The dramatic story of Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal is recorded in 1 Kings 17-19.
Elijah – whose name means 'Yahweh is my God' – personifies the most important characteristic of the Hebrew prophets. He is described repeatedly as consumed by zeal for the Lord, devoted to observing and restoring the worship of the one true God in a spiritually feeble age. The commitment of the Israelites to their God would wax and wane over succeeding generations and other prophets would rise up to do as Elijah had done in his day to exalt the name of the one true God."

Elijah is also a revered prophet in Judaism:

"The last Old Testament prophetic book, Malachi, ends with these words of the Lord: 'Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the Lord. He shall reconcile parents with children and children with their parents so that, when I come, I do not strike the whole land with utter destruction' (Malachi 3:23-24). Believing Jews saw Elijah’s return as a herald of the Messiah’s coming. To this day many Jews pray every Sabbath: 'Elijah the prophet, Elijah the Thisbite – let him come quickly in our day with the Messiah, the son of David.'
Christians, of course, believe that the Messiah has come – it is Jesus. Jesus Himself identified John the Baptist as Elijah come again: 'If you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come' (Matthew 11:14). But Christians also believe that Elijah is 'the herald of the Second Coming of Christ' (aposticha): the coming in power at the end of the age

Did you know?

  • Elijah was credited with ending a three year drought that was of his own making: “There will be no dew or rain except at my bidding” (1 Kings 17:1), said in response to reliance on the Baal (ba'al), "an ancient Canaanite and Mesopotamian deity associated with agriculture." (Baal - Ancient Canaanite Deity (Bible History Online) (

  • Elijah multiplied flour and oil for a poor widow so that “she and her household had food for a long time” (1 Kings 17:15)

  • Elijah brough back from death a young child of a widow by prostrating himself three times over the child and praying, “O Lord, let this child’s life return to his body” (1 Kings 17:21)

  • During the drought God sent Elijah east of the Jordan to Wadi Cherith, a secluded ravine out of Ahab’s reach where “ravens brought him bread and meat morning and evening, and he drank from the river” (1 Kgs 17:6) On the top left corner of the icon of St. Elias is a raven with food in its mouth. Some have interpreted the word for raven as also meaning "Arab," suggesting that local tribes brought him food in the wilderness.

  • Elijah is also known for his monastic life, being associated with Mount Carmel, drawing monastics from many traditions to settle in the area, even influencing Western monks, adopting the "Easterners’ way of life in the spirit of Elijah."

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