The Elijah texts, and their relation to some of the later 'writing prophets'
Elijah’s ministry has four obvious focus points, many of these focal points are picked up by the later writing prophets. The four points are:
· Religious Loyalty in Worship
· Religious loyalty in discovering the divine will
· Social righteousness
· Compassion for those in need
Elijah’s initial concern
The main theme of Elijah’s ministry is his concern for the religious loyalty of the people of Israel, read against the backdrop of the Sinai Covenant this is a major theme that the later writing prophets would pick up on.
However, when we first encounter Elijah in the book of Kings the first story that unfolds is one of compassion for those in need. Although fourth on the list, it sets out the link between Elijah and the later writing prophets: in particular the prophet Amos.
Elijah’s encounter with the widow of Zarephath is clever, in that it picks up the major theme of his ministry too. During the time of drought, he miraculously provides provision for the woman and for the son. These people are not Israelite people and therefore not subject to the covenant outworkings, yet they are cared for by Yahweh. This theme of divine concern for all people, even those beyond the covenant, is a focus of the later Amos prophecies. Upon the provisioning supplied by Yahweh, the widow, recognises the power of Yahweh over her and thus highlights Elijah’s main ministry: the need to remove syncretism from the Israelite’s.
More Concern for social justice
The events of Naboth’s Vineyard also indicate the concern for social justice. As Ahab tries to remove the land that is promised to Naboth, he refuses and is killed. This is a clear link to the promised land to the people of Israel, although here it is read as an analogy. Elijah is supplied by the vision of God from afar but sees the cruel act of Ahab. As a result, Ahab faces the judgement of God.
The main theme
Elijah speaks out very clearly against religious syncretism. This theme is picked up particularly by Amos and Hosea. The cultic institutions have been corrupted by Baal worship, for Amos and Hosea, the continual failure of the Israelites to recognise only God is the cause for judgement. Elijah has begun this theme, with the worship of Baal, as pushed by the powerful Phoenician queen Jezebel as the beginnings of the downfall of the people of Israel.
Elijah’s actions in the brutal removal of the Baal Prophets sets a precedence for the judgement of Yahweh against False worship.
Elijah and Jeremiah
With false worship comes false prophets and religious pluralism. Jeremiah has the most to say of the writing prophets on this subject. He struggles against the cultic prophets of Israel as he speaks his tough message to them and to the royal house. The discovering of divine will is prominent in Jeremiah’s dealings with the temple Prophets.
Further parallels with Jeremiah are the loneliness and the struggles that Elijah seems to have. Elijah believes he is the only remaining prophet of Yahweh. Elijah in 1 King 19, is overwhelmed and exhausted by his prophetic activities. This same theme is picked up by Jeremiah in many of his ‘confessions’.