20. July, 2023Past Events No comments

The story of Elijah is told in the Books of Kings. The vocation of the prophet is to be found in 1 Kings 17 and his ascension into heaven is told in 2 Kings 2. The prophet appeared in the days of King Ahab (9th century BC), who is described as doing “evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him” (1 Kings 16:30). As great as the sin of the king, so great was he prophet sent by God in order to point to his sin. Elijah had a hard life, full of conflicts and persecution. However, he also met the living God like his predecessor Moses and in the very same place – Mount Sinai/Horeb. In a certain manner of speaking, Elijah is the father of the prophets.

According to the Biblical narrative, Elijah did not die but rather was taken into heaven by “a chariot of fire and horses of fire” (2 Kings 2:11). In the Biblical tradition, this fact gave rise to the belief that Elijah would return in the End of Days in order to prepare the way for the coming of God who will judge the world. Thus it is written in Malachi 3:23-24: “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.” (see also Ben Sira 48:10). In the Jewish tradition, Elijah will come at the End of Days to announce the coming of the Messiah and he is a central character.

Eliajah taken up in a chariot of fire

In the writings of the New Testament, Elijah is closely connected to the figure of John the Baptist. John comes to prepare the way before Jesus and in this sense he fulfills the role of Elijah. When Jesus goes up onto the high mountain and is transfigured in the presence of three of his disciples who see him in a new light – the light of eternal life – Moses and Elijah appear at his side. In his event, Moses represents the Law and Elijah the Prophets.

Elijah represents fidelity to the word of God and the victory of God over his enemies. Elijah’s zeal and his persecution at the hands of his oppressors make him one of the fascinating Biblical characters. Christians in the Middle East give honor to him in a special way and the name “Elias” (Elijah in Arabic) is often given to children. The feast of Saint Elijah (Mar Elias) is celebrated with great joy all over the Lebanon and across the Middle East.


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