Was the Prophet Elijah Promoted . . . or Fired?

In one of the most famous moments in his prophetic career, Elijah challenges his pagan antagonists to a contest that results in a dramatic demonstration of God’s superiority; the Israelites present declare their loyalty to God, and slaughter the prophets of Baal. Elijah, however, quickly learns that the wicked queen Jezebel now seeks his head and retreats to the wilderness in despair. In the following chapters, God gives Elijah a final assignment and then whisks him to heaven in a fiery chariot. This dénouement is often read as the ultimate commendation. Shai Held suggests it is something else:

On one level, of course, Elijah is a righteous man; he has devoted his life to single-minded, uncompromising service of God. To some extent, at least, the [many textual] parallels between his experience and Moses’ suggest that he is amply rewarded for his faithful service. And yet the text subtly criticizes Elijah as well. Consider the prophet’s twice-repeated insistence [to God] that “the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant.” This is an odd thing for him to say so soon after the people have acknowledged the one and only true God. . . .

Moreover, Elijah declares that “the Israelites” seek to kill him, when in fact it is only Jezebel who has targeted him for death. Nor is that all: Elijah repeatedly proclaims that he, and he alone, remains loyal to God and God’s covenant. Just a few verses later, God effectively tells Elijah that he is mistaken: there are still 7,000 in Israel who have not “bowed the knee to Baal.” [The scholar] Walter Brueggemann notes that, “as often happens to the zealous, Elijah has overvalued his own significance.” . . .

The many parallels between Elijah and Moses serve in part to highlight the fundamental difference between them: when Moses is confronted with God’s anger, he . . . pleads on the people’s behalf. But Elijah does just the opposite: far from defending the people, he actually exaggerates their faults. . . .

God responds to Elijah’s stubbornly despairing words by giving him a mission: the prophet is to anoint Hazael as king of Aram, Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and Elisha son of Shaphat as his own successor. Why does God give Elijah these tasks, and why now? Scholars interpret the story in radically different ways. Some see . . . “the restoration of a man of faith” who has been given a “new mandate” by the God he so passionately serves. . . . But others perceive just the opposite in God’s instructions: so problematic is Elijah’s behavior, so misguided and self-aggrandizing his words, that God effectively fires him.

Read more at Mechon Hadar

More about: Bible, Book of Kings, Elijah, Prophets, Religion & Holidays


Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship