In 1 Kings 18, verse 16 onwards we read that Elijah performed a miracle.
He prays to God and brings fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice.
He is shown as a courageous prophet who is not afraid of King Ahab or the followers of Baal.

But in the following chapter, we read that he runs away after Jezebel sends him a death warning.

Was he insecure or unsure that God who performed miracle through him, would also save him from Jezebel?

  • Ref. I Kings 19:3 (NIV) Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there. (MT) וַיַּ֗רְא וַיָּ֙קׇם֙ וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ אֶל־נַפְשׁ֔וֹ וַיָּבֹ֕א בְּאֵ֥ר שֶׁ֖בַע אֲשֶׁ֣ר לִיהוּדָ֑ה וַיַּנַּ֥ח אֶֽת־נַעֲר֖וֹ שָֽׁם. The NIV and others are translating with the context and against the massorete diacritic tradition. The KJV, ASV, Darby and others translate with the massorete tradition and against the context. See Cynthia Avishegnath post below. In any event, Elijah would not put God to the test, so he took due caution in decamping to Beersheva.
    – user17080
    Dec 16, 2016 at 9:09
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim - I feel that there is an assumption that Elijah was running from Jezebel, rather than running from God himself because of a mistake, (perhaps running to find a place to sort things out with God). If running from God, it would make more sense to keep his servant out of the equation. If running from Jezebel, it would make more sense to bring his servant along. But - your observation about the servant is great. And, your analysis about the deviations from the traditions is spot-on. Nov 14, 2017 at 21:01

9 Answers 9


Was he insecure or unsure that God who performed miracle through him, would also save him from Jezebel?

We aren't told explicitly of course, but we do know that he was afraid Jezebel would kill him:

2Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.ESV

But he was apparently not afraid of death itself:

4But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”ESV

Elijah seems to have had great confidence that God will judge the Baal-worshipers, but very little confidence that God would not also allow all his prophets to be killed by the sword:

10He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”ESV

And God answers Elijah by promising that though yet more evil will afflict Israel, all those who remain faithful will escape:

18Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”ESV

Assuming this speaks to the fear Elijah had, we can reason that Elijah was despairing that God's judgement would allow none to escape—indeed Paul quotes this verse in Romans 11 to support his argument that God has not utterly rejected his people Israel:

1I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3“Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4But what is God's reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.ESV

Elijah's fear that God would not save Israel and would destroy all without mercy was perhaps more rational than fearing that God could not save him from Jezabel (as your question asks if I understand it correctly)—though perhaps he should have know better and been confident that God would always preserve a portion of Israel as His inheritance. But then again, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, so perhaps it is not surprising that he did not.

  • 1
    Yeah, I agree with your last sentence. It is said, "Even the gods have feet of clay." How much more do mere mortals like us expect to be free of the occasional doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, discouragement, and so on and so on. Don Jul 30, 2014 at 14:49
  • So, you give a reason for the rest of Israel to run - but I am not clear on how you answer how Elijah feared for his own life? Although the text says 7000 would remain faithful - it never even hints that God would annihilate the unfaithful. However, there is another text that might support your argument: In Ezekiel 3:17-21, there is a dilemma for prophets where they are forced to speak, and bring judgment. And if not, they would be held accountable. Perhaps, (following your reasoning), Elijah feared to not speak, and he thought God letting him die would be a valid escape? Nov 14, 2017 at 19:30

All of the comments relating to Elijah running away from Jezebel ignores one thing. Ahab was still king and Jezebel was his wife. Just like David would not touch Saul because he was still God's anointed as King. I believe Elijah would not touch Jezebel because of her being the wife of the king. Elijah did not loose his commission because of this. As pointed out by someone else, he still mentored Elisha. More importantly, he did not die the usual human death. He was taken in a whirlwind. That is would not be the fate of someone that lost his commission or standing with God.

  • 1
    I like where you're going with this. Please try to cite some sources and include rational thought that would provide some historical foundation for this assertion. That you believe it is self-evident in the response and not necessary.
    – swasheck
    Jan 3, 2014 at 22:12
  • @ModupeOdusanya I agree with this answer, it can use some support however, it may get more response if you 'fix' it.
    – Tau
    Aug 1, 2014 at 7:40

That depends on how you translate the phrase

ויּרא ויּקם ויּלך אל נפשו

  1. And he saw and arose and he went - for (the sake of) his life.

  2. And he was afraid and arose and fled for his life.

There is an ambiguity in the word


I am thinking we should accept translation #1. I am sure there is something somewhere among the annals of Confucius that says the wise would avoid confrontation and the Sun Tze's art of war recommends avoiding a battle is the best way to win a battle.

  • 1
    Agreed, The first translation is used in KJV bible. But if we read subsequent verses we can find that he was running away for his life. Oct 14, 2012 at 17:22
  • The KJV follows massorete tradition in general and here in particular pointalizes וירא as "he saw", like the Jerusalem Targum, וחזא וקם ואזל לשיזפבא נפשיה.... See also Judges 6:22, where the same word with the same diacritics is also at the start of the verse. However, in verse context, I Kings 19:3 is more likely "afraid" (וַיִּרָא) whereas Judges 6:22 is clearly "saw". IMHO the massorete tradition prefers not to attribute fear to Elijah, so it pointalizes against the context. See also Jer 26:21, וַיִּשְׁמַע אוּרִיָּהוּ וַיִּרָא, וַיִּבְרַח וַיָּבֹא מִצְרָיִם.
    – user17080
    Dec 16, 2016 at 9:01
  • It is incorrect to say that "וַיַּ֗רְא" can be translated as "for the sake of", in this context. The writer(s) of 1 Kings consistently use a different word for "sake", which is "לְמַ֥עַן". Also, it is not reasonable to exchange the verb "fear" for "see" in deference to the Masoretic tradition, (and vowel points injected 1000 yrs later), because the writer(s) of the text do not point to anything seen, like they do in other contexts, (cf. 1 Kings 18:39). Nov 14, 2017 at 15:59
  • @elikakohen Cynthia is not translating וירא as "for the sake of". She notes that וירא could be either "he saw" or "he was afraid". She interpolates "for the sake of" in the translation of אל-נפשו, possibly to indicate a nuance between this and the more common later usage על-נפשו as in Ester 7:7. The massoretic vocalizations are a tradition, older the written record, not something added 1000 years later. A reading tradition that developed in parallel with the written text. Scrolls were rare, public readings were common. Readers had to be trained in the reading tradition - from the beginning.
    – user17080
    Nov 15, 2017 at 10:42
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim - The argument you make about Masoretic tradition is contingent on religious belief - and which loses any academic value when superimposed on texts written so much earlier, (according to the traditions of the priests, sadducees, karaites, et al.) The Pharisees and Rabbis went around killing people for disagreeing - which removes any merit to "their claim" because it is exactly opposite of Moses' law, (c.f. Maimonides, Mamrim). Is the any evidence of oral tradition of the texts, (especially punctuation) - before the Taamim were first used in texts in Aleppo, ~900AD? Nov 15, 2017 at 15:01

There is a simpler answer to this. We find numerous instances throughout scripture where God humbles His servants. Abraham prostitutes his wife to save his life, Samson and Delilah, David and Bersheba. Peter and the cock to name the most prominent. Is it not plausible that god took His grace away, in order to teach Elijah a lesson He continually teaches us, that without Him we are nothing and when we reach the cave we expect Judgement for our sin, the howling wind, the storm, but what do we find, the gentle whisper of mercy and kindness. Whatever the fear that motivated Elijah to run, the point is not the reason but the fear which is mistrust and unfaithfulness. Perfect love casts out fear and Elijah had stepped of that road. There was no justification for his fear, but Elijah found mercy in a Faithful God. A lesson well learned many times in our lives. A thorn in the flesh humbles the arrogant old man, for because of the surpassing greatness of the revelation given to me says Paul. It was the late Dr martin Lloyd Jones of the Westminster chapel who said 'after a victory it is often the case that we experience a terrible backsliding' or something to that effect. After Moses spoke with God face to face, he smashed the gift of the law before the elect of Israel. Peter in all his conviction declares he will never deny Jesus and then..? Gods method of humbling us is often in the way of relieving us of grace..! Elijah certainly saw that when he got to the cave...Knowing what we are in ourselves is very humbling. 'When Israel became fat he kicked' God aims to keep His people lean, in this World. It was a cry for help on the part of Elisha, but not the cry that God desires. The question What are you doing here Elijah? was a direct but gentle rebuke...trust in the Lord and do not despair...! He saw his mission as pointless...he wanted to die....!


It amazes me how many sermons I've heard and articles I've read that describe the showdown on Mount Carmel as a triumph for God in such terms that the audience would cry out a resounding "hurrah!" at the fate of unrepentant sinners, and how this should inspire us to be uncompromisingly single-minded in the pursuit of forcefully reminding the unchurched that they're in the wrong. Elijah's does God's will, right? And the bad priests get slaughtered and everyone worships God, right? With an example like this, we can declare boldly how God resorts to violently coercing sinners to repent, and Christians will be proved right in the end.

You'll be surprised how many articles and sermons there are whose main throughline follows this argument. This, in my opinion, the result of a shallow and immature theology, in which the "faithful" sees himself as morally superior.

We ought to pay attention to both the Bible states and omits.

God didn't instruct Elijah to have a spiritual contest with the priests of Baal. [1 Kings 18:1,2]. God didn't even tell him to argue the case for holiness or righteousness, just that he should meet with Ahab and rain would be returned. But Elijah sees himself as the last one - the final hero - in spite of being told otherwise [1 Kings 18:22, 1 Kings 18: 12-14]. In his mind, he's the man of the hour, and he's going to put things right. He commands Ahab to summon the Baalites and Asherahites [1 Kings 18:19]. Elijah is convicted of his own self-righteousness [1 Kings 18:27]. Elijah's gospel is a violent one and ends in the death of the idolatrous priests [1 Kings 18:40]. Then Elijah does something unusual. Instead of praying for the rain to return or simply trusting the Lord to do what He said, Elijah takes up a mystical position and keeps it until clouds form [1 Kings 18:42-44]. Let me ask you: since when did God require mystical positions? Who did Elijah actually think was responsible for bringing back the rain - him or God? After all these victories, Elijah was pumped up with triumph, and took the vanguard of Ahab's caravan all the way back to the royal capital. Why did he head toward the royal city rather than go back to the Shunnamite woman or return to the desert? What did he expect at the royal household? No doubt this showdown and reversal of events had changed everything, and put him in a prominent position. Perhaps Elijah believed he was going to be Ahab's spiritual advisor, the arch-bishop of Israel, and God would be worshipped with his oversight. Then Jezebel happened...

We know from previous stories in the Bible that God allows the anointing of supernatural power to be exercised, even when the heart-condition of the person exercising them isn't pure or in tune with God's will. Abraham and Ishmael. Joseph. Moses striking the rock. Balaam. Samson. God doesn't take away His anointing or their powers, but He allows them to reap the consequences of their misuse.

Is Elijah - the "only righteous man of God", who calls fire from heaven and is fed by ravens (or Arabs!), raises children from the dead, and supplies never-ending grain-meal to a poor widow - terrified by an angry queen's death-threats? Or is there more to this threat than meets the eye?

I propose that Elijah sees in the threat of Jezebel the menace of the evil forces lurking behind her. Such a revelation would cause him to recognize he's a much smaller fish in a bigger pond. As in the Lord of the Rings, anyone who puts on the ring can see evil and evil can see them, Elijah picks a fight with the devil and reaps the consequences. Until Jezebel, Elijah never had to confront spiritual evil. This is juxtaposed by Jesus' desert experience.

If so, this would explain why Elijah was overwhelmed and crushed and fled, relinquishing all that he hoped to accomplish.

I tend to feel that rather than being encouraged, Elijah lost something in the cave at Mount Horeb. God's demonstrations of empty power must've baffled someone who invested so much value and importance into exercising spiritual power. I tend to believe that God's gentle whispering voice was a deliberate act to bring something more than the words to Elijah's attention. We don't know if Elijah comprehends this - as with so much else in the OT, the protagonist's internal dialogue isn't made clear.

God blows up his delusions of grandeur [1 Kings 19:15-18]. God strips Elijah, not of his power, but of his status by ordering him to pass on his anointing to others and to take a disciple. Later, Elijah will go on to burn soldiers with fire from heaven. He's still severe.

It's interesting to note, that on his way to carry out his second prophetic assignment, Elisha (who was Elijah's disciple and "son") responds to taunting with the same fiery indignation that Elijah did, and bears maul 42 insolent youths to death. But Elisha never again cursed anyone from his own lips unless it was uttered by God first and uses his powers to bring about relief and rescue in one form or another. Elisha demonstrated more responsiveness than Elijah to Israel's needs. Could it be that Elisha recognized that with great power comes great responsibility, and great servanthood?

Elijah's violent spirituality released a spirit of Yahwism, which resulted in an age of tyranny and genocide spearheaded by King Jehu, and in the weakening of his kingdom's military influence. Like Elijah, Jehu reacts angrily to those who are insolent [2 Kings 9:33] and bloodily exterminates Ahab's legacy, which no doubt served his political and religious ambitions. It would seem that God wasn't impressed nor accepted it as a tribute [Hosea 1:4].

The story of Elijah up to God's re-commissioning in the cave could be seen as a cautionary tale where outward religious/spiritual success is juxtaposed by inward ambition/vanity with the purpose of counselling us to develop the character to match or exceed the gifts and calling awarded to us by God. Like Samson, Elijah's supernatural power isn't earned or deserved - but he has to earn the wisdom to use it properly. Being awarded spiritual power isn't a sign of God's approval.

A further point which is worth noting is that the Bible describes the 'spirit of Elijah' not as a whirlwind of divinely-appointed destruction of the wicked, but rather a manifestation of the Holy Spirit bearing witness of the divine nature of the family [Malachi 4:6] and an archetypal person who heralds God's coming and sets in motion widespread repentance. This raises the question of just what God had in mind for Elijah to do.

  • 3
    Hello and welcome. Can you perhaps add some citations to sources who agree with you? Or is this solely your own speculation? Jul 30, 2014 at 17:56
  • Please also keep in mind that this is not a Christian site. Be sure to check out what makes us different from other sites that study the Bible.
    – Dan
    Jan 16, 2015 at 16:41
  • 1
    I think you can benefit a lot if you see the kind of answers that this site is looking for. Be sure to visit the tour to learn more about this site. Jan 16, 2015 at 17:30
  • 1
    Very little of this answer is on-topic. That is, it consists almost entirely of thought on related matters which do not contribute to answering the actual question of why Elijah was afraid.
    – ThaddeusB
    Jan 15, 2016 at 17:29
  • +1 - I agree that Elijah went too far, and was afraid of the judgment against him. Nov 14, 2017 at 21:42

1. Question Restatement:

Why was Elijah so afraid of Jezebel that he fled immediately after performing a great miracle?

Quick Answer: Elijah was afraid because he had just realized that even though God's heart was to reconcile people to him, Elijah had instead turned reconciliation into an execution - just "like his fathers". Why wouldn't anyone be terrified once they've realized that there was never any possibility for them to justify death - especially when they could have instilled life instead?

1 Kings 19:4 - ... for I am not better than my fathers. ... 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

2. An Apparent Contradiction - Was Elijah Actually Afraid to Die, or Not?

Afraid to Die?

NASB, 1 Kings 18:3 - And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

Or, Not Afraid to Die?

NASB, 1 Kings 19:4 - But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”

So, Elijah's fear couldn't have just been about "dying".

3. Something Jezebel Said Changed Elijah's Life:

Elijah had JUST outran Ahab on the way TO Jezebel who was in Jezreel:

NASB, 1 Kings 18:46 - Then the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel, (where Ahab's palace was, 1 Kings 21:1).

Elijah was certainly not afraid of Jezebel, but was afraid of the judgment she had pronounced ...

Jezebel Reminded Elijah of what he JUST did to the prophets of Baal:

NASB, 1 Kings 19:2 - Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods [lit. "God", (Elohim)] do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”

Elijah had a realization that Jezebel was justified to invoke "God", (Elohim), to affirm a judgment against him - and so he ran.

But, What Had Elijah Just Realized?

NASB, 1 Kings 19:4 - But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers ... 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”

4. Elijah was afraid for his life, and judgment for what he did - by God:

Although I am sure that Elijah felt perfectly justified when he executed 450 people, God actually showed up to change peoples' hearts to repent - not to execute anyone.

In this same way - today, theists misrepresent God by exchanging the desperate love and mercy of God for a vengeful and wrathful God, (which God actually is in a way); but, God is vengeful towards those who subvert the desperate and unconditional love and mercy of God. Unbelievers, (like Jezebel against Elijah; and even the "donkey" against Balaam) are perfectly justified in their judgments. So, why wouldn't anyone be terrified?

But, even Jesus gave up trying to explain this, saying instead:

NASB, Matthew 9:13 - But go [away] and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Elijah and "his fathers" had condemned themselves by rejecting mercy:

Elijah, and "his fathers", completely missed the heart of God - they had the wrong spirit the entire time. Elijah finally realized that he, himself, desperately needed to find repentance; but alone, he did not have the strength to pursue repentance and withstand the shame; he would likely continue to stumble and moreover be judged by his own judgments - with no mercy:

Elijah, like his fathers, subverted how God desired to prove himself:

NKJV, 1 Kings 18:24 - Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God. ... 1 Kings 19:12 ... but the Lord was not in the fire; ... a still small voice.”

NASB, Ezekiel 7:27 - The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with horror, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. According to their conduct I will deal with them, and by their judgments I will judge them. And - they will know - that I am the Lord.’”

Elijah had only just understood that he had had the wrong heart, and was mortally grieved by it - finally understanding that God desired mercy and not sacrifice (punishment):

NASB, Ezekiel 18:23-25 - Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? ... 25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair?

New Testament Clarification on What Elijah Did:

This entire argument presupposes the validity of Jesus' claim that God had all along desired mercy, and not sacrifice, (not punishment) - and that it was necessary for the Christ to die to show that only by trusting in (his) unconditional advocacy (mercy) brings life.

A person is only justified to appeal for mercy, if they plead for the mercy of others; and so, a person cannot justify pleading under the law of mercy, unless they have also forfeit the right to condemn.

It requires a fundamental change of mind to see that this is THE constant theme in ALL of Scripture. From mercy: Eve's advocacy for Adam - saving his life, Job being healed once he prayed for his friends, Esau embracing his brother, a harlot defending terrorists, (literally), to condemnation: Samson's last "noble" act of killing thousands; Israel's "righteous" annihilation of men, women, and children; and on and on and on.

NASB, Luke 9:54 - When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.

NASB, Luke 24:44 - 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

NASB, James 2:13 - For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Conclusion: That fear, that Elijah found, is the beginning of wisdom - and why he ran. It is a terrible fear and burden to seek forgiveness when you realize that there was never any possible justification to cause death, especially when you could have instilled life instead.


Because in the death threat, Jezebel actively tries to make Elijah suffer the exact same fate as her prophets. And she even agrees to be divinely judged, albeit by pagan gods (demons), if she fails in finishing this task. This reveals a person that only repents with tears if they no longer have the power to do evil. In other words, a cruelly sarcastic subversion of Elijah's idea of repentance from evil and towards holiness, which he radically preached to Israel a few moments before.

An incorrigble psychopath. A heretic of abominably ungodly proportions.

No wonder why Elijah was scared.


I do not think that Elijah was afraid more than he was discouraged as the great display of the power of God had still left him thinking that there was no one who worshiped the LORD in Israel (the ten Northern tribes) except himself. He felt his ministry was accomplishing nothing. The LORD let him know that there were 7,000 others that had not bowed the knee to Baal.

Still it was a prayer after which the LORD had him mentor Elisha to take his place. One thing the LORD let me understand in my own ministry was that the great deeds like what Elijah did require many prayers of the saints and that until the last prayer was in place the great deeds of victory are in waiting. The LORD uses every prayer that is in line with His will, every prayer.

Yes, Elijah departed in order to save his own life, but awareness of danger is not the same thing as fear. The King James Version does not translate it as fear.

1 Kings 19:3 (King James Version with Strong's numbers)

And when he saw 7200 [that], he arose 6965, and went 3212 for his life 5315, and came 935 to Beersheba 884, which [belongeth] to Judah 3063, and left 3240 his servant 5288 there.

  • saw or perceived
  • arose or stood against
  • went or to go, to walk

    In other words Elijah resisted Jezebel and did that which prohibited her from carrying out her statement of revenge.


Blue Letter Bible. "Book of 1 Kings 19 - (KJV - King James Version)." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 10 Jul 2013. < http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=1Ki&c=19&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for ra'ah (Strong's 7200)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 10 Jul 2013. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm? Strongs=H7200&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for quwm (Strong's 6965)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 10 Jul 2013. < http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6965&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for yalak (Strong's 3212)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 10 Jul 2013. < http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3212&t=KJV >


Yup, Elijah was able to do "small stuff", cruets of oil, bringing kids back from recent death, even making water burn on the Carmel, but he wasn't able to stand up to a wholly wicked person, Jezebel, directly. This is the text's way of telling us why he lost his commission. The supertext includes a celebration of the miracles but the subtext brings a criticism of Elijah and the miracle working traditions.

The supertext is the combination of the cycle of miracle stories with the flight from Jezebel and the transfer of the commission to Elisha after the admission of failure. The subtext is what the narrator intended us to make of this jarring juxtaposition. It looks like deadly criticism.

  • 3
    Didn't quite get what you are referring has supertext and subtext. Can you please elaborate on that. Oct 14, 2012 at 17:23
  • 3
    Got to vote this down. Clearly Eli you have never been in the position of having your life threatened by a person of power. Elijah is reckoned as one of the greatest of the prophets, and to call him a 'failure' is a gross misunderstanding. Yes he was not a superhuman, utterly without flaw and immune to fear, but I challenge you to find any one of God's servants who did not act imperfectly at some time (with one signular exception of course). We do the whole of Christianity a vast disservice when we promulgate the idea that anyone who is not superhumanly perfect is a failure in God's eyes. Oct 16, 2012 at 16:50
  • 2
    You should also note that Elijah's commission is not removed from him at this stage. In fact he is made the mentor of Elisha - it is specifically said that Elisha becomes Elijah's disciple. Nobody assigns a failure to be the mentor of a new recruit. Oct 16, 2012 at 16:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.