1 Kings:17.1
Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. "And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there."
The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.

But according to Mosaic law, these birds are unclean ceremonially.

Leviticus:11.13 ' And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination...... 'every raven after its kind

These passages show that ravens would have been despised by law and tradition from the days of Moses. Why then should Elijah be fed using means that could affect his credibility.

  • 3
    Elijah did not eat the ravens. The only prohibition is to not eat them and not touch their carcasses.
    – user21609
    Nov 20, 2017 at 17:30
  • @Boom But what about his credibility. That's why I've paraphrased the question. What was Yahweh trying to say by feeding him that way.
    – user20490
    Nov 20, 2017 at 17:40
  • 3
    Where does the law say that someone's credibility will be reduced if he eats food brought by a raven? I think you are adding requirements to the law that God did not. After all, God Himself commanded the ravens to feed Elijah. Ravens themselves were not despised by the law, only the eating of them was despised.
    – user21609
    Nov 20, 2017 at 17:42
  • 1
    Also, ravens are actually a really good choice to "command to do stuff" because they are very intelligent birds.
    – user21609
    Nov 20, 2017 at 17:44
  • 1
    With whom would Elijah's credibility be affected? It couldn't be God since He instructed him. Anyone else is of no account.
    – enegue
    Jul 11, 2018 at 10:19

8 Answers 8


If you read the Elijah cycle carefully, and without prior assumptions of who Elijah is, you will notice a consistent pattern of untoward incidents and behavior. In this particular example:

  1. God send Elijah to the Cherit gulch. In Hebrew, "cherit" means "cutting off", "excommunicated" or "divorced". The fact that no such geographical place exists hints that there is a subliminal, pejorative message in the verse regarding Elijah. He is told to drink the water of excommunication.
  2. The raven is an unclean bird that eats carrion, other unclean things, and the refuse of humanity. The verse hints heavily that Elijah is eating questionable food, probably refuse, but without actually saying it.
  3. Immediately afterwards, in 1 Kings 17:7-16 God commands Elijah to go to Sidon, the source of the Baal cult, and to live out of wedlock with an impoverished non-Israelite widow, from whom at the start he shamefully begs for food (it should have been the other way around), before performing a miracle with the cruse of oil while the drought drags on. That is Elijah can perform cheap tricks in a private setting with the oil and flour but he does nothing to stop the drought.

The author of I Kings includes the Elijah cycle of stories because of the popular following that Elijah had, but consistently undercuts and diminishes the prophet with unsavory and snide situations, but without explicit derogation.

This text is witness to an ongoing tension in Israelite, and later Jewish culture (e.g. Honi the Circle Drawer), between charismatic miracle workers with huge popular following and more educated religious leaders who saw these charismatics as a serious threat. This text is a prime example of the many hidden polemics in the Bible.

  • I don't fully agree with your answer based on my faith. But from a strictly academic standpoint it is a plausible concept that you introduced in this answer . The scribe and the prophet feud. A striking perspective. Thank you!!.
    – user20490
    Nov 21, 2017 at 15:42
  • I can understand what you're trying to say especially if disagreeable Pharisees were the ones who wrote a section in the story of Jesus.
    – user20490
    Nov 21, 2017 at 15:44
  • @user20490 It shouldn't challenge your faith to understand that there is controversy recorded in the Bible. Sometimes it is explicit, sometimes it is just below the surface. It defies a simple reading, but life isn't simple.
    – user17080
    Nov 21, 2017 at 15:55
  • That is an interesting take on the Elijah story. You know perhaps that in the pseudo-Clementine "Homilies" Elijah is one of the series of false prophets.
    – fdb
    Nov 21, 2017 at 19:20
  • 1
    That's what makes it weird for Elijah to be fed by ravens. Their beaks are unclean. Their feet are unclean. God could have sent bread from heaven directly. He could have sent quails as meat. But the fact that the leaders that produced the rabbinic commentaries do not take issue with this is stunnning.
    – user20490
    Nov 23, 2017 at 17:30

God fed Elijah with meat brought by ravens because later He would command Peter to eat "unclean" food in a vision. In both cases, God is instructing his servant in 2 ways: (1) to trust Him implicitly no matter how difficult the circumstance, and (2) to put away sensibilities that pertain to the Law, as the Law is passing away. The text in Elijah is a figure of the coming in of the New Covenant, just as it already had arrived for Peter, but he did not know it until his vision (Acts 10:11-16.)

Similarly, it may be that God was demonstrating to Elijah that despised things (example ravens) may be used by God to bring provision to His servants, in anticipation of the later occasion when God commanded that a gentile (a widow and ostensibly a pagan) would sustain Elijah in Zarephath, deep in the heart of Baal territory in Phoenicia. (1 Kings 17). This too points to the passing away of the Law and the coming of the New Covenant believers have in Christ.


Ravens are unclean. God could have fed Elijah with quail and manna like He did for the Israelites in the wilderness. His point is unclean. The widow was a gentile/unclean. The good Samaritan (Jews considered them unclean) provided for the man/Jew from Jerusalem that was robbed. God wants gentile Christians to bless Jews (Nu 24:9).The widow was blessed after making the meal for Elijah and so will we.

  • Welcome to BHSE! Make sure you take our Tour. (See "?", upper right). Thanks Nov 15, 2019 at 21:13

He did not eat the ravens. The ravens brought him meat and bread. There is no indication of the meat the ravens brought were clean or unclean. Even it was unclean meat, provision had to be made for those who could not reach the sanctuary to consume meat in a non-sacral way. Therefore, unclean animals unfit for sacrifice would now be permitted. This is why God commanded this in Deuteronomy 12:15 as okay. Furthermore, it was according to the blessing of the Lord which was to follow. Let's also not forget that according to Genesis 8:6-7 a raven was used by Noah to scout out the area for land.

  • Welcome to BH. Please see the Tour and the Help (both, bottom left, below) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. Good points (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Jun 29, 2020 at 8:17

Even if eating food brought by ravens would generally be forbidden by Mosaic law, Elijah was following a specific directive from God in eating the food (the verse you quoted says: and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there). If God sanctioned it then he did nothing wrong. Moreover, you did not provide any evidence that anyone else knew about this, so why assume that his credibility would come into question?

  • @user20490 I don't see what one has to do with the other.
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2018 at 18:50

His credibility wasn’t affected because God can use anything or anybody to feed us. (Not just food, maybe it’s correction, maybe it’s a scripture or a sermon) God uses the clean and unclean.


Leviticus 12:

2 "Say to the Israelites, 'A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be unclean for seven days, as she is during the days of her menstruation.

After Mary gave birth to Jesus, presumably, she breastfed baby Jesus while she was unclean.

Why wasn't Elijah's credibility affected after unclean birds (ravens) fed him for so long?

I do not see how it should affect Elijah's credibility. Even before this, it was likely that he had eaten food prepared by unclean people.


Elijah and Elisha together form a prophetic riddle concerning Christ. Garments represent works, and they shared the cloak, signifying they shared the same work.

Elijah represents Christ before the cross. As such He does miracles, he confronts sin (Jesus taught repentance), he has his alone time, as in Gethsemane, he must bear the sin and shame of the world, and he died alone and was taken to heaven, among other parallels.

Abu lists a number of things that symbolizing Jesus in the flesh taking on the sin and shame of the world. He was not just a prophet but a judge as well. He was the one who trusted God, and even though he had frailties, God chose him to embarrass Israel. Jesus said he did not come to condemn the world, but he did so by his perfect obedience. He removed all of our excuses for sin, and put us to shame.

Elijah and his works parallel Christ in resurrection, and the preaching of grace. But that is another topic.

  • "Elijah represents Christ before the cross." Could you please explain how you arrive at this statement? At Mark 9:13, Jesus says that Elijah "has come" and this is accepted as being John the Baptizer.
    – agarza
    Oct 28, 2021 at 3:24
  • You are conflating the prophecy of Elijah coming and the prophetic riddle written in the historical account. Concerning John, that needs the attention of question, not a series of brief comments here.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28, 2021 at 4:25
  • Consider that all prophecy speaks of Christ. If A speaks of Christ and B speaks of Christ, sometimes A looks like B because they both speak of Christ. As the time of the cross approached, the prophecies are in closer proximity to it. At the time of Christ, his parables and miracles speak of the cross and they are nearly on top of it. A is a prophecy using Elijah and Elisha. B is a prophecy using John and Christ, and both point to Christ and fulfilled in him alone. Compare the usurping second son, Ishmael,Esau, Adam-Christ before the cross. Isaac, Jacob - Christ in resurrection.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28, 2021 at 4:42
  • The prophecies and prophetic riddles are like transparencies. You lay them on top of each other and align the symbols of the cross, then adjust them based on the other parallels to get the complete picture.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28, 2021 at 4:43

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