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.

  • Elijah did not eat the ravens. The only prohibition is to not eat them and not touch their carcasses. – Boom Nov 20 '17 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 '17 at 17:40
  • 1
    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. – Boom Nov 20 '17 at 17:42
  • Also, ravens are actually a really good choice to "command to do stuff" because they are very intelligent birds. – Boom Nov 20 '17 at 17:44
  • 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 '18 at 10:19

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 '17 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 '17 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. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Nov 21 '17 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 '17 at 19:20
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim: Not impossible, but not necessary either; see Hosea. – Lucian Nov 22 '17 at 17:18

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.


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 '18 at 18:50

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