THE MIRACLES OF ELIJAH AND ELISHA
The activities of the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the Books of Kings have captured the attention of Bible students for ages. There is no section of the Bible quite like this; there is one miracle after another without much explanation for each one, other than the underlying message that these are prophets of Yahweh living in a time when the nation was turning to worship false gods. Our study will focus on the meaning of these events in the biblical accounts; and to assist in this understanding we shall draw upon the religious and cultural background of the material.
In the 1920s a large collection of tablets was discovered in Syria in the location of ancient Ugarit, called Ras Shamra in the modern times. These tablets were written in cuneiform, the small wedge-shaped writing baked into the clay tablets, similar to ancient Akkadian writing in the way it was done, but not in substance, for Ugaritic is much simpler. Whereas Akkadian was a syllabic script with hundreds of signs, Ugaritic was a linear alphabet, and the language very similar in construction to the later Hebrew. From these tablets we have gained a tremendous amount of information about the ancient Canaanite culture; it not only confirms what the Bible and the classical writers said about the Canaanites, but adds so much more detail. Here we learn a good deal about the worship of Baal and the other gods of Canaan, the whole corrupt religious system that Elijah and Elisha had to deal with.
The setting for these stories is in the ninth century B.C. The kingdom of David was divided into two kingdoms at the death of Solomon in 931 B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah began with Solomonís son, Rehoboam; four kings later the good king Jehoshaphat came to the throne and reigned from 873 B.C. to 848. The northern kingdom of Israel very quickly defected to false worship under its first king Jeroboam I (931-910 B.C.). After a series of usurpers, Ahab came to the throne and reigned from 874-853 B.C. He married Jezebel of Phoenicia, and the troubles began. It was in this time that Elijah began to minister. Elijah was translated to glory somewhere before 841 B.C. in the reign of Jehoram (there was a Jehoram in Judah and a Jehoram in Israel from 850 or so until 841). Elisha ministered in the time of Jehu of Israel (841-814 B.C.) And his wicked successors Jehoahaz (814-798 B.C.) And Jehoash (798-796 B. C.). So we shall be looking at the events in these two kingdoms for a period of about 80 years, from 875-795 B.C.
I. Withholding the Rain (1 Kings 17:1-7)
II. The Oil and the Grain (1 Kings 17:8-16)
III. The Giver of Life (1 Kings 17:17-24)
IV. Fire from Heaven (1 Kings 18)
V. Prophetic Authority (1 Kings 19)
VI. The Ascending of Elijah (2 Kings 2)
VII. The Healing Motif (2 Kings 5)