Historical Background of Elijah
Through the study of John the Baptist I realized what an important figure Elijah continued to be long after God took him up to heaven in a fiery chariot. I know the stories of Elijah, but it was impossible to read about John the Baptist and not get roped into the stories of Elijah.
Elijah shows up on the scene roughly at the same time as Elisha, Obadiah and Joel. The Kingdom of Israel was divided between the North and South because of a whole mishap earlier in Israel’s history. They had separate kings and consequentially, separate prophets as well. Elijah and Elisha were prophets to the Northern Kingdom and Obadiah and Joel were prophets to the Southern Kingdom. We don’t know where Elijah came from, exactly. All the sudden in 1 Kings 17, there he is. He leaves the scene in much the same way.
Ahab was king [and was king for 22 years], and came by his issues honestly. His dad Omri, “did evil in the sight of the Lord” and Scripture says Omri did MORE evil than any king before him. Ahab followed in his old man’s footsteps. Actually, he outdid his dad. It says in 1 Kings 16:33 that Ahab “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” David had his own troubles. He walked with God, but not as much can be said for his sons. Solomon rebuilt the temple, but from there it seems his heart was divided. The kings after him brought more division, idol worship, murder, lying prophets, dishonest kings, war, and the unsavory list goes on, down the line to Ahab. Ahab was married to a Phoenician princess named Jezebel. She also wasn’t a fan of Elijah, or of making very humanitarian life choices. She pushed forward Baal worship in the Northern Kingdom. Really, in many ways, Ahab and Jezebel’s story might sound a little like Herod and Herodias from John the Baptist’s story.
It says in 1 Kings 16 that Ahab also made the Asherah. Asherah was a Phoenician goddess. Obviously Jezebel was having quite an effect on Ahab’s spiritual life. A couple other times in the Old Testament the Asherah shows up in Israel’s history, always closely linked with Baal worship. [Judges 6 and 1 Kings 15]. Kings or Judges who walked with God would “Cut them down” as a sign of ridding Israel of their idols. Ahab and Jezebel are dead set on re-introducing them into Israel’s story. Addressing the Baal worship becomes a key part of Elijah’s work in the Northern Kingdom.
If you read the history straight through you actually feel a sense of relief when Elijah finally enters the scene. After this genealogy of kings, who are always described as the next being worse than the one before, there’s the feeling that MAYBE now finally, something might change.
Elijah comes in out of nowhere. Contrary to what’s typical, he has no genealogical background given about him, just that he’s from Gilead, which given the history means he’s rough, rugged, sort of a mountain man. [Sounds again like John the Baptist.] He’s fed by birds, dresses in camel skins, and close to the heart and voice of God.
Phew. This is a lot. Thanks for sticking with me through the history lesson. I'm hoping as we search the stories of Elijah, that our view of God would increase and our hearts would be sensitive to be used by God for His glory.
What so far in Elijah’s history is intriguing to you?
What generational legacies is your family leaving? Ones of doing right in the eyes of God?
Are there any generational sins you are hoping to break through the way you live?