The accounts of the prophet Elijah in the Bible begin in 1 Kings 17. After claiming the promised land, the people of Israel turned from God and began to intermarry with nonbelievers. God had warned against this. As time went on, the Israelites would turn from their faith and become secular, or worse yet, began to worship false gods.
Their kingdom had already been divided and soon there would be no kingdom at all, as Israel would be taken over by the Babylonians. Elijah was called to proclaim God once again to a people who had forgotten their heritage and what God had done for them.
The prophet Elijah called to proclaim God
Elijah’s ministry is recorded in Chapters 17-19. He was succeeded by Elisha at the beginning of 2 Kings. His name means “Yahweh is my God,” or “the Lord is my God.”
When God gave His law to Moses, one of the 10 Commandments was “You shall have no other gods before me.” Elijah was called to proclaim that Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was the one true God.
His name gives insight into his calling, as God directed him to oppose those who followed Baal, a false god. In a rather dramatic and confrontational encounter with the prophets of Baal, Elijah made a public demonstration to denounce Baal and turn the people to the one, true God.
Elijah in Bible Follows God
Elijah told the prophets to prepare a bull for sacrifice and place it on the alter for a burnt offering, but not to light the wood. Instead, the prophets were to call on Baal to light the fire, and they did so.
They called to Baal, shouted to him and danced around the alter they had built. There was no response. Then Elijah walked over to an old alter to God, long destroyed. He took 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel, and rebuilt the alter. They also dug a trench around the alter.
Elijah in the Bible ordered the people to take four large jars and fill them with water. He then told them to pour the water on the offering and the wood. He ordered it to be repeated and repeated a third time. The water ran down and filled the trench.
Elijah prayed, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
The Lord sent fire from above and lit the alter, consuming the sacrifice, the wood and the water. The people looked in amazement and they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
Interesting facts about Elijah in the Bible
Elijah is one of two Old Testament prophets who also appears in the New Testament. Both Matthew and Mark describe how Jesus led his disciples up a mountainside and met with both Elijah and Moses.
Elijah mentored another prophet, Elisha. Elijah would pass the ministry on to Elisha in 2 Kings.
Elijah, like Enoch, did not experienced death, but was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, right in front of Elisha. Elisha had asked Elijah to give him a double portion of his spirit before he departed. Elijah told Elisha that if you see me when I am taken away, then the blessing shall be yours.
God sent a chariot of fire to get Elijah and take him up into heaven. Elisha witnessed this extraordinary event. Elisha, empowered by the Spirit, took on the responsibilities that Elijah had taken on.