Lord’s Library editors created this resource on the Prophet Elijah in the Bible to give you a basic summary of his life and significance.
The story of Elijah in the Bible is a significant narrative that spans several chapters in the Old Testament. Elijah was a prophet who lived during the reign of King Ahab, who was one of the most wicked kings in Israel’s history. Ahab had married a woman named Jezebel, who was a worshipper of the false god Baal. Elijah’s ministry began with him pronouncing a drought over the land as a punishment for the people’s idolatry.
Story of Elijah in the Bible: Introduction
During the drought, God miraculously provided for Elijah through ravens and a widow in Zarephath. In 1 Kings 18:19-20, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel, where he demonstrated the power of the Lord and had the prophets of Baal put to death: “Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.”
After this, Elijah prayed for rain to end the drought, and it came in a dramatic thunderstorm in 1 Kings 18:41-46: “So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
In 1 Kings 19:2-3, Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah, causing him to flee for his life: “Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.”
In 1 Kings 19:4, Elijah became discouraged and prayed to God, asking to die: “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”
However, God encouraged him and provided him with sustenance for his journey in 1 Kings 19:5-8: “And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.”
In 2 Kings 2:1-11, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, and his mantle fell to his disciple Elisha, who carried on his ministry: “And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
Elijah’s story is significant because it highlights God’s faithfulness and the importance of obedience to Him. Through Elijah’s dramatic actions, we see the power of God at work and the need for repentance and faithfulness to Him. Elijah’s faithfulness and courage also serve as a model for believers today, who are called to stand up for God’s Word and live lives of obedience to Him.
Elijah in the Bible
What happened to Elijah in the Bible
The most well-known story involving Elijah is the confrontation on Mount Carmel, which we’ve outlined above. In this story, Elijah challenged the prophets of the false god Baal to a contest. They were to prepare an altar and call upon their god to send fire to consume the sacrifice. Elijah did the same, and when the prophets of Baal were unable to summon their god, Elijah prayed to the Lord, who sent fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. This event led to a great revival among the people of Israel, who recognized the power of the true God.
The Still, Small Voice
In 1 Kings 19:9-18, Elijah had just fled from Queen Jezebel and found refuge in a cave on Mount Horeb. The Lord came to him and asked him in verse 9, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” Elijah responded by saying that he had been very zealous for the Lord but that the Israelites had rejected His covenant and killed His prophets. He felt alone and was afraid for his life.
The Lord then instructed Elijah to stand on the mountain before Him. A great wind came and tore the mountain apart, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Then, there came a still, small voice, and Elijah knew that it was the Lord speaking to him through his conscience.
The Lord spoke to him and reassured him that he was not alone and that there were still many faithful servants of the Lord in Israel. He also gave Elijah instructions to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as Elijah’s own successor.
In 2 Kings 2, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, without experiencing death. This event is significant because it demonstrates God’s power over life and death and also serves as a symbol of hope for believers, who look forward to the resurrection and eternal life.
The verses that describe Elijah’s ascent to heaven are 2 Kings 2:11-12: “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.”
Throughout his ministry, Elijah spoke many prophecies, both of judgment and of hope. For example, he prophesied that Ahab and Jezebel would be punished for their wickedness and that their descendants would be cut off from the throne. He also prophesied that Elisha, his successor, would receive a double portion of his spirit in 2 Kings 2:9. We’ve listed the prophecies spoken on by Elijah below, with their corresponding Bible verses and a brief summary:
- 1 Kings 17:1: “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”
Elijah prophesied that there would be a drought in the land of Israel because of the wickedness of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.
- 1 Kings 17:14: “For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.”
Elijah prophesied that the flour and oil of the widow who was hosting him during the drought would not run out until the end of the drought.
- 1 Kings 18:17-19: “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.”
Elijah challenged King Ahab to gather all of Israel and the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel to show that the Lord is God and that Baal is not.
- 1 Kings 18:41-46: “And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
Elijah prophesied that rain would come again after the drought.
- 1 Kings 19:14: “And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Elijah expressed his frustration with the Israelites for abandoning the Lord’s covenant and killing His prophets.
- 1 Kings 19:15-18: “And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”
God instructed Elijah to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as Elijah’s own successor.
- 1 Kings 21:19: “And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.”
Elijah prophesied that Ahab would be punished for his evil deeds and that his descendants would suffer for them as well.
- 2 Kings 1:2-4: “Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.”
Elijah prophesied that King Ahaziah would die because he sought counsel from Baal instead of the Lord.
- 2 Kings 1:16-17: “And Bathsheba bowed, and did obeisance unto the king. And the king said, What wouldest thou? And she said unto him, My lord, thou swarest by the LORD thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne.”
Elijah prophesied that Jehoram, the son of Ahab, would also die because of his wickedness.
- 2 Kings 2:9: “Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.”
Elijah prophesied that Elisha would receive a double portion of his spirit.
- 2 Kings 2:19-22: “Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right hand. Then she said, I desire one small petition of thee; I pray thee, say me not nay. And the king said unto her, Ask on, my mother: for I will not say thee nay. And she said, Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah thy brother to wife. And king Solomon answered and said unto his mother, And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? ask for him the kingdom also; for he is mine elder brother; even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah.”
Elijah prophesied that the waters of Jericho would be healed by the Lord.
- 2 Kings 3:16-19: “Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it.”
Elijah prophesied that the Lord would provide water for the armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom in the desert.
- 2 Kings 8:7-15: “And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither. And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ burden, and came and stood before him, and said, Thy son Benhadad king of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the LORD hath shewed me that he shall surely die. And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept. And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The LORD hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria. So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover. And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead.”
Elijah prophesied that Hazael would become king of Syria and that he would be a ruthless leader who would harm the Israelites.
- 2 Kings 9:6-10: “And he arose, and went into the house; and he poured the oil on his head, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the LORD, even over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel: And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah: And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.”
Elijah prophesied that Jehu would become king of Israel and that he would be an instrument of God’s judgment against the house of Ahab.
- 2 Kings 9:36-37: “Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel.”
Elijah prophesied that Jezebel would be killed and her body would be eaten by dogs in the field of Jezreel.
The story of Elijah and the widow’s oil is found in 1 Kings 17:8-16: “And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.”
During a time of severe drought in Israel, Elijah was commanded by the Lord to go to Zarephath, a town in Sidon, and stay with a widow there. When he arrived, he found the widow gathering sticks to make a fire to cook what would be her last meal for herself and her son. Elijah asked the woman for a drink of water and a piece of bread, but the widow explained that she had only enough flour and oil to make one last cake for herself and her son before they would starve to death.
Elijah instructed the woman to first make him a cake with the remaining flour and oil and then to make one for herself and her son. He promised that if she obeyed him, her flour and oil would not run out until the drought was over. The woman obeyed Elijah, and true to his word, her flour, and oil continued to miraculously multiply, sustaining her and her son throughout the drought.
Healing of Naaman
The story of Elijah and the healing of Naaman is found in 2 Kings 5:1-19. Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, had leprosy and was seeking a cure. A young Israelite girl who had been captured by the Syrians suggested that Naaman go to the prophet in Israel for healing. Naaman went to Israel and brought with him gifts of silver, gold, and clothing for the prophet, expecting a great healing ceremony.
Elijah, however, did not even come out of his house to meet Naaman. Instead, he sent a messenger to tell Naaman to go wash himself seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be healed of his leprosy. Naaman was initially angry and refused to do as Elijah instructed, thinking that the Jordan River was inferior to the rivers in his homeland. But his servants convinced him to obey Elijah’s instructions, and when Naaman did as he was told, his leprosy was miraculously healed.
Additional Contest of the Prophets of Baal
The second account of Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal is found in 1 Kings 18:20-40. King Ahab had led the Israelites astray to worship Baal, and Elijah was sent by God to challenge the prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel to prove that the Lord is God.
Elijah gathered the Israelites and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and set up two altars, one for the Lord and one for Baal. He challenged the prophets of Baal to call on their god to consume their offering with fire, while he called on the Lord to do the same for his offering. The prophets of Baal called out to their god all day long, but no fire came. Elijah mocked them and then prayed to the Lord, who sent fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s offering, including the water that had been poured over it.
The people were amazed and declared that the Lord is God. Elijah then ordered the people to seize the prophets of Baal, and they were all put to death.
Characteristics of the Prophet Elijah in the Bible
Elijah was originally from the town of Tishbe in Gilead. He was a man of remarkable faith and courage, who fearlessly stood up against the wickedness of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. Elijah’s name means “My God is Yahweh,” which reflects his unwavering faith in God. Elijah performed many miracles, including raising multiplying a widow’s oil and flour and calling down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice on Mount Carmel.
Elijah also demonstrated great humility and obedience, as seen when he obeyed God’s command to stay with the widow in Zarephath, even though it meant staying with a Gentile woman during a time of drought. Elijah also remained faithful to the Lord even when he felt discouraged.
These characteristics of Elijah in the Bible continue to inspire and encourage believers today.
Meaning of Elijah in the Bible
Elijah is considered one of the greatest prophets in the Bible, and his story serves as an important reminder of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. Elijah’s ministry was a call to repentance and a reminder that God is the one true God who deserves our worship and obedience. Elijah’s faithfulness and courage also serve as a model for believers today, who are called to stand up for God’s true Word and live lives of obedience to Him.
These verses provide insight into how others perceived Elijah, including the widow who he stayed with, King Ahab’s servant Obadiah, and the prophet’s greatest adversary, Jezebel. The verses also show that Elijah was known as a man of God and a prophet, and that he was sought out for his prophetic message. These verses also show that even though Elijah faced persecution and was hunted by his enemies, he remained faithful to God and His message.
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