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THE HOLY PROPHET ELIJAH THE TISHBITE
FEAST DAY: 20 July
The Holy Prophet Elijah the Tishbite is one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. He is revered as, “the pillar of the prophets and their leader". The bible refers to him as, Tishbite, in reference to his birthplace, Tishbe, a village in the Gilead Heights, near Ajloon Jordan. The Bible does not mention his parents and we know nothing of his childhood.
Elijah, means―Yahweh is my God. He is also known as Mâr Elya, Mâr Eleeya, Mâr Elyas, Mâr Elias al-Hayy, and Eliyyahu. In the West, we spell his name as Elias, so he is also known as The Holy Prophet Elias the Living and The Holy Prophet Elias―as we will now refer to him.
We know that Elias lived in the first half of the 9th century BC during the reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. The Israelites had become indifferent in their belief in God and worshipped other gods, particularly, the pagan god Ba’al, a favourite of Queen Jezebel. The Queen built a Temple to Ba’al in Samaria, and she encouraged many false prophets and priests to spread the beliefs of Ba’al.
Elias is angered by King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and the Israelites’ devotion to Ba’al. He warns the King, that unless he renounces the cult of Ba’al he will inflict a drought on the Kingdom as punishment, “There will be no dew or rain except at my bidding” (1 Kings 17:1).
And so it happened, a drought that lasted three-years until it was ended by Elias. The Bible says that on Mt Carmel, Elias challenges the pagan prophets of Ba’al to decide who is the true God of Israel. Sacrifices are placed on an altar to Ba’al and one to Yahweh. The pagan prophets’ appeals to Ba’al to ignite the wood on their altar fail. Elias’ prayers to God are answered by a fire on his altar. When the Israelites witness this, they kill the priests and prophets of Ba’al under Elias’ command. The drought ends with the falling of rain and the Israelites are converted back to God, “When they saw this, all the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out: ‘The Lord alone is God! The Lord alone is God!’” (1 Kings 18:39).
Soon after Elias leaves the city and undertakes a forty-day fast on his journey to Mt Horeb (Mt Sinai). At the end of the fast God revealed Himself to Elias in “a still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Elias performs a further two miracles for which he is revered.
First, at Zarephath, a village near Sidon, Elias is graciously given a meal by a poor widow and her son. The drought and consequent famine had reduced them to their last meal. Elias rewards the widow’s charity by multiplying her flour and oil so that “she and her household had food for a long time” (1 Kings 17:15).
Second, the widow’s son becomes ill and dies. Elias restores him to life by prostrating himself three times over the child and praying, “O Lord, let this child’s life return to his body” (1 Kings 17:21).
Elias did not die. The Bible says that he rode a chariot of fire into heaven, "And it came to pass while they (Elijah and Elisha) were, speaking together as they walked, behold, a chariot of fire came between the two of them and Elijah was swept up to heaven in a whirlwind…” (2 Kings 2:11).
The Holy Prophet Elias is also remembered in modern times―Jebel Mâr Elyas, (Mt Carmel), preserves the memory of the Prophet. As well as other sites on Mt Carmel― Elias's grotto; El-Khadr, supposedly the school of the prophets; El-Muhraqa, the site of St Elias' challenge with the pagan prophets; Tell el-Qassis (Mound of the priests) where St Elias is said to have slain the prophets and priests of Ba’al—are still venerated by Christians.
We have our own Churches to commemorate The Holy Prophet Elias―
St Elias the Prophet in Manurewa, Auckland
St Elias in Guildford, Sydney
St Elias the Prophet in Sunshine, Victoria
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