This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: 1 Kings 17:1 ‘And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the sojourners of Gilea

This Week’s Focus Passage: 1 Kings 17:1

‘And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the sojourners of Gilead.’


    In his “International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia,” James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor, published by Eerdmans, 1947, in volume II, we may read an article on the prophet, Elijah, pp.930-933, about this enigmatic person and prophet. The author of this particular article, grants to the reader the following information:

“The great prophet of the times of Ahab, king of Israel. Elijah is identified at his first appearance (1 Kings 17:1) as Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the sojourners of Gilead. Thus his native place must have been called Tishbeh. Tishbeh in the territory of Naphtali is known from Tobit 1: 2; but if with (most modern commentators) the reading of the LXX is followed, the word translated ‘sojourners’ is itself, ‘Tishbeh,’ locating the place in Gilead and making the prophet a native of that mountain region and not merely a ‘sojourner’ there.”   

So, what is a Tishbite? And who are the sojourners of Gilead? That is, where did Elijah come from? The article cited above suggests that he, the prophet Elijah, was which may be somewhat more puzzling, or enigmatic about Elijah, is his sudden appearance before Ahab, recorded in that first verse of the seventeenth chapter of the first book of Kings. It almost seems that Elijah was something of a precursor to the (sadly, more famous to 20th century readers, than Elijah) hero of California legends, the horseman, known as Zorro; as in, ‘out of the night when the full moon was bright, came a horseman known as Zorro’), since Elijah seems to have come out of nowhere. We could say, of Elijah, that he was sent (as was Zorro) to lay down the law; only in his case, particularly, to Ahab, king of Israel. 

    Ahab was something of a culmination of wickedness, and wretchedness, in the successive line of the kings of Israel. This line, of course, began with Jeroboam, the man who took the ten tribes to form another kingdom alongside, as it were, Rehoboam, king of Judah, and successor of the throne of Solomon. Jeroboam had begun his career, if we are warranted in calling it a career, in what became known as Samaria, by establishing forms of false worship. He was fearful that at the times of the three feasts ordained for the Jews, as they were used to go to Jerusalem those three times a year. We read of this occurrence in 1 Kings 12:26-30, where we are informed of Jeroboam’s concerns, and his actions.

And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now will the kingdom return to the house of David: if this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, then will the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return unto Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said unto them, it is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And this thing became a sin, for the people.

Jeroboam proceeded further in attempting to duplicate the God-ordained worship which was available only in Jerusalem. Things, rather, that he devised of his own heartThese things, we repeat, became a sin for the people. Jehovah’s response came swiftly. We read in the very next chapter, namely, thirteen, that there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of Jehovah. This prophet cried against the altar that Jeroboam had built. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which Jehovah hath spoken: Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. This ‘sign’ which Jehovah had spoken came to pass immediately, ratifying as it were, the prophesy regarding the son that was to be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name. We are able to read, in the 5th verse, that indeed, The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of Jehovah. This, as we said, ratified also the prophecy concerning Josiah, and surely, a descendant of David was born to the throne, by the name of Josiah, so that we are not surprised when we read in 2 Kings 22:1-2, 

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.  

But there were many kings of Israel, after Jeroboam, and prior to the days of Josiah, king of Judah, that followed Jeroboam’s example; there were many upheavals, and many new successors who sat upon that throne. The wickedness of this people reached something of a climax in the person of king Ahab, and his more famous wife, Jezebel. This climax of the sins of Jeroboam could be likened unto the occasion of the Lord’s waiting for the iniquity of the Amorite to be full (Gen.15:16). Even as Jehovah awaited that filling before He brought His people out of Egypt, we may imagine that He awaited the filling of Ahab’s sins before His sending of Elijah. 

And so, in similar fashion, as Moses appeared before Pharaoh, with a word from Jehovah; so Elijah appears ‘out of nowhere’ with a word from Jehovah for Ahab. The prophet advises this most wicked king [indeed, the most wicked among incredible wickedness]; As Jehovah, the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. This surely came to pass, and while Jehovah cared for His prophet’s needs, even employing ravens to do so, along with placing him alongside a ‘babbling brook’ Cherith, for water, we read this asseveration of the truth of God’s Word, And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land.  

This is, all of it, the setting of the stage for the pending contest between Jezebel’s prophets of Baal, and Elijah, the prophet of the living and true God. This contest follows the three-year drought, and is a marvelous demonstration of the power of our sovereign God, over all things; Dale Ralph Davis is very helpful here.

Yahweh is the God for whom handicaps are no obstacle. I am tempted [Davis has written} to say that Elijah was a far more formidable opponent of Yahweh than Baal or his prophets were. A half-pagan brain might think Elijah had just ruined Yahweh’s chance of success. He orders four jars full of water poured over the sacrifice; in fact, he has it done three times. He then prays that Yahweh will consume his sopping mess. Israelites were not witless. They knew wet stuff doesn’t burn. Elijah had stacked the deck against Yahweh, so that when his fire came there could be no other explanation except that it was an ‘act of God.’ Some Israelites may have walked away muttering Genesis 18:14 to themselves.” Look it up [Genesis 18:14]! 

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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