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Elijah the Tishbite - The history of this great man is introduced very abruptly; his origin is enveloped in perfect obscurity. He is here said to be a Tishbite. Tishbeh, says Calmet, is a city beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Gad, and in the land of Gilead. Who was his father, or from what tribe he sprang, is not intimated; he seems to have been the prophet of Israel peculiarly, as we never find him prophesying in Judah. A number of apocryphal writers have trifled at large about his parentage, miraculous birth, of his continual celibacy, his academy of the prophets, etc., etc., all equally worthy of credit. One opinion, which at first view appears strange, bears more resemblance to truth than any of the above, viz., that he had no earthly parentage known to any man; that he was an angel of God, united for a time to a human body, in order to call men back to perfect purity, both in doctrine and manners, from which they had totally swerved. His Hebrew name, which we have corrupted into Elijah and Elias, is אליהו Alihu, or, according to the vowel points, Eliyahu; and signifies he is my God. Does this give countenance to the supposition that this great personage was a manifestation in the flesh of the Supreme Being? He could not be the Messiah; for we find him with Moses on the mount of transfiguration with Christ. The conjecture that he was an angel seems countenanced by the manner of his departure from this world; yet, in James 5:17, he is said to be a man ὁμοιοπαθης, of like passions, or rather with real human propensities: this, however, is irreconcilable with the conjecture.
There shall not be dew nor rain these years - In order to remove the abruptness of this address, R. S. Jarchi dreams thus: - "Elijah and Ahab went to comfort Hiel in his grief, concerning his sons. And Ahab said to Elijah, Is it possible that the curse of Joshua, the son of Nun, who was only the servant of Moses, should be fulfilled; and the curse of Moses, our teacher, not be fulfilled; who said, Deuteronomy 11:16, Deuteronomy 11:17 : If ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them, then the Lord's wrath shall be kindled against you; and he will shut up the heaven that there be no rain? Now all the Israelites serve other gods, and yet the rain is not withheld. Then Elijah 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." This same mode of connecting this and the preceding chapter, is followed by the Jerusalem and Babylonish Talmuds, Sedar Olam, Abarbanel, etc.
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The name Elijah means "Yahweh is my God." It is expressive of the truth which his whole life preached.
The two words rendered "Tishbite" and "inhabitant" are in the original (setting aside the vowel points) "exactly alike." The meaning consequently must either be "Elijah the stranger, of the strangers of Gilead," or (more probably) "Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbi of Gilead." Of Tishbi in Gilead there is no further trace in Scripture; it is to be distinguished from another Tishbi in Galilee. In forming to ourselves a conception of the great Israelite prophet, we must always bear in mind that the wild and mountainous Gilead, which bordered on Arabia, and was half Arab in customs, was the country wherein he grew up.
His abrupt appearance may be compared with the similar appearances of Ahijah 1 Kings 11:29, Jehu 1 Kings 16:1, Shemaiah 2 Chronicles 11:2, Azariah 2 Chronicles 15:1, and others. It is clear that a succession of prophets was raised up by God, both in faithful Judah and in idolatrous Israel, to witness of Him before the people of both countries, and leave them without excuse if they forsook His worship. At this time, when a grosser and more deadly idolatry than had been practiced before was introduced into Israel by the authority of Ahab, and the total apostasy of the ten tribes was consequently imminent, two prophets of unusual vigour and force of character, endowed with miraculous powers of an extraordinary kind, were successively raised up, that the wickedness of the kings might be boldly met and combated, and, if possible, a remnant of faithful men preserved in the land. The unusual efflux of miraculous energy at this time, is suitable to the unusual emergency, and in very evident proportion to the spiritual necessities of the people.
As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand - This solemn formula, here first used, was well adapted to impress the king with the sacred character of the messenger, and the certain truth of his message. Elisha adopted the phrase with very slight modifications 2 Kings 3:14; 2 Kings 5:16.
Drought was one of the punishments threatened by the Law, if Israel forsook Yahweh and turned after other gods (Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:23; Leviticus 26:19, etc.).
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