Biblical Studies Elijah
Eric Lee Welch, Gary N. Knoppers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0069


The accounts of the career of the prophet Elijah are found in 1 Kings 17–19, 21; and in 2 Kings 1 and 2. As presented in Kings, Elijah’s ministry took place during the 9th century BCE in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. According to the Hebrew Bible, under the rule of the Omride dynasty, Israel was easily given to foreign influence, especially with regard to religious practices. One of the recurring themes of Elijah’s ministry is his battle against state-sponsored Baal worship. Within the Elijah narratives, a unique view of the role and the function of the prophet emerges as he performs miracles and speaks on behalf of Yahweh to people of great power (monarchs) and to Israelites of little means. The Elijah narratives thus present the prophet as an independent social institution separate from both the major state sanctuaries and from the state itself.

General Overviews of Israelite and Judean Prophecy

The prophetic office evolved over time in ancient Israel. The references in this section examine the office of prophet and the practice of prophecy. Redditt 2008 is an excellent introduction to the biblical prophets that assumes no previous knowledge on the part of the reader. Lindblom 1976 has become a standard work on biblical prophecy and its various manifestations. Some treatments, such as Cook 2006, are dominated by the treatment of the Latter Prophets or classical prophecy, but include the Former Prophets as well. Others analyze prophetic narrative (as opposed to prophetic speech) as an independent genre requiring its own exegetical approach, including DeVries 1978, Rofé 1988, and Simon 1997. Finally, Kissling 1996 examines the use of characters such as Elijah as a driving force of the narrator’s view in biblical literature.

  • Cook, Joan E. Hear O Heavens and Listen O Earth: An Introduction to the Prophets. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2006.

    This volume is an introduction to Israel’s prophetic literature. While a large portion is devoted to the Latter Prophets, the Former Prophets—including Elijah—are briefly examined as well.

  • DeVries, S. J. Prophet against Prophet: The Role of the Micaiah Narrative (1 Kings 22) in the Development of Early Prophetic Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978.

    An analysis of the various genres (or subgenres) of prophetic story with regard to their intended function. Offers eleven different frames, each with a distinct purpose, for prophetical stories.

  • Kissling, Paul J. Reliable Characters in the Primary History: Profiles of Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 224. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1996.

    Utilizing a type of reader response theory, this study examines prominent characters as the driving force of the narrator’s view.

  • Lindblom, Johannes. Prophecy in Ancient Israel. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976.

    This classic 20th-century volume is a standard work on prophecy in ancient Israel. It classifies the various means of prophetic revelations and actions, as well as the religion of the ancient prophets. Reprint of 1962 edition.

  • Redditt, Paul L. Introduction to the Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

    A recent introduction to the prophets that assumes no previous knowledge on the part of the reader. Each prophetical book is introduced, and important issues such as authorship, setting, major themes, and interpretational issues are discussed.

  • Rofé, Alexander. The Prophetical Stories. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988.

    This volume examines the prophetical story as a genre of its own, and it seeks to establish a method for reading and interpreting it. Critical to this method is the date of the texts, which Rofé often places in exilic or postexilic times.

  • Simon, Uriel. Reading Prophetic Narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

    Simon’s work is largely a literary treatment of the former prophets, with Chapter 7 focusing exclusively on the Elijah narrative.

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