Article -

Who is Elijah?


Authors: Jo Milgrom and Yoel Duman

Article Sources:

Malachi 3
23 Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 24 He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.

Ben Sira 48
1   Till like a fire there appeared the prophet whose words were as a flaming furnace.
2   Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
3   By God`s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire.
4   How awesome are you, Elijah! Whose glory is equal to yours?
5  You brought a dead man back to life from the nether world, by the will of the Lord.
6   You sent kings down to destruction, and nobles, from their beds of sickness.
7   You heard threats at Sinai, at Horeb avenging judgments.
8   You anointed kings who should inflict vengeance, and a prophet as your successor.
9   You were taken aloft in a whirlwind, in a chariot with fiery horses.
10 You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to reestablish the tribes of Jacob.
11 Blessed is he who shall have seen you before he dies,
12 O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind!

Pseudo-philo "Biblical Antiquities" ch. 48
XLVIII.   At that time also Phineas laid himself down to die, and the Lord said unto him: Behold thou hast overpassed the 120 years that were ordained unto all men. And now arise and go hence and dwell in the mount Danaben and abide there many years, and I will command mine eagle and he shall feed thee there, and thou shalt not comedown any more unto men until the time come and thou be proved in the time. And then shalt thou shut the heaven, and at thy word it shall be opened. And after that thou shalt be lifted up into the place whither they that were before thee were lifted up, and shalt be there until I remember the world.
Targum Yonatan to Ex 6:18
And the sons of Kohath: Amram and Yizhar and Hebron and Uzziel. And the length of Kohath the Pious` life was 133 years and he lived until he saw Pinchas, who is Elijah, the High Priest who will be sent to Israel`s exiles in the end of days.
 
b. Tamid 32a-b
 
Alexander of Macedon told [the Elders of the South] that he planned to go to Africa. Said the sages: You cannot: on the way there are mountains where it is dark even during the day.
Alexander said: I am determined to go; tell me how!
            The Sages said: Take big donkeys of Egypt that can go in the dark, and balls of ropes; tie one end of the ropes where there is light, and take the other end through the dark so you will know how to return.
Alexander did so; he came to a city of [only] women, and planned to wage war against it. The women said: If you kill us, people will say, you killed women; if we kill you, people will say, you were killed by women. Alexander [agreed]; he requested bread -- they gave to him gold bread on a gold table.
            Alexander said: Who can eat gold bread? The women said: [We assumed you  wanted gold --] if you wanted bread, you did not need to come all the way here!
When Alexander left, he wrote on the gate of the city, "I, Alexander, was foolish until I came to an African city of women who counseled me."
When he continued his journey, he sat to eat bread by a spring. He had salted fish with him, and was rinsing off the salt in the stream when they absorbed a nice smell (= returned to life). He concluded that the stream came from the Garden of Eden.
 
Tanna deBei Eliyahu Rabba 18
Once our Sages and other wise men were sitting in the Bet Midrash and debating. It was asked: Where did Elijah come from? One said, From the descendants of Rachel, and another said, From the descendants of Leah. While they were still arguing, I came to them and stood before them and said: My lords, I come from none other than Rachel. They said, Give us proof of your words. I said to them, Is it not written in the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin (I Chron 8): Jaareshiah, Elijah and Zichri were the sons of Jeroham. And they said to me, Are you not a priest and did you not say to the widow (I Kings 17): But make me a small cake of it first and remove a piece for me and make for yourself and your son afterwards? And I said to them, That child was the Son of Joseph. And with that I hinted to the world that I will first appear in Babylonia and afterward the Son of David will come.
 
Bemidbar Rabba 12:11
Who has ascended up into heaven (Prov. 30:4) - alludes to Elijah, of whom it is written, `Elijah went up by a    
       whirlwind into heaven`
(II Kings 2:2).
And descended—as it says, `Go down with him` (ibid, 1:15).
Who has gathered the wind in his fists - Also, as it says, `As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I 
       stand, there shall be no dew or rain these years
, except by my word (I Kings 17:1). 
Who has bound the waters in his garment? - Also, as it says, `And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it
        together, and smote the waters…
` (II Kings 2:8). 
Who has raised up the dead of the earth? - Also, as it says, `And Elijah said: See, your son lives` (I Kings     
        17:23).
 
Zohar Hadash, Midrash HaNe`elam, Ruth
When Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven (II Kings 2:11) - R. Nehemiah and R. Judah said, When the Holy One Blessed be He brought Elijah up to the firmament, the angel of Death confronted Him. The Holy One Blessed be He said to him, `I created heaven so that Elijah might ascend thee.` The angel of Dath replied, `Master of the Universe, now the other creatures will have a pretext to demand the same for themselves.` The Holy One Blessed be He replied, `This man is not like the other creatures. He could remove you from the world, yet you do not realize his power.` The angel of Death said, `Master of the Universe, permit me to descend to him.` The Holy One Blessed be He said, `Go down,` and thereupon he descended. When Elijah saw him, he forced the angel beneath his feet and sought to remove him from the world, but the Holy One Blessed be He did not permit him. So he bent the angel under him and thereby ascended to heaven, as scripture states, Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
 
Devarim Rabba (Lieberman) 11:2
When Ephraim spoke in agitation (Hosea 13:1) - This is directed by the prophet to Hiel, an important and wealthy man, whose father was from the tribe of Ephraim. When he saw the activities of Ahab, and how his wife, Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, had incited him (to idolatry), he repudiated the Almighty and the Torah of Moses and built and gave himself over to the foreign cult that Jezebel had established at the top of Mt. Carmel in order to anger Elijah, who was accustomed to praying to God on Mt. Carmel. But when Elijah came before Ahab to challenge the prophets of Baal and the priests of the high places, the prophets of Baal knew that Baal could not produce fire by himself. What did Hiel do? He stood before the prophets of Baal and said to them, "Gather your strength and stand before Elijah, and I will do something so that it appears that Baal has sent you fire." What did he do? He took two stones and kindling flax and went inside [the altar of] Baal— it being hollow—and he struck the stones to light the kindling. But Elijah, enlightened by the Divine Spirit, said to God, "Lord of the Universe, I asked a great thing of you and you did it—to restore the spirit of the woman of Zarfat`s son (I Kings 17). But now I ask that you `raise up` this villain within the Baal." God immediately ordered a snake to bite Hiel in his heel, and he died. Thus it is written: If they should hide at the summit of Mt. Carmel (Hosea 9:3)
 
b. Sukkah 5a
R. Jose said that the Shekhina never descended, and Moses and Elijah never ascended to heaven. As it is written [Psalms, cxv. 16]: "The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth hath he given to the children of man"; but is it not written [Ex. xix. 20]: "And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai"? And the answer is, that He did not come down lower than ten spans from the ground.
 
Radak on II Kings 2
1)      In the whirlwind - It says `In the whirlwind` but below it says `a fiery chariot and fiery horses`. The spirit of the whirlwind was in them, as it says `Elijah ascended in a whirlwind`, but what appeared to Elisha is called `a fiery chariot and fiery horses`. But the wind is not visible and the whirlwind lifted him off the earth into the air. As it lifts light objects, so it lifted him by the will of God onto the sphere of fire and there his clothing was burnt, except for his cloak; and his flesh and bone disintegrated and the spirit returned to God who gave it. And what appeared to Elisha as a fiery chariot and fiery horses was in order to announce through this that with his[Elijah`s] ascent Israel`s chariot and horses also ascended, as Elisha cried out "My father, my father - the chariot of Israel and its horsemen.` And the opinion of the masses as well as some of the wise men is that God ushered him into Paradise in his corporeal state, as was Adam originally before his sin; in the same way Enoch was ushered into Paradise, and according to Midrash there were 10 who entered Paradise alive;
11) And Elijah ascended in the whirlwind - as we have explained. And the meaning of `heaven` is with regard to airborne bodies, as "that fly in the air (lit., heaven)". And as for the wind, the upper heavens is where the angels reside, as in "praise God from the heavens". And Elijah became pure spirit, while his body was consumed in the divine fire and all of his elements returned to their original state.
 
John 1
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you do not know. 27 It is he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.