Elijah (ēlĪˈjə) [key] or Elias ēlĪˈəs [both: Heb., = Yahweh is God], fl. c.875 B.C., Hebrew prophet in the reign of King Ahab. He is one of the outstanding figures of the Bible. Elijah's mission was to destroy the worship of foreign gods and to restore exclusive loyalty to God. His zeal brought about a temporary banishment of idolatry (see Jezebel). Incidents in his life include his raising the widow's son from the dead; his contest of faith with the priests of Baal, resulting in his triumph and their death; his being fed by ravens; his experience of the still, small voice on Mt. Horeb (Sinai); and his departure from earth in a chariot of fire enveloped in a whirlwind. His disciple was Elisha. Unlike other great prophets, Elijah and Elisha left no written records. In Jewish tradition, Elijah is the eschatological herald of the Messiah. John the Baptist and Jesus were asked if they were the incarnation of Elijah, who appeared at the Transfiguration. The prophet is prominent in the Qur'an. Mendelssohn composed an oratorio, Elijah.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.