Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Elijah
(From Forerunner Commentary)

1 Kings 17:1-7

The severe drought got to the point that this wadi completely dried up. Elijah went and lived with the widow in Sidon, which is also interesting because she was probably a Gentile (see Luke 4:24-26). When he lived there, the bread and the oil were not exhausted. His was an extended one, for, as we find out in James 5:17, this drought continued for 3½ years.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Six)

Related Topics: Drought | Elijah | Miracles


1 Kings 18:1

"Many days" often means three years or so. A study to see where it has been used and defined elsewhere in Scripture will show that this is frequently the case.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Six)

Related Topics: Elijah


1 Kings 18:17-18

Elijah is declaring himself as one sent from God. A prophet will always have the law of God at the foundation of his message.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)

1 Kings 18:17

Revelation 11:10 says that the Two Witnesses will torment the people of the earth, which is why the world will celebrate when these prophets are finally killed. Here, Elijah was thought of in the same way, as a "troubler" of Israel.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Six)

1 Kings 18:19-21

Elijah is quite instructive here. He began to prophesy in a time of immediate crisis, one that would become far worse before it ever improved. There was tremendous evil to overcome. His ministry took place about 150 years before Israel was to fall, becoming the Lost Ten Tribes, so God was beginning to make a powerful witness to them. Elijah's work was to reveal the true God to Israel in a time of growing national crisis. Elijah prepared the way for Elisha, who had a double portion of Elijah's spirit and did many more miracles. In this regard, Elijah was a type of John the Baptist, and Elisha, a type of Christ. God's pattern is being established. He sends someone long before the real crisis reaches its peak, while it is building.

Elijah says disturbing things. This is a prophet's job, a hallmark of a prophet of God. People like to feel comfortable. The only trouble is that people like to feel comfortable in moral mediocrity. They become "settled on their lees," as it says in Zephaniah 1:12. The prophet comes along and troubles people by awakening them to their sins, making them feel guilty about their relationships with God and each other. He awakens them to their spiritual and moral responsibilities. These Israelites were lethargic in terms of true, spiritual matters.

When a person is freezing to death, he feels a pleasant numbness that he does not want to end. He just goes to sleep as he is freezing to death. But when heat is applied, and the blood begins rushing into the affected areas, pain immediately occurs. Though it hurts, the pain is indicative of rescue and cure. God sends a prophet to people who are cold in their relationship with God—spiritually freezing to death—though they want to stay that way. The prophet turns the heat on, and they become angry with him when he is actually working to make them better. He is often accused of causing their pain.

A prophet's life is not a happy situation. Perhaps the clearest example of this is Jeremiah, who moaned and complained to God, "This is more difficult than You ever told me it would be. You tricked me." He did not like the position God put him in. He wanted people to like him, which is understandable. Nevertheless, he was still faithful, and he did his job. Yet, he was in trouble his whole life, from his teenage years on.

There are several ideas as to exactly what Elijah meant by "How long will you falter between two opinions?" One idea is that he means, "How long are you going to hop from branch to branch?"—like a bird in a tree. The bird cannot make up its mind where it wants to settle down, so it just keeps hopping around. Another idea is that it pictures a person shifting his weight from one foot to the other, indicating a degree of lameness. A third is that he is describing somebody teetering on a tightrope and trying to maintain his balance. Whatever the case, there is no doubt about Elijah's intent: "How long will you keep shifting from one opinion to the other?" Their spiritual lethargy for the true God made them uncommitted. Their commitment went one way, and then it went the other way.

Once Elijah began preaching, their conscience pricked them, and it encouraged them to worship the true God. But their carnality and their fear of men persuaded them to worship Baal, because they wanted to be friends with their fellow Israelites. They were straddling the fence in a precarious state of imbalance, attempting to combine the worship of God with the more popular worship of Baal and Asherah. This is typical Israeliltish syncretism, but it will not work.

At one point in A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton, he deals with soldiers who left the service of their army—either the Confederate army or the Union army. These soldiers would surrender themselves to the other side to be given a bit of favor and put into prison. In exchange, they would offer information about their unit. For a while, both sides—the Confederate and the Union—accepted those turncoats and took their information. However, before the war was over, both sides were summarily executing anybody who did this because those traitors could not be trusted. Most of the information they gave turned out to be wrong, to be lies. Most of them were just saving themselves and making themselves comfortable in their situation. They were not committed to the side that they were supposed to be on. Elijah was dealing with the same thing here, albeit spiritually.

When Elijah preached his message, it put the people in a bind because they knew their conscience was telling them that they had to commit themselves to God or to Baal. It disturbed them. Only the individual could decide which side he would be on, because Elijah made it clear, "God does not want you the way you are. Either you are going to be committed to Him or not. If you will not be committed to Him, you are going to die."

Baal, of course, could not talk to them, but if he could, he would probably have said basically the same thing, so the people were in a very uncomfortable situation. The lesson for us becomes clear, because Jesus says the same thing (Matthew 6:24; 12:25). The Sovereign Creator is not a God who allows His favor to be bought with crumbs. He is a loving Master who only is to be obeyed and served—and only on His terms.

Elijah was sent by God, and he was fulfilling the responsibility of a prophet, to prod the people to whom he was sent to their responsibilities. He was to be an aid in getting them from their state of being merely "churched" to that of being truly religious and servants of the Most High God.

Some become discouraged with the church because we are always being told—to some measure anyway—disturbing things about ourselves. But church is where we come to have our minds stretched and measured against Christ's standard. For one to keep on coming to services and leaving, like a theatergoer, without his options, opinions, or decisions resolved but deferred, is an erosion of character. "Whatever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

The sum of what Elijah said is actually spiritually dangerous, due to the fact that God is judging. Christ's purpose is to cure, not merely to comfort, so pain will be often involved when dealing with a prophet.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)

1 Kings 18:21

The term "halt you" in the King James' Version ("falter," NKJV) provides a literal picture of what Elijah means. It suggests a person staggering, unable to catch his balance, and failing to accomplish anything of any consequence because his mind is divided. The person in such a circumstance cannot get a grip on life. These people were wavering back and forth, which was typical of the Israelites. The Bible shows in many places that the people continued to worship God, yet also served their idols. In Exodus 32, the incident of the Golden Calf, the people had Aaron mold a calf of gold and proclaim a feast to the Lord!

Essentially, they tried to syncretize the true God and pagan idols, which suggests a divided mind. "No man can serve two masters; for . . . he will hate the one and love the other" (Matthew 6:24). But the one that he hates is still a part of his mind, and it will cause problems.

In Elijah's word-picture, he is indicating that though nothing is wrong with the rest of the body, because the mind has no focus, the body's efforts have no direction. This sets up a situation where, at best, there will be little movement—that is, little accomplished—and at worst, there will be no forward movement at all, but just staggering, first this way then that. That sort of situation produces nothing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God

1 Kings 18:22-24

What Elijah set up on Mount Carmel is a sign to show who is the true God. Only the true God would be able to bring fire down from heaven and burn up this sacrifice, which had been placed on water-soaked wood. This passage describes a contest between the God of Israel and Baal to determine which is the true God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Six)

Related Topics: Elijah | Mount Carmel | Two Witnesses


1 Kings 18:30

From a spiritual perspective, what did God tell the apostle John (in the type; Revelation 11:1) that he was to do first? He was to measure the Temple, and the altar, and the worshippers. What is the first thing that Elijah does in this circumstance? He repairs the altar. He gets things prepared for a proper witness for God by repairing the altar—preparing it to offer sacrifices.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Six)

1 Kings 18:32-35

This occurs in the midst of a 3½ year drought. Elijah wastes, as it were, all this water—to soak the sacrifice and the wood and to fill the trench. What is he doing? First, he is making sure that everyone understands that, when this sacrifice gets burned up, it will not be any man's doing. No man can cause a sacrifice with this much water on it to burn—a sacrifice that is essentially drowning in water. Only God could do such a thing.

Second, he is showing how much God can supply. If Elijah is willing to "waste" that much water, then he must be certain that God will supply the people with the water to break the drought. Water was pretty precious stuff at this point! All the brooks had dried up. The countryside was brown with dead vegetation. Even on Mt. Carmel, the greenest part of Israel, it was dry and dusty. Yet, Elijah poured out vast quantities of water on the sacrifice. What faith!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Six)

Related Topics: Drought | Elijah | Mount Carmel


1 Kings 18:39

It is ironic that Elijah's name means "God is the LORD," and what the people said back to him was "The LORD is God," the reverse of his name. Instead of "El is Yah," they said "Yah is El! Yah is El!" Elijah's name itself was a witness of who the true God is.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Six)

Related Topics: Elijah


1 Kings 18:40

What Elijah does in I Kings 18:40 is reminscent of the Two Witnesses—with the power of life and death over any who would go against the true God and against them. Evidently, it was probably on the false prophets' minds all along to kill Elijah. They had killed all the other prophets of God, so that only Elijah was left. And, considering how human beings normally think, they probably thought they would allow Elijah to perform his little act, and after he failed, they would show the people of Israel that he was a "false prophet" and kill him.

This may be very similar to what will happen in the end time. The powers that be will give the Two Witnesses audience to "perform" before the world, they will give them leave to do their "little tricks," and as in Elijah's day, it will come back to bite them because our God is the true God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Six)

1 Kings 19:2-3

Jezebel, after hearing of his exploits, had threatened his life, and Elijah fled to Beersheba. Why? Some commentators feel that he ran, not in fear, but out of conviction that he needed to commune with God. He may have thought that, after the tremendous works on Mount Carmel, the whole nation would be converted—but now he was in danger of losing his life! His expectations and God's purpose did not coincide by a long shot. Like us, he did not always know where God was leading him and His people. His apparent lack of success and his doubts drove him to seek God's counsel in the wilderness.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elijah's Dose of Reality

1 Kings 19:3-5

The pressures placed on us are no different in principle from what God put Elijah and Jeremiah under. Their examples leave no doubt about their humanity. Their discouragement proves that, for a while, running back into the world seemed attractive to them too. Know this, however: His servants endured and overcame because of God's patience, faithfulness, and power. Given all the depressing things that happen in this world, it is easy to think that we would be better off never having been called. But God reminds us that He is continuously judging those in the world as He oversees the purpose toward which He is guiding His servants.

Do we believe that in God's promises we are given the certainty of salvation if we remain faithful? If we believe, it gives us hope and joy. It is when we doubt that the level of temptation to flee rises. Yet, unlike them, we know the rest of the story. God did not abandon them; they survived and will be in God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Five): Comparisons

1 Kings 19:10-18

Possibly in the same cave where Moses saw God (Exodus 33:17-23; 34:4-7), Elijah finally vocalized to God why he had fled to the wilderness: In his zeal he felt alone, rejected, and ineffective (verse 10). By God's blunt response, it seems that He had decided that Elijah needed a quick and effective dose of reality.

In the tremendously powerful wind, earthquake, and fire, God showed that though He causes or allows great works that destroy, punish, or expose the ungodly, His greatest work is elsewhere. He was in the "still small voice" (verse 12). He does His most astounding and effective work in the background, working His salvation in (Psalm 74:12), and giving His gifts, His grace, to His people (Ephesians 4:7). In a sense, He told Elijah He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

Undaunted, though humbled, Elijah still insisted that he was alone, rejected, and ineffective (verse 14). Almost curtly, God gave the prophet something to do, though nothing on the scale of his former work (verses 15-17). But before He sent Elijah away, God reminded him that in his self-absorption he had forgotten all the other people with whom He had been working. "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him" (verse 18).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elijah's Dose of Reality

Isaiah 58:1

This verse describes a prophet's major responsibility, but here and there in the Bible a prophet is called a "watchman" or "man of God." They are also described as pastors. Whatever they are called, there is always some indication that they were set apart from the normal system, even if they happened to be Levitical priests. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were both priests, but they were not part of the system, standing apart from it despite being of Aaron's family. What God did in setting them apart made them recognizable to the people as "a man of God," as a "watchman."

Although the biblical record appears to show gaps between prophetic activities, it is probable that, until the New Testament times, there were always prophets among the people. The last Old Testament prophet was John the Baptist, who, although appearing in the New Testament, was still operating under the Old Covenant. His father, Zechariah, was a priest, and even though John came from a priestly family, he was definitely different from the priests of his day. In fact, he stood out like a sore thumb. This standing apart is always an identifying mark of a prophet. Though a prophet may be a priest, he is definitely not part of the priesthood system.

The prophets whose writings make up much of the biblical record tend to appear just before a time of crisis or during the crisis itself. Sometimes they were well organized, as in Samuel's or Elijah's day, when schools of the prophets existed. However, these schools tended to produce - not prophets in the classic sense like Samuel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Isaiah - but the equivalent of modern-day theological seminarians. We can speculate that they were probably mostly Levites, who, as part of their Tabernacle/Temple service or priesthood training, attended these schools. Undoubtedly, some of these spoke under the inspiration of God, but they were not prophets in the same sense as the well-known prophets of Scripture.

Sometimes a prophet's ministry was accompanied by tremendous miracles, as with Elijah and Elisha. God used these signs and wonders to reinforce their ministry. At other times, as with John the Baptist, no miracles at all were performed (John 10:41). In other words, no one pattern emerges on this point. The chief distinction is that they were men set apart.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)

Malachi 4:5

Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: This phrase lures people into interpreting this as occurring just before Christ's second coming. However, the verse does not say "immediately before"—that is an assumption—it only says "before." The apostle John writes that the world was passing away in his day 2,000 years ago (I John 2:17)! In terms of time, verse 18 is even more incredible because John says that by biblical reckoning it was already the last hour (Romans 13:11-12; I Peter 4:7)! It is imperative we learn to consider time as God does rather than men.

The last days began with the arrival of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist, the prophesied Elijah, appeared as one epoch ended and the next began. He was the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, his preaching turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, and he prepared the way for the Messiah. He most certainly came before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

Matthew 16:18

Does this say the church will never die out? Yes, but only indirectly.

The translation of one word, "prevail," alters the focus of what Jesus says. It could also be rendered "stand." By choosing to translate the word as "prevail," it changes the church from being on the offensive against the kingdom of Satan, represented by the word "Hades," to being on the defensive, as continually under attack.

Jesus is promising that He would enable His church to be on the offensive and triumphant against Satan and death. Is the church constantly under attack? Of course it is, and there have been several times that, as far as we know, it has almost died out, but it has always emerged triumphant and continued on.

How was this accomplished? Jesus Christ would raise up a man to preach the gospel once again. Peter Waldo is one of the clearer examples. In the process, he became the one God used to call others into His truth, and around him, He formed a continuation of the church of God. Using this interpretation, even the first-century apostles, as they took the gospel into new areas, became weak types of Elijah—as did all the men God used down through the ages, like Peter Waldo.

Each of them, in type, had to reestablish things and preach repentance in preparation for the receiving of the gospel and the Messiah. But not a single one of them was the Elijah to come because that office and prophecy—by Jesus' own words—has already been fulfilled, and there is no higher authority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

Matthew 17:10-13

Matthew 17:10-13 is the second occasion Jesus declared John as Elijah. Again, He gives no indication that He expected yet another Elijah to appear. This is Jesus' commentary on Malachi 4:5-6. He is neither indicating there will be another Elijah to come, nor contradicting what He said earlier in Matthew 11. In verse 11, He speaks in a future sense because that is how Malachi 4:5-6 is written. He also did it to emphasize that the scribes had correctly interpreted the prophecy in terms of Elijah preceding the arrival of the Messiah.

Jesus begins the next sentence of His reply with "but," an adversative conjunction indicating disagreement. But means "on the contrary," "conversely," or "however," and it is used here to indicate an exception. Jesus makes it clear He did not agree with the scribes beyond the point that they had correctly taught Elijah must come first. He clarifies further by saying that the scribes did not recognize Elijah when he came and badly mistreated him. Matthew 17:13 clearly establishes that the disciples understood He meant that John was the Elijah of Malachi 4:5-6. In other words, Jesus is saying Malachi 4:5-6 has already occurred—the greatest of the Old Testament prophets already fulfilled it.

What about "restore all things"? Does it refer to doctrine? Not specifically. It is a very general statement. The Greek word means "to put back again," "to reorganize," "to set up," "to bring back," "to reclaim." It can refer to health, authority, or government—or, for that matter, to straightening out or bringing back true conceptions about the Messiah. What did the original Elijah do? He straightened out—restored—right conceptions about who God is because the Israelites had lost sight of Him.

Who says "restore all things?" Jesus does. This is mentioned in no other place in reference to John the Baptist or Elijah. The Bible's marginal references refer us to Luke 1:17 and Malachi 4:6 where nothing is said directly about either Elijah or John restoring all things. Remember, this is Jesus' commentary on what John did. Even as Elijah restored right conceptions about God in his day, John the Baptist restored right conceptions about the Messiah, God with us.

That is not all. John, the Elijah of Malachi 4:5-6, turned the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. Logic demands this refer to his preaching as having a positive impact upon family life. Turning hearts is a fruit, an effect, that happens alongside preparing a people to receive the Messiah.

Malachi 2:14-15 reveals that in Malachi's day the Jewish community was having serious marriage problems. Family problems were extant, and they continued among the Jews down to John's day.

Secondly, this cannot refer to "the Fathers" in terms of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because they were dead, and when they died, their thoughts perished. Their hearts cannot turn to the children. What John restored in anticipation of the Messiah's coming were right conceptions about Him, and his preaching of repentance led to right relationships within human families and within the Family of God.

What is lacking in the Bible by God's express design is a detailed review of all John preached. We know only that he was very effective in what he did. We do not know all that he restored, but we can understand that he restored everything necessary for the Messiah to be recognized and received. To take "restore all things" beyond the scope of what was prophesied to be the extent of John's ministry is getting into the area of fanciful interpretations because Jesus confirms both that John was the Elijah to come and that his ministry was great.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

Matthew 17:10

Jesus says that John the Baptist was Elijah (see verses 12-13).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)

Matthew 17:10

The question, asked by the disciples, is about what the scribes were saying: that the actual prophet Elijah—not the Elijah—must first come. What the scribes believed was in question, not the truth regarding Malachi 4:5-6.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)

Matthew 17:12

Here in verse 12, Jesus' disagreement with the scribes becomes clear. He agrees with them to a point, that "Elijah must come first." He signals His disagreement by using the word "but," an adversative conjunction, which joins two thoughts together while indicating a difference or exception. In this case, but means "on the other hand," "to the contrary," "except that," or "however."

Jesus' disagreement is with the scribes' interpretation. He is in no way saying that there will be a future Elijah beyond John the Baptist. He simply reiterates what Malachi 4:5 says, adds "and restore all things" to it, and then clearly states that this prophecy has already been fulfilled by John. He had already come, and they had missed him. They had rejected the message of the Elijah to come and did to him whatever they wanted. Here they had "the Elijah" right in front of them—the fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy—and they killed him!

To take what Jesus said further, because He paraphrased the future tense of Malachi 4:5-6, is to twist and add to what He said. All He says is, "This is what the prophecy says, and this is My disagreement with the scribes' interpretation."

John the Baptist clearly came before "that great and dreadful day." The last biblical day—indeed the "last hour"—was already begun in the AD 90s, as I John 2:18 states. God does not perceive time as we do; we are the ones that must adjust our thinking.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)

Matthew 17:13

This verse indicates that the Jews in Jesus' day misunderstood Malachi 4:5-6, even as some of us have in our day. The Jews had many fanciful ideas, including that Elijah himself would be resurrected. This seemed to be the focus of their belief regarding Elijah and the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)

Luke 1:17

"In the spirit and power of Elijah" indicates John resembled Elijah in doing a similar work of revealing the true God through a ministry devoted to preaching repentance and the certainty of things contained in the Scriptures regarding Christ. Perhaps it also includes working with a similar zeal, though he accomplished his function without miracles (John 10:41). Obviously, God does not measure a man's greatness by the miracles he does.

On two separate occasions, in Matthew 11:13-15 and again in Matthew 17:10-13, Jesus says John is the Elijah to come. Notice first Matthew 11:13-15: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" Let him who has ears, listen! Jesus wants His audience to pay the utmost attention. To what? To the fact that John is the Elijah to come! He had fulfilled Malachi 4:5-6.

Notice, too, Jesus' introductory comment in verse 14, "And if you are willing to receive it. . . ." This strongly suggests that He was about to say something different than what His listeners expected. They supposed Elijah would appear in person! This explains why, when John was asked by the delegation from Jerusalem whether he was Elijah, he replied, "I am not" (John 1:21). Though he was Elijah in spirit and power, he was not the literal Elijah they were expecting. The Jews of Jesus' day were just as wrong about Elijah as are many today who are looking for another Elijah to appear before Jesus' second coming. Yet, Jesus gives no indication that anyone will follow John in that office.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

John 7:41-52

Had these doubters really searched, they would have found that several prophets came from Galilee:

• Micah was from Moresheth-gath, in Galilee (Micah 1:1).
• Elijah, of Gilead, was a native of Galilee (I Kings 17:1).
• Jonah was from Gath Hepher, in Galilee (II Kings 14:25; see Joshua 19:13).

Nahum and Hosea may have hailed from Galilee as well. These people's argument—that no prophet arose from Galilee—was completely without merit! Most important, their argument totally neglected Isaiah's prophecy about Christ's own Galilean ministry. He was to shine as a light in the darkness, in the inheritances of Naphtali and Zebulun, in "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Isaiah 9:1-2).

As so often happens, the jingoists among the Jews mixed truth with fallacy. They correctly understood two things about Christ's birth and descent:

First, they understood Isaiah 11, Jeremiah 23, and Jeremiah 33, which indicate that Christ would descend from David. He would be of Judah—the Scepter tribe (Genesis 49:10).

Second, they understood that Christ would come from Bethlehem, the home of David (I Samuel 20:6):

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

Yet notice the detail of Micah's prophecy they missed. He does not say that the Messiah would reside in Bethlehem, but that He would "come forth" from it, which is exactly what He did! Joseph had come to Bethlehem at Jesus' birth because he had to pay taxes in his home town. We can deduce from Christ's genealogies that both Joseph and Mary hailed from Bethlehem. Their ancestors include David, Jesse, Obed, and Boaz (Luke 3:32)—all men of Bethlehem (see Ruth 1, 2 and 4; I Samuel 16 and 17).

Sometime after Christ's birth, Joseph returned to Nazareth, in Galilee, where he and Mary reared Jesus. He began His ministry from Galilee, not Judah, as Isaiah 9 foretold. Mark 1:14-15 records a partial fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. Compare this passage with its counterpart, Matthew 4:12-17, which quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and points out that Christ fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy regarding His Galilean ministry.

Believe it or not, this group of people failed to recognize their Messiah because of His place of residence—because He lived in Galilee! Thus, we have dubbed them jingoists, people driven by inordinate nationalism. Behind their reason for rejecting Christ—that no prophet ever did or ever would come from Galilee—lurks an irrational, arrogant prejudice against anything not of Judea. These people were part of the power-elite of the day, part of the religious establishment centered in Jerusalem. Classic xenophobes, they wanted nothing to do with Galilee.

Situated to the north of Judea, Galilee was home to an enclave of Judeans who had migrated northward since the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Geography and doctrine separated Galilee from Jerusalem.

• Geography

• Doctrine

: Though far from perfect, the Galileans were doctrinally purer than the Jews to the south. For example, the Galileans observed a 14th Passover, while many of those in Jerusalem, as we know, kept Passover on the 15th of Nisan (John 18:28).
: Between Judea and Galilee was Samaria, home to the Gentile "interlopers" the Jews hated. These were the people the Assyrians brought into the area when they deported the House of Israel, the northern ten tribes, around 721-718 BC.

Charles Whitaker (1944-2021)
Recognizing the Second Witness

Hebrews 6:19-20

This word "forerunner" is the Greek prodromos, used in Scripture only this one time. It means "scout," "guide," or "one sent before a king to prepare the way." The Greeks also used prodromos to mean "firstfruits."

In the story of Daniel Boone, he went first to scout out Kentucky, then later took a party of thirty woodsmen to improve the trail, and after that, even more people followed. Boone was the forerunner, but so were those who went with him to develop the route. That first small group was the firstfruits. Spiritually, Christ has gone ahead, showing us the way, and we, as the firstfruits, improve the trail so that others will someday walk it more easily.

The concept of a forerunner runs throughout the Bible. We could say that Adam was a forerunner, as well as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and of course, Christ. Notice that each of these forerunners had followers—their firstfruits. Adam had Eve and their sons and daughters that followed them. Noah had his wife and family. Abraham had Sarah and Lot, and later were added Ishmael and Isaac, and then Jacob and his children. Moses had Aaron and Miriam and then all the children of Israel. Elijah led to Elisha. John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of Christ, who called His disciples—us.

In other words, we have a part to play as well. It is not the leading role but a supporting one. Nonetheless, it is a necessary part. There is no call for a "big head" here: God could have called someone else or raised up stones, as John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:9. However, He did not; He called us specifically (John 6:44). Therefore, we should not waste our opportunity.

Mike Ford (1955-2021)
Blazing a Trail Through the Wilderness

Revelation 11:3

"Clothed in sackcloth." II Kings 1:8 is the response of some people who reported what they had seen to the king, Ahaziah: "So they answered him, 'A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.' And he said, 'It is Elijah the Tishbite." Matthew 3:4 describes John the Baptist: "Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locust and wild honey." So Elijah and John the Baptist both wore sackcloth. In a way, they are types of these Two Witnesses.

Being clothed in sackcloth has several meanings in the Bible. They are all somewhat similar, but they have nuances that we need to consider.

Sackcloth was worn by those who were in mourning. Recall in Ezekiel 9 that the angel was supposed to mark all those who sighed and cried for all the troubles of Jerusalem. That is a sign of woe, of mourning, or of being sorry for the fall of this once great nation or for their sins.

Sackcloth also can mean repentance, as an outward sign of the inner repentance of a person. Therefore it also has another meaning of being humble. A repentant person should be a humble person. He has seen his sins and turned from them.

Another meaning is austerity. This is one that the world often sees in John the Baptist and Elijah, that they were "poor" men. However, that is not necessarily the case. Austerity does not necessarily mean that one is poor. It can mean though that a person leads a simple lifestyle, and that he has removed the frills that complicate his life. Wearing sackcloth, then, could mean a person has stripped down to the simplest essentials of his physical life.

Of course, the one that goes with this would then be poverty, yet not necessarily physical poverty (a lack of money) but spiritual poverty (poor in spirit). This is a fine way of looking at the wearing of sackcloth in the case of the Two Witnesses—and frankly, of Elijah and John the Baptist. They were ready to be filled and given the riches of God because they had considered themselves lowly and needy. They knew they needed what only God could give. They were poor in spirit.

However, all of these meanings could apply to the Two Witnesses: They mourn for the troubles this world is going through; they are repentant and humble; they are austere, not having any of the frills and complications that clutter other people's lives—they have stripped themselves of the things that would weigh them down so that they can run (Hebrews 12:1); and they are certainly poor in spirit.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Three)

Find more Bible verses about Elijah:
Elijah {Nave's}

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