Elijah was a Gentile אליהו היה גוי

Only four or five out of all the prophets of Israel and Judah have no revealed genealogy and no identifiable hometown. They seem to ‘come from nowhere’.

Those such as Jeremiah, are identified by

            “The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of                   Benjamin” [Jeremiah 1:1].

Or, Elisha , identified by the words

          “ Eli′sha the son of Shaphat of A′bel-meho′lah” [1 Kings 19:16].

But then we find the likes of Malachi, of whom we know nothing. Malachi may be a proper name, or just a generic ‘messenger’ of God,

     “The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Mal′achi (messenger)”.

Who was he/she, where did they come from?

Elijah was one of these. We do not know where he came from, or his parentage. Elijah was one of the four or five with no heritage, no identifiable town. But immediately, you may say: didn’t he come from Tishbe, a town in Gilead, east of the Jordan?

      “Now Eli′jah the Tishbite, of Tishbe[a] in Gilead.” [1 Kings 17:1].

Well, actually, no he didn’t. This quote is from the RSV, and you will notice a little superscript over the word Tishbe. The accompanying note says ‘Gk: Heb of the settlers’. So, how do we understand Tishbe, a town or ‘of the settlers’? Let’s track the town down, if it exists. The fact is that no one knows if there ever was a Tishbe.

The apocryphal book of Tobit says Tishbe was a place in Upper Galilee ? (Book of Tobit, Tobit 1:2) Or, was it a place in the land of Gilead as suggested by Josephus (Josephus, the Jewish historian Ant. 8:13, 2)?  Or is it El-Ishtib, a place due south of the Sea of Galilee, among the mountains of Gilead? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tishbite). All of these references are guesses 700/800 years after the events of 1 Kings. We will see in a moment it is far more reasonable and consistent to go with the meaning of the Hebrew word.

Tishbite (תִּשְׁבִּי) means Captive, stranger, sojourner, immigrant or non-indigenous. So, as Wiki has it: “The word is sometimes interpreted as “stranger,” so that the verse might read “Elijah the stranger from among the strangers in Gilead.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tishbite?oldid=0). Strongs says the word is locative, so it maybe interpreted –

     ‘from the place of strangers or the non-indigenous’.

There’s more. 1Kings 17:1 with Strongs’ links reads

            “And Elijah H452 the Tishbite, H8664 who was of the inhabitants H8453 of Gilead,”.

We have already discussed what Tishbite means, but how about the word ‘inhabitants’?

Hebrew  תּוֹשָׁב (towshab) means sojourner, stranger (non – indigenous) and in Gesenius’s Lexicon it appears as:

Of the 14 times this word ‘towshab’ is used in the OT, it is always translated sojourner, or stranger except with Elijah where it is translated as ‘inhabitant’.

In all the other places, it is always applied to gentiles. Elijah is the only exception.

Here is an example: Lev 25:6

          “And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for you, and for your servant, and for             your maid, and for your hired servant, and for your stranger8453 that sojourns with                 you”

So, 1 Kings 17:1 “And Elijah the Tishbite , [who was] of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab” should read “And Elijah of the captives or immigrants, [who was] of the foreigners or sojourners of Gilead, said unto Ahab.”

If you google “1 Kings 17:1 Bible Hub”, you get this verse in 25 different versions. Of the 25 versions on Bible Hub only one gets it right – International Standard Version

            “Elijah the foreigner, who was an alien resident from Gilead, told Ahab, “As the LORD                 God of Israel lives, in whose presence I’m standing, there will be neither dew nor rain                   these next several years, except when I say so.”

One last proof that Elijah was a gentile-

1 Kings 17  6 “And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.”

God sent ravens to feed Elijah. Ravens (crows) are birds of carrion. They eat road-kill. They eat rotten meat. They were unclean in the Jewish law. No law-abiding Jew would eat food from a raven’s mouth. Just imagine if an orthodox Jew was hungry and a pig walked in with a sandwich in its mouth. Would the Jew take the sandwich and eat it? I think not. Elijah saw past the ‘letter of the Law’ to the spirit and gladly ate from the unclean bird at God’s direction. God gave the raven as a sign of the ‘unclean’ Elijah, the gentile who was now cleansed by faith.

One last rather delightful irony. At Passover, for centuries, the Jewish family has reserved an empty seat for the prophet Elijah. The reason for this, as wiki puts it

        “Is in honour of Elijah, who, according to tradition, will arrive one day as an unknown               guest to herald the advent of the Messiah.” (Malachi 4:5)

Just imagine the reaction to realise that Elijah was a gentile.

See also: Moses and Elijah – Earthquake Wind & Fire 

5 thoughts on “Elijah was a Gentile אליהו היה גוי

  1. Donald B. Johnson 22nd Mar 2021 / 1:57 am

    Great insights. This seems to have implications for when Jesus meets Moses and Elijah, representing Israel and Gentiles. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

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