The Elijah Enigma

The Prophet, King Ahab and the Rebirth of Monotheism in the Book of Kings


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About the Book

An analysis of the intertwining tales of Elijah and Ahab—mercurial prophet and Machiavellian king—this book is an accessible treatment of one of the most dramatic and well-known episodes in the Bible. In contrast to the popular image of Elijah as a courageous wonder-worker who calls down fire from heaven and ascends to heaven in a fiery chariot, this book contends that the prophet was a deeply conflicted man, torn between a burning idealism and a deep disillusionment over his failure to achieve his ideals.
Despite his profound sense of failure, Elijah’s struggle against the paganizing regime of King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, managed to save monotheism from eclipse, and in so doing alter the course of human history. This work further proposes that the tale presented by the Bible is more than an account of an ancient battle between two historic figures: it is a paradigm of the struggle between the ideals of human dignity and justice, and the alternative of expediency in the pursuit of power, a conflict that pervades human life to this very day.

About the Author(s)

Hillel I. Millgram, ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, lives in Israel. He combines research and writing with teaching graduate courses in Bible.

Bibliographic Details

Hillel I. Millgram
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 384
Bibliographic Info: maps, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, indexes
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9520-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1688-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Abbreviations ix

Preface 1

Introduction 5

Prologue: The Root of the Infection 27

Part I: As the Twig Is Bent 28

Part II: The Rise of the House of Ahab 37

The Book of Elijah: Confrontations 49

1. The Fugitive from Tishbe 50

2. Confrontations in a Time of Drought 60

3. Elijah Forces a Showdown 70

Excursus: What Can Explain the People’s Apostasy? 85

4. The Big ­Let-down 88

5. Abdication Denied 97

Excursus: The Ringing Stillness 110

The Book of Ahab 113

6. Against Overwhelming Odds 114

7. At the Turn of the Year 123

8. Impeached 134

9. Crime and Punishment 141

10. Entrapment 156

11. Nemesis 171

The Book of Elijah Continued: Final Reckoning 179

12. A Most Unfortunate Accident 180

Excursus: The Oracle and the Prophet 187

13. Translation 189

Excursus: Of History and Myth 198

The Fall of the House of Ahab 201

14. Unfinished Business I: Mission to Damascus 202

15. Unfinished Business II: The Coming of the Storm 212

16. The Chariot Rider 226

17. The Unleashed Man 237

18. Final Curtain 249

19. Summing Up 263

Postscript: The Long Aftermath 287

Afterword 297


1. Dating in the Book of Kings 299

2. The Community of the Exile 301

3. Miracles in the Bible 310

4. A Note on “Asherah” 316

5. David’s Libation 318

6. A Zealous Exemplar 319

7. The Aramean Connection 323

8. Wadi Fara, September 21–22, 1918 329

9. The Sons of the Prophets 330

10. The Ancestral Estate 333

11. The Hidden House of Omri 335

12. The Gebirah or Queen Mother 336

Timeline: Putting Things in Perspective 339

Glossary of Terms and Place Names 342

Who’s Who in the Elijah Story 349

Bibliography 354

Scriptural Index 359

General Index 364