A suicidal prophet: Still more OT trash talking

After Elijah had bumped off the prophets of Baal (see last blog and 1 Kings 18:40), Jezebel, who seemed to be the one who really wore the trousers in her marriage with Ahab, ordered a hit on Elijah.  Her trash talking message to Elijah was basically, “May I die, if I don’t kill you” (1 Kings 19:2)  (Her wish is partially fulfilled.)

At this point in time, you’d expect a tough guy like Elijah to just brush her threat off.  He’s been threatened before, prophets have been getting killed already, he just had this dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal.  As a bonus, his first venture into the realm of trash talking was an overwhelming success.

So, how does the mighty prophet of YHWH respond to Jezebel’s hit order on his life?  He fled in fear (2 Kings 19:3).  What?  Not only that, but he’s going to fulfill the commission for her.  He asks YHWH to kill him (or I guess we’d have to say that he asks YHWH to be the hitman; 2 Kings 19:4).  (Where else do we find a suicical prophet in the OT?  Answer in the next blog.)  Instead of answering Elijah’s prayer in the affirmative (sometimes it’s good that God doesn’t say “Yes”–tell that to your kids), YHWH sends an angel who feeds him a couple times, so he can run forty days and nights (a high carb meal-spaghetti probably) south to Mount Horeb (=Sinai).

When YHWH finally speaks to him Elijah complains, then repeats his complaint verbatim (1 Kings 19:10, 14).  YHWH ignores what Elijah says, but then he says something shocking.  It’s time to find your replacement, go anoint Elisha (1 Kings 19:16).  Not exactly the message you’d expect a sensitive God like YHWH to say–“You’re suicidal, but that’s OK, we can find a replacement.”

So, why do you think YHWH says this to Elijah? 


  1. Hello
    Just found your site and find it an interesting read. Thanks.

    However, is it not better to see 1 Kings 19 in terms of a far bigger picture? Rather than being suicidal, Elijah sees his own life as so closely linked to the nation of Israel, that he believes time is up for Israel and for him. Thus he re-enacts Israel in reverse and ends up at Sinai.

    Rather than God ignoring him, his three charges against Israel plus one statement of his solitary position, are answered by three anointings and one statement about him not being on his own.

    Would you disagree with this?


    1. Not only is your post innerestitg, but so are the comments that follow. I am not sure that these stories were inteded to project onto YHWH any characteristic other than grace and blessing. Certainly not a divine fear of competition. Striving with God -“Israel”- is viewed as a positive quality, a part of human nature that is a prerequisite for true relationhip between created humanity and the creator. I don’t know if myths should always be viewed through a lens that suggests they represent an overwhelmingly religious viewpoint of humanity, but a political viewpoint as well, and the two viewpoints are inseperable (not just in antiquity, but even in the modern world).But try to view Babylon as a blessing. Let’s apply our own postmodern lenses to this story, and how much we value diversity for its contribution to problem solving and the richness it adds to life. While it seems as though YHWH might be punishing humanity for challenging the authority of the gods, there are other aspects of living that are more important than striving toward grandiose acheivments, and that is relationship, and the richness with which relationships develop in the context of diversity.But that is a modern lens, and not the lens of an elect people who are trying to make sense of election, and the relaity that other gods seem to be in control when the the opposite is known by Israel depsite the apparent obviousness of the perceptions of empire.In fact, the undertaking of building towers in an exercise of empire, as is the quest for the power and knowledge of the gods, which are the stories fo the exile from eden, and decision to flood creation, and the decision to confuse the languages. Empire is not the final word in creation, and does not create a valid truth in opposition to the God of Israel. Empire, whether it by Egypt, Babyon, or th eunited States, is not th efinal arbiter of hisotry, and Empire’s attempts will be confused. Does any of this make sense. I beleive I am not only rambling, but beginning to preach.

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