Elijah Character Bible Study Background and Lessons
Meaning of name: “Yahweh is God”
Ancestry and family life: Elijah was a Tishbite from Gilead. He was a Benjamite, son of Jeroham (1 Chro 8:27). The tribe of Benjamin produced several heroes and mighty warriors.
When and where he lived: Elijah lived during the ninth century B.C. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already split off from Judah for a long time. It had become apostate. The people primarily worshiped Baal, partially because of the influence of Jezebel. Therefore Elijah, whose name means “Yahweh is God” or the “Lord is my God”, would have stood out from the crowd and faced danger of persecution and death.
Events surrounding birth: No Info.
Training and occupation: No specific training is mentioned. However, from his habits it appears that Elijah was an outdoors type. He had strange dress and appearance (2 Kings 1:8), was fleet of foot (1 Kings 18:46), had a rugged constitution that resisted famine (1 Kings 19:8), and dwelt in caves (1 Kings 17:3). This suited him for his role as a full-time prophet and servant of the Lord. He was able to move from place to place easily. Since he was a full-time prophet/servant of God, God used other means to take care of his needs.
Place in history: Elijah was one of the most important and most respected prophets in Israel’s history. God used him to bring about a revival in the Northern Kingdom. God accomplished a number of miracles through Elijah. He was one of the most significant figures in Israel’s history, along with Abraham, Moses, and David. He was going to come to earth again before the Messiah (John the Baptist), and he appeared along with Moses at the transfiguration.
Special traits: See training and occupation. He was a hairy man, a rugged outdoor type. Elijah had super speed. He ran seventeen miles from Carmel to Jezreel faster than Ahab’s chariot (1 Kings 18:46).
Fear (1 Kings 19)- Right after God brought about a great miracle and answered Elijah’s prayer on Mt. Carmel, Elijah grew afraid of Jezebel and ran away. This demonstrated a lack of faith in God and His protection.
Inconsistent/prone to ups and downs- Elijah was a human. He experienced highs and lows in his walk with God. Sometimes he had an emotional high and then depression would follow. How can we avoid this pattern?
Pride?- Did Elijah show pride in 1 Kings 19:10,14?
Strengths: Elijah was a dedicated servant of the Lord in a time when it was very dangerous to even believe in or worship the true God. There are many strengths in his life that we can learn from.
Faith (1 Kings 17:1, 21; 18)- There were several times in his life when Elijah demonstrated great faith in God. He confronted Ahab at the very beginning of the account, and God used him to bring a drought onto the land. Soon after that he pleaded with God to raise up the dead boy and God listened to him. The New Testament says that if we have faith we can move mountains and Elijah is an example of someone who demonstrated this kind of faith. Another example is his challenge to the prophets of Baal. He put his life on the line, having faith that God would answer his prayer and show Himself to His people. Describe a situation where you can make a stand for God in the world today.
Obedience (1 Kings 17:3,5; 17:9-10, 18:1-2)- On several occasions God gave Elijah very difficult commands. He told him to go to a river and wait there and the ravens would provide for him. Elijah did it. God told him to go and let a poor widow provide for him. Elijah did it. God told him to go confront Ahab, the king who hated him and wanted to kill him. Elijah did it.
Courage- On numerous occasions Elijah showed great courage by risking his life in order to make a stand for God in front of the people or in front of Ahab, hoping to encourage them to choose to serve God rather than Baal.
Selfless- What was Elijah’s motivation for the major events in his life (see 1 Kings 18:37)?
Important acts and events: Bringing the draught to Israel (1 Kings 17), the challenge to the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18), confronting Ahab about the vineyard (1 Kings 2), translation of Elijah (2 Kings 2).
How he died: Elijah is one of only two humans (Enoch was the other) that never died (2 Kings 2). God had a special plan for him and took him directly up to heaven in a whirlwind. Because of other Scriptures and the fact that all humans die most believe Elijah either did or will come to earth again, serving a special capacity, and then face death (Heb 9:27).
Lessons from his life:
Pleading with God in prayer can accomplish much. See James 5:16-18. What are some other examples where Elijah prayed for miracles and God listened?
People worship many idols in this world even though these idols cannot answer prayer or provide protection. Why? Many possible reasons. They are deceived. Their hearts are hard. Some counterfeit “miracles” are performed by Satan and his demons. Or maybe they do so in willful disobedience to God because they don’t want to be accountable to Him for their sins (Rom 2-3). How should we seek to minister to this type of people? The lesson from Elijah’s life is that, whatever the method, we do confront false beliefs and religions and seek to bring people to worship of the true God.
Though the world may grow very evil and corrupt God preserves a remnant of true believers, who serve Him faithfully (1 Kings 18:13, 19:18).
The true God is not vengeful and doesn’t desire self-mutilation in our worship of Him as do many false religions in the world (1 Kings 18:26-29). What does He desire? (A sincere heart, to worship in spirit and truth).
God makes us strong even through our weaknesses. After the incident on Mt. Carmel Elijah was afraid and tired, running for his life from Jezebel. At the time when he needed it most, God provided divine sustenance for Elijah (1 Kings 19:6-8).
We should always be alert, even when our Christian life is going along smoothly. Our flesh is weak and can fail at any time. Therefore we need to always be humble and look to God. We need to be steady and disciplined and be careful to avoid the low valleys of depression in Christian life. (See Elijah after Mt. Carmel).