Elijah in the Bible: Story and Lesson

by David Peach on April 12, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

The exciting story of the life of Elijah is covered in several chapters in 1st and 2nd Kings. Elijah is often remembered for his bold dealings with rulers and false prophets. He is also known for the fact that he often dealt with problems much like the rest of us. At times he failed to see God’s hand as the one in control. However, unlike many of us, he still chose to trust God even though he did not always understand God.

Following are some of the highlights in the life of Elijah. We will also look at some of the applications of these stories for our own lives.

Brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:1-7)

When Elijah is introduced in 1 Kings 17 he is standing before the wicked king of Israel named Ahab. He told Ahab that it would not rain in Israel for 3 more years. There had already been a drought for 6 months. This was punishment by God because of the wickedness of Ahab and Queen Jezebel.

Immediately after telling Ahab the fate of the nation, Elijah ran to the brook Cherith where God had directed him. This was a place God used to teach Elijah to trust Him. God fed Elijah from the brook and through birds. Because of the drought the brook dried up. Elijah had obeyed the command to go to the brook and he stayed until God clearly told him to leave.

Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-24)

God then told Elijah to go to the city of Zarephath where he was to meet a widow woman. She apparently knew about Elijah and his faith in God. She agreed to take care of the prophet even though she had no money and only enough food for her and her son to eat their final meal. She trusted Elijah when he said she could trust in God. Yet her faith was not completely in God Himself. Elijah had told her that God would make her food last until the drought was over.

Her son fell ill and died. The widow was concerned that God had been reminded of her sin because of housing Elijah with her. Elijah carried the boy to his bed and prayed over him. Elijah also did not know if God had brought this punishment because of him or not. Yet he still trusted God.

After the prophet raised her son from the dead, the widow proclaimed that she too trusted in the God of Elijah and that his words were the truth from God.

Prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18)

After the three and a half years of drought were complete, God told Elijah to return to Ahab. The king had already gone in search of water for the nation. Elijah met Obadiah who was also in search of water by the king’s command. Elijah sent Obadiah to fetch the king while he began preaching to the people.

During Elijah’s preaching, he revealed that he believed he was the only prophet of God left alive who had not been killed by the wicked ruler. But we later discover that God had preserved thousands of people ready to share the truth once the people were prepared to return to God.

Elijah asked Ahab to bring his false prophets to Mt. Carmel to allow their god Baal an opportunity to show himself strong against the God of Elijah. This was done by preparing two bullocks as a sacrifice. The false prophets were allowed to choose their animal first. They were to cut it up and lay it on the alter prepared with wood. Whichever deity rained down fire to consume the offering would be declared the true God.

The Baal worshipers called upon Baal from morning to mid-day. They did not get an answer. The false prophets began jumping up and down on the alter. They cut themselves and cried out to Baal until the evening. The whole time Elijah boldly mocked them and said their god was probably asleep or maybe on a trip.

It was finally Elijah’s turn to offer his sacrifice to God to do with as He pleased. Elijah called the people together and prepared the bullock and the altar. Then he asked the people to bring 12 barrels of water to pour on the wood, sacrifice and alter. Elijah had prepared a trench around the alter to contain the water. Remember this water would have been a very precious commodity to the people.

Elijah then spoke a simple 63 word prayer (1 Kings 18:36, 37). God rained down fire which consumed everything around the sacrifice. Even the stones and water were burnt up. Elijah then had the false prophets rounded up and killed.

Rain! (1 Kings 18:41-46)

And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get you up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. 1 Kings 18:41

And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get you up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. 1 Kings 18:41

Elijah proclaimed to Ahab that the rain was on the horizon and to be prepared. However, Elijah had not yet seen the rain. He had his servant go and get a weather report. This was done 8 times. Finally there was a small cloud in the sky.

Elijah told Ahab that he had better get moving off the mountain while there was time or the rain would delay him. At that point Elijah took off running to escape the torrent of rain and the anger of the king.

Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-8)

Ahab returned home to his wife and told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how that Elijah slew all the prophets of the false god Baal. She was furious and sent a message to Elijah that she would kill him by that time the next day.

Elijah was scared and at a loss for what he should do. He took his concern to God. Though he was at his wit’s end and was ready to give up, the Lord told him to lay down and take a nap. Then God provided food for him. He slept some more and then ate again. The Bible says that Elijah was refreshed and nourished enough to make a 40 day trip to escape from the wicked queen.

Conversation with God (1 Kings 19:9-18)

Elijah arrived at a cave where he had an intimate conversation with God. He confessed that his stress was wrapped up in the fact that he was the only one left who could stand up for God in the world. After several attempts to get Elijah to realize that God was all powerful and could take care of anything, God told Elijah that there were 7,000 people who still believed in God in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).

God then led Elijah to Elisha who would eventually take his place as the chief prophet of God in Israel.

Death of Ahab (1 Kings 21, 22)

Ahab continued to do wickedness in the sight of God. The Bible says that his wife Jezebel was the one who prodded him into his wicked deeds (1 Kings 21:17-26). Elijah proclaimed that the dogs would soon lap up the blood of Ahab because of his wickedness.

In battle Ahab was slain by an arrow randomly shot into the air. As his chariot was washed clean the dogs licked his blood from the streets as was prophesied (1 Kings 22:37, 38).

Passing the Mantle to Elisha (2 Kings 1, 2)

The first two chapters of 2 Kings tells about how Elijah was take by God into heaven. Elisha and Elijah were on a journey. Elisha had asked for a double portion of the spirit of God to be on his life as was on the life of Elijah. Elijah said that if the younger prophet was with him when he went to heaven then he would be given his desires.

The two men were separated by a fiery chariot and Elijah was carried into heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah. When the younger prophet returned to his home the other prophets knew knew immediately that the spirit of Elijah was upon the younger man (2 Kings 2:15). There was something obviously different about his demeanor.

Lessons from Elijah

The Bible tells us that Elijah was a man like the rest of us. He struggled with the same passions and doubts that we have (James 5:17). This does not necessary mean he was involved in passionate sins, it simply means that he had the same temptations we have. Yet, through prayer and faith, he was able to trust the Lord.

Elijah Obeyed God

When Elijah was lead by God to the brook and later to a cave, we see that Elijah obeyed. But he did not just obey the call to go, he stayed until he was later told to leave. Elijah was in tune with the leading of the Lord in his life. He made decisions based on what he knew God was leading him to do. I believe this helped him in the area of being bold. He could confidently say and do what he did because he knew the Lord’s leading.

Elijah Trusted God

There were times when Elijah wasn’t sure what the Lord’s leading was. He did not always know how God was going to work, but he knew enough to trust. He trusted when he could not see the rain coming. He trusted when he did not know how to escape from Jezebel. He was a man who learned to trust God.

Elijah Humbled Himself to God

When Elijah was in the cave conversing with God, he seemed to have an arrogance about him. God kept asking him the same question over and over. Elijah’s answer was, “I do what I do because there is no one else to do Your work for You.” Elijah seemed to be of the mindset that God could not take care of His own problems. Elijah finally humbled himself and God then revealed that there were many other people standing on his side ready to help if Elijah would let them.

What has God taught you through the life of Elijah? We would love to hear your lessons in the comments below.

Take a look at this similar Bible study:

Gideon Bible Story

Resource – The Holy Bible, King James Version



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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Njah Gideon April 12, 2013 at 5:50 am

The life of Elijah is a big challenge to me in that, he was bold enough to stand before Ahab and tell him of the prolonged drought endagering his life. He obeyed and was patience with God to direct him the way forward, which is difficult with me at time to wait on God’s direction. Challenging Baal prophets was a prove of total trust in the living God and is a great challenge to me. He was human, but proved that if we trust God, He will do whatsoever we ask of Him. Mtt.7:7. Thanks so much Godbless you.

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David Peach April 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Njah, I agree that Elijah was a man of faith. He was able to trust God even when he was scared. He allowed God to lead. That is something we often struggle with.

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Patricia Schneider April 12, 2013 at 10:17 am

Wow, David! (Is it OK I call you by your first name? Let me know which you prefer, please?)
So appreciated this article you wrote that appeared on my Facebook page this morn! Reading it re-affirmed the lessons I’ve recently been learning about “obeying and trusting God’s Word.”
Have never read the two books of Kings. Looked up 1 Kings 18:36,37 (Elijah’s prayer.) Also highlighted it in orange. (BTW, fascinating story of Elijah!) Intend to start reading more of the Old Testament and the 2 Books of Kings. (Have an online daily Bible Study…we’re on the first book of Samuel now. Have tried to read the Old Testament years ago, but could never appreciate it. I just thought what a “naughty” people the Israelite were, always complaining & disobeying God! LOL!)
You mentioned about Elijah being arrogant when he was in the cave conversing w/God. Oh, David, I also was soooo arrogant at one time, too.
I have a bi-polar illness. When my beautiful Mom passed on in 2009, grief turned into the worst depression ever, lasting 3 years. Any sins committed during depressions I would “blame’ the depression, not take responsibility for my sins.
Didn’t do anything except eat & watch TV, and an occasional outburst to Jesus, “Please lift this d— depression!” My wonderful hubby, Gary, took care of everything…meals, housecleaning, laundry, etc. And being so patient and understanding towards me. His comfort through my tears was so endearing, David. Yes, Gary is a God-fearing, GOOD CHRISTIAN. Can’t believe God gave him to me!
Sorry, digressing here…anyhoo, re:my arrogance about sins. After those 3 years, for whatever reason, got interested is viewing my Facebook page again. That’s where I discovered “What Christians Want To Know” site! WHAT A BLESSING! After three weeks or so of reading several articles, especially Pastor Jack Wellman’s, depression started lifting, then replaced by sheer joy (like the one when I FIRST had MENTAL HEALTH in my life. 2002-2009!!!!)
That’s when The Holy Spirit showed me my arrogance about sins committing during depressions, that I am accountable for them. So, with a newly-humbled heart, I confessed all my sins to Sweet Jesus. (What a ‘boo-hoo party’ that was! LOL)
Afterwards, David, I felt incredible peace, as if Jesus’ Arms were around my shoulders. Have felt His Presence innumerable times over the years.
Thanks so much for allowing me to share my experiences with God.
Oodles of blessings for you and your family, David!
Always in Christ, Jesus….Patty

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David Peach April 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Patty, you can certainly call me by my first name. No problem.

That is a wonderful testimony of how God used His Word and this website which teaches the Bible to help your mind. Having been acquainted with people struggling with depression and bipolar disorder I know it is not something that you can just will to go away. But there is a God who is the great Physician and He can control what goes on in our bodies.

I encourage you to continue studying the Bible. I pray it brings you more and more clarity of mind.

One thing that helped me enjoy the Old Testament so much more is when I started to see how all the stories are connected together. I have some articles at my website (linked from my name in the comments section here) that may help you understand the basic stories in the Old Testament books. I have about 1/2 of the Old Testament done. They are just basic summaries of the books of the Bible.

God bless!

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Thomas Bowers April 12, 2013 at 10:46 am

David, along with the arrogance Elijah may have had when continuing to answer God with…”I do what I do because there is no one else to do Your work for You.”….could there have been a desperate feeling of loneliness in Elijah’s heart and mind? Loneliness for the human friendship/kinship that is just under the surface in our lives….since Eden. The situation also symbolic of the stress between the reliance on God’s desire for us and man’s need to find more immediate security. The need for humility is surely present. But it seems so often that when we are counseled to be humble, as in non-prideful, we are often acting out of deep loneliness. Which of course spotlights mans ever recurring choice between God’s path and our individual efforts to fill the void of aloneness.

Please let me assure all that I am not a Bible scholar….not even remotely. I thank you, David, and others for the many lessons I receive on this website.

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David Peach April 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Thomas, that is a great observation.

The truth is, in that passage where I say Elijah may have been responding in an arrogant way, the Bible doesn’t really tell us why God kept asking him the same question. Though Elijah responded with the same words over and over, there was something about the way he said those words that let God know that Elijah had finally surrendered the problem to God.

I have been around great visionaries. They are often people with strong personalities like Elijah. Many times they don’t have close friends because they don’t feel like anyone else has the same goals in mind. Elijah actually knew there were at least 100 other prophets of God who were safe and ready to preach the truth (1 Kings 18:13). But, for some reason, he still felt like he was alone.

Whatever the reason for God pulling Elijah to the side, it is a good example for us to see that he finally surrendered to God. I can’t claim to be the great prophet Elijah was, but I can humble myself before God when He speaks to me. I think it is an even greater lesson for me to know that if Elijah needed to be reined back and given a dose of reality, I certainly need it too.

Thanks for your comment.

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Patricia Schneider April 12, 2013 at 4:23 pm

This is for THOMAS BOWERS (April 12, 2013), Dave. OK?

Hello, Thomas!
Sooo good hearing from you, again! It’s been awhile, since late 2012, I think. On one of Pastor Jack Wellman’s articles? You had discussed the changes and loss in your life?
I did respond to your comment, may not remember me. That’s OK. Since then I wrote your name on my Prayer Board, a list of folks I DAILY pray for. And still do!
Loved your introspection about arrogance may be from loneliness. The Holy Spirit surely gave you some insight there! Sadly, it’s a human condition that affects too many souls, especially in these times.
How’s life been treating you, Thomas? I pray your daily “walks with Jesus” fill you with incredible joy!
Your sister in Christ, Jesus…Patty

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Thomas Bowers April 13, 2013 at 12:02 am

Thank You so much Patty. Yes, of course I remember your sweet and supportive comments. You and I seem to gravitate to some of the same articles. I did not see your reply to David’s lesson until after I’d posted mine….or I would have recognized You in mine. Thank You so much for including me in Your Prayers. I did the same for Your Husband, Gary. I hope he is recovering. I read almost everyday’s WCWTK lesson….as You probably do. Many seem to be tailor made for my concerns of the moment. Lately I’ve been watching several of the Inspirational TV channels in the morning. I ran across Jim Evans and his wife’s marriage ministry and was very impressed. God Bless You and Your Family. Thomas

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sola kehinde April 16, 2013 at 4:18 am

What I learnt from the life of Elijah is that we are just vaccums without God. In Him we live, without Him we are lifeless. Elijah aas human initially wanted to glorify himself until God let him realized the inefficacy of man without Him

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