The famine at the time of Elijah (Lk 4:25-4:26)

“In truth!

I say to you!

There were many widows

In Israel

At the time of Elijah.

The heavens

Were shut closed for

Three years and six months.

There came

A great famine

Over all the land.

Yet Elijah was sent

To none of them,

Except to a widow

At Zarephath,

In Sidon.”

 

ἐπ’ ἀληθείας δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, πολλαὶ χῆραι ἦσαν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡλείου ἐν τῷ Ἰσραήλ, ὅτε ἐκλείσθη ὁ οὐρανὸς ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ μῆνας ἕξ, ὡς ἐγένετο λιμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν

καὶ πρὸς οὐδεμίαν αὐτῶν ἐπέμφθη Ἡλείας εἰ μὴ εἰς Σάρεπτα τῆς Σιδωνίας πρὸς γυναῖκα χήραν.

 

There are no similar stories in Mark and Matthew.  Luke uniquely had Jesus tell this story about Elijah as found in 1 Kings, chapter 17:1-16.  John the Baptist had been compared to Elijah, a major almost romantic 9th century BCE prophet, whose name appears more than 100 times in the biblical literature.  Elijah also appeared with Moses in the transfiguration of Jesus mentioned later in this work.  Elijah’s influence on the evangelical authors was very important, just like here.  There were a series of stories about Elijah when King Ahab (874-853 BCE) was king of Israel.  Elijah, commanded by Yahweh, went to a northern town near Sidon, probably a Phoenician town.  He provided a widow and her family with a never-ending jar and jug that provided meal and oil for her and her household until the drought came to an end.  Luke pointed out with a solemn pronouncement (ἐπ’ ἀληθείας δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν) that there were many widows (πολλαὶ χῆραι ἦσαν) at the time of Elijah (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡλείου), in Israel (ἐν τῷ Ἰσραήλ).  The heavens were closed or shut down (ὅτε ἐκλείσθη ὁ οὐρανὸς) for 3 ½ years (ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ μῆνας ἕξ).  Thus, there was a great drought across the whole land (ὡς ἐγένετο λιμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν).  However, Yahweh sent Elijah to none of the Israelite widows (καὶ πρὸς οὐδεμίαν αὐτῶν ἐπέμφθη Ἡλείας).  Instead Elijah was sent to a widow at Zarephath, in Sidon (εἰ μὴ εἰς Σάρεπτα τῆς Σιδωνίας πρὸς γυναῖκα χήραν).

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The locust plague (Joel 1:4-1:4)

“What the cutting locust left,

The swarming locust

Has eaten.

What the swarming locust left,

The hopping locust

Has eaten.

What the hopping locust left,

The destroying locust

Has eaten.”

The big event that Joel was talking about was a locust plague. Apparently, there were a series of locust attacks, a fairly common event in the ancient world. The mild-mannered grasshoppers would suddenly join in groups during times of drought and then attack the growing grain fields in droves. There must have been three separate attacks. Joel called them cutting locusts, swarming locusts, and hopping locusts. One came right after the other to destroy the field crops.

The ingratitude of their ancestors (Jer 2:5-2:8)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘What wrong did your ancestors

Find in me?

They went far from me.

They went after worthless things.

They became worthless themselves.

They did not say.

‘Where is Yahweh?

He brought us up

From the land of Egypt.

He led us in the wilderness.

He led us in a land of deserts.

He led us in a land of pits.

He led us in a land of drought.

He led us in a land of deep darkness.

He led us in a land that no one passes through.

He led us in a land where no man dwells.’

I brought you into a plentiful land.

I brought you to eat its fruits.

I brought you to eat its good things.

But when you entered,

You defiled my land.

You made my heritage an abomination.

The priests did not say.

‘Where is Yahweh?’

Those who handle the law

Did not know me.

The rulers transgressed against me.

The prophets prophesied by Baal.

They went after things that do not profit.”

Jeremiah has Yahweh complain about their ancestors. Why did they go far from Yahweh, going after worthless things, so that they themselves became worthless? They seem to have forgotten that Yahweh led them out of Egypt through the desert wilderness with its pits, drought, and darkness. Very few people were able to make it through the lifeless wilderness. He brought them into a wonderful plentiful land that had many fruits to eat. However, as soon as they entered the land, they defiled it and made his heritage an abomination. The priests did not know Yahweh and follow his laws. The rulers transgressed the laws of Yahweh. The prophets used prophecies by the pagan gods of Baal. They all went after unprofitable and unproductive things.

The hymn to the divine power over the climate (Job 36:24-36:37)

“Remember to extol his work!

Men have sung to his work.

All people have looked on it.

Everyone watches it from far away.

Surely God is great!

We do not know him.

The number of his years is unsearchable.

He draws up the drops of water.

He distils his mist in rain.

The skies pour down rain.

Rain drops upon mortals abundantly.

Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds?

Can anyone understand the thundering of his pavilion?

See!

He scatters his lightning around him.

He covers the roots of the sea.

For by these he judges peoples.

He gives food in abundance.

He covers his hands with the lightning.

He commands it to strike the mark.

Its crashing tells about him.

He is jealous with anger against iniquity.”

Elihu wanted Job to understand and extol the power of God over the climate we live in. Interesting enough I began working on this the day that Pope Francis I issued his encyclical on the climate “Laudato Si.” Yet here, Elihu in his hymn clearly sees God as the controller of the climate. God controls the rain, so that quite often we pray to God for more or less rain. This is especially true in strong farming communities. They also pray for good harvests from the land. We have seen both drought and over flooding this year in the USA. God has control over thunder and lightning as well as the seas.   God is jealous and angry against the wicked. Perhaps we do not pray to God enough about the climate. Just as we have moved from the poetic flat world concept of sunrise and sunset to the earth moving around the sun, so too we might see climate as not the poetic unique concern of God alone, but see the impact of human actions on the climate also.

Yahweh calls Elijah to visit King Ahab (1 Kings 18:1-18:2)

“After many days the word of Yahweh came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying. ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab. I will send rain on the earth.’ Elijah then went to show himself to Ahab.”

This is the simple message between Yahweh and Elijah, just as in the preceding chapter. They communicate freely with each other because he is a man of God. He does what Yahweh asks him to do. The drought was continuing during the reign of Ahab, the king of Israel at Samaria.