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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