Handout 28: Elijah, Zerepthah, the widow, map of travels,
Judaism and Elijah, miracles, Moroni, Malachi, seer, false prophets August 2014
Elijah the Tishbite (Heb. אֱלִיָּהוּ, my god is YHVH). Prophet in northern Ephraimite kingdom during reign of Ahab (9th century b.c.) Defended the worship of Yahweh over that of the Canaanite god Baal (which was considered as idol worship); raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, taken up in a whirlwind. Challenges Jezebel, her priests, Ahab and Israelis.
Restoring life to the son of widow of Zerepthah, first record in scripture of raising dead. This non-Israelite widow was granted the best covenant blessing in the person of her son, the only hope for a widow in ancient society. The widow cried, “…the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
Elijah’s proposal to priests of Ba-al is a test of the powers of their pagan gods. Sacrifices are prepared, prayers of priests are useless. Then water is poured on the altar, Elijah asks God to burn it; fire falls from sky. Famine is over. ‘As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.’
“The reason I put emphasis upon this is to impress you with the sealing power by which Elijah was able to close the heavens, that there should be no rain or dew until he spoke.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:102.)
Zarephath – coast of the Mediterranean between Tyre and Sidon, -now Lebanon, then Phoenicia, outside the boundaries of Israel. A widow had only a little to make a patty to fry. Her barrel would have been an earthen jar and her cruse a clay bottle. Wooden barrels are not suitable for storing flour in
the Middle East because they do not protect the flour from insects. Elijah’s request for the widow to prepare his food was a test of her faith. Because she passed the test, Elijah’s promise that of her barrel of flour and cruse of oil would not fail for the duration of the famine was fulfilled. This widow not only provided for her own needs in a time of great distress but provided for others an example of great faith.
In an attempt to open the eyes of his prejudiced countrymen, Jesus spoke of she who obeyed God’s command and physically sustained His prophet. “But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Serepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow” (Luke 4:25–26).
This is the fourth miracle mentioned in this chapter which Elijah performed by means of his priesthood power. First he brought famine by his word ( v. 1), then he was fed by ravens (see v. 6), then he caused the widow’s food supply to miraculously continue ( vv. 13–16). Then he worked another mighty miracle through the power of God. The widow’s cry (v. 18) was more a plea for help than a criticism.
The accompanying map shows the journeys of Elijah from the time he left the Brook Cherith until he arrived at Damascus, Syria, where he anointed an earthly king in a foreign country. It provides a picture of how far-reaching his ministry was.
Judaism and Elijah: Each Passover, a special cup of wine is filled and put on the seder table. During the Seder, the door of the house is opened and everyone stands to allow Elijah the Prophet (Eliyahu ha-Navi) to enter and drink. After heralding the coming of the Messiah, one of Elijah’s tasks will be to resolve all hitherto unanswered questions of Jewish law.
Thus, this fifth cup whose status is dubbed “Elijah’s Cup,” in anticipation of the insight he will shed on the matter in doubt . The four cups correspond to the four “expressions of redemption” promised by G d: “I will take you out from the suffering of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their bondage; I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a nation . . .” redemption, which comes in the following verse: “I will bring you to the Land . . .” (These promises are also made to those who experience temple ordinances.)
During a divine manifestation to the youthful Joseph Smith on the evening of September 21, 1823, the angel Moroni quoted Malachi 4:5-6,a prophecy that concerns Elijah’s activities in the latter days. Moroni’s rendering, which differs from the current biblical text, outlines and clarifies Elijah’s prophesied role: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming [JS-H 1:38-39; D&C 2].
Because many have died without either a knowledge of saving gospel principles or the opportunity to receive priesthood ordinances, the latter-day mission of Elijah made it possible to have these sealing ordinances performed vicariously on the earth for those who have died, thus giving all an opportunity for salvation.
At the conclusion of his mortal life, Elijah was translated; that is, he experienced some type of change from mortality without experiencing mortal death. Latter-day Saints conclude that a major reason for Elijah’s translation was to enable him to return to the earth to confer keys of authority on the three chief apostles before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
Prophets and Seers in Ancient Times
What Was a Prophet among the Hebrews?
God raised up prophets in ancient Israel for the same reasons He raises up prophets today. They are to teach the people the laws of God and how to live them, call the people to repentance when necessary, and bear witness of Jesus Christ. The work of all true prophets of all ages is to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will.
Elder John A. Widtsoe explained that “a prophet is a teacher. That is the essential meaning of the word. He teaches the body of truth, the gospel, revealed by the Lord to man; and under inspiration explains it to the understanding of the people. He is an expounder of truth. Moreover, he shows that the way to human happiness is through obedience to God’s law. He calls to repentance those who wander away from the truth. He becomes a warrior for the consummation of the Lord’s purposes with respect to the human family. The purpose of his life is to uphold the Lord’s plan of salvation. All this he does by close communion with the Lord, until he is ‘full of power by the spirit of the Lord.’ (Micah 3:8; see also D. & C. 20:26; 34:10; 43:16) . . .
“In the course of time the word ‘prophet’ has come to mean, perhaps chiefly, a man who receives revelations, and directions from the Lord. The principal business of a prophet has mistakenly been thought to foretell coming events, to utter prophecies, which is only one of the several prophetic functions.
“In the sense that a prophet is a man who receives revelations from the Lord, the titles ‘seer and revelator’ merely amplify the larger and inclusive meaning of the title ‘prophet.’ . . .
“A prophet also receives revelations from the Lord. These may be explanations of truths already received, or new truths not formerly possessed by man. Such revelations are always confined to the official position held. The lower will not receive revelations for the higher office.” (Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 257–58.)
What qualifies a man to be a prophet?
“Foremost, God must choose him as his prophet! This is entirely different than for man to choose God. The Savior, speaking to his apostles, said, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit. . . .’ (John 15:16.)
“‘We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.’ (Article of Faith 5.)
“A prophet, then, is the authorized representative of the Lord. While the world may not recognize him, the important requirement is that God speaks through him.”
What Is a Seer?
“A seer is one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. This he does by the power of the Lord operating through him directly, or indirectly with the aid of divine instruments such as the Urim and Thummim (ooreem and toomeem). In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord’s light with open eyes. (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8:15–17)” (Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 258.)
As Ammon said, “A seer is a revelator and a prophet also” (Mosiah 8:16). When necessary he can use the Urim and Thummim, or holy interpreters (Mosiah 8:13; 28:13–16; 1 Samuel 9:9; 2 Samuel 24:11; 2 Kings 17:13; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 33:19; Isaiah 29:10; 30:10; JST, John 1:42; 2 Nephi 3:6–14; D&C 21:1; 107:92; 134:94, 125; 127:12; 135:3; Moses 6:36, 38.)
Not all prophets are of God. There are false prophets who call people away after other gods (see Deuteronomy 13). The wicked prophets of Baal were prominent in Israel during the reign of Ahab. They officiated in the perverted Canaanite religion and won great favor in the eyes of Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. The Lord’s true prophets had to compete with these and other false prophets for the people’s attention, and in the case of Elijah, supernatural demonstration was necessary to convince the people that the prophets of Baal were unreliable. Probably all of the true prophets had to contend constantly with false prophets (see Jeremiah 23:13–17).
A classic example of a confrontation between false prophets and a true prophet is found in 1 Kings 22. The kings of Judah and Israel had joined forces to fight the Syrians, and Ahab suggested to Jehoshaphat that they go together and take the city of Ramoth. Jehoshaphat asked for the opinion of the prophets. All of Ahab’s prophets counseled them to go to battle. Jehoshaphat pressed Ahab, saying, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him?” (v. 7), and he was told there was one, Micaiah.
But Ahab hated him because, he said, “He doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (v. 8). Micaiah was called, but Ahab’s servant instructed him, “The words of the prophets [of Baal] declare good unto the king with one mouth; let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good” (v. 13). And Micaiah said, “As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak” (v. 14). Though it put his own life in jeopardy, he spoke the truth. The false prophets said whatever would please the king and help them maintain their favored status in the court.
Through the sealing power of the priesthood, men and women may be sealed to each other in marriage for all eternity in one of the temples of God. In addition, children may be sealed to their parents forever. Thus the family organization continues eternally.