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reel and acquaints Jezebel of the wonderful things he had seen, and which he could not prevent. She was transported with fury and vengeance, and vowing a tremendous oath, she sent a messenger to the prophet with these terrible words : “As surely as thou art Elijah and I am Jezebel, so may God do to me and more also, if I make not thy life to-morrow, about this time, as the life of one of them.” In her unbounded rage she forgot all policy, for she should have struck the blow without giving her enemy time to escape. It may also be noted that she is no atheist, but believes in God according to Phænician notions. She reflects that eight hundred and fifty of Baal's prophets had been slain, and that the nation might return to their allegiance to the god of their fathers, who had wrought the greatest calamity her proud heart could endure. Unlike her husband, she knows no fear, and is as unscrupulous as she is fanatical. Elijah, she resolved, should surely die.
And how did the prophet receive her message ? He had not feared to encounter Ahab and all the priests of Baal, yet he quailed before the wrath of this terrible woman, — this incarnate fiend, who cared neither for Jehovah nor his prophet. Even such a hero as Elijah felt that he must now flee for his life, and attended only by his boy-servant, he did not halt until he had crossed the kingdom of Judah, and reached the utmost southern bounds of the Holy Land. At Beersheba he left his faithful attendant, and sought refuge in the desert, — the ancient wilderness of Sinai, with its rocky wastes. Under the shade of a solitary tree, exhausted and faint, he lay down to die. “It is enough, 0 Jehovah ! now take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He had outstripped all pursuers, and was apparently safe, yet he wished to die. It was the reaction of a mighty excitement, the lassitude produced by a rapid and weary flight. He was physically exhausted, and with this exhaustion came despondency. . He was a strong man unnerved, and his will succumbed to unspeakable weariness. He lay down and slept, and when he awoke he was fed and comforted by an angelic visitor, who commanded him to arise and penetrate still farther into the dreary wilderness. For forty days and nights he journeyed, until he reached the awful solitudes of Sinai and Horeb, and sought shelter in a cave. Enclosed between granite rocks, he entered upon a new crisis of his career.
It does not appear that the future destinies of Samaria and Jerusalem were revealed to Elijah, nor the fate of the surrounding nations, as seen by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. He was not called to foretell the retribution which would surely be inflicted on degenerate and idolatrous nations, nor even to declare those impressive truths which should instruct all future generations. He therefore does not soar in his dreary solitude to those lofty regions of thought which marked the meditations of Moses. He is not a man of genius; he is no poet; he has no eloquence or learning; he commits no precious truths to writing for the instruction of distant generations. He is a man of intensely earnest convictions, gifted with extraordinary powers resulting from that peculiar combination of physical and spiritual qualities known as the prophetic temperament. The instruments of the Divine Will on earth are selected with unerring judgment. Elijah was sent by the Almighty to deliver special messages of reproof and correction to wicked rulers; he was a reformer. But his character was august, his person was weird and remarkable, his words were earnest and delivered with an indomitable courage, a terrific force. He was just the man to make a strong impression on a superstitious and weak king; but he had done more than that, — he had roused a whole nation from their foul debasement, and left them quaking in terror before their offended Deity.
But the phase of exaltation and potent energy had passed for the time, and we now see him faint and despondent, yet, with the sure instinct of mighty spiritual natures, seeking recuperation in solitary companionship with the all-present Spirit.
We do not know how long Elijah remained in his dismal cavern, — long enough, however, to recover his physical energies and his moral courage. As he wanders to and fro amid the hoary rocks and impenetrable solitudes of Horeb, he seeks to commune with God. He listens for some manifestation of the deity; he is ready to do His bidding. He hears the sound of a rushing hurricane; but God is not in the wind. The mountain then is shaken by a fearful earthquake; but Jehovah is not in the earthquake. Again the mountain seems to flash with fire; but the signs he seeks are not in the fire. At last, after the uproar of contending physical forces had died away, in the profound silence of the solitude he hears the whisper of a still small voice in gentle accents; and by this voice in the soul Jehovah speaks: “What doest thou here, Elijah ? ” Was this voice reproachful ? Had the prophet been told to flee? Had he acted with the courage of a man sure of divine protection ? Had he not been faint-hearted when he wished to die? How does he reply to the mysterious voice? He justifies himself. But strengthened, comforted, uplifted by the exaltation of the consciousness of God's presence, Elijah feels his resilient powers again upspringing. His courage returns; his perceptions grow sharp again ; the inspiration of a new line of action opens up to him. He hears the word of the Lord: “Go, return on thy
way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, and Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass that him who escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu destroy, and him that escapeth the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, who have not bowed the knee unto Baal.”
Elijah still knows that his life is in peril, but is ready, nevertheless, to obey his master's call. He is not designated as the power to effect the great revolution which should root out idolatry and destroy the house of Omri; but Jehu, an unscrupulous yet jealous warrior, was to found a new dynasty, and the king of Syria was to punish and afflict the ten tribes, and Elisha was to be the mouth-piece of the Almighty in the court of kings. It would appear that Elijah did not himself anoint either the general of Benhadad or of Ahab as future kings, — instruments of punishment on idolatrous Israel, — but on Elisha did his mantle fall.
Elisha was the son of a farmer, and, according to Ewald, when Elijah selected him for his companion and servant, had just been ploughing his twelve yoke of land (not of oxen), and was at work on the twelfth and last. Passing by the place, Elijah, without stop