Why did Elijah flee from Jezebel (after Jehovah's demonstration at Mt. Carmel)?

In the Biblical story of Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal (in I Kings 18), Jehovah demonstrates his superiority over the other god/false god in a rather overwhelming way. In the contest at Mt. Carmel, Baal’s prophets can’t seem to get their god’s attention, despite hours of prayers, entreaties, and self-mutilation. Elijah mocks them (it is actually quite amusing!) and then summons his god. Now, in a rather spectacular “fire-coming-down-from-heaven” manner, Jehovah demonstrates both his existence and power by consuming a completely-water-drenched sacrifice and altar.

In the aftermath of Baal’s humiliating defeat, Elijah orders hundreds of his prophets executed. When Jezebel hears of this, she is furious and sends word to Elijah that she is going to hunt him down and kill him.

It is at this point in the story that Elijah does something perplexing. He flees!
I have always wondered about this – exactly why would he do this? After the Mt. Carmel incident, why would he think that he had anything to fear from the queen?
How could she possibly do anything to him if God was on his side?

He may have God on his side, but she has the Israelite army on her side. In that position, discretion is the better part of valor.



I’m not getting this. Surely you don’t think that Elijah and none-other-than-None-Other would be in trouble just from being outnumbered x thousand to two?!

(In Christian Theology, that would be “to four.” :D)

  • "Jack"

In Jewish philosophy, you’re not supposed to rely on miracles, even if you’re a prophet (unless, I guess, you were specifically told by God to stand by and watch the unbelievers get smited).
Earlier in the Bible, Samuel is told to go annoint David as king. Samuel says points out that the current king is going to be rather upset about this. God tells him to lie about what he’s doing. As Rabbi Joseph Telushkin points out, God didn’t say “Go annoint David and I’ll make a miracle for you.” God says, “Tell people you’re visiting friends in Bethlahem, and that way the king won’t hear about it.”

Miracles have consequences. If Jezebel sends the whole army after Elijah and he burns them up by calling more fire from the sky, it protects Elijah, but also kills a whole lot of people and leaves Israel relatively defenseless. Or, if Elijah miraculously convinces the army to follow his lead and overthrow Jezebel, now it has completely shifted the leadership of the country.

You could compare it to the genie in a bottle scenario where each of the wishes sounds good, but actually creates many unforeseen problems.

The simple answer for me is just that that is what people do. I could see me reacting in a similar way – or in a different way, depending on the day.

As an example, back in my volunteer firefighter days, I had a couple of occasions to demonstrate my physical bravery, but I wouldn’t want to have to count on it, because you don’t necessarily know that you would come through again under the same conditions.


This being GQ, the factual answer may well be that the writer thought that it would make a better story.

These stories were likely passed down orally for many years before being written down, and at this point it’s extremely difficult to determine which parts have a historical basis.

Because Jezebel was a scary bitch.

Also, some stories are compilations; they are made up of smaller, independent pieces, sometimes featuring different protagonists.

I don’t remember what happens after Elijah flees, but my guess is that originally there were two separate stories and Elijah’s flight makes for a convenient segue.

I did some reading not too long ago about the way that Kings and Chronicles (for example) overlap in that they tell the same stories with slight variations.

It would be interesting to see if this is one of those stories.

See, that is what I thought upon encountering the story as a child. I could be wrong about this, but it just seemed somewhat odd for God’s chosen prophet, seeing Jehovah’s utter domination of the false god Baal (and perhaps demonstrating the other god’s nonexistence, since he was a “no-show” at the contest), to worry about Jezebel possibly harming him. It made me think that
perhaps it was not an historical event, but just a story. Of course, another poster made the point that ancient Jewish prophets did not expect Jehovah to always prevent them from coming to harm. (Although, if Jehovah had the level of power demonstrated in that spectacular scene from the contest with Baal, and did not bother protecting the people who put their lives on the line propagating his word, it doesn’t say much for his character or ethics!)

Even if those stories were historical events, details have changed a lot in the retelling. There is another story — it would take me some time to find chapter and verse info — which is told in both Chronicles and — I believe — Kings. In one version, Yahweh directs David to have a census; in the other version, it is Satan who directs David.

That seems like a pretty major change. But the authors were trying to accomplish different tasks and, even if they were relating actual events, they were spinning them just as people do today.

All of this glosses over the fact that a lot of the Bible is not meant to be read as historical, factual history.

If Elijah had the ability to get The Big Guy to take care of all his problems, think of the consequences. Elijah gets a little hungry and asks for some miracle food. Stubs his toe, time for a miracle healing. Etc.

Surely this wouldn’t please any supreme being and would soon result in an “anti-miracle”. I would presume that Elijah was smart enough to hold requests for divine intervention to a minimum.

A clear example.

I’m going to need a cite on that. :eek:

Of course, it would make some sense to ask whether the fire was a miracle at all.

As I recall the story, Elijah says, essentially, “Not only can my God start a fire, he can start a fire with wet wood.” and proceeds to pour “water” on the firewood. That sounds like a classic magician’s flourish. I can almost imagine him saying, “Watch as my lovely assistant pours this plain well water over the firewood.”


And a fire starts.

Whether you believe in God or not, there is really no reason to think that the fire was an act of God; just good showmanship on Elijah’s part.

Why would God take part in a my-god-can-take-your-god contest anyway? Sounds like childish nonsense.

Ha! That is only what the gods who came in second like to tell themselves!

God was apparently silent on whether or not Elijah should stand his ground, or whether there’d be another divine miracle to stop the army (was the time two divisions of the army got consumed by fire from heaven before or after this incident?).

Maybe Elijah did hang around for a while, but when no miracle showed up, hotfooted it out of there. That’d explain why he was so depressed afterward.

God doesn’t have a consistent track record when it comes to the persecution of His prophets. Sure, sometimes he closes the mouths of lions, but other times the legions of angels are held back.

There’s also the “Elijah had no powers, he was making it up as he went along and someone thought the ‘God rains fire down from heaven’ meme was a good one to pass along, so they rolled with old Miracleman Eli” explanation. Your mileage may vary, I guess.

I choose not to [start a fire].

The difference between Satan and God is not that big of a difference in the original conception of Satan. Satan has a job, which is to test man. It’s not entirely clear whether Satan is directly following orders as a good angel or just doing what he can within bounds set by God as a fallen angel, but it’s pretty clear that he’s part of the plan.

In Job, Satan walks up to God and they have a conversation about why Job worships God. God gives Satan permission to test Job. So the same point could come up - did Satan do it, or did God?

In Genesis, we usually assume the serpent is Satan (though it’s never stated outright). The serpent is cursed along with Adam and Eve, suggesting that it was acting against God’s will in that case… but God did put both the tree and the serpent in the garden.

…and the story I’m talking about is a very interesting case for that consideration. I’m out of my depths here, to be perfectly honest, but from the reading I’ve done, it looks like the use of the term Satan in this case could actually mean another country.

Having read the story, I was not able to understand how so much information could be gleaned from a single word, but I believe the orginal text indicated that “Satan” did not mean a person or an angel, but rather an entire country.