A review of historical, literary, and spiritual understandings of the biblical prophet Elijah.
Arnold uses the same multifaceted perspective that he brought to Esther: Surviving in a Hostile World (2015) to offer a detailed analysis of Elijah, “one of only two men who never had to die.” He begins with the idea that the prophet both “astounds and confounds” readers, building on two predominant perspectives among biblical scholars; one school of thought regards Elijah as “humble, courageous and obedient,” while the other views him as “proud, fearful, depressive and full of doubts.” Arnold synthesizes his vast amount of research on these competing notions into a larger discussion of Elijah’s strengths and weaknesses: “Elijah seems to struggle in the domain of grace, whereas he excels in the domain of judgement,” he writes, investigating these two biblical themes thoroughly and using them to help explain the prophet’s perplexing nature. The author writes extensively of the literary merits of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, which contain Elijah’s story, addressing literary devices and providing fascinating interpretations of Elijah’s treatment by God and by the biblical author: “the writer acts exactly like the LORD, who hands over Israel and her king to judgement, but pampers his prophet.” Arnold works to extend traditional literary studies, which are usually limited to specific chapters of Kings, by studying the entirety of the biblical book. His comparisons of Elijah and Moses, as well as his detailed historical context of the times in which Elijah lived, will be of interest to biblical scholars. Overall, the book offers a dense study of a contentious figure that may overwhelm readers who don’t already have a significant interest in Elijah. But those who do will appreciate Arnold’s succinct, engaging ideas.
An exhaustive look at an intriguing Old Testament figure.