Editor’s note: Joseph Farah is leading a tour of Israel through Nov. 13. While he is away, WND is republishing some of his relevant columns from the past.
Elijah is one of the most interesting characters and prophets in the Bible – and one of the most mysterious.
If you doubt me, identify from which Hebrew tribe he belonged.
Tell me who his parents were, what his lineage was.
He springs upon the scene in 1 Kings 17:1, identified only as “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead.”
What is a Tishbite? There’s much debate about that.
Some biblical scholars suggest a Tishbite was someone from Tishbe, who lived in Gilead. Others suggest a Tishbite was a “stranger,” meaning a sojourner, a non-Hebrew who lived among them, adopting the covenant and in obedience to the Torah.
In the Bible, the word “Tishbite” is only associated with Elijah.
And where was Tishbe? It was thought to be in Upper Galilee, though Josephus suggests it was in Gilead. Others associate the name with el-Ishtib, a place south of the Sea of Galilee.
Where was Gilead?
It was on the other side of the Jordan and associated with the tribes of Manasseh, Gad and Reuben.
So add up the mysteries:
- Was he from Tishbe or el-Ishtib?
- Did Tishbite refer to someone born in Tishbe or el-Ishtib or a stranger?
- Did he belong to a specific tribe?
- What was his lineage?
These details may not be important to casual readers of the Bible, but Elijah is a very significant character in both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, as you will see. He plays a major, ongoing role. The mysteries surrounding him continue through Jesus’ time and into the future Kingdom of God. And the mysteries about his genealogy make him all the more interesting.
Think about it. The pedigrees of major biblical characters are often well established.
Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Jesus – there’s a tremendous amount of detail about their family history and where they came from. Not so with Elijah.
Why the mystery surrounding Elijah?
Could it be that he was, indeed, a sojourner – someone like Abraham, who was called by God out of the pagan world?
Whatever the case, he burst upon the scene in the time of the wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel to call them to account for their evil, which included forsaking the commandments, killing the prophets of God while communing with the prophets of Baal.
He raised the dead. He judged the prophets of Baal. And he never died but was whisked from the earth in a whirlwind.
The next time we hear about Elijah is at the end of the book of Malachi, where we are told: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:4-6).
It seems Elijah is to have a pivotal role in the coming of the Messiah, specifically in reminding a future generation of the importance of the law of Moses.
Lo and behold, in the gospels, John the Baptist is directly compared by Jesus with Elijah. Jesus’ apostles indicate that some in Israel believed Jesus to be Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Then, later, when Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a high mountain and they witness what we call “the transfiguration,” Moses and Elijah are there with them.
Interestingly, John the Baptist did just what was prophesied in Isaiah 40:3, serving as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord and “making a highway in the desert” for God. John describes himself with those very words.
But, if you want to understand what is still ahead for Elijah in the time “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” – meaning, to today’s believers, the Second Coming, just pray about and ponder what Malachi tells us.
What is Elijah going to do before Jesus returns?
He’s going to return to remind that generation about the law of Moses, turning the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers, or else the earth will be smitten with a curse.
When I read these words, I ask myself these questions: “I thought the church teaches the law of Moses is dead – that it was nailed to the cross at Calvary? Why would we need to remember the law of Moses? Why would God bring it back again?”
But Jesus tells us something else about Elijah. When asked why the scribes say that Elijah must come first, before the Redeemer, He answered in Matthew 17:11: “Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things.”
Hear that? Restore all things.
How will he restore all things?
I think I know the answer. It actually makes perfect sense if you read my book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of Age,” and see what the world will be like in God’s Coming Kingdom on earth.
My suggestion? Just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day perverted scripture by adding to the law, is it possible that today’s church has twisted scripture by subtracting from it and rendering irrelevant the commandments of God that define sin? Otherwise, why would Elijah need to come again to prepare the way for the return of Messiah Jesus?
I challenge believers to read the scriptures for themselves, like Bereans, with the guiding of the Holy Spirit to see if these things really are so.
Video: Joseph Farah introduces his book:
See the book trailer for “The Restitution of All Things”:
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