The name Elijah in the Bible
The name Elijah is assigned to four different men in the Bible (not counting those with the highly similar name Elihu):
- The famous prophet Elijah the Tishbite, who ministered during the reigns of kings Ahab and Azariah of Israel (1 Kings 17:1).
- A son of king Jeroboam (1 Chronicles 8:27).
- One of the priestly sons of Harim, who had married a foreign woman and pledged to divorce her during the Purge of Ezra (Ezra 10:21).
- One of the sons of Elam, who did the same (Ezra 10:26).
The famous Elijah is remembered as one of the great prophets of Israel, especially in the days of the Romans, when Israel was eagerly awaiting a military liberator (Matthew 16:14; spelled Ηλιας, Elias). Elijah was a national favorite possibly because he spends much of his Biblical screen-time killing people.
At the Kishon massacre, Elijah slays 450 Baal prophets and possibly 400 prophets of Asherah (1 Kings 18:19, 40). When king Ahaziah sends for word from Baal Zebub, the god at Ekron, Elijah requests fire from heaven, which comes and incinerates two contingents of 50 soldiers and their captains (2 Kings 1).
Elijah may also be the only one in the Hebrew Bible who willingly brings someone back from the dead, although it's not entirely clear whether his patient was either already dead or still dying (1 Kings 17:17-24).
When Elijah's time on earth is done, he is taking up to heaven alive, as one of only two people in the Hebrew Bible (the other one is Enoch, Genesis 5:24). He's not taken up in a chariot of fire, as the song says, but a whirlwind takes him. The chariot only separates him from his successor Elisha and takes him from his sight (2 Kings 2:2).
Etymology of the name Elijah
The name Elijah is truly fabulous; a junction of two of the most common appellatives of God in the Bible:
- The word אל (El), the common abbreviation of Elohim (Elohim), meaning God (or gods), but most fundamentally possibly meaning power or strength.
- The appellative יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which in turn are abbreviated forms of the Tetragrammaton; the name of the Lord: YHWH.
For a meaning of the name Elijah, BDB Theological Dictionary reads Yah(u) Is God. NOBSE Study Bible Name List renders Yahweh Is God. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads God-Lord, Strength Of The Lord.
Note that the name Joel is the exact opposite of Elijah: Yah is El. Also note that the genitive of the name Elijah as used in the Septuagint (Ηλιον), namely Ηλιου is the same as the genitive of the name Ηλιος (Helios), meaning Sun.