THE SOUND OF SILENCE 1Ki 19
CONTEXT: The opening of this story refers back to the preceding story of the contest at Karmel between Eliahu and the prophets of Ba’al. Eliahu won.
A text variation follows the climax of the story. Verse 13 has Eliahu exiting the cave to stand at its mouth, which makes no narrative sense because the action has taken place with him standing on the mountainside per the instruction in verse 11. The line would fit in the middle of verse 9 where he awakes to hear Yah. The fit is confirmed by the otherwise needless repetition of the words between the prophet and God. The redactor chose to have the character offer his complaint while still lying down and my translation follows his choice. But he was loath to loose the variant version, which I relegate to this introductory note.
Ach’av told Izevel all that Eliahu had done, how he had killed with the sword all the prophets. Izevel sent a messenger to Eliahu with the words: “So may God do to me and more yet, if by this time tomorrow I don’t make your life as one of theirs!”
He was afraid, so he rose and fled for his life, arriving, after a journey of 70 miles from Shomron, at B’er Sheva in Y’hudah. There he left his servant and walked for a day and sat under a singular broom tree. He willed himself to die. “Enough, already, Yah. Take my life for I am no better than my forebears.”
He lay down and slept there. It seemed as though an angel touched him, saying, “Wake up. Eat.” He looked and there at his head was a stone baked loaf and a jug of water. He ate and drank and went back to sleep. The angel returned, touched him, and said: “Wake up, eat, for the way is too long for you.” He woke, ate and drank, and on the strength of that eating, he walked forty days and forty nights to the Mountain of God, Chorev. There he entered a cave and slept.
Then the word of Yah occurred to him: “What’s with you here, Eliahu?”
“I have been most zealous for Yah, God of hosts. Since B’nai Yisrael have abandoned their brit with You, having broken down Your altars, and killed Your prophets by the sword, I remain, by myself. Now they are seeking to take my life.”
“Go out and stand on the mountain in the before Yah. Behold Yah passing.”
A great wind rose before Yah, strong enough to split mountains and shatter boulders. But Yah was not in that wind.
After the wind, an earthquake. Yah was not in that earthquake.
After the earthquake, a fire. Yah was not in that fire.
After the fire, a sound of silence! When Eliahu heard it he wrapped his face in his mantle.
Once again he knew Yah’s word: “Go, return to your way, from the wilderness to Damascus. When you get there, anoint Chaza’el king over Aram. Then anoint Yehu benNimshi king over Yisrael. Elisha benShafat, from Avel M’cholah, anoint as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes the sword of Chaza’el, Yehu will kill. Whoever escapes the sword of Yehu, Elisha will kill. I shall leave in Yisrael but 7,000 – any knees that have not bowed to Ba’al and any mouth that has not kissed him.”
From there he went and found Elisha benShafat who was plowing. Twelve pairs were before him and he was with the twelfth. Eliahu crossed over and cast his mantle over him.
He left the cattle and ran after Eliahu: “Please let me kiss my father and mother and then I will follow you.”
The reply: “Go! Return! What have I done for you?”
So he turned from him, took the pair of cattle and slaughtered them. With their cattle gear he cooked the meat and gave it to the crew. They ate and he rose and followed Eliahu and served him.
© Rabbi David L. Kline http://good-to-be-a-jew.blogspot.com/