Elijah in the Seder Olam Rabbah

Regarding the eschatological return of Elijah, it is interesting to note Seder Olam 17. Milikowski dates the Seder Olam to the 2nd cent. (attributed to R. Yose ben Halaphta). Here there is not just one return of Elijah, but two – during the days of the messiah, and later when “Gog will arrive.” This is significant for Christian eschatology and beliefs on the return of Elijah, given that the Gospels’ equation of John the Baptist with Elijah (or one who came in the “spirit and power of Elijah”) and Rev. 11’s two witnesses, who are patterned for a large part after Elijah, and who are said to be martyred by the Antichrist. Here is the text of the Seder Olam Rabbah:

In the second year of Ahaziah (King of Israel) Elijah was hidden away and is not seen until the messiah comes. In the days of the messiah he will be seen and hidden away a second time and will not be seen until Gog will arrive. At present he records the deeds of all generations.

אחזיהו בנ אחאב מלך שנתים ובשנה השנית לאחזיהו גיגנז אליהו ואינו נראה עד שיבוא משיח ובימות המשיח נראה וניגנז שינית ואינו נראה עד שיבא גוג ועכשו הוא כותב מעשה כל הדורות כולן

Translation by Chayim Milikowski, “Trajectories of Return, Restoration and Redemption in Rabbinic Judaism: Elijah, the Messiah, the War of Gog and the World to Come.” Pages 265-280 in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives (ed. James M. Scott.; Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 72; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 267. Hebrew text of Seder Olam 17 from Joseph Milikowski, “Seder Olam: A Rabbinic Chronography” (Ph.D. diss. Yale University, 1981), 323-324.

The text is as follows in Heinrich W. Guggenheimer’s edition:

אֲחַזְיָה בֶן־אַחְב מָלַךְ שְׁנָתָיַם. וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית לְאֲחַזְיָה נִגְנָז אֵלִיָּהוּ וְלֹא נִרְאֶיה עַד שֶׁיָּבֹא מֶלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ וְנִרְאֶה ונִגְנָז שְׁנִיָּה עַד שֶׁיָּבֹא גוֹג וּמָגוג. וְעַכְשָׁיו הוּא כוֹתֵב מַעשֵׂה כָל־הַדּוֹרוֹת כֻּלָּם וָיָּמָת כִּדְבַר־ייי אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֵּר אֵלִיָּהוּ וגו׳.

Aḥaziah ben Aḥab ruled for two years. In Aḥaziah’s second year, Elijah was hidden and will not be seen again until King Messiah will come, then he will be seen, then hidden a second time until Gog and Magog come. But now he writes down the deeds of all generations. (2Kings 1:17) “He (Aḥaziah) died, following the Eternal’s word that Elijah had spoken.”

Seder Olam: The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), 153-155.

Note also that according to Seder Olam, “In the year 13 of Aḥab there was a great famine in Samaria for three years, followed by war with Ben Hadad for 2 1/2 years” (Guggenheimer, 154).

Elijah in the Lives of the Prophets

Note a few things regarding the story of Elijah in the Lives of the Prophets 21:1-15:

  • (v. 2) At his birth, Elijah is given by an angel “flames of fire” to eat (cf. Rev 11:5; 2 Kgs 1:10-14).
  • (v. 5) He is said to pray for the drought and for the rain (cf. Jas 5:17-18).
  • (v. 4) Elijah’s prayer for drought and rain are referred to as “signs.”

Below is the Greek text from T. Schermann, Prophetarum vitae fabulosae (Leipzig: Teubner, 1907), 93-94 and the English trans. by D.R.A.Hare, “The Lives of the Prophets” (OTP 2:396-97).

καʹ. Ἠλίας Θεσβίτης ἐκ γῆς Ἀράβων, φυλῆς Ἀαρών, οἰκῶν ἐν Γαλαάδ, ὅτι ἡ Θέσβις δόμα ἦν τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν. Ὅτε εἶχε τεχθῆναι, εἶδε Σοβαχὰ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἄνδρες λευκοφανεῖς αὐτὸν προσηγόρευον, καὶ ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ αὐτὸν ἐσπαργάνουν, καὶ φλόγα πυρὸς ἐδίδουν αὐτῷ φαγεῖν καὶ ἐλθὼν ἀνήγγειλεν ἐν Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ χρησμός· μὴ δειλιάσῃς· ἔσται γὰρ ἡ οἴκησις αὐτοῦ φῶς καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ ἀπόφασις καὶ κρινεῖ τὸν Ἰσραήλ.
(94.) Τὰ δὲ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίησεν, εἰσὶ ταῦτα· ηὔξατο Ἠλίας καὶ οὐκ ἔβρεξεν ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ πάλιν ηὔξατο μετὰ τρία ἔτη καὶ γέγονε πολὺς ὑετός· ἐν Σαρεφθοῖς τῆς Σιδωνίας
ἐποίησε διὰ ῥήματος κυρίου τὴν ὑδρίαν τῆς χήρας μὴ ἐκλεῖψαι καὶ τὴν καψάκην τοῦ ἐλαίου μὴ ἐλαττωθῆναι· τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς ἀποθανόντα ἤγειρεν ὁ θεὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν εὐξαμένου αὐτοῦ. Προβλήματος γενομένου παρ’ αὐτοῦ καὶ τῶν προφητῶν τοῦ Βάαλ, τίς ἂν εἴη ὁ ἀληθινὸς καὶ ὄντως θεός, ᾕρησε γενέσθαι θυσίαν παρά τε αὐτοῦ κἀκείνων καὶ μὴ ὑποθεῖναι πῦρ, ἀλλ’ ἕκαστον εὔξασθαι καὶ τὸν ἐπακούοντα αὐτὸν εἶναι θεόν. Οἱ μὲν οὖν τοῦ Βάαλ ηὔχοντο καὶ κατετέμνοντο ἕως ὥρας ἐνάτης καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτοῖς ἐπήκουεν· ὁ δὲ Ἠλίας καὶ ὕδατος πολλοῦ πληρώσας τὸν τόπον, ἔνθα ἦν ἡ θυσία, ηὔξατο· καὶ εὐθὺς ἐπέπεσε πῦρ καὶ ἀνήλωσε τὴν θυσίαν, καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ ἐξέλειπεν· καὶ πάντες τὸν μὲν θεὸν εὐλόγησαν, τοὺς δὲ τοῦ Βάαλ ἀνεῖλον ὄντας τετρακοσίους πεντήκοντα. Τῷ βασιλεῖ Ὀζίᾳ ἀποστείλαντι μαντεύσασθαι παρὰ εἰδώλων προεφήτευσε θάνατον καὶ ἀπέθανεν.
Δύο πεντηκοντάρχων ἀποσταλέντων ἐπ’ αὐτὸν παρὰ Ὀχοζίου τοῦ βασιλέως Ἰσραὴλ ἐπεκαλέσατο τὸν κύριον καὶ πῦρ ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ κατέβη κἀκείνους ἀνήλωσε τὸ πῦρ ἐκ προστάγματος κυρίου.
Κόρακες ἔφερον αὐτῷ ἄρτους τὸ πρωΐ, δείλης δὲ κρέα· τῇ μηλωτῇ ἐπάταξε τὸν Ἰορδάνην καὶ διῃρέθη καὶ διέβησαν ξηρῷ τῷ ποδὶ, αὐτός τε καὶ Ἐλισαῖος· τὸ τελευταῖον ἀνελήφθη ἅρματι πυρός.
1 Elijah, a Thesbite from the land of the Arabs of Aaron’s tribe, was living in Gilead, for Thesbe was given to the priests. 2 When he was to be born, his father Sobacha saw that men of shining white appearance were greeting him and wrapping him in fire, and they gave him flames of fire to eat. 3 And he went and reported (this) in Jerusalem, and the oracle told him, Do not be afraid, for his dwelling will be light and his word judgment, and he will judge Israel.
4 The signs which he did are these. 5 Elijah prayed, and it did not rain for three years, and after three years he prayed again and abundant rain came. 6 In Zerephath of Sidon through the word of the Lord he made the jar of the widow not to fail and the flask of oil not to diminish. 7 Her son who had died God raised from the dead after (Elijah) prayed. 8 When the question was posed by him and the prophets of Baal concerning who is the true and real God, he proposed that a sacrifice be offered both by him and by them, and that fire not be placed under (it), but that each should pray, and the one answering him would be God. 9 Accordingly, the (prophets) of Baal prayed and cut themselves until the ninth hour, and no one answered them; and Elijah, when he had filled the place where the sacrifice was with much water, also prayed, and immediately fire came down and consumed the sacrifice, and the water was gone. 10 And all blessed God, and killed the four hundred and fifty (prophets) of Baal. 11 When King Ahaziah sent to obtain an oracle from idols, (Elijah) prophesied death, and he died.
12 When two captains of fifty were sent to him from Ahaziah, the king of Israel, he invoked the Lord and fire came down from heaven, and the fire consumed them at the Lord’s command.
13 Ravens brought him bread in the morning and meat in the afternoon. 14 With a sheepskin he struck the Jordan and it was divided, and they crossed over with dry feet, both he and Elisha. 15 Finally he was taken up in a chariot of fire.

Elijah prays for fire according to Josephus…

As Elijah “prays” for drought in James 5:17, so he prays for fire to consume his enemies in Josephus, Ant. 9.2 §23:

And when the captain that was sent found Elijah sitting upon the top of a hill, he commanded him to come down, and to come to the king, for so had he enjoined: but that in case he refused, they would carry him by force. Elijah said to him, “That you may have a trial whether I be a true prophet, I will pray that fire may fall from heaven, and kill both the soldiers and yourself.” So he prayed, and a whirlwind of fire fell [from heaven], and killed the captain, and those who were with him (Whiston’s translation). εὑρὼν δὲ τὸν ᾽Ηλίαν ὁ πεμφθεὶς ταξίαρχος ἐπὶ τῆς κορυφῆς τοῦ ὄρους καθεζόμενον καταβάντα ἥκειν ἐκέλευε πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα κελεύειν γὰρ τοῦτο ἐκεῖνον εἰ δὲ μὴ θελήσειεν ἄκοντα βιάσεσθαι ὁ δὲ εἰπὼν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐπὶ πείρᾳ τοῦ προφήτης ἀληθὴς ὑπάρχειν εὔξεσθαι πῦρ ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ πεσὸν ἀπολέσαι τούς τε στρατιώτας καὶ αὐτὸν εὔχεται καὶ πρηστὴρ κατενεχθεὶς διαφθείρει τόν τε ταξίαρχον καὶ τοὺς σὺν αὐτῷ