With the failure of the king to right Israel’s (and the world’s) sin problem, the focus turns to the prophets. The book of Kings contains more references to the prophet or the man of God than any other book of the Bible. Kings emphasizes the sure fulfillment of the prophetic word, and this emphasis should have reminded the people that God would fulfill the covenant curses prophesied by Moses if they continued in their disobedience.
The account of Elijah, the greatest of the prophets during the time of the divided kingdom, echoes in many ways the ministry of Moses. It is possible that attentive Israelites looking for a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:18) thought Elijah was that man.
Just as Yahweh demonstrated through Moses that the gods of Egypt were no gods, through Elijah Yahweh demonstrated Baal was no god. The three year drought challenged the belief that Baal brought fertility to the land, and the miraculous provision of food in Sidon, Jezebel’s homeland, demonstrated that Yahweh could do what Baal was supposed to be able to do. In Baal mythology, during the dry season the god Mot held Baal captive in the world of the dead. Each year Anath rescued Baal and together they would restore fertility to the land. By raising the widow’s son from the dead during the drought, Yahweh demonstrated that even though Baal could not rise from the dead, as it were, Yahweh had power to raise people from the dead.
This contest climaxed on Mount Carmel. Elijah’s prayer was the same as the oft repeated purpose of God in the Exodus (Ex 6:7; 10:1; 16:6, 12; 29:46): “that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back” (1.18:37). The last part of the prayer is a request for the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 30:1-10.
Elijah may have realized the many ways in which his ministry was like Moses’, but after the climatic confrontation on Mount Carmel he saw that Jezebel was going to kill him just as she had killed Yahweh’s other prophets. [It is better to read וַיַּרְא with the KJV rather than repointing to וַיִּרָא. Keil perceptively notes, “For it is obvious that Elijah did not flee from any fear of the vain threat of Jezebel, from the fact that he did not merely withdrawn into the kingdom of Judah, where he would have been safe under Jehoshaphat from all the persecutions of Jezebel, but went to Beersheba, and thence onwards into the desert” C. F. Keil, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, (Reprint, Hendrickson, 1996), 178. Note also Ronald B. Allen, “Elijah, the Broken Prophet,” JETS 22 (Sep. 1979): 198-99.] So despite the fiery response from God and the immediate confession of the people, in the next chapter Elijah is found taking a forty-day journey to Mount Sinai. But Elijah realized that instead of being a prophet like Moses, he was “no better than [his] fathers” (1.19:4). He was not about to let Jezebel kill him, but he would be happy if God would simply take his life (like he did with Moses?). God did not take his life, but, interestingly, before Elijah is taken from earth he crossed the Jordan in a manner reminiscent of Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea.
In some ways Elijah surpassed Moses since, unlike Moses, who died and was buried by the Lord, Elijah was caught up to heaven in a fiery chariot. [Interestingly, it is Moses and Elijah who appear with Christ at the Transfiguration.] Even so, Elijah was not the prophet like Moses. That Prophet was still to come.