Ahab & Obadiah - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is a mirror-reading of the The Ahab & Obadiah Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The Ahab & Obadiah Narrative is primarily concerned with Elijah’s reputation in regards to his relationship with Ahab, what happened at Mt. Carmel and who was Elijah’s Elohim.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.

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Commentary

Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Was Elijah A Fugitive?

The opposing narrative claims that Elijah was a fugitive, and this cycle deals primarily with Ahab’s pursuit of Elijah. The opposing narrative claimed that Ahab searched all of the nations and kingdom’s for Elijah. M will admit this, but his account takes a different light since the reason for Ahab’s search is Elijah’s pronouncement of a famine (See The Brook Cherith). Ahab wants to find Elijah so that it will rain again. M counters the idea of Elijah as a fugitive by presenting him as unafraid of Ahab. It was Elijah’s initiative to go see Ahab, and he declares to Obadiah, “I will surely shew myself unto him to day”.

Why Did Obadiah Tell Ahab About Elijah?

The opposing narrative has Obadiah selling out Elijah to Ahab. M counters this by telling how much respect Obadiah had for Elijah. Obadiah calls him “lord” and refers to himself as Elijah’s servant. When he meets him, he falls on his face in submission.

Both M and the opposing narrative agree that Obadiah told Ahab that Elijah was in Obadiah’s territory. However, M makes this Elijah’s initiative by having him tell Obadiah to go tell Ahab that he is there.

Why Did Obadiah Tell Ahab About Elijah?

M and the opposing narrative have different views on the type of relationship between Obadiah and Ahab. The opposing narrative asserts that Obadiah was the governor of an adjacent territory. The word “governor” here could refer to being “over” something, whether a city or a house. M spins it to the latter and puts Obadiah under the authority of Ahab. The division of territory between them is explained by having them split up in their search for water during the famine.

At first glance, the opposing narrative would seem to indicate that Obadiah was a governor over a city or territory within Israel since the location in question appears to be within Israel. However, M emphasizes Ahab’s authority over Obadiah thereby indicating that the opposing narrative said that Ahab did not have authority over Obadiah, suggesting that Obadiah was ruler over a city or territory that was not part of Israel, but within what was later to be Israel’s territory. This may indicate that the opposing narrative was composed early, in a time before the Israelites came to dominate that part of the land.

Did Ahab Kill Obadiah?

Both narratives agree that Ahab went to meet Elijah, but they differ on whether Ahab was able to find him. The opposing narrative says that Ahab could not find Elijah and then killed Obadiah in response. M will counter this by wrapping those aspects in the concerns of Obadiah. He says, “And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me:” and “What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?” Elijah responds by assuring him that he will be there to meet Ahab.

The opposing narrative has Ahab celebrate his victory over Obadiah by eating and drinking. M will make the eating and drinking part of Elijah’s command to Ahab.

What Happened At Mt. Carmel?

In the opposing narrative, Elijah escapes before Ahab finds him in Obadiah’s territory. He makes his way to Mt. Carmel, which is on the border of Israel and Phoenicia. This would makes sense in the opposing narrative, since Elijah is a fugitive, and Mt. Carmel was a place of refuge:

“...although the description in the Book of Amos, of the location being a refuge, is dated by textual scholars to be earlier than the accounts of Elisha in the Book of Kings, and according to Strabo it had continued to be a place of refuge until at least the first century.”

Wikipedia

M has Elijah go to the top of Mt. Carmel, which makes for an awkward command when Elijah tells his servant to “go up” when they are already at the top. In the opposing narrative, the servant may not have been Elijah’s and returns after seeing no rain. This marks a failed prophecy for Elijah and M inserts the 7 times so that he can make it a successful prophecy.

The Storm & The Sea

This section may not have been part of the Elijah opposing narrative, but regardless, I propose that it is dealing with a storm god and a sea god. Not only does it involve a storm and a sea in the narrative but also a mountain. A mountain and a sea was a location for a storm god and sea god to battle:

Marduk covered this sea with land until it became a mountain

Despite his association with the storm, Ninurta’s enemy was not the sea but the mountain.

Sarlo, Daniel. The Storm God Versus The Sea (p. 11)

In the opposing narrative, there is a hand arising out of the sea. M will associate the hand to be “like” a man’s hand in describing the storm cloud. M here is trying to shift the cause of the storm away from the pagan gods in the opposing narrative and give credit to Yahweh and his prophet Elijah. The text doesn’t seem to indicate which storm god was in the opposing narrative, but given the geographical location, it was likely Baal. Interestingly enough, a later addition to this part of the Biblical narrative will describe a “battle” between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

Furthermore, a chariot is associated with storm gods. Storm god features such as this will later become associated with Yahweh:

Like Baal, Yahweh is a warrior who descends from his mountain-home riding a chariot of clouds. His voice is thunder and his weapon is lightning; the earth quakes and the skies release rain at his command. In primeval times he asserted his authority by defeating the sea, becoming the ruler of the skies.

Sarlo, Daniel. The Storm God Versus The Sea (p. 1)

M moves the connection away from the chariot of the storm god and over to the chariot of Ahab, but instead of bring the storm to Jezreel, Ahab outruns it.

Elijah’s Elohim

Once again, M emphasizes that Yahweh was the Elohim of Elijah. Obadiah refers to Yahweh as Elijah’s Elohim and was concerned that the Spirit of Yahweh would carry him away. Additionally, Elijah himself says that he “stands before” Yahweh.

לפני “before” is a characteristic phrase in these stories. In conjunction with the verb עמד “stand” it is a sign of reverence, even worship. It forms part of an oath (5:16) and designates an attitude of respect (4:12, 15).

Hobbs, T. R. (1998). 2 Kings (Vol. 13, p. 63). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

The opposing narrative said that Yahweh was not the Elohim of Elijah, and one reason was because He was not alive. See comments regarding this in The Brook Cherith. M responds by stating twice that Yahweh “liveth”.