The Prophet Elijah
The Iconography
The three pictures at right are typical of Elijah's iconography. All represent him as a bearded old man with a cloak.

In I Kings 18:20-40 Elijah demonstrates the power of God by pouring twelve jars of water over a pyre prepared with a sacrificial victim. He then called on God to set the sodden wood afire. When God did so, the people repented their worship of Baal. This is why in the first picture at right he holds a flaming sword in his right hand.

The miracle happened on Mount Carmel, and because of it a monastery was established there in the 12th century. The monastery eventually developed into the "Carmelite" order with daughter institutions throughout Europe.

The second picture at right represents Elijah's cleaving of the waters of the Jordan by casting his cloak upon it (2 Kings 2:8). In the third, an angel feeds him during his exile in the desert (I Kings 19:5-7). Other works picture the ravens that brought him bread and meat during the great drought (I Kings 17:1-6) or his ascension on a chariot of fire 2 Kings 2:11-14 (example).

Prepared in 2018 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.

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Villanueva, The Prophet Elijah, 1742. (See the description page.)


Fifth-century mosaic in Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome. (See the description page.)


Palma il Giovane, Elijah Fed by an Angel, 1580-81 (See the description page.)

MORE IMAGES

DATES

  • 9th century BC

NAMES

  • In the Vulgate and the Douay-Rheims translation, he is named "Elias."