Elijah and Elijah: Polemics against Baal

In her outstanding comparison of the canonical Elijah/Elisha texts and the ANE Baal texts, Leah Bronner makes the point that the Elijah/Elisha stories are polemics against Baal and his minions.  Here is a summary in her own words.

“The writer of these episodes about the lives of these prophets wrote them as deliberate polemics against Canaanite mythology, as we can now appreciate by comparing them to Ugaritic literature.  Throughout the narrative polemical parallelism is evident.  The author by telling these tales aimed to make it clear to his contemporaries that everything the pagans might expect from Baal is in reality a gift of the God of Israel.  They are a protest against paganism as represented by the Baal cult.”

In this Brill monograph, Bronner translates and discusses Ugarit Baal literature, and notices how close the language is to some biblical phrases and images.  For example, in these texts, Baal is the one who “gives life,” who “drives out sickness,” who is the “rider of the clouds” and the “prince of life.”  He makes the heavens rain oil so that people know that he exists, that “the Prince of the Lord of the Earth exists.”  To repeat the above, Bronner says the writer of the Elijah/Elisha stories utilizes this same language (and action) to show that Baal is no god at all.  This proves Yahweh is the only true God.

Though this book is very difficult to find (and costly!), it is a valuable assistant for studying/preaching the Elijah/Elisha narratives.

Above quotes taken from Leah Bronner, The Stories of Elijah and Elisha as Polemics Against Baal Worship (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1968).

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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