Elijah essay - Collin Thaw Biblical Protagonists Through An...

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Collin Thaw Biblical Protagonists Through An Ancient Lens Professor Garroway 04/29/11 Elijah: The Search for One’s Self Elijah is a prophet who serves the Lord unquestionably and puts the fear of God into those that worship other idols. The way Elijah follows and obeys God’s word though, can be interpreted in different ways. The Bible portrays Elijah as someone who lives to serve God. The modern interpretation, demonstrated in Mendelssohn’s Elijah , reveals a character that is more authoritative in terms of his independence from God. While it is true Elijah still serves God unfailingly, God is used more as an indirect character than he is in the Bible. In the Bible, Elijah is portrayed as a man of God in that he physically communicates with God. In the Oratorio, Elijah is a man of God in that he has extreme faith in God and this faith is rewarded. As a way to make Elijah seem more human, God is never directly spoken to or heard from in the contemporary interpretation. Mendelssohn conveys his concept through Elijah’s interactions with the people of Israel, Elijah’s communication with the angels, emphasis on certain phrases, and careful omission of stories. Elijah becomes more independent of God not because he starts to question God’s actions, but because Elijah gains more control of the situations with which he is faced. More so than in the Bible, in Mendelssohn’s Elijah , the prophet is more concerned with the condition of the people of Israel. Elijah is more independent of God in that he is protecting people that have proven to be unfaithful to God. First Kings 17 begins with Elijah telling King Ahab that there will be a drought in the land of Israel.
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Without any commentary on the drought, the word of God comes to Elijah and tells Elijah where he will venture next. The Oratorio, however, is much different as the voice of the people of Israel is heard. The people cry out, “Help, Lord! Wilt Thou quite destroy us?” Mendelssohn wants the listener to feel some compassion towards the people of Israel, so when Elijah convinces God to end the drought Elijah will appear more heroic. The insertion of the voice of the people of Israel shows the importance the people carry to the contemporary Elijah story as compared to the biblical version. Furthermore, Obadiah answers the people’s plea and clearly details their transgressions, illustrating that these “men of God” want to help the people before God’s wrath becomes too much for Elijah to overcome. Later, Elijah makes a mockery of the God of Baal and proves that the God of Israel is truly the most powerful God. After this event in the bible, “Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look toward the sea’.” This is everything that Elijah does to end the drought. In the Oratorio, there are first two stern warnings given to people who forsake the Lord. These serve to further empower Elijah when he pleads to God on behalf of the people who transgressed in the sight of the Lord.
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