Elijah’s Little-Known Letter in 2 Chronicles 21:12–15 -- By: Roy E. Knuteson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 162:645 (Jan 2005)
Article: Elijah’s Little-Known Letter in 2 Chronicles 21:12–15
Author: Roy E. Knuteson


Elijah’s Little-Known Letter in 2 Chronicles 21:12–15

Roy E. Knuteson

Roy E. Knuteson, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, pastored for forty-five years and is now engaged in a Bible-teaching and writing ministry.

Tucked away in the seldom-read book of 2 Chronicles is a message from the prophet Elijah, in the form of a letter to Jehoram, king of Judah (2 Chron. 21:12–15). The timing of this rather mysterious letter is an interpretive problem that some commentators either ignore or simply acknowledge with little in-depth analysis. However, a careful consideration of the timing and the contents of this letter significantly changes the common understanding of the ministry and the so-called “translation” of the great prophet. It is necessary first to establish an acceptable and accurate chronology of the life and times of Elijah in order to date this unexpected letter.

Elijah’s Ministry

Elijah is introduced in 1 Kings 17:1 as a “Tishbite,” meaning that he was a native or a “settler” in Gilead east of the Jordan River. Elijah was a distinctively dressed individual (2 Kings 1:7–8), whose relatively short ministry of twenty years or less was characterized by intermittent warnings and prophecies and periods of obscurity. From his point of origin in Gilead, Elijah walked about thirty miles to Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, to confront King Ahab with an announcement of national judgment in the form of an extended drought. Thiele suggests that this first encounter with Ahab occurred in 870 b.c., but Merrill gives the date of 860 b.c.1

(Conservative scholars generally agree that Ahab reigned from 874 to 853.2 ) During the three and one-half year drought (James 5:17) Elijah was supernaturally sustained outside of Ahab’s jurisdiction at the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan, and in the home of a widow in Zarephath in Phoenicia (1 Kings 17:7–16).

In 867 b.c.3 (or 857)4 Elijah appeared again in Ahab’s court and proposed a test to determine whether the true God is Ahab’s god Baal or the Israelites’ God Yahweh. The well-known contest at Carmel concluded with an anno...

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