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Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Prophet Elijah, Israel's Most Famous Settler

While most people are familiar with the Prophet Elijah, or Eliyahu HaNavi, one of the more famous biblical personalities, the common designation for his name remains a puzzle.

He is called Eliyahu HaTishbi or Elijah the Tishbite, and Tishbi's meaning remains a matter of controversy. Some insist that it refers to a place name, though no clear location has been agreed on. Others offer various other explanations, without any definitive answer.

However reading the original Hebrew given presents its own explanation. "And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead " וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלִיָּהוּ הַתִּשְׁבִּי מִתֹּשָׁבֵי גִלְעָד

Tishbi is paired with Toshavei or Settlers. Eliyahu is described as one of the settlers of Gilead. Gilead at the time was disputed with the Kingdom of Aram, which attempted to conquer it. As such the residents of Gilead at the time held a parallel function to "settlements" today, staking a Jewish claim on the land.

Tishbi has always been given at its most literal, as settler. Within that context Eliyahu HaTishbi might well mean Eliyahu the Settler. Which would make the Prophet Elijah, Israel's most famous settler.

As Gilead was the subject of a series of wars between Aram and the Kingdom of Israel, settlement there would have been perilous. Particularly since Ben Haddad, King of Aram at that time was stronger than the Kingdom of Israel. Ahab, the corrupt King of Israel, persecuted his own people but bowed before Ben Haddad. It was a Prophet who urged him to stand and fight, which resulted in the defeat of Aram.

In the present day Gilead, being on the other side of the Jordan, is part of the Kingdom of Jordan. A Saudi kingdom set up by the British using the exiled Hashemite monarchy, ruling over a largely Palestinian Arab population (making a farce of the constant demands for a Palestinian state).

Ben Haddad however intended to seize not merely Gilead, but Samaria (the Shomron) as well, which was at the heart of the Kingdom of Israel. Ahab's cowardice was so great that he agreed to Ben Haddad's demands in the following exchange.

Thus saith Ben-hadad: Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine.'

And the king of Israel answered and said: 'It is according to thy saying, my lord, O king: I am thine, and all that I have.'

As a line of increasingly corrupt kings persecuted their own people, while behaving with cowardice toward enemy kings who insisted on raiding and claiming parts of Israel. It was thus then as it is now, the courage came from the settlers and the prophets who remained in dangerous areas and urged those in power to have faith and resolve. Eliyahu was not only Israel's most famous prophet, he was also its most famous settler.

In Israeli history, the kings and prime ministers, and the insular elites located in the capitals, have often been willing to make compromises and concessions to the enemy... while it has been those living on the edge of war zones, in the lands that were threatened by the sword, such as Elijah the Settler, who served as the resistance and provided the courage and morale that the nation badly needed. 


  1. Me too. It's a terrific post!

    Maybe Moshiach really will also come from one of the settlements.

    (btw, I am posting again after a hiatus. I little rusty but back).

  2. It always sends chills down my spine to see how everything that was told in the Torah repeats itself in modern age.



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