Bread. Bread for the journey, bread to keep you going in the desert when you are done with doing…
We join Elijah in mid story, sulking under a tree. ‘I’ve had enough. I want to die.’ But in truth he’s been eating the bread of death for a long time. He’s been fighting a guerrilla war for the honour of his God, culminating in a showdown with the massed priests of Ba’al. How do you prove your God is better than theirs? You turn to the tools of death. You settle the score with sacrifice, with a wager. 450 priests chanting and praying and gashing themselves for fire to descend and burn up their offering of a bull. Elijah taunting all the time… Nothing! Then our hero, building his altar, butchering his bull, getting his enemies to douse the lot with water, and then again, and once again, building it all up to a showman’s climax of fire licking from the sky consuming all before it. And the people loving it, leaping up with one voice: ‘Yeah! Yahweh for us!’
But the sacrifice doesn’t satisfy Elijah. Not enough. … It has only fed the fires that are burning him up. He seizes on the blood lust of the people and butchers all the priests of Ba’al.
Which sends him on the run… We catch him in the desert, under a thorn tree, his elation drained away, wanting to die. ‘Enough’, he says, though he is famished and still hungry for death. The bread of death hasn’t satisfied him.
Add comment August 13th, 2006