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Elijah was NOT a Gentile

 Opening comments: Apparently there is suspect by some commentators that Elijah the prophet was a gentile or even a Ishmaelite due to a Hebrew word “Tishbe (1a&1b) which some speculate or suppose means “sojourner or stranger” therefore making Elijah a gentile stranger who was called to rebuke an apostate Israel of the day(2). They further sum up that because he lived in Gilead he therefore must once more be a gentile also (3). Actually as confusing as this sounds nothing could be farther from the truth in my opinion. From the below resources we can soundly conclude that Elijah was NOT a gentile. Regardless of any or all the misinterpretations of the Hebrew or the literal reading, ELIJAH was not a gentile!


Historic origin on the Prophet:

 Eliyahu-ELIJAH (E li' jah) Personal name meaning, “He is my Yah (God).” The prophet from the ninth century B.C. from Tishbe of Gilead in the Northern Kingdom has been called the grandest and the most romantic character that Israel ever produced. See 1 Kings 17:1-2 Kings 2:18.

He was a complex man of the desert who counseled kings. His life is best understood when considered from four historical perspectives which at times are interrelated: his miracles, his struggle against Baalism, his prophetic role, and his eschatological relationship to Messiah.

 Eliyahu-Elijah the Tishbite - The history of this great man is introduced very abruptly; his origin is enveloped in perfect obscurity. He is here said to be a Tishbite. Tishbeh, says Calmet, is a city beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Gad, and in the land of Gilead.

 Comments: Both sources here on Elijah refute gentile origins and point out Hebraic heritage firmly to Elijah being of Hebraic or Israelite stock or roots (a). Next we must ask a series of questions regarding gentile objections to get to the source of Jewish answers.



 A.If Elijah was a gentile as some have supposed, why then does he have a Hebrew name instead of gentile name?

B. If Elijah was a gentile why would he care about the problems of baalisim during his time?

C. Where was Elijah really from that makes him a gentile?

 Answers to questions A,B,C:

 A. The reason Elijah who in the Hebrew is called Eliyahu has a Hebrew name is because he was of Jewish or Israelite heritage. NO gentile as we know in that time owned a Hebrew name. It would make no sense to name a gentile child by a different cultures dialectal name and expect others to know what it meant. Therefore it can be accurate to assume that the Hebrew name origin links that person to some Jewish or Israelite nature of that period.

 B. If Elijah was a gentile as some have supposed there’s absolutely no way that he could have represented or pasted himself off as an Israelite or Hebrew prophet of Israel in G-ds behalf. Israel legally would not have accepted his words or him for that matter (1). Any person who was gentile of that time who wanted to become a part of the Israelite community would have had to undergo mosaic  circumcision to belong to the covenant people ( 2) we read nothing of the sort about Eliyahu (Elijah) doing this nor can it be proved or speculated that he ever did. Therefore the argument for gentile origin is completely improvable. NO gentile ever took on the responsibility or office a prophet to Israel in the entire scriptures. There is not a one because all the prophets were and are Israelite or of Jewish heritage. I challenge anyone to find just one!

 C. The key to Elijahs identity solves the problem of his enthinc background because the scripture relates that Elijah was from Tishbe (1)which was a town within Gil’ad (Gilead). But some evidence found within the apocryphal book of Tobit shares that Elijah was originally from the town of tishbe which was located in upper Gal’liee (Galilee) not Gilead (2). This information makes clear that he (Elijah) later migrated to Gilead from upper Galilee.  Tishbe  has also  been  identified by some with el-Ishtib,  some place 22 miles due south of the Sea of Galilee, among the mountains of Gilead. So as we have it and understand it Elijah was from a town called El-ishtib or Tishbe  in the area of upper Galilee at best. Later we see that he left this area to live within the area of Gilead. From here the scriptures begin to unfold regarding his office and mission.


Footnotes to the article

 Opening Comments

(1a)an inhabitant of Tishbe or Tishbi or Tesheb, site unknown and name uncertain.(Source BDB.)

 (1b) The two words rendered “Tishbite” and “inhabitant” are in the original (setting aside the vowel points) “exactly alike.” The meaning consequently must either be “Elijah the stranger, of the strangers of Gilead,” or (more probably) “Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbi of Gilead.” Of Tishbi in Gilead there is no further trace in Scripture; it is to be distinguished from another Tishbi in Galilee. In forming to ourselves a conception of the great Israelite prophet, we must always bear in mind that the wild and mountainous Gilead, which bordered on Arabia, and was half Arab in customs, was the country wherein he grew up.

NOTE:Just because Elijah lived near the borders of Arabia did not mean that he was of the origins of that region, meaning that he was not born an Ishmaelite or Arab just because of where he may have lived at the time. This is a completely speculative  issue to suggest.

 (2&3) who was of the inhabitants of Gilead — or residents of Gilead, implying that he was not an Israelite, but an Ishmaelite, as Michaelis conjectures, for there were many of that race on the confines of Gilead. The employment of a Gentile as an extraordinary minister might be to rebuke and shame the apostate people of Israel.

NOTE: remember the commentator’s thoughts here are conjectures (a) which mean they are not provable as facts but are more or less just ideas or guesses.

a. Definition of a Conjecture: the formation or expression of an opinion or theory without sufficient evidence for opinion or theory so formed or expressed; guess; speculation.(RH.Websters)


Historic origin on the Prophet/Comments

 (a.) The epithet הַתִּשְׁבִּי is generally derived from a place called Tishbeh, since, according to Tobit 1:2, there existed in Upper Galilee a Θίσβη ἐκ δεξιῶν Κυδίως, “on the right, i.e., to the south of Kydios,” probably Kedesh in the tribe of Naphtali, from which the elder Tobias was carried away captive, although this description of the place is omitted in the Hebrew version of the book of Tobit issued by Fagius and Münster, and in the Vulgate. And to this we must adhere, and as no other Thisbe occurs, must accept this Galilean town as the birthplace of Elijah; in which case the expression “of the settlers of Gilead” indicates that Elijah did not live in his birthplace, but dwelt as a foreigner in Gilead. For תֹּושָׁב in itself by no means denotes a non-Israelite, but, like גֵּד, simply one who lived away from his home and tribe relations in the territory of a different tribe, without having been enrolled as a member of it, as is clearly shown by Lev_25:40, and still more clearly by Jdg_17:7, where a Levite who was born in Bethlehem is described as גָּר in the tribe of Ephraim. (Keil’s Note: The supposition of Seb. Schmidt, with which I formerly agreed, namely, that Elijah was a foreigner, a Gentile by birth, after further examination I can no longer uphold, though not from the à priori objection raised against it by Kurtz (in Herzog's Cycl.), namely, that it would show a complete misapprehension of the significance of Israel in relation to sacred history and the history of the world, and that neither at this nor any other time in the Old Testament history could a prophet for Israel be called from among the Gentiles, - an assertion of which it would be difficult to find any proof. (Source Keil & Delitzsch) 


Answer to questions   a,b,c

B.1)De’vareem-Deut.18:14-15,18-in this passage of Deuteronomy Moses declares to Israel that they shall not confide in gentile nations who followed false so called prophets, charmers, wizards etc. it was for that reason that G-d removed them from his land. In verse 15 he then goes on to state that G-d himself will raise up a prophet from among the Jewish nation. We understand the messianic application here points us to the Messiah being that prophet, but the scripture  also stands as a reference  for all prophets within Israel must come from the Israelite nation (verse 18) not from any other nations because they practiced the foresaid falsehood. Based on this ruling it is quite clear that no gentile dare say he was a prophet sent to Israel. Nor could any gentile make claim of prophet in behalf of the G-d of Israel. If a gentile had taken the office of prophet in Israel he more than likely would have been killed immediately because only Israelites or Hebraic prophets would be raised up not gentiles as the scriptures a firm here.

 B2)Sh’mot-Ex.12:48-49 -explains that any stranger within the land of Israel wishing to share in the mosaic covenant of Israel had to first undergo circumcision. Then and only then could he experience the blessings of that covenant or participate in any of the biblical feast as mentioned here. Nowhere in scripture was it ever written or said that Elijah underwent this, nor does scripture indicate that he was a gentile who did this in order to be G-ds prophet. To imply or to impose that he did this is purely speculative and again improvable with scripture. The fact is that Eliajh was of Hebraic or Israelite origin. he could not have been assigned to the Hebrew nation without being one who belonged. Saying he was not of this hebraic origin is to deny or contradict what scripture says for the bases of a Hebrew prophet to its own nation.

C.1)Tishbe-Elijah the prophet was thus named (1 Kings 17:121:1728, etc.). In 1 Kings 17:1 the word rendered “inhabitants” is in the original the same as that rendered “Tishbite,” hence that verse may be read as in the Septuagint, “Elijah the Tishbite of Tishbi in Gilead.” Some interpret this word as meaning “stranger,” and read the verse, “Elijah the stranger from among the strangers in Gilead.” This designation is probably given to the prophet as denoting that his birthplace was Tishbi, a place in Upper Galilee (mentioned in the apocryphal book of Tobit), from which for some reason he migrated into Gilead. Josephus, the Jewish historian (Ant. 8:13, 2), however, supposes that Tishbi was some place in the land of Gilead. It has been identified by some with el-Ishtib, a some place 22 miles due south of the Sea of Galilee, among the mountains of Gilead.

 (C.2)1Ki 17:1  And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead,.... Which belonged partly to the Reubenites and Gadites, and partly to the half-tribe of Manasseh on the other side Jordan, where this prophet dwelt; but why he is called the Tishbite is not easy to say; what Kimchi observes seems right, that he was at first of a city called Toshab, and afterward's dwelt at Gilead; which city perhaps is the same with Thisbe, in the tribe of Naphtali, the native place of Tobit,

 "Who in the time of Enemessar king of the Assyrians was led captive out of Thisbe, which is at the right hand of that city, which is called properly Nephthali in Galilee above Aser.'' (Source Tobit 1:2)