厄里亞先知 李子忠

厄里亞先知雖沒有留下任何著作,但在舊約傳統中卻是一眾先知的典型代表,他不僅是天主的代言人(pro-phetes),而且具有顯赫大能,呼風喚雨,起死回生。最特別的是他乃北國以色列為數不多的先知之一,但其影響力卻遍及南北國,以至國外,而他的故鄉是約但河東基肋阿得的提市貝(Tishbi)。厄里亞的像雙目炯炯有神,一幅嚴肅的面孔,右手舉起一把火劍,他的口號就是「我為上主萬軍的天主憂心如焚」(zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum-聖衣會座右銘)。德訓篇論到他說:「當時,又興起了一位激烈如火的先知厄里亞,他的言辭熾熱如火炬。他使人民遭遇饑荒,因他嫉惡如仇,使人民的數目大減;他因上主的一句話,關閉了蒼天;同樣,他三次使火下降(列上18:38; 列下1:10-12)。啊,厄里亞!因你的奇蹟,你是多麼榮耀…。」(德48:1-4)

厄里亞就是這樣的一個人物,他的故事和傳說令人津津樂道。但這樣顯赫的一位先知也曾嘗過深刻的逾越經驗(列上18-19)。在這故事中,厄里亞在加爾默耳山上得勝了巴耳邪神的先知,打了一場光輝燦爛的勝仗。厄里亞祈求天主說:「求你今天使人知道:你是以色列的天主,我是你的僕人,是奉你的命作這一切事。上主,求你應允我,應允我!使這人民知道你上主,是真天主,是你叫他們心回意轉。」於是上主的火降下,焚盡了全燔祭、柴木、石頭和塵土,也燒乾了溝中的水。全體人民見了,都俯伏在地說:「雅威是天主,雅威是天主!」(18:36-39)。好一幕凱旋的景象,民眾的歡呼聲就仿如對厄里亞的喝采,「雅威是天主」正好是厄里亞的名字(Eli-Yahu = 雅威是我的天主),這情況實易令人沾沾自喜。但這一幕「顯聖」,卻不如後來的「天主顯現」,更能改變厄里亞。

厄里亞獲得的勝利,未能使所有人回歸上主,尤其是執政者更要追殺他,使他被迫跑到曠野,甚至到了曷勒布山(即西乃山)。他的逾越經驗包括:死亡、孤獨、隱藏的天主、煥然一新。

天主要藉接著發生的事告訴厄里亞,剛才在加爾默耳山上的勝利,僅是曇花一現,能讓人一時振奮,吸口新鮮空氣。但這種壓倒性的勝利,未必能說服人心,「叫他們回心轉意」。事實證明,阿哈布王不但沒有從此改過自身,反而「將厄里亞所作的一切,以及他如何刀斬(巴耳邪神的)眾先知的事,全告訴了依則貝耳。」(19:1)這位來自腓尼基漆東(西頓)和崇拜巴耳的以色列王后,早已令以色列王阿哈布為巴耳興建廟宇,親自去服事敬拜巴耳,激怒了上主(16:31-33)。如今她又要和天主的先知作對,要派人追殺他。依則貝耳遂成了與天主的人作對的典型代表,以致默示錄把她視為邪惡的化身(默2:20)。

1)死亡
厄里亞的刀在加爾默耳山下的克雄河畔,殺死了450位巴耳的先知,如今他要親嘗死亡的威脅。依則貝耳派了一位使者去給厄里亞宣佈追殺令:「明天這個時候,如果我不使你的性命如同那些先知一樣,願眾神明嚴厲,且加倍嚴厲地懲罰我!」(19:2)厄里亞一聽到了,便立即起身逃亡以保命。他向南國走去,不敢停留,到了南國最後一個城市貝爾舍巴,隻身走入乃革布曠野逃難,但間接就是闖進死亡的大門。走了一天的路程,缺糧缺水,癥狀即現:厄里亞開始喪失求生的動力,竟然躺下來求死:「上主啊!現在已經夠了!收去我的性命吧因為我並不如我的祖先好。」(19:4)方才逃生,現竟求死!

慶幸他兩次得到天使弄給他吃的食糧,有了力量和勇氣,一下子走了四十天四十夜的路,到了天主的山曷勒布(西乃)。似乎一切危機已成過去,可是一個更大的死亡威脅又跟著出現-天主的顯現!血肉之人不能看見天主,否則他必死無疑。厄里亞遂用外衣蒙住臉,由曷勒布山上的洞穴走出來見天主,怕得要死。之前被人追殺時的怕情,再油然而生:「他們刀斬了你的先知,只剩下我一個,他們還要奪取我的性命!」(19:14)

死亡的經驗,或更好說是瀕死的經驗,往往使先知突然醒覺,認真面對自己的存在,認真面對天主。死亡是逾越的最重要因素,沒有了它,便不能有徹底的改變。只有善備死亡的人,才知如何善生。

2)孤獨
厄里亞是個獨行俠,時常感到自己是孤軍作戰。「上主的先知只剩下我一個人了,巴耳的先知卻有四百五十人…」(18:22)厄里亞本來有一個僕人,他曾七次走上加爾默耳山上觀察風雨的來臨。我們不知這位僕人叫什麼名字,但他對主人不離不棄,陪伴他過逃亡的生活。倒頭來,還是厄里亞自己叫僕人不要隨他到曠野逃難,到了猶大境內的貝爾舍巴,他叫僕人留在那裡,自己一個人走入曠野(19:3-4)。曠野生活是一種很積極的孤獨經驗,不論梅瑟或耶穌也曾嘗試過。孤獨使先知無法再逃避面對天主,面對自己。

在曷勒布山上的孤獨和寂靜中,天主兩次問先知說:「厄里亞,你在這裡做什麼?」(19:9, 13)只有在孤獨和寂靜中,人才能真正問自己:「我在這裡做什麼?」可是我們現代人,就是這麼怕孤獨和靜默,回到家中必定要扭開電視或收音機,怕的是一靜下來,就要面對自己一直逃避的人生問題:「我在這裡做什麼?」厄里亞感到維護真主唯一,是吃力不討好的事,往往要孤軍作戰:「只剩下了我一個!」(19:10,14)-「我的天主,我的天主,你為什麼拾棄了我?」(詠22:2; 瑪27:46)只有透過孤獨,人才學會與主契合;只有識得獨處的人,才能真正愛近人。

3)隱藏的天主(Deus absconditus)
在加爾默耳山上,天主以顯赫的方式,令巴耳和他的先知大敗,使人民齊聲承認:「雅威是天主,雅威是天主(Yahweh hu ha-Elohim)。」(18:39)不久,在下一章裡,我們竟唸到依則貝耳的恫嚇竟令厄里亞要逃命,難道天主的威能突然消失了?難道雅威不是「以色列的天主」,而厄里亞不是「你的僕人」(18:37)嗎?

厄里亞挨不住曠野的燥熱和飢渴,坐下求死。天主沒有直接答覆他,只是派天使兩次拍醒他,給他食物,令他恢復力量。但為聽到天主的話,他還要走四十天四十夜,直到曷勒布山。天主一直隱藏著,但他的手不斷工作,透過依則貝耳的使者和天使指示厄里亞要走的路。

到了曷勒布山,亦即西乃山(出19:11,18; 申33:2/出33:6; 申1:2; 4:15),天主曾顯現的地方,我們找不到昔日天主顯現的景象:「此時西乃山冒煙,因為上主在火中降到山上;冒出的煙像火窯的煙,全山猛烈震動。角聲越響越高;梅瑟遂開始說話,天主藉雷霆答覆他。」(出19:18-19)《希伯來書》也以這方式向信友描寫舊約子民在西乃山下的遭遇:「你們原來並不是走近了那可觸摸的山,那裡有烈火、濃雲、黑暗、暴風、號筒的響聲…」(希12:18-19)這典型的天主顯現境況雖然也在厄里亞前出現:「暴風大作,裂山碎石,但是,上主卻不在風暴中;風以後有地震,但是上主亦不在地震中;地震以後有烈火,但上主仍不在火中…」(19:11-12)三次典型的天主顯聖中,上主都不在!這是天主隱藏的至高境界!

天主一反常態,不出現在這些轟轟烈烈的情景下。天主接二連三地隱藏自己,正是為預備厄里亞的心靈,令他完全空虛,好能真正充滿天主!就在這情況下,「有輕微細弱的風聲。厄里亞一聽見這聲音,即用外衣蒙住臉出來,站在洞口。遂有聲音對他說:厄里亞,你在這堸竣偵礡H…」(19:12-13)。這是一次不尋常的天主顯現,為的是叫先知不要被先前的勝利沖昏頭腦…這是個在寧靜中才顯現的天主,一切煩囂、傲氣、掛慮、沮喪、自滿等都先要清除。先知必須先積極地進入孤獨的境界(19:3,4,10),經歷生死(19:2,3,4,10),心平氣和(19:12),才可以真正的體驗天主。

4)煥然一新
天主的顯現除了啟示祂是平安的天主外,也向先知啟示「人自己」,叫他明白自己生命的意義:「厄里亞,你在這堸竣偵礡H」(19:9,13)天主顯現的前後,厄里亞都念念有詞的說:「我為上主萬軍的天主憂心如焚…」(19:10,14),但這顯然是兩個不同的回應。前者是剛從凱旋的台階跑下來,屈屈不得志的先知所說的話。後者卻是被天主顯現所拯救和轉化,切願為上主犧牲,滿懷希望和依恃,負起新任務的先知所說的話。

但天主的顯現並非叫先知沉迷留戀(參看路9:33「我們在這裡真好!讓我們搭三個帳棚…」),為此天主對他說:「你回去,仍取道曠野…」(19:15)。這個救恩是要與人分享的,厄里亞必須重回舊日的崗位,發揮救己救人的作用。這是厄里亞先知自己所經歷的逾越,是他個人的「出谷」(exodos)。當耶穌在大博爾山上顯容的時候,他曾與梅瑟一同出現,路加告訴我們,他們二人「同耶穌談話…談論耶穌的去世(exodos)」(路9:30-31)厄里亞談的很可能就是自己的這一次出谷經驗!

「你乘著火馬車,被火旋風捲去;你受命隨時備妥,為上主發怒以前,平息上主的義怒,為使父親的心轉向兒子,為使雅各伯的各支派恢復舊觀。看見你的人,和安眠於愛的人,是有福的!因為我們也要生活!」(德48:9-12)「看,在上主偉大及可怕的日子來臨以前,我必派遣先知厄里亞到你們這裡來;他將使父親的心轉向兒子,使兒子的心轉向父親,免得我來臨時,以毀滅律打擊這地。」(拉3:23-24)

一首猶太人的歌謠(Eliyahu ha-navi)這樣說:

厄里亞先知 Eliyahu ha-navi
提市貝人厄里亞 Eliyahu ha-tishbi
厄里亞,厄里亞 Eliyahu, Eliyahu
基肋阿得的厄里亞 Eliyahu ha-giladi

請在我們有生之年 bimheira v’yameinu
速臨我們中間 yavo aleinu
帶來達味之子默西亞 im mashiach ben David
帶來達味之子默西亞 im mashiach ben David


Elijah the Prophet Stanislaus Lee

Elijah is the prophet par excellence in the OT prophetic tradition, though we have got no homonymous book in the Bible. He is not merely a spokesman of God (prophetes), but one who is mighty in power, capable of summoning wind and rain, raising people from the dead. A Tishbite from Gilead on the east bank of the Jordan, Elijah stands out among the handful of prophets in the northern kingdom of Israel, revered either by the southern kingdom of Judah, influential both home and abroad. Elijah’s statue always has a pair of bright piercing eyes, a stern look, a raised arm with a fiery sword, bearing the motto “zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum” (from the Carmelites, cf 1 K 19:10,14). The Book of Ben Sirach extols him saying, “Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, his word flaring like a torch. It was he who brought famine on them, and who decimated them in his zeal. By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens, he also, three times, brought down fire (cf 1 K 18:38; 2 K 1:10-12). How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!...”(Si 48:1-4)

Being such a an important biblical figure, Elijah’s story and legend are retold time and again with enthusiasm. Yet, even for such a prominent prophet, a taste of paschal experience is necessary (1 K 18-19). This is a story of Elijah, who has won a great battle against Baal and his prophets on Mt. Carmel. “Elijah prays to God, ‘Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Yahweh, answer me, so that this people may know that you, Yahweh, are God and are winning back their hearts.’ Then the fire of Yahweh fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘Yahweh is God,’ they cried ‘Yahweh is God.’”(18:36-39) It is indeed a great triumph, the people are exclaiming hysterically, “Yahweh is God” which is exactly what Elijah’s very name means: Eli-Yahu = My God is Yahweh! — a scene which can easily arouse complacency in the prophet. Yet such theophany changes little in the prophet himself who will experience a more profound change of heart and mind in the following theophany in Mt. Horeb.

The victory he wins could not bring the people back to the right faith in Yahweh, the God of Israel, especially the royal family, who even attempts to seek the prophet’s life and forces him to flee for his life to the southern wilderness till Mt. Horeb, which is Sinai. Thus begins his experience of an Exodus in reverse (from the promised land back to Sinai): death, loneliness, a hidden God, a radical transformation.

God is telling Elijah with the following events that the victory won on Mt Carmel is only an elusive one, scarcely enough for him to take a deep breath of fresh air and to brace up. An overwhelming victory is not always persuasive enough to win back of the hearts of the people. As a matter of fact, King Ahab has not changed his mind, on the contrary, he “told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had put all the prophets (of Baal) to the sword.”(19:1) This Jezebel, the king’s daughter of Sidon in Phoenicia, married to Ahab the king of Israel, is a worshipper of Baal, who has earlier caused Ahab to build temple to Baal and seduced him to take part in the pagan cult, thus provoked the anger of Yahweh (16:31-33). Now she is opposing the prophet and is sending someone to kill him. In doing so, Jezebel becomes a prototype of those who oppose the men of God throughout history so that the Book of Revelation sees her as an incarnation of evil (Rv 2:20).

1) Death
The sword wielded by Elijah has brought to death the 450 prophets of Baal by the Kishon river at the foot of Mt. Carmel. Now he himself is to have a taste of death. Jezebel sends a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods do this to me and more, if by this time tomorrow I have not made your life like the life of one of them!” (19:2) As he hears this, he is afraid and flees for his own life. He goes directly to the southern kindom of Judah, but as he realises his safety is neither assured there, he goes so far as the southern most city of Judah, namely Beersheba, and continues on till the wilderness of Negev. Inadvertently, he is entering the gate of Hades. After a day’s wandering in the wilderness, he is hungry and seriously dehydrated under the scorching heat of the sun and gives up struggling for survival altogether. He lies down — a first step towards death, and prays to end his own life, saying, “Yahweh, I have had enough. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (19:4) Elijah, who flees for his life, ends up with the wish for death!

Fortunately, he is twice woken up by an angel(=messenger) who prepares food for him and bids him to walk with the strength drawn from this food for 40 days and 40 nights until Mt. Horeb, which is Sinai. Once there on Mt Horeb, the crisis is not over, here comes an even greater threat of death — the theophany. No flesh can see God and remains alive. When God summons him, Elijah covers his face with his cloak, scared to death. The fear of being caught and killed by Jezebel’s men returns to his memory beyond his control. He says, “They have put your prophets to the sword (NB: he has done likewise to the prophets of Baal). I am the only one left and they want to kill me.” (19:14)

The experience of death, or better still, the experience of the closeness of death, has opened the eyes of the prophet to face his own existence and to face God. Death is a constitutive element in the paschal experience, without which no radical change can be achieved. Only those who are preapred for death can live life well to its fullness.

2) Loneliness
Elijah is a lone wolf, an isolated force against God’s adversaries. “I, I alone, am left as a prophet of Yahweh, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty.” (18:22) Elijah has a servant who climbs 7 times up Mt carmel at his command to observe the imminent coming of a rainstorm. The servant, whose name is nowhere recorded, follows him faithfully even during his fugitive life. It is he who orders this servant to remain in Beersheba in the territory of Judah and goes on into the wilderness alone (19:3-4). The lonesome life in the wilderness can become a very positive experience which Moses and Jesus have proved to be. Loneliness gives no more excuse for Elijah to evade a direct personal encounter with God and with himself.

In the loneliness and silence on Mt. Horeb, God asks Elijah twice, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:9,13) Only in loneliness and silence can we ask ourselves the question, “What am I doing here?” Modern man often becomes nervous and anxious in front of loneliness and silence and tries to exorcise them by turning on the TV or radio. For he/she knows once he/she is lonely and silent it is difficult to evade the self-question of “What am I doing here?” Elijah, in his struggle to safeguard Yahweh’s primacy and oneness, feels being left alone, “I, I alone, am left!” (19:10,14) The same experience befalls the Psalmist, and later, Jesus on the cross as well, “Eli, Eli, Lama sabachthani – My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” (Ps 22; Mt 27:46. NB: Someone hears this and says, “The man is calling on Elijah!”) Only through loneliness one learns to be in union with God; only those who know how to live their loneliness can truly love their neighbours.

3) A hidden God (Deus absconditus)
God reveals himself in a notable and glorious way on Mt. Carmel, striking down Baal and its prophets and causes the people to admit him, “Yahweh is God, Yahweh is God (Yahweh hu ha-Elohim)!” (18:39) Shortly afterwards, we read in chapter 19 that Elijah flees for his life at the intimidating message of Jezebel. Where has the glorious might of Yahweh gone? Is he not the ‘God of Israel’ and Elijah ‘his servant’? (18:37)

Elijah wishes for death under the torture of the heat and hunger and thirst. God does not answer him directly but through an angel (=messenger), who wakes him up twice to provide him with food and drink so that he regains his strength. But in order to see God he has to make a journey of 40 days and 40 nights till Mt Horeb. Yahweh has been “a hidden God”, a so-called Deus absconditus, while his hand never ceases to work through his messenger the angel, as well as the messenger of Jezebel.

His evasiveness is further intensified in Mt Horeb (Ex 19:11,18; Dt 33:2), which is Sinai (Ex 33:6; Dt 1:2; 4:15), the place where he once reveals himself amidst stereotyped theophanic scenes: “The mountain of Sinai was entirely wrapped in smoke, because Yahweh had descended on it in the form of fire. Like smoke from a furnace the smoke went up, and the whole mountain shook violently. Louder and louder grew the sound of the trumpet. Moses spoke, and God answered him with peals of thunder.” (Ex 19:18-19) The scene is also described in the Letter to the Hebrews, “What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire or a gloom turning to total darkness, or a storm; or trumpeting thunder...” (Hb 12:18-19) Although these scenes do appear on Horeb with Elijah, yet we read, “There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before Yahweh. But Yahweh was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But Yahweh was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But Yahweh was not in the fire.” (19:11-12) Three times occur the scenes typical of a theophany, yet Yahweh is not present in them. This is a Deus absconditus in his zenith.

Contrary to the usual behaviour, Yahweh does not appear in these spectacular scenes. He hides himself continuously in order to prepare Elijah’s soul until it is utterly devoid of anything, so that Elijah may be filled with God alone to the full. When this is done, “there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then a voice came to him, which said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (19:12-13) This a totally different type of theophany, lest Elijah becomes dizzy with victory and success. This is a God who reveals himself only in the peace of mind, and all haughtiness, pride, worries, dejection, complacency must be cleared off to make room for God. The prophet must first enter his loneliness (19:3,4,10), go through life and death (19:2,3,4,10), and regain his peace of mind (19:12) before he could truly encounter God.

4) Radical Transformation
Besides revealing himself as a God of peace, Yahweh also reveals man to himself, makes man understand the meaning of his own existence. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:9,13) God asks this question twice, before and after his theophany, to which Elijah gives twice the same answer, “I am filled with the jealous zeal for Yahweh Sabaoth...” (19:10,14) Nevertheless, the two answers have a different milieu and nuance. The first is uttered by a downcast prophet who has just stepped down from the victorious scene in Carmel. On the other hand, the second answer is given by him who has been radically transformed by the theophany, ready to sacrifice his own life for Yahweh, filled with hope and trust, and charged with new prophetic missions.

The theophany is not there for the prophet to be lulled into complacency. (NB: “It is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents...” [Lk 9:33]) Therefore God says, “Go, go back by the same way...” (19:15) This is a salvation that is to be shared among others. Elijah must return to his post of old to become a sign of salvation for himself and for the people. This is Elijah’s own paschal experience, his own “Exodos”. It is very likely that when he appears with Moses on Mount Tabor, they are, as Luke tells us, “talking to Jesus...speaking of his passing (Exodos) which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” (Lk 9:30-31) Elijah might have talked about his very own Exodos with Jesus at that moment.

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How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!
Has anyone reason to boast as you have? —
taken up in the whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses;
designated in the prophecies of doom
to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks,
to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children,
and to restore the tribes of Jacob,
Happy shall they who see you,
and those who have fallen asleep in love;
for we too will have life. (Si 48:4,9-12)

Know that I am going to send you Elijah the prophet
before my day comes, that great and terrible day.
He shall turn the hearts of fathers towards their children
and the hearts of children towards their fathers,
lest I come and strike the land with a curse. (Ml 3:23-24)

A Jewish song Eliyahu ha-navi runs like this:

Elijah the prophet Eliyahu ha-navi
Elijah the Tishbite Eliyahu ha-tishbi
Elijah, Elijah Eliyahu, Eliyahu
Elijah the Giladite Eliyahu ha-giladi

Come with speed and in our day bimheira v’yameinu
Come to us, o Come to stay yavo aleinu
With Messiah, Son of David im mashiach ben David
With Messiah, Son of David im mashiach ben David

 

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