Elijah makes a sudden appearance in 1 Kings’s depressing chronicle of idolatry, unfaithfulness, war, and death. In chapter 16, there’s a rapid turnover of kings, two military commanders who rebel against their masters, a suicide, Baal-worship and a temple of Baal. Turn the page, and it’s all ravens feeding prophets, inexhaustible supplies of flour and oil, children raised from the dead, floating ax heads, multiplied loaves.
New source! New genre! say the critics. The work of a somewhat clumsy redactor!
That misses the literary and theological force of the book. The shock of life in dead Israel is the whole point. That there is still a prophet with living water in Israel’s wilderness is the good news of the book, a gospel that critical buries under a suffocating mountain of scholarship.