Shiur #33: Carmel Part 4: Eliyahu's preparations for the descent of God's fire (30-35) (continued)
The Eliyahu Narratives
Yeshivat Har Etzion
Shiur #33: Carmel
Part 4: Eliyahu's preparations for the descent of God's fire (30-35) (continued)
By Rav Elchanan Samet
5. Twelve stones,
corresponding to the number of tribes of
Having repaired the foundation of the broken altar to God, Eliyahu goes on to rebuild the upper part of the altar, using a new collection of stones. This stage, too, is converted through Eliyahu's actions into a symbolic act: Eliyahu takes care to ensure that the number of stones from which the altar will be built is twelve. We may assume that the intention of the text here is to tell us that not only are we, the readers, aware of the number of stones and its significance, but that Eliyahu also ensures that his entire audience notices as well. How he achieves this whether by mentioning it explicitly or by making it clear in some other way is unknown.
What does Eliyahu mean by highlighting the twelve tribes of
This act gives rise to the obvious association of a similar act by Moshe,
when he built an altar at the foot of
"Moshe came and told the nation all that God had said, and all the precepts, and all the people answered with a single voice and said, 'All the things of which God has spoken we shall do.'
Moshe wrote down all of God's words, and he arose
early in the morning and BUILT AN ALTAR at the foot of the mountain, WITH TWELVE
STONES, CORRESPONDING TO THE TWELVE TRIBES OF
Moshe took half of the blood and put it in basins, and [the other] half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
He took the book of the covenant and read it out to the people, and they said: 'All that God has said we shall do, and we shall hear.'
Moshe took the blood and sprinkled it over the people, and said: 'Behold the blood of the covenant which God has made with you, concerning all of these things.'" (Shemot 24:3)
In imitating Moshe's actions, Eliyahu hints at his desire to renew the
covenant between all of
But we must also take note of the differences between the two events. Moshe is about to forge a covenant between God and the nation concerning THE WORDS that he reads out to them: "Behold the blood of the covenant which God makes with you concerning all of THESE THINGS (or 'words')." "These things" are the commandments of the Torah and its precepts. Concerning the fundamental faith that God is the Lord of Israel, there was no need to forge a covenant or to provide any special explanation. Eliyahu, in contrast, is coming to renew the covenant between the nation and God on the most fundamental level: a covenant concerning recognition of His Divinity and accepting it.
Another difference between the two instances is that Moshe receives in advance the response of a nation eager to enter the covenant: "All the people answered with a single voice and said, All the things of which God has spoken we shall do." Eliyahu, on the other hand, encounters suspicion and doubt; it is only after the descent of the fire from heaven that he receives the nation's wholehearted response.
These differences are also reflected in the different times when the action takes place. The covenant at Sinai is forged in the morning: "HE AROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING and built an altar at the foot of the mountain ." The morning hour symbolizes the "morning" dawning of the nation. Eliyahu performs his actions "AT THE TIME OF THE MINCHA OFFERING" the evening sacrifice, offered at twilight a historical moment when darkness and light intermingle in the lives of the nation that is "dancing between two opinions." But when the fire descends from heaven it will illuminate the darkness with a great light, and all the "dancing," deliberation and doubts will vanish. Then the words of the prophet will be fulfilled:
"There shall be one day that will be known as being God's neither day nor night, and it shall be that at evening time there will be light." (Zekharia 14:7)
6. Yaakov Yisrael
We have not yet exhausted all the content of verse 31. The text does not
suffice with noting the numerical connection between the stones that Eliyahu
takes and the tribes of
What does this mean to tell us?
In this mighty battle against the world of the other nations, Eliyahu has
to bring about a victory for monotheistic faith in the consciousness of
The emphasis here on the twelve tribes, children of Yaakov, is meant to
create a dividing line between the twelve tribes of
(to be continued)
Translated by Kaeren Fish