The Prophet Elijah Icon and Its Interpretation

The Prophet Elijah Icon and Its Interpretation

Such a majestic figure as the Prophet Elijah holds an essential place in the history of not only Christianity but also Islam, Judaism, and even paganism. He was the one who resisted wickedness and idol worship. According to Orthodox traditions, Elijah ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot for the pious fulfillment of God’s will. Being portrayed in many religious icons as an old man with a white beard, he reflects the deep divine and belief in God. The Prophet Elijah icon encloses a symbolism and all-seeing eye of the Lord.

Who is the Prophet Elijah?

The Christian Prophet Elijah was born 9 centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, during the rule of King Ahab, and was mentioned in the Old Testament. During his life, Elijah performed many miracles and spoke on God’s behalf. One of the most known miracles that would later be depicted in many icons was the sending of rain to the land after three years of terrible drought. Elijah did it through prayer to the True God and thus saved many people who worshiped pagan gods. It is interesting that according to the Orthodox Church, the Prophet Elijah will be the Forerunner of the Dread Second Coming of Christ.

The Prophet Elijah icon

The iconography of the Prophet Elijah combines symbolic elements that reflect his importance as a participant in the most significant events in the Christian world. One of the most important stories depicted in the Prophet Elijah icon is his life in the cave on Mount Horeb. Because of threats from Queen Jezebel, the prophet had to leave the city. After 40 days, he reached the mountain and settled in a cave, where he managed to survive due to a crow that brought him food.

Despite some differences in image presentation, almost all Elijah icons preserve the main motif of this event. If to compare the Byzantium icon “The Prophet Elijah in the Wilderness” with the Russian icon “The Prophet Elijah in the Desert,” the second shows the prophet not in a cave with a crow but in the desert, listening to the wind blowing.

The Prophet Elijah icon depicts a white-haired old man sitting in a background of hills, the dim ochre tones of which create a feeling of a “wild” desert. The prophet’s left hand rests on his knee, and his face is turned to the side. Elijah’s robe has merged with the darkness filling the cave. According to Orthodox interpretations, darkness symbolizes the ignorance of people and contrasts brightly with the righteousness of Elijah. Driven by “dark” men and surrounded by darkness, the Prophet keeps his spirituality and love for God.

Now you know more about the Prophet Elijah, who is one of the most revered figures in the Christian world. Stay with us for more stories about Christian saints!