“And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”( I Kings 17:1)
The Prophets that God raised up for Israel, fulfilled several roles. First and foremost they were ministers of the Word of the LORD. The formula is oft repeated by many of the Prophets, “The Word of the Lord came to me saying…”. Prophets were teachers and preachers to the people , especially in times of such apostasy that Priests and Kings were a detriment to the faith of God’s congregation.
Prophets also served as watchmen on the walls, who saw the various judgments which were coming, and warned the people to prepare themselves accordingly, notably, through repentance. They were “seers” who had insight, and could see the national situation through the lens of the Covenant of God, and the outcome should all things remain as they were.
Another role that prophets fulfilled, such as in this case Elijah, was as the prosecuting attorney at law, representing the interests of heaven against the various peoples, (including the chosen people), making God’s case against his backslidden people when they forsook the Covenant, and announcing formal charges and sanctions in the name of God against them.
This is what we see in the introduction to the ministry of Elijah. He appears in the court of Ahab and announces the sanction of drought in the name of ‘the LORD God of Israel”.
The area of the Ten tribes was a rich, fruitful and exceedingly wealthy land, when Elijah confronted the debauched King in his extravagant palace and overlooking lush Vineyards and fruitful fields, blessed of the Lord. But the Land of the Covenant was morally sensitive, and the time for Judgment was long past.
Israel had violated the Covenant, the only surprise should have been the long grace period granted her before the Sanction of drought was announced by God’s prophet;
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; And then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.( Deuteronomy 11:
The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed. ( Deuteronomy 28:22-24)
Eidersheim marks the contrast which must have been struck by the emergence of the stern Prophet of God, with the effeminate court of King Ahab,
We can imagine the stern figure of the Tishbite, arrayed in an upper garment of black camel’s hair* – which henceforth seems to have become the distinctive garb of the prophets (Zechariah 13:4) – girt about his loins with a leathern girdle.
The dress betokened poverty, renunciation of the world, mourning, almost stern judgment, while the girdle, which, as the badge of office, was always the richest part of the dress, was such as only the poorest of the land wore. It was an unwonted sight, and, as he made his way up through the terraced streets of rich luxurious Samaria, its inhabitants would whisper with awe that this was a new prophet come from the wilds of Gilead, and follow him. What a contrast between those Baal-debauched Samaritans and this man; what a greater contrast still between the effeminate decrepit priests of Baal, in their white linen garments and high-pointed bonnets,* and this stern prophet of Jehovah! ( Bible History, Eidersheim)