Mt. Carmel and Elijah PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
Article Index
Mt. Carmel and Elijah
Geopolitical background
Elijah: The Biblical Text
Epilogue and Comment
Mt. Carmel is a continuation of the central mountain range, thrusting northwestward into the Mediterranean. This plunge continues beneath the water for six miles. In the time of Pharaoh Pepi I  (ca. 2300 BC),  the mountain served as a landmark for ancient Egyptian seafarers, who called it "the antelope's nose." 

The Upper Carmel, some 12 miles long (20 km.), maintains a fairly steady height of about 1300 feet over sea level.


There are four peaks. The lowest of these, at Muhraka (1540 feet), stands out in contrast with the lower Carmel (ca. 700 feet), which stretches southward from it to the pass by Megiddo. Since the Bible says that Elijah went to the top of Carmel after confronting the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:42 ), and since this peak was the most conspicuous, it attracted the tradition of that event. Today the Carmelite monastery of Muhraka (Arabic for "burnt offering") stands here. Its roof affords a view over the Jezreel Plain.



From Muhraka one can see what is meant by the reference to mountains and valleys in Deuteronomy 11: 10-12: 

For the land, where you go in to possess it, isn’t as the land of Egypt, that you came out from, where you sowed your seed, and watered it with your foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land, where you go over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys which drinks water of the rain of the sky, a land which Yahweh your God cares for: the eyes of Yahweh your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year.

The contest on Mt. Carmel relates to the following passage (Deut. 11: 13-17):

It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to my commandments which I command you this day, to love Yahweh your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, and your new wine, and your oil. I will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.

Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and the anger of Yahweh be kindled against you, and he shut up the sky, so that there shall be no rain, and the land shall not yield its fruit; and you perish quickly from off the good land which Yahweh gives you.

These words present the covenant between God and Israel -- and for the first time very much in agricultural terms. The words appear often in Jewish ritual. Pious Jews recite them twice a day. A scribe writes them on a small piece of parchment, which is placed in a container and nailed to the doorpost of the house. This is called a mezuzah.

The notion of divine justice first enunciated in Deuteronomy 11, that God will reward the good and punish the wicked, has been definitive for Western culture.