Haftarah Pinchas: Reading the Text IV
“He saw, he arose and he went for his life; he came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his attendant there (I Kings 19:3).” Elijah saw that Jezebel was right; the inspiration of the miracles at Mt Carmel would not last more than a day. He saw that Jezebel was ignoring Ahab, and that the king would not protect him. He saw all he done with the drought and the contest at Carmel differently than the joyous inspiring accomplishment he had seen just hours earlier. He saw himself differently.
“He arose and he went for his life.” The verse could have just said that he ran for his life. Why does it add, “He arose?”
Elijah had not planned to leave the area. He wanted to work with Ahab to positively influence the people. “He arose,” and understood that this was not his place.
Although all read, “el nafsho,” as, “for his life,” as in, “vayanusu el nafsham (II Kings 7:7),” “and they ran for their lives,” the word, “el” means, to, and we can read this phrase as, “He ran to where his soul would rise.” Perhaps Elijah understood that, even as he ran for his life, something greater was in store for him.
“He came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah.” We already learned in Joshua (15:28, 19:1-9) that Judah gave Beer-sheba to the Tribe of Shimon. “Which belongs to Judah,” implies that it was just at the border of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, where Elijah would be safe from Jezebel, the Queen of the North. Elijah was just at the boundary of a safe haven and he stopped. He did not escape to safety. Elijah had something else on his mind.
“He left his attendant there,” not earlier! If he was only running for safety, he should have taken his attendant with him. If his intention was to help his attendant escape danger, why take him at all? He did not leave the lad for safety. He left him because he was running TO his soul; he was about to begin a quest.