Page 101 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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WALDMAN / PROPHETS IN HEBREW LITERATURE
93
ed by Jezebel, and its forceful suppression, as achieved th rough
great struggle by Elijah. T h e play itself is preceded by a poetic
pantom ime which takes place in the temple o f Astarte, where
the young, beautiful Jezebel is being consecrated to the goddess.
Among the viewers is a “wondrous” man (Elijah), who attracts
Jezebel. She approaches him, but he leaves. Thus, the dramatic
confrontation between queen and p rophe t is not only over the
issue o f monotheism bu t is also based upon unrequ ited love.
In the action o f the play itself, which takes place later, Jezebel
has many lovers. They include Elisha, h e r cou r tie r and
Mikhayhu, the prophe t. Jezebel demands that they bring her
Elijah so tha t she can wreak her vengeance upon him. Elisha
agrees to do so, but Mikhayhu, whom she had once seduced,
refuses. In the second act, Elijah and a sage, Ahikar, debate
near a cave over life’s meaning. Ahikar is a cynic, who like Ko-
heleth believes that life is vanity and advocates living for plea­
sure. Elijah disagrees. T h e queen ’s soldiers come for Elijah and
Ahikar protects him by telling them that he is dead. Elisha then
appears, confessing to Ahikar that he is torn between his love
for the queen and his prophetic mission. In a later scene, the
dying Ahab begs Elijah’s forgiveness, yet defend ing his concept
o f statesmanship. As the king dies, Elisha declares himself allied
with Elijah.
In the last act, a messenger arrives to say that Elijah has as­
cended into heaven in a chariot. Jezebel, defeated, determ ines
to kill Elisha and all the prophets. The practical and cynical
Ahikar advises he r instead to effect a marriage between Astarte
and Yahweh. This act o f practical statesmanship would diminish
the power o f religious zealotry. However, Elisha then appears,
wearing the mantle o f Elijah. He rejects the queen, his former
lover, saying, “I heard the word o f the Lord .”8
PORTRAYAL OF ELISHA
Elisha, Elijah’s disciple and successor, has also been depicted
in d iffering ways. A poem by Shin Shalom presents the an ­
guished Shunam ite woman throwing herself at the p roph e t’s
feet af te r he r son has died (2 Kings 4:8-38), but Elisha’s involve­
ment in the revival process is quite d iffe ren t in the modern
8. Ruth Kartun-Blum,
From Tyre to Jerusalem,
pp. 17-49.