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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

Elijah Did Not Eat the Flesh from the Ravens. Go Vegan! By Dr. Chapman Chen



 

Summary: As per 1 Kings 17, Elijah offended King Ahab, and, upon God's instruction, hid himself in the Kerith Ravine. At God's command, the ravens brought him bread and flesh (בָּשָׂר basar). In all probability, Elijah ate only the bread but not the flesh. This is corroborated by the fact that subsequently, Elijah asked the widow at Zarephath for bread but not flesh. Likewise, Jesus multiplied, broke and distributed bread rather than fish to the 5000-strong audience (Matthew 14:13-21).

 

According to Craig Douglas Wescoe (2024), the ravens' delivery was a test from God for Elijah. Had he chosen flesh instead of bread, he would have perished in the famine, just like the hundreds of thousands of Israelites in Numbers 11, who were struck dead by Yahweh with a great plague, when they demanded from God flesh in place of manna.

 

Here, I'd like to add that by the same token, the sheet of animals let down from Heaven to Peter, whom he was asked by a voice to "kill and eat" (Acts 10:13), was also meant to test his compassion for animals and his loyalty to God's law (and to show him that God had removed the divide between gentiles and Jews). Peter passed the test just like the Rechabites who turned down the wine offered by Jeremiah, as per their forefather's command (Jeremiah 35:6 NKJV) (cf. Hoffman 2017; Chen 2021).

 

 

Many flesh-eaters, especially Pauline Christians, employ the biblical story of Elijah and the ravens to justify the murdering of innocent animals for food. Let's look at the passages in question first.

 

1. Why the Ravens Brought Elijah Bread and Flesh

 

Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.  He... married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him... Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishb in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.(1Kings 16:30 - 17:6 NIV)


In all probability, Elijah ate only the bread but not the flesh. For, as pointed out by Wescoe (2024), it is not specified what food God commanded the ravens to feed Elijah with, just that He commanded the Ravens to feed him. So the ravens could have taken the liberty to supply Elijah with flesh apart from bread. It is never stated that Elijah ate both the flesh and the bread. But given the fact that the ideal Eden diet is vegan (Genesis 1:29), and that God kindly supplied the Israelites with vegan manna, a kind of bread, when they were in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15), Elijah the God-fearing prophet was expected to take the bread but not the flesh. Furthermore, since ravens are scavengers and carrion eaters, the flesh brought by the ravens to Elijah would likely be decaying flesh of a dead animal (cf. Hicks 2020:252-53). And it's unlikely for a normal human to consume decaying raw flesh.  

This supposition that Elijah made a vegan choice is corroborated by the fact that subsequently, Elijah asked the widow at Zarephath for bread but not flesh:-


2. Elijah Asked the Widow at Zarephath for Bread


Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.(1 Kings 17:7-16 NIV)

Similarly, Jesus multiplied, broke and distributed bread rather than fish to the 5000-strong audience (Matthew 14:13-21).

3. Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand with Bread

 

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:14-21 NIV)

 

4. The Consequence of Choosing Flesh over Bread

 

As argued by Wescoe (2024), the ravens' delivery was a test from God for Elijah. Had he opted for flesh instead of bread, he would have ended up in a grave of the craving, just like the hundreds of thousands of Israelites in Numbers 11, who were smitten by Yahuah with a great plague, when they, discontent with the nutritious vegan manna given by God to them, petitioned for animal flesh and ravenously consumed the quails driven from the sea:-

 

Now ... the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! ... But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin... They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9 When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down... The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled... The Lord said to Moses: ...“Tell the people:... The Lord heard you... Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it...”....Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea...  All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers... But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah [graves of craving], because there they buried the people who had craved other food.(Numbers 11:1-34)

 

4. God's Test for Peter

 

In my submission, God's test for Elijah was similar to that for Peter and that for the Rechabites.

 

Based on Acts 10, one day when Apostle Peter was praying on a rooftop, he had a vision in which a large sheet containing four-footed wild beasts, reptiles and fowls was let down from Heaven to him. A voice (God's?) told him to "kill and eat" (Acts 10:13). But Peter declined on the ground that he had never consumed unclean animals. The voice then said thrice, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" (Acts 10:15), after which the sheet was taken back to Heaven. Many a Christian thinks that this is God's permission for humans to eat all animals. In reality, this vision has only two demonstrable functions:- First, to test Peter's compassion for animals and his loyalty to God's law (cf. Hoffman 2017); Second, to show Peter that God had cleansed all gentiles and removed the divide between gentiles and Jews, as interpreted by Peter himself upon entering centurion Cornelius's house later on (Note 1).

 

4.1. Peter Maintains his Veganism

 

Note that Peter never killed nor ate any animals, be it before, during, or after the vision, because, he, to borrow Hoffman's (2017) words, "knew that the Lord would not abolish the Law - there must be another explanation." Peter also said, “I use only bread and olives, and rarely pot-herbs" (Note 2). And he emphasized that "the things which are well-pleasing to God" include "abstain from the table of devils, not to taste dead flesh" (Note 3). 

 

4.2. God's Test for the Rechabites

 

It's quite likely that Peter had in mind of the Rechabites' narrative, who declined the wine presented by Jeremiah, on the ground that "Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, 'because our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine.''". This incident was utilized by the Lord as testimony to chastise the people of Judah (Jeremiah 35:1-19). In a similar manner to the Rechabites, who unswervingly passed the Lord's test, Peter also stood firm and survived it. 

 

5. Conclusion

 

To put it in a nutshell, Elijah most probably just ate the bread instead of the decaying flesh provided by the ravens. This reminds us of Jesus multiplying the five loaves instead of the two fish to feed the masses. It's a compassion test from God. Elijah passed the test in the same way that Peter passed the animal-sheet test; and the Rechabites passed the wine test from God via Jeremiah. Had Elijah taken the animal flesh from the ravens, he would have ended up in a grave of craving just like the Israelites in the wilderness who demanded flesh in place of manna from the Lord. Thus, flesh-greedy Christians and others had better stop using this story to justify their murdering of innocent creatures of God for food.


Notes

1. The real message of the animal-sheet vision concerned is: it is time to remove the Gentile-Jew segregation. When Peter entered the house of Cornelius, he frankly told Cornelius and his folk how he had just overcome the Jewish prejudices against the gentiles, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean" (Acts 10:28-29 NIV). Note that this is not our interpretation of the vision but Peter's own interpretation of it!

2. Clementine Homilies 12,6 (https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/080812.htm); also see, Recognitions 7,6 (https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/080407.htm).

3. Clementine Homilies, Homily 7, Chapter IV The Golden Rule (https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/080807.htm)


References

Chen, Chapman (2021). "Did God Really Want People to Kill and Eat Animals? Go Vegan!" HKBNews, Jul. 27. https://www.hkbnews.net/post/did-god-really-want-peter-to-kill-and-eat-animals-go-vegan-by-chapman-chen-hkbnews

Hicks, Ryan (2020). Why Every Christian should be A Vegan. No city: TaughtToProfit.

Hoffman, Frank L. (2017). "Acts 10:1-11:18 - The True Meaning of the Vision of the Animals in the Sheet." All-Creatures. org. https://www.all-creatures.org/discuss/svtacts10.1-11.18-flh.html

Wescoe, Craig Douglas (2024). "Elijah and the Ravens (1 Kings 17:2-6)." Creation Care Church, YouTube, May 9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxo9CIFrhBA



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