The Prophet Elijah is one of the Old Testament prophets who lived in the first half of the 1X century B.C.The events of the Prophet’s life are described in the Third and Fourth Books of the Kings. (3 Book 17:1-19; 18; 21: 17-28; 4 Book 1: 3-17; 2: 1-18).The name of the prophet is translated as “God is My Lord”, which expresses the main idea of Elijah’s mission, who was zealously advocating the worship of the one God and proving His power with his deeds.
Elijah was born in Fesva city of Transjordan (Fesva city dweller of the people of Galaad), wore horsehair clothes with a leather belt.His prophetic service was in the Kingdom of Israel at the time of the rule of the Kings Ahab (874-853) and Ahaziah (853-852) who belonged to the Omri dynasty when in the northern kingdom the cult of Baal was spreading widely.
The subject matter of “The Prophet Elijah in the Desert” is based on the events which took place at the time of persecutions of the queen Jezebel, when only 100 prophets remained alive thanks to the protection of the courtier Abdias. (3 King.18:4).Elijah was hiding at the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan and the ravens brought him food.The importance of the subject matter was attributed to the worship of the prophet Elijah as a great hermite.The most ancient icon on this subject matter comes from the St.Catherine’s Monastery of Mount Sinai,where Elijah is depicted full-length with the arms raised in a praying gesture with his body turned to the raven with bread above which a blessing hand is depicted.
In the iconography of the subject matter has become widespread another composition –the Prophet Elijah is sitting on the rock and is turning his head towards the raven. the Prophet Elijah sitting in the desert was perceived as an ideal of monastic life, and in the Russian art the theme is complemented by motives of submission to the God’s will, of zealous prayer and at the same time of audacious and zealous communication with God.A few icons of the XY century depict Prophet Elijah sitting on the rock half-turned to the right, with his left hand he props his head and in his right he holds a scroll.
In the monumental painting the location of the scene “The Prophet Elijah in the Desert” could be different. The earlier versions of its treatment as a separate episode in the altar-space (the Church of the Saviour on Nereditsa,1199) or on the column (the basilica of the Nativity of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, before 1187) emphasize the liturgic character of the iconography as a forerunner of the sacramental communion.The earliest hagiographic icon cycle of the prophet Elijah in the Russian art-the icon “The Prophet Elijah in the Desert, with hagiography” at the country churchyard Vybuty near Pskov (beginning of the XШ century, the State Tretyakov Gallery).
The church honours the memory of the Prophet Elijah on the 2nd August (20th July old style)