Elijah was not a Coward
Our spiritual enemies and their accomplices, who serve them on Earth, always try to put down our faith and its heroes; namely: the prophets and apostles. For this purpose they rely heavily on God's people, to foolishly repeat the falsehoods and heresies that those underlings instill in their minds. In this way they discredit the faith, apparently, from inside.
One of the prophets that they try to discredit with the most meanness is Elijah. It makes sense that our spiritual enemies should try to discredit Elijah, because he is the one that will come before Jesus' Second Coming, heralding such a magnificent event. So, it is best for them to start now discrediting him, and putting down everything that has to do with him. Russellists (Jehovah's Witnesses) have happily taken on this task. That is why they spread the idea that after a chariot of fire took Elijah up in a whirlwind to Heaven, he came back to Earth, lived a normal life and had a normal death. After convincing people of this falsehood, when Elijah returns for his future mission, they could easily convince Christians that he is not Elijah, but an impostor.
By the same token, others that are not Russellists, have taken the task of convincing others that Elijah behaved as a coward. To back their slander "biblically", they say that when Elijah saw the persecution that Jezabel, king Ahab's wife, unleashed against him, he got "scared" and fled. Some of them, in order to lower Elijah still a little more, say that his cowardice was despicable, because he fled from a woman. It was not a woman that persecuted Elijah; it was King Ahab's whole army. They paint a picture with these colors in order to put down the prophet, but the biblical reality is much different as we are going to see in a moment.
First of all, Elijah was a brave man, as I will demonstrate in a moment. Avoiding danger is to do the wise thing. Even the Bible advices to do so, as we can see in Prov 14: 16 and 22: 3.
"A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil; but the fool rageth,
and is confident." ( Prov 14: 16 )
"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the
simple pass on, and are punished." ( Prov 22: 3 )
Those who discredit Elijah would advice him that instead of being wise he should have become a fool; and instead of being prudent, they would advice him to behave as simple ones do.
But it was not only Elijah the one who acted like that. Same advice gave Jesus to his followers. In Mt 10: 23 he exhorted his disciples to flee from a city where there was danger, to another where danger did not exist. He didn't tell them to stay where they saw danger. That's why I don't understand why there are some brethren that falsely accuse Elijah of cowardice, or lack of faith. Would the detractors of Elijah stay put if they were in Elijah's shoes?
"But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another,
for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of
Israel, till the Son of man be come." ( Mt 10: 23 )
Also in Mark 3: 6-7 we see that Jesus Christ when he saw that Pharisees and Herodians wanted to kill him, he withdrew himself to the sea. It is to say that Jesus did exactly what Elijah did: to withdraw himself from danger. Those who put fault on Elijah, saying that he was a coward, and that he lacked faith, because he did exactly the same thing that Jesus did, do not realize the seriousness of what they are saying.
"And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with
the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. But Jesus
withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea; and a great
multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea"
( Mark 3: 6-7 )
We perceive the same idea in Luke 4: 28-30, where Jesus left the place where they wanted to cast him down headlong. Also in John 8: 59 we see that Jesus left the Temple when the Pharisees wanted to stone him to death. I don't know what is the basis of these "super smart" critics for thinking that Elijah erred when he left the place where Jezabel had the power to kill him.
"And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things,
were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city,
and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built,
that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through
the midst of them went his way" ( Luke 4: 28-30 )
"Then took they up stones to cast at him, but Jesus hid himself,
and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them,
and so passed by." ( John 8: 59 )
In the next passage when we see Elijah fleeing from Jezabel, we shouldn't conclude that he fears death, because really Elijah does not fear death as we can see in verse 4, where the prophet not only desires death, but also asks God for it wholeheartedly. And remember, he who was asking for death was a man that received from God whatever he asked for. Elijah didn't play games with God.
"1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how
he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent
a messenger unto Elijah, saying: So let the gods do to me, and
more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to
morrow about this time. 3 And when he saw that, he arose, and
went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to
Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day's
journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a
juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and
said: It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not
better than my fathers." ( I Kings 19: 1- 4 )
Therefore, when Elijah fled from Jezabel is not because he is afraid of death, but because he doesn't want to be defeated and humiliated by the enemies of God. He does not escape from Jezabel to enjoy life, as it could seem to a shallow reader, but not to let his enemies rejoice in his murder.
"5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an
angel touched him, and said unto him: Arise and eat. 6 And he
looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a
cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him
down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second
time, and touched him, and said: Arise and eat; because the
journey is too great for thee. 8 And he arose, and did eat and drink,
and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights
unto Horeb the mount of God." ( I Kings 19: 5-8 )
As we read this passage we start asking ourselves if Elijah left that place only as a prudent move, or also because he knew that he had a mission to fulfill.
At any rate, it is clear that Elijah was a brave man , he didn't fear death. He behaved with prudence, as the Scriptures advice, as our Lord advised.