Michael J. Stahl is Visiting Research Scholar in Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East at New York University, where he received his Ph.D. in 2018. Dr. Stahl’s research integrates critical theoretical approaches with historical and philological methodologies to explore the intersection of politics and religion in the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel (including early Judaism). Among his various publications, Dr. Stahl is the author of the monograph, The “God of Israel” in History and Tradition (Brill, 2021).
Spring Bible & Archaeology Fest 2023
Battle of the Gods: The Prophet Elijah and the Origins of Biblical Monotheism
The biblical books of Kings present the figure of Elijah as God’s lone prophet in the wilderness, an anti-establishment critic zealously devoted to the exclusive worship of the Israelite deity Yahweh. Most dramatically, Elijah participates in a public life-or-death contest with the prophets of the Phoenician storm-god Baal on Mt. Carmel to see who is truly the one God—Yahweh or Baal (1 Kings 18)? Two deities enter, but only one may leave.
While scholars often accept the Elijah story’s claim that Yahweh and Baal were ideological foes in ancient Israel, the historical evidence suggests another picture: that the biblical text’s monotheistic attack on Phoenician Baal comes from a much later time and place, one of empire and exile. Using biblical and archaeological evidence, this lecture explores Yahweh and Baal’s relationship in early Israel and why the later biblical authors of the Elijah story imagined a time when Baal’s worship once threatened Yahweh’s status as the only God.