The Prophet Elijah: Harbinger of the Redemption

The Messianic redemption is closely associated with the name of the prophet Elijah. He is regarded as the forerunner of Mashiach, “the harbinger who will proclaim peace, the harbinger of good who will proclaim salvation, saying to Zion ‘Your G‑d reigns!’ ” (Isaiah 52:7)1

Rambam writes: “Before the war of Gog and Magog2 a prophet will arise to rectify Israel and prepare their hearts, as it is said, ‘Behold, I am sending you the prophet Elijah [before the coming of the great and awesome day of G‑d]’ (Malachi 3:23)… Some of the sages say that Elijah will come before the coming of Mashiach.”3

The apparent conflict of opinions is most readily resolved in terms of the tradition that Elijah will make two appearances: first he will appear with the coming of Mashiach; then he will be concealed to appear again before the war of Gog and Magog.4 The phrase “great and awesome day of G‑d” is thus read (a) as a reference to the day of Mashiach’s coming, stating that Elijah will come prior to this to announce and proclaim his coming;5 and (b) as a reference to the awesome day of the war of Gog and Magog and Elijah’s involvement with the resurrection of the dead.6

The prophet Elijah’s functions will thus include: to rectify Israel’s behavior, causing them to return to G‑d with teshuvah, as a preparation for the Messianic redemption;7 to proclaim the imminent coming of Mashiach;8 to restore the sacred objects placed in the Holy of Holies of the first Bet Hamikdash, and later hidden by King Josiah9 before its destruction;10 and to be involved with the resurrection of the dead.11 Above all, the essential task of Elijah will be to resolve legal disputes and to establish peace in the world, as it is said, “He will turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 3:24)12