Tishbite

TISHBITE, TISHBE (tĭsh'bīt, Heb. tĭshbî). Elijah is mentioned as a Tishbite in 1Kgs.17.1. The NIV gives a good reading, “Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead.” The place has been identified, with some probability, with the modern el-Istib, a little west of Mahanaim.


TISHBITE tĭsh’ bīt (תִּשְׁבִּ֜י; LXX Θεσβιτής). An inhabitant of Tishbe, e.g., Elijah (1 Kings 17:1).

A place of this name has never been identified, though some have thought that Listib, in eastern Gilead, was a likely identification. This was based on the similarity between its Arab. name, el-Istib, and the Heb. Tishbeh. Listib was founded in the Byzantine period, and there is no trace of earlier settlement.

The KJV trs. 1 Kings 17:1 as “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead...” which is also often rendered “...of the sojourners of Gilead....” The Heb. toshabē seems to refer to a category or class of people who are alien residents, but have been accepted as permanent settlers. N. Glueck feels that a scribal error was responsible for the confusion surrounding the birthplace of Elijah, and that he was indeed a native of Gilead. He suggests further that instead of Elijah’s being designated as “Elijah the Tishbite, of the tosh-bē-Gilead,” that he should be called “Elijah the Jabeshite, from Jabesh-Gilead” (Judg 21:8-14). Additional speculation has suggested that the passage might be rendered “Elijah the Kenite, of the Kenites of Gilead,” a somewhat tenuous viewpoint based upon the fact that these alien settlers in Gilead, represented by the Rechabites, assisted Elisha at a later time in his fight against Baal-worship (cf. 2 Kings 10:15), and that Elijah may have in his day been a representative of the same people, because of his efforts against the Baalism introduced by Ahab.

The apocryphal Book of Tobit (1:2) refers to a place called Thisbe, located S of Kedesh in Naphtali, and it has been suggested that the descriptive adjective “Tishbite” was derived from it. If this were true, then Elijah was born there, and later settled in Gilead.

The familiarity of Elijah with N Gilead on the E side of Jordan is pointed up by the narrative in 1 Kings 17:2-7 of his sojourn at the Brook Cherith, “east of the Jordan,” in hiding from his enemies. It is now fairly certain that Cherith should be so located, and prob. identified with the Wâdī el-Yâbis in the highlands of N Gilead, instead of with the traditional identification with the Wâdī Qelt, trending from near Jerusalem to NT Jericho, and thence to the Jordan River. The tradition of Elijah’s presence in the region about Jabesh-Gilead is seen in the names of the settlement of Listib, and not far from it, of a place on the opposite side of the valley called Mar Ilyâs (S. Elias). Substantial surface remains of the Byzantine period, as well as some evidence of Rom. occupation are seen there. Hence the presence of the personality of Elijah is testified of from these times, and the tradition may well come from even earlier times. Respect for the spirit of Nebhī-Ilyâs (the prophet Elias) is given to a grove of oak trees above the ruins. Although “Tishbe in Gilead” is still a bit obscure, the location of “Elijah the Tishbite’s” homeland seems reasonably secure.

Bibliography

N. Glueck, “Explorations in Eastern Palestine IV,” AASOR XXV-XXVIII (1951), Part I, 218, 225-227.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

tish’-bit.

See Elijah; Expostory Times, XII, 383.