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Ravens and their role feeding God’s prophets

Elijah

Washington Allston | Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 01/09/24

The prophet Elijah was fed by a raven, and after that other saints in the desert were fed in a similar way.
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The Bible recounts a number of miraculous events, such as the parting of the Red Sea and the flood that covered the whole earth.

One such miracle records the feeding of God’s prophet, Elijah, by a raven:

And the word of the Lord came to [Elijah], “Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, that is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.

1 Kings 17:2-6

In the Greco-Roman world, ravens were often associated with Apollo, the god of prophecy.

After Jesus’ death, many began to devote themselves to lives of prayer and sacrifice in the desert. They saw themselves as “disciples” of Elijah, and imitated him in various ways.

It is often believed that St. Paul of Thebes was the first Christian hermit, and many early legends of his life relate a similar story of being fed by ravens.

In the Life of Paulthe First Hermit, he encounters St. Anthony and they both witness the miracle:

Thus conversing they noticed with wonder a raven which had settled on the bough of a tree, and was then flying gently down till it came and laid a whole loaf of bread before them. They were astonished, and when it had gone, See, said Paul, the Lord truly loving, truly merciful, has sent us a meal. For the last sixty years I have always received half a loaf: but at your coming Christ has doubled his soldier’s rations.

St. Benedict also encountered a raven, though instead of supplying bread to him, the raven reportedly took away a poisoned loaf.

The miracle of the raven connects their missions as “prophets” to the mission of Elijah, highlighting their role as God’s servants.

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