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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Should Elijah the Tishbite be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records?

Yes, but.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world's fastest Marathon (42,195 metres) was run by Wilson Kipsang in 2013. But according to 1 Kings 18:46, Elijah outran King Ahab's horses from Mt. Carmel to Jezreel--a distance of over 50 km by road. Does this mean that Elijah was faster than Kipsang?

In a word, no. As others have pointed out, the account doesn't specifically say that Elijah was supernaturally powered to run ahead of Ahab. And a man on foot, running carefully over somewhat uneven and rocky ground, can easily outpace a team of horses pulling a chariot. The bus route from Haifa to Jezreel takes an hour and forty-eight minutes, so we'd expect a chariot to take at least a couple of hours. Even the Pony Express, which seldom ran a horse farther than 25 km without breaking a gallop, only averaged about 16 kilometres per hour. So Ahab's horses would have had to be extraordinary even to make the full run without breaking pace.

What Elijah did is not at all out of the realm of possibility. Running downhill from Mt. Carmel, Elijah could have gained quite a lead on a horse-pulled chariot, and held it coming back out of the Valley of Esdraelon, fueled by nothing more than a desire to beat the approaching rainstorm. Then, he ran another 180 kilometers to Beersheba, fueled by an irrational terror of Jezebel. And his servant was able to keep up with him at least that far!

So, no world record for Elijah running the Mount Carmel Marathon. It was what he did afterward--going all the way to Mt. Sinai from Beersheba without eating--that would earn him an early mention in today's record books.

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