by Dave Skipper
Story Summary: 09 Scheming Reprobates / Strength to the Suicidal
After the victory over the prophets of Baal, Ahab returned home to report to his wife Jezebel what had happened. She had been responsible for introducing much of the foreign Baal and Asherah worship into Israel, violently purging away the true prophets of Yahweh in the process. She was livid at what Elijah had done. She sends an imminent death threat to Elijah, and he runs away afraid for his life. Despondent, he rests under a tree in the wilderness and asks God to take his life. He sleeps. An angel awakens him and tells him to eat and drink bread and water that he has put there. This happens a second time, and then abundantly nourished he travels for 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. Mount Horeb is either the same as or adjoined to/part of Mount Sinai, the place where God gave the covenant law of the Ten Commandments to Moses, centuries before Elijah’s day.
Sounds & Structure
There’s not so much in the way of noisy, dramatic action in this part of the story, and so I took a different approach sonically. I didn’t use particular samples to match any element of the narrative here as I did on all the tracks in Part 1 of the album. Instead, I used some unused parts of other tracks’ recordings that matched the atmosphere of the track title. I particularly enjoy the middle section for its bassy weightiness – not sure how I achieved this particular timbre but it really hits the spot for me. The main purpose of this track is as a transition between Part 1 and the main story of Part 2, which is to say the transition from Mount Carmel to Mount Horeb. Intrigue, terror, travel, foreboding, exhaustion, unconsciousness, pessimism, refreshment, fragility, movement, hope. Shifts in place, perspective, and psychological state of mind.
Thinking about place… apart from the field recordings, the entire album was recorded and edited in our home’s washitsu or tatami room (traditional Japanese straw mat flooring), with my modular setup in the oshiire (typical Japanese closet space with sliding doors) and my laptop on the floor (no table in this room). Not a fancy studio, but a cosy, minimal, dimly lit, essentially Japanese setting. Along with the cicada sounds which appear in a couple of tracks, this gives the album a subtle but nevertheless distinctly Japanese context in my mind, fitting as I have now lived here for a full decade.
Elijah’s flight and desire to die were extremely natural responses to Jezebel’s death threat, especially so because of this coming right after the events of Mount Carmel. He must have thought that a corner had been turned in the nation at last, with the people turning back to Yahweh and rejecting the false Baal gods. If the covenant had been successfully renewed, then why could Jezebel still wield such deadly power and venom? Ahab was clearly just a puppet after all, and hadn’t turned truly to God himself. Elijah may have despaired of the situation and even of his life, but his trust was still in God. Note that in his darkest hour he doesn’t try to take his own life – he calls out to God to do that. And when the angel awakens him twice, Elijah follows his instructions to eat and drink, before journeying to the mountain of God. So we see Elijah’s faith and obedience at his lowest point. But more than that, we see God’s kindness and gentleness with Elijah, giving him exactly what he needs: rest, nourishment, strength, hope. Elijah’s circumstances were unique of course, but he provides an encouraging model for us. No matter the fear, the disappointment, the confusion: call out to the God who sees and knows, the God who cares and provides, the God who makes a way and works out his divine purposes even through the turbulence of national events, the wicked plans of despots, and personal dangers. Now Elijah reaches Mount Horeb ready and expectant for God to show the forward…