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Meaning of: Elijah Rock

Dear Daniel,

If Moses Hogan had used all of the lyrics the meaning of "rock" and who is
speaking would be obvious. Here are all the lyrics. More from me afterwards:

Elijah rock shout shout
Elijah rock comin' up Lord
Elijah rock shout shout
Elijah rock comin' up Lord
Elijah, Elijah
Elijah
Elijah, Elijah
Elijah

Satan is a liar and a conjure too
If you don't watch (mind) out
He'll conjure you
If I could I sho'ly would
Stand on the rock where Moses stood

Ezekiel said he saw him
Wheel in the mid' of a wheel
John talked about him
Book of the seven seals
Some say the Rose of Sharon
Others say the Prince of Peace
But I can tell everybody (this ol' world)
He's been a rock and a shelter for me

You can call my rock in the mornin'
Call him late at night
He's always with me
And all my battles He'll fight
When I'm in trouble
I can call him on the line
He put a telephone in my heart
And I can call God anytime

In a message dated 2/28/08 2:11:55 PM, daniel.beal@YAHOO.COM writes:

> Colleagues,
>   
>   I have searched the web for some good background information on the text
> of the traditional spiritual, "Elijah Rock", but I have had no luck! I have
> programmed Jester Hairston's arrangement before, and I was not happy with my
> program notes then.
>   
>   Now, I am doing Moses Hogan's arrangement, and I really want to write
> something good that helps people to understand why Hogan wrote this arrangement
> the way he did! For those of you that know the piece...
>   
>   Here is what I have come up with so far...
>   
>   "Comin' Up Lawdy" .... at the end of Elijah's life, he is brought up to
> heaven in a chariot of fire... he is "coming up the Lord" (and I guess those
> particular words are in the first person, and Elijah is saying it)
>   
>   "If I could I surely would... stand on the rock where Moses stood" -
> Elijah looked up to Moses, he who lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he was the
> firstp prophet, etc... Also, I believe before he was taken up to heaven in a
> chariot, he was on Mount Sinai, or at least a tall mountain peak.
>
But as you see from the full text, it is not Elijah speaking at all but the
author of the spiritual. Perhaps this person is in fear for his life and is
shouting for help from his "rock" Elijah. He might feel as if his time is up and
he is coming up to the Lord, and is shouting out to Elijah to help him on his
way.

The author is expressing the wish (perhaps at the end of the author's life)
to be able to do the same thing that both Moses and Elijah did in their
lifetimes: stand on the mountail where God gave down the 10 Commandments (and in the
Jewish tradition, the complete Hebrew Bible as well, so Moses already knew his
fate years before his death) and at the place where God spoke to each of them
personally. Because there were different authors of the Hebrew Bible, the
mountain has been called by different names: for Moses it was Mount Sinai and for
Elijah it was Mount Horeb. But many scholars consider them different names
for the same holy mountain.

By the way, Elijah was down at the Jordan river when he was taken up (like
Moses at the Reed Sea [not Red Sea--that is a mistranslation of the Hebrew], not
on a mountain. Elijah had parted the waters of the Jordan so that he and his
successor Elishah could cross the river and then he was taken up in a chariot
of fire.
>   
>   Here is what BAFFLES me.
>   
>   Why Elijah ROCK???? What is the significane of the word ROCK.... is it
> simply referring to the "Rock" that he stand on, a.k.a, mountain? Or does it
> have to do with something else? Is "Mount Elijah" synonomous with "Elijah Rock"
> perhaps?
>
No. You know now that like Peter to Jesus, in the New Testament, that Elijah
has been like a rock to the author of the spiritual.
>   
>   Why SHOUT SHOUT? - could it mean that the chorus represents angels, or the
> people telling the story of Elijah and they are "shouting it" ... or does it
> mean that Elijah is shouting himself, up to the heavens perhaps...
>
No. I would think that the author is shouting to Elijah to come to his aid,
or to be with him in his time of trouble or at his impending passing.
>   
>   What is the significance of bringing Satan into the story? "Snake in the
> grass", "conjur" etc... it almost seems out of place, is this Elijah preaching
> to the people?
>
I think that this is a general warning by the author to others to watch out
for Satan. Perhaps the reason the author is in trouble is that he didn't
recognize Satan until it was too late. He doesn't want others to fall into the same
trap.

This could also be a reference to the stories of King Ahab and his pagan wife
Jezebel in 1 Kings with whom Elijah had some run-ins. Jezebel was certainly a
liar and conjure (or at least her priests of Ba'al were supposed to be) and
definitely a snake in the grass (and that could also be a cross reference to
the serpent and Eve in the Garden of Eden--I guess a snake in the tree in that
case). On Mr. Carmel, in their most famous confrontation, Elijah and the
surviving Hebrew prophets had a competition with Jezebel's priests whether they
could bring fire to a pile of wood so that a sacrifice to the Lord could be made.
The priests failed miserably. Elijah had the wood soaked with water and then
called down fire from the heavens to burn the sacrifice. Elijah was victorious
and ordered the immediate deaths of the priests.

Elijah's name in Hebrew (Ayliyahu), by the way, is a combination of Ayli,
meaning "my God", and three of the four letters of the tetragrammaton, the four
Hebrew letters of the unpronouncable name of God: Yud, Hay, Vav. Using "yah" or
"yahu" or "ayl" as part of someone's Hebrew name implies a relationship or
closeness of that person to God. My Hebrew name is "Sh'muayl" (Samuel). Probably
from the two root words "Sh'mah" and "Ayl": God has heard, or God listens. In
the second verse the authors notes that Elijah comes up in the New Testament
as well. Christian tradition associates Elijah with both John the Baptist or
Jesus himself. Jewish tradition, recounted every year at the Passover seder
service/meal is that the return of Elijah is the precursor for the arrival of the
Messiah/Messianic Age. But I digress (more than usual...).

There is also a legendary (extra-Biblical) story of Elijah meeting with
Lilith, Adam's first wife, another conjure and liar and snake in the grass. He was
victorious over her and prevented her from killing a pregnant woman and her
child.
>   
>   Anyways,
>   Those of you that are familiar with the piece, I am really trying to help
> the audience understand the huge buildup and crescendo as each part comes in
> one at a time... bass, tenors, Tenor I, Altos, Sop II, then Soprano I's... It
> seems to me that this is Elijah rising up to the heavens... and then, WHY is
> it so soft and spooky on the next page? I believe it is because he is
> suddenly in the presence of God, and he is experiencing great fear and awe.... and
> that is almost the conclusion of the story, and then the main theme comes
> back with the Tenor/Basses and the whole choir, or the "narrators" lets say,
> finish with "Coming up.... LORD!" ... So, thats what I have so far.
>
This might be a musical realization of Elijah's experiences on Mt. Horeb. He
travels 40 days and 40 nights and ends up in a cave on Mt. Horeb. Again, in 1
Kings it describes first a mighty wind, and then an earthquake, and finally
fire comes passes over the mountain. But God's presence is not in any of them.
Then Elijah hears a "still, small voice." It is the voice of God asking him why
he is there.
>   
>   I wonder, has anyone else ever been baffled by the meaning of these words?
> I get the general idea, but I want to understand all of it! at least to an
> extent...
>
This is only my opinion, and I certainly cannot say that I understand it all.
We can't always know the exact intent, but we can make educated guesses at
least. There are a lot of spiritual experts on this listserv. Perhaps you will
get a more definitive interpretation.

I had the pleasure of producing a recording of Moses's arrangement with
Philip Brunelle's VocalEssence on the CD "What a Mighty God" available on the
Clarion label (I have no monetary connection with Philip or the label), and the
honor of producing Moses and his Chorale with guest Derek Lee Ragin as music
producer for Saint Paul Sunday (Morning) on Public Radio a few years ago, just
before his untimely and very early passing. He was a pleasure to work with and we
are blessed to have his music available for all of us to appreciate and
enjoy.

Good luck.

Best wishes,
Steve

Steve Barnett
Composer/Arranger/Producer
Barnett Music Productions
BarMusProd@aol.com



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