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The still, small voice. 1 Kings 19:12 describes Elijah fleeing to the desert to escape the wrath of Jezebel. After a 40-day journey to Mt. Sinai, Elijah sees a great wind, an earthquake and a fire, but God is not present in any of these; at last, Elijah hears a still, small voice.

This image of God revealing himself through words, especially words that must be listened to with care lest they be drowned out by noise—a. hallmark of prophetic literature of the ninth to sixth centuries B.C.E.—contrasts sharply with the Ba’al-influenced warrior-god of early Hebrew poetry, who reveals himself in mighty storms.

The Elijah at right is one of 19 figures in John Singer Sargent’s “Frieze of the Prophets” at the Boston Public Library.