Ultimately, according to the legend, Elijah and the pagan priests each sacrificed bulls, but did not light the customary fire: Instead, each prophet called on his lord to ignite the wood.
The importuning by the Baal priests proved futile but, when Elijah prayed - " Over time, says Ovadiah, it seems Baal worship in the cave was supplanted by adoration of others.
The association of the cave with Elijah himself apparently only began during the Byzantine era (4th to 7th centuries).But it is clear that members of all three great monotheist religions have since plied the cave, leaving behind their marks beseeching for health, wealth or salvation – a practice that continues to this day.A small cave sacred from the time of Baal, where Elijah the Prophet is believed to have spent the night before going into battle, boasts inscriptions carved into its walls over millennia – which are in imminent danger of disappearing forever."The place should be favourable to my son Kyrillos, who will not be affected by fever anymore," wrote Elios, apparently an official living in Acre during the Roman era (first or second century BCE).Asher Ovadiah of Tel Aviv University devoted half a year to cleaning, revealing, documenting and interpreting these messages from the past.
Most of the writing is an ancient Greek, concluded Ovadiah after years of work, in a recent paper on the inscriptions co-authored with the monk and fellow classicist scholar Rosario Pierri.There is evidence that the cave was sacred in the Hellenistic period too (4th-1st centuries BCE). Carmel was part of the Phoenician settlement ruling what is today the coast of Lebanon and Israel.The Roman revolution: Cave graffiti The inscriptions themselves however are from a more limited period, starting apparently in the late Roman period and up to the 19th century.However, the Roman historian Tacitus writes that there were no statues of the god, or temples to Baal: he was worshipped at altars.That could indicate the foot belonged to a statue of Zeus: on the Carmel, ancient worship of Baal was subsumed by worship of Zeus, say experts.Some experts believe that prior to any visit by the Israelite prophet, the cave was a shrine to Baal himself.