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In Malachi 3:23 -24 it says

23. Lo, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord,
24. that he may turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers-lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction.

How will one know that it is Elijah? It says "I will send" , where is he being sent from, where will he appear, will he be known to all or just those that G-d has chosen?

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As far as where he is being sent from, I assume he would be sent from heaven, since he did not die, but rather ascended there alive. Either that, or the nearest bris. –  HodofHod Jun 19 '12 at 3:41
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@HodofHod ...or seder –  Double AA Jun 19 '12 at 3:41
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"How will one know that it is Elijah?" -- in answer, Teiku –  josh waxman Jun 19 '12 at 14:04
    
@HodofHod, that is not universally accepted, see RaDaK there. –  Yitzchak Jun 19 '12 at 23:36
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@joshwaxman +1 for recursive leitzonus :) –  Yitzchak Jun 19 '12 at 23:37

2 Answers 2

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My personal favorite commentator is the Malbim (Malbim on Malakhi 3), because of his detail and overall insightfulness.

His commentary on 23 is as follows (with my translation):

הנה - עד לפני בא יום הגדול שאז תשוב לכם הנבואה שנית על ידי גדול הנביאים שהוא אליהו הנביא שיתגלה אז. "Until the great day", that then prophecy will return to them a second time through the Great of the Prophets who is Eliyahu HaNavi, who will be revealed then.

So it seems he will actually be revealed. Whether his soul comes into someone's body, inhabits his previous and newly re-formed body, he is born as a new person, or he will manifest into this world in spirit form (like he will be an active 'ghost'). I don't see how any of these occurrences wouldn't be possible.

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An accepted answer without even one up-vote. Where is the badge for that? –  Aman Jun 27 '12 at 10:14

While there has been speculation about these things and perhaps others can fill us in on the Midrashic sources, the Rambam's words in Hilchos Melachim (12:1) should be mentioned. He writes:

...and similarly all of these kinds of things (i.e."the wolf will dwell with the sheep etc.") are parables. And in the days of the Messiah it will be known to all what exactly it was a parable for, and what idea was hinted at with it.

Rambam is saying that we know that a lot of the words of the Prophets are not to be taken literally, and so while we may speculate, we won't know the exact, true meaning of their words until the things take place, and we'll then realize they were fulfillments of the prophecies. I think that this applies here too.

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so, are you saying that the Elijah returning may be a parable? If to say that wouldn't that mean we have to do that for ones concerning Messiah? I know that there is defiantly a "spiritual" aspect to the scriptures, but wouldn't you say that there must be a "literal" full fillment as well? –  ironman99 Jun 19 '12 at 14:51
    
I am saying that we don't necessarily know what is meant to be taken literally and what isn't, so we'll have to wait to find out. –  Dov F Jun 19 '12 at 15:47
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@ironman99: Rambam mentions (a couple of paragraphs later) that it is uncertain whether Elijah will come before or after Moshiach; it seems from his phrasing, though, that either way it is something that is actually going to happen, not a parable. (How exactly he'll come, how he'll be recognized as Elijah, etc., are the kind of things that he goes on to say we're not certain about.) –  Alex Jun 19 '12 at 17:17
    
@DovF, seems that the prophet is saying " 1. Behold I send My angel, and he will clear a way before Me. And suddenly, the Lord Whom you seek will come to His Temple. And behold! The angel of the covenant, whom you desire, is coming, says the Lord of Hosts." that Elijah will come before Moshiach. Seems that there must be a temple too. Unless this is speaking of something that has already happened. –  ironman99 Jun 19 '12 at 19:10
    
@ironman99, that assumes that the angel in 3:1 is identical with Elijah in 3:23; that's not necessarily a given. (The "angel of the covenant" may indeed be Elijah - thus Radak (one explanation) and Metzudas David - but the angel in the first half of the verse isn't necessarily the same one; Ibn Ezra, for example, suggests that it might be Moshiach ben Yosef, and Radak says that it means an otherwise unnamed divine messenger.) –  Alex Jun 19 '12 at 19:21

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