Monday, April 21, 2014

Elisha, Boys, and Bears

The Bible contains some strange stuff.  I've been reading through a study on Elisha, and how he was an incredible man of faith, when I came across the oddest story that I can't recall ever hearing before.  It's 2 Kings 2:23-25, if you want to double check me (yes, it's that off the wall...).

First, some setup.  Immediately prior to this, Elisha requested a double portion of the faith of the great prophet Elijah, then witnessed Elijah being taken up into Heaven by a fiery chariot, then parted the waters of the Jordan River with Elijah's cloak.  Elisha then goes to Jericho and miraculously purifies the city's spring with some salt, saving the city from starvation and drought.

Clearly, he is a man with a direct line to God, and got the faith he requested through Elijah.  And then we see this:
23Elisha left and headed toward Bethel. Along the way some boys started making fun of him by shouting, “Go away, baldy! Get out of here!” 24Elisha turned around and stared at the boys. Then he cursed them in the name of the Lord. At once two bears ran out of the woods and ripped to pieces 42 of the boys. 25Elisha went up to Mount Carmel, then returned to Samaria.
[cue the screeching turntable...]

Wait, what?!

This great man of faith, a man capable of performing miracles matching anyone in the Bible -- including Moses and Jesus Himself -- gets mocked by some kids so he calls down bears upon them?!  And the bears rip 42 of them to pieces?!  And then he just continues on his way?!


I'm honestly not sure what to make of this.  None of it seems in character for any man of God, let alone a prophet of Elisha's stature.  If anyone can shed some insight on this, I'd love to hear it.


  1. Is it possible its a less-than-perfect translation of the original Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek? (I have no clue which parts of the Bible were originally written in which language). Rather than being made fun of by a group of boys, perhaps he was harassed by a group of young men?

  2. Just a thought: The old KJV says, "Go Up, thou bald head, Go UP!" which I believe is more accurate than a modern translation. What were they saying? Elisha's mentor, Elijah, had done just that, --gone up,-- that is, he had been taken up into heaven. I believe that children often belie the words and behavior of their parents and elders. In this case, they probably didn't believe Elijah had been taken up, and mocked the very idea. The mocking of youth really represented the mocking of the older folks there, and after what Elisha had just done for them, it was not a good idea to mock the power of the Lord. Elisha had no power in and of himself other than to pronounce the curse. No doubt God had spoken to him to speak those words. It was God declaring himself just in judging the community for mocking his power. When a miracle has just happened and is clear to all, we dare not mock the God who just performed it.

  3. Good thoughts that make sense. Thank you!