Elisha, the boys and the bears on “The Saltlick”, blog of Peter Gowesky

A group of boys come up to Elisha the prophet, call him “Baldy”, so he sics a couple of she-bears on these nasty boys.  What’s up with that?  Doesn’t that seem a bit severe just for a harmless insult?

Check out my post on the topic on “The Salt Lick”, the blog of Biblical student, Peter Gowesky.

The Saltlick.tv, “Elisha, the boys, and the bears”.

What do you say to people who ask you about Elisha, the boys, and the bears? 

 

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5 comments

  1. There are several things that need to be noted to make sense of this text. First, the translation “boys” can be misleading as the Hebrew word has a broad range of age categories depending on context. The “boys” may well have been in their teens or beyond. Second, by telling the prophet to “go up” they were wanting to happen to Elisha what had happened to Elijah. You could paraphrase their taunt “get out of here”. Third, within the culture of the Ancient Near East baldness or the shaving of one’s head was done to shame another person. Fourth, the prophet asked for the judgement to come from G-d not himself. Fifth, the bears coming out of the woods was part of the judgement that Deuteronomy said would happen to those who rebelled against Him (or His prophet). If G-d warns that certain activity will bring about a response from Him why should we be surprised when it actually happens?

  2. Well then, I still don’t get why teenage boys who rebel against Elisha saying, “Get out of here…baldy” deserved to be mauled by a bunch of bears.

  3. Brent, Great points. I make the first one in God Behaving Badly. I’d also say, if we told this story to people in the Middle-East today, they’d say, “So, what’s the problem?” What seems wrong in our context, may not in another.
    Trish, I don’t fully understand it either, but I’m simply making these points to make it more understandable. The text doesn’t give us a lot of details about what actually happened to the the gang of teens.
    Thanks for engaging!

  4. If you read up on commentary, I believe the explanation is valid. Elisha received the power to heal and destroy. Conviction the spirit of Elijah was now working in Elisha, the new prophet which every one bowed to.

    “The word for “children” is used of persons of thirty or forty years of age;”

    The children..”knew him to be a prophet, and were able to distinguish between good and evil; and, from a malignant spirit in them, mocked at him as such, and at the assumption of Elijah; which they had knowledge of, and to whom, taught by their idolatrous parents”

    “The action cannot be defended from a Christian point of view – Christians have no right to curse any one. But we can well understand that, under the old covenant, a prophet newly installed in office, and commencing his ministry, might deem it right to vindicate the honor of his office by visiting such conduct as that of these misguided youths with a malediction. Under the Law God’s ministers were required to curse the disobedient (Deuteronomy 27:14-26).”

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