Hello friends, I pray that everyone had a great time in God's house on Sunday. At OFA, we stared a new series on Problematic Passages...the stories throughout scripture that appear to contradict the main principles of scripture....especially to those who are not well versed in the Bible. This week we are continuing that series. On Sunday, I will be talking about a story found in 2nd Kings chapter 2. It's only a couple of verses long, let's take a look.
2 Kings 2: 23-25
23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of [n]their number. 25 He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
Ok, this story involves Elisha, a prophet in the Old Testament. If we were to simply look at these two verses, which is mostly what happens when critiquing the Bible, it appears as though Elisha was simply having a bad day and was overly sensitive about his male pattern baldness. The truth is, there is a lot more to this passage than meets the eye-we need to simply look at the historical context of that time and place.
When I was in Jr. High, during the summer, my family had just moved into a new neighborhood. I had met one kid my age...but that was it. On the first day of school I walked down to the bus stop. I got there about 10 minutes early, as I did not know exactly when the bus was going to arrive. As I was standing there, a group of 8th graders approached me. They started teasing me and mocking me. I tried to ignore them, but pretty soon, these boys surrounded me. They made a circle, with me in the middle. My "friend," that lived next to me was simply standing off to the side, not wanting to get involved. Suffice to say, I was very scared. They had blocked me in...if I wanted to run away, I would have to break the circle. I was hoping that only one of them would rush me, rather than all of them at once. I was doing my best to talk my way out of it, but that was not going to happen. Thankfully, the bus arrived just as one of them started advancing on me. From that point forward, my dad started taking me to school. Imagine if those 8th graders had deadly intentions and were threatening my life, thankfully that was not the case, but that is exactly what Elisha was facing in 2nd Kings Ch. 2.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there were over 40 young men (between the age of 17-20)…there weren't just 2 or 3 or even a dozen. This amount of rowdy young men can get out of hand very quickly. Secondly, the area in which this happened had been the location of a golden calf, erected by Jeroboam. Large amounts of people would gather there to worship the idol. Previous to this encounter, Elijah and Elisha had visited the spot, so it's likely that these 2 prophets were known in the area. As the young man approached Elisha, they began mocking his appearance, but that's not all. They said to Elisha "you go up." On the surface, this might not mean much, but in fact, the young men were saying to Elisha that they wanted him dead and gone. In other words, these young men were threatening the prophets life. Try and put yourself in the shoes of this prophet, he was all alone, surrounded by a massive number of young men, threatening his life. Do you think that these riled up young men were simply standing at a distance? More than likely, they had surrounded Elisha, giving him nowhere to turn. Given the fact that there were so many of these young men and the fact that they were telling the prophet that they wanted him to die, I can better understand why Elisha did what he did. Also, keep in mind, that God did not look favorably at people mocking His prophets. The text says that the young men were "torn up," the actual word is more like "mauled." We do not know if they all died or not. When looking at this through a modern lens, we might be tempted to judge Elisha...but remember, it was God that sent the bear, Elisha simply cursed them, as they put him in a "no win" situation.