Old Testament Bible Question

I have a faint memory of an Old Testament story about a prophet and a bear. As I recall, the prophet was being tormented by a group of kids and God sent a bear to punish them. The bear ripped the kids to shreds and the prophet went on his way. I have been unable to remember where this story is recorded and would greatly appreciate someone pointing me to it.


The prophet Elisha.

From II Kings 2, 23-2r (KJV):

Pity he didn’t have any Minoxidil.

Thank you, Northern Piper. It is good to know that my memory hasn’t completely failed, even though I couldn’t remember the location of the story.

Somebody told me that the term ‘baldhead’ was used in this context to mean ‘leper’ and that ‘little children’ is more accurately rendered ‘youths’; still, perhaps a little harsh - a few stern words to their parents first maybe?

Elisha and the bears, or why you should never, ever, ever make fun of bald people.

II Kings 2:23-25

LouisB, you’re welcome. It’s always stuck in my mind since reading a piece by P.G. Wodehouse, who referred to a literary critic who had the temerity to criticise one of Plum’s books. Plum commented to the effect “but no doubt the critic has been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the Prophet Elisha.”

Well, here’s how the “Good News Bible” translates the passage:

The term “baldhead” emphatically does not mean leper. Reference Leviticus 13:40 - " “When a man has lost his hair and is bald, he is clean.” (clean, in that context, meaning not leprous). The Hebrew word for “bald” used in both this sentence in Leviticus and in the passage in II Kings is the same.

The word translated as “children,” Na’ar, is usually translated (in the KJV, at least) as young man. However, it is also commonly used in the sense of “servant” and “child.”

Verse 24 uses a different word, Yeled, which is more often translated as “children” but also is used in the sense of youths.

Even though KJV chooses “children” instead of “young men,” the idea that Elisha was taunted by rowdy teenagers persists. This is done to increase the threat to Elisha – and justify God’s deadly assistance.

Still, teenagers or pre-teens, 42 is a lot of dead kids. Didn’t the gang, like, run away after the she-bears “tare” the first 3 or 4 of their pals?

I needed the source to sandbag a person who thinks he knows everything, especially everything concerning the bible. When I related the story, without being able to cite book, chapter and verse, he said that no such story was to be found in the bible and furthermore, God would never send bears against children.

Having now given him book, chapter and verse, his silence is overwhelming–I hope to never have to talk to him again. It is fun to squelch a smartass from time to time.

Sorry, no cite for this, just floating around in my head.

My understanding as to the precise nature of the insult (“Baldy!”) was that back in Bible times, head hair was considered “masculine”, proof of virility, and that a guy without head hair was therefore considered non-virile, and that “baldy!” would be roughly equivalent to today’s “faggot!”

Louis: Is your buddy an Inerrantist? Inerrantists always have trouble with this story. :smiley:

The Plum quotation I was thinking of is from the Preface to Summer Lightning:

I love Plum. :slight_smile:

Oh, really. What can be more tedious than an apologist who won’t do his/her homework?

Gleason Archer’s spin on the Teddy Bears’ Picnic is that it was a pack of hoodlums (conveniently choosing the least likely but most helpful translation) and that “God saw fit to put forty-two of them to death in this spectacular fashion … in order to strike terror into other youth gangs that were infesting the city and to make them realize that neither Yahweh Himself nor any of his anointed prophets were to be threatened or treated with contempt.”

The only problem with Archer’s apologetic is that, like so many, it’s sheer fabrication. There’s nothing in the text that even hints of youth gangs infesting the city. Not to mention that the adventure happens on the road, not in town.

For what it’s worth, my own interpretation is this. Read 2 Kings from the beginning to the point of the Picnic. Note that the context is the passing of Elijah’s mantle to Elisha. And that, earlier (2 Kings 1:9-12), Elijah had dispatched 100 soldiers (two sets of 50, actually) with nothing but a word to the Lord, thus proving him to be a man of God. In other words, the Picnic is how the text ‘proves’ that Elisha is a man of God.

Two men are hiking in the mountains. One suddenly stops, removes his hiking boots, and starts putting on sneakers. The other asks why he is doing that.

The first man answers, “I thought I heard a bear.”

The second argues, “Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t outrun a bear, not even with sneakers.”

The first responds, “I just need to outrun YOU!”

Or how about removing the parents from state benefits - that’s going to work!!!:wink:

I was wondering about that too.

DDG, he isn’t exactly a “buddy,” he is just a smartass whose path crosses mine from time to time. More of a friend of a friend kind of thing. But, yes, he claims that the bible is the literal word of God and is completely free of mistakes. Fossils were put in the earth to test our faith, the earth is like 7 or 8K years old, that sort of thing. He claims to be a “biblical scholar” and I am delighted to have this opportunity to crush the smug little weasel.


And why is this such an unlikely interpretation? Bear in mind (no pun intended) that this man was a prophet of G-d in territory run by Baal-worshippers, ruled by a king hostile to him. Perhaps you consider the “youth gang” interpretation to be so unlikely because in your (and my) experience, the term has come to be associated with groups of rebellious youths out of synch with the establishment, like motorcycle gangs and the like. However the fact is clear from the text itself that this man, traveling through territory that is predominantly hostile to him, was beset by a large number of harassers (more than 42 - the text says that the bears killed 42 of them, implying that there were more - and this is from my knowledge of the original Hebrew, not just relying on the translation), who happened to be young (the point that most of you folks seem to be fixated on). While I will admit that I don’t specifically see anything in the text about “youth gangs infesting the city”, there was certainly an attitude in the Northern Kingdom toward G-d and his prophets that resembles the attitude of today’s young Palestinians toward Israelis.

I really don’t know anything about this Gleason Archer fellow, but other than the “youth gangs infesting the city” business, I really don’t see what makes his interpretation of the passage the “least likely” one.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Here’s my question…he was walking through a town, and a gang of at least FOURTY-TWO kids started calling him bald? That’s more than your average neighborhood pack of kids, I’d say.

Here’s my question…he was walking through a town, and a gang of at least FORTY-TWO kids started calling him bald? That’s more than your average neighborhood pack of kids, I’d say.

Hey cmkeller. The point isn[t so much that the hoodlums theory is implausible as that it’s being projected, both by Archer and by you, onto the text. (Archer, btw, is a Protestant apologist, which is probably why you haven’t heard of him.) And, in a passage of just one paragraph, the difference between “young boys” and “street thugs,” which also amounts to the difference between disrespect and threatening, is not fixation.

Not sure why you resist my interpretation. Only inerrantists usually feel strongly that this event must have happened. To me, it’s a parable, the point of which was to put Elisha in Elijah’s mantle.