Friday, April 20, 2007

Awkward Bible Passages Part II

"From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. 'Go on up, you baldhead!' they said. 'Go on up, you baldhead!' He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria."
- II Kings 2:23-25 (NIV)

In this, our second installment of Awkward Bible Passages, we find the prophet Elisha (not to be confused with Elijah, who got swept up to heaven by a whirlwind earlier in the chapter) innocently making his way to Bethel. At least 42 young people emerge from the town (must have been a really boring town) to ridicule Elisha's follicly-challenged head. This is clearly a sensitive issue for Elisha, and he calls upon the almighty to defend his pride. Yahweh sees it as fit punishment to unleash two bears upon 42 of the youths (presumably, the worst offenders). The King James version says the bears are she bears, and we know mother bears can be especially edgy, but surely they did not confuse Elijah's bald head for one of their cubs? One also wonders why the bears were able to attack 42 of the youths. If you were an incorrigible and unscrupulous youth and saw your comrades mauled by the bears, surely you'd flee for safety. The bears would have to be pretty darn fast or unrelenting to maul 21 apiece. Try to visualize this scenario; it's hard to do. Some try to defend this passage by saying the "youths" were in their twenties or thereabouts, not children. Like that somehow makes being maimed by a bear fair punishment for teasing a bald man.

Update: Come to think of it, why didn't Elisha just call upon the Lord to give him more hair? That would have still shut the youths up, without anyone getting mauled.

1 comment:

Marc said...

That's a good one. Heinlein cited it in Stranger in a Strange Land.

He also cites the passage where Lot's daughters screw their drunk father so the family name can continue... and the one where lot offers to let an angry mob rape his daughters if they'll just leave the angels alone. For this he's judged as "Holy."