A Bald Man, Two Bears, and Forty-two “Children”: Misinterpreted Bible Passages #6

Elisha's she-bears of vengeance

A Bald Man, Two Bears, and Forty-two “Children”: Misinterpreted Bible Passages #6

It’s been awhile since the last installment of this series (lots more to come), but this one should be fairly straightforward. 2 Kings 2:23–24 tells of the prophet Elisha calling a curse down upon a group of “children” (KJV), “youths” (NIV), “boys,” (NRSV/ESV), or “lads” (NASB), resulting in two bears (she-bears, if you must) mauling forty two of them. Here’s the passage:

וַיַּעַל מִשָּׁם בֵּית־אֵל וְהוּא עֹלֶה בַדֶּרֶךְ וּנְעָרִים קְטַנִּים יָצְאוּ מִן־הָעִיר וַיִּתְקַלְּסוּ־בוֹ וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ עֲלֵה קֵרֵחַ עֲלֵה קֵרֵחַ׃
‎‏ וַיִּפֶן אַחֲרָיו וַיִּרְאֵם וַיְקַלְלֵם בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה וַתֵּצֶאנָה שְׁתַּיִם דֻּבִּים מִן־הַיַּעַר וַתְּבַקַּעְנָה מֵהֶם אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁנֵי יְלָדִים׃

“And [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel. While he was on his way, young juveniles* came out from the city and mocked him, saying, ‘Go up, bald-head! Go up, bald-head!’ When he turned back and saw them, he cursed them in the name of YHWH. Then two female bears came out from the forest and mauled forty two of those juveniles.”

* The Hebrew word underlying what I have translated “juveniles” is notoriously difficult to translate in this context. The word can mean “child,” “servant,” “young man,” or several other possibilities, depending on the context. For example, it is used of the “young man” Absalom (1 Sam 18:5) and a group of 400 Amalekite warriors 1 Sam 30:17. The generally agreed meaning is that it is used of a young man (& can include females in the plural) who is not yet betrothed, setting the range from a mere boy to a young warrior. This passage uses the additional adjective “little” or “young” in the first case, which may tilt the meaning more towards the “children” end of the spectrum, but it’s certainly not clear. I’ve chosen the somewhat clunky “juveniles” to reflect this range, though the translation is admittedly less than ideal.

A Difficult Passage

This passage has disturbed many a reader, bringing up the question of how a prophet of YHWH could call a deadly curse down upon a group of kids for taunting him about something as insignificant as baldness. The following video is an outstanding (and, frankly, hilarious) example of this sort of misgiving (WARNING: a couple bits of language might be offensive for some):

The video actually depicts the “youths” at the older end of the spectrum (given younger kids, it would look even worse), but the basic sentiment is still there: as one of the video characters declares, “this seems like a disproportionate response” to insulting Elisha’s lack of hair.

Are Bald People Just Temperamental?

The first thing to dismiss is that this was an older man who reacted badly to taunts about his male pattern balding. According to 2 Kings, this event immediately followed Elisha taking over for Elijah; Elisha was still quite a young man at this point in the story, living about 60 years after this event (through the reigns of four more kings and into a fifth’s reign: Ahaziah, Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, & Jehoash/Joash). He wasn’t exactly an old monk as portrayed in the video, probably coming closer to the age of the older “children” in the group taunting him than to their parents. As an aside, given Elisha’s young age (and the possibility that his head would have been covered anyway), it isn’t clear the reference is to male-pattern baldness. It is just as likely that (were he actually bald) that his baldness was the result of the fulfillment of a vow before YHWH (which would make sense in the time immediately following Elijah’s departure). Some have also suggested that “baldy” was a reference to lepers or other outcasts who had to shave their heads. Either way, the baldness referenced in the passage is neither clear nor is it especially important.

Secondly, the emphasis in the passage isn’t Elisha’s baldness or that the juveniles bring it up—it’s that the youth of Bethel reject and scorn YHWH’s prophet (signaling a rejection of God himself). The problem is that, rather than receiving the prophet, they tell him to “go up”—the exact word (עלה) used to describe Elijah’s departure to heaven twelve verses earlier. That is, they tell him to stay away, that they wanted nothing to do with him or his God, that he should go join Elijah in heaven if he was really such a powerful prophet. That they call him “baldy,” though perhaps disrespectful, was not the cause of the cursing.

On that front, it is not insignificant that this event happens just outside Bethel, one of the two state-sponsored centers of idolatry (Dan being the other), complete with a golden calf set up by Jeroboam after the kingdoms divided. Bethel had been the center of another prophetic confrontation before—in 1 Kings 13, an unnamed young prophet cursed the altar of Bethel and its priests, with a sign performed when Jeroboam’s arm withered when he ordered the prophet siezed. A generation after Elisha, Bethel would again be the center of prophetic controversy, when Amos declared his prophecy against Israel (which we have in the book of Amos) in Bethel, cursing Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, declaring, “Thus says YHWH, ‘Your wife will become a whore in the city, your sons and daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be divided up by a measuring line, and you yourself will die upon unclean soil'” (Amos 7:10–17).

In addition, if forty two of these young comedians were mauled by the bears, exactly how many are we to assume were actually present for this scene of mockery? When a pair of large wild bears run out of the woods and begin wreaking havoc, people tend to scatter rather quickly. In my experience, such large groups of people rarely form accidentally; from the numbers involved, the implication is that this is an organized public demonstration against Elisha and his God. Bethel’s rejection of YHWH—reflected in these youngsters’ hostile behavior towards the prophet—is what leads Elisha to curse these youthful hooligans “in the name of the Lord.”

The Key Point for Understanding the Passage

In fact, like Amos after him, Elisha’s curse appears to be a repetition of (part of) the curse for rejecting YHWH in the covenant from Sinai:

“If then you act with hostility and are unwilling to hear/obey me … I will send the wild beasts among you and bereave you of your children” (Lev 26:22–23).

This is of course exactly what happens in this case, suggesting that the knowledgeable reader should immediately know what curse Elisha invoked—a curse directly from the Israelite covenant. Much is made about the blessings contained in the covenant and the many blessings promised by God, but many interpreters seem to forget the other side of the equation—disobedience calls forth awful curses. That Elisha’s curse brings about swift comeuppance is no less a sign of his authority as a prophet and representative of the covenant (and thus the truth of his protests against idolatry) than Elijah’s victorious confrontation on Carmel had been.

Recall that in his first act as Elijah’s successor, Elisha had just miraculously purified the accursed, polluted water of Jericho, bringing blessing to those who received YHWH; this second act serves as a sign of God’s continued judgment upon covenant-breakers. Such a visible sign of judgment serves—just as Elijah’s drought and victory on Carmel (complete with the slaughter of 450 false prophets)—as a sign of YHWH’s reality and his covenantal claim upon Israel. In addition, given the fact that Elijah had been sought by the king and threatened with death by the queen, this kind of mockery and aggressive behavior serves as a threat—and as with Elijah before him, it becomes immediately clear that YHWH himself will look after the safety of his prophet(s), much to the disadvantage of their opponents.

God Will Not Be Mocked, So Don’t Taunt a Prophet of YHWH (Even if he is bald)

So, Elisha’s curse is not simply a case of a temperamental guy getting bit touchy about his appearance and calling down curses upon a group of kids for drawing attention to his baldness. Rather, it is a prophetic sign—at the very beginning of his service as God’s spokesperson—of YHWH’s displeasure at Israel’s covenantal disobedience, a warning that, without repentance, the other curses stipulated in the covenant were soon to come.

Granted, modern sensibilities tend to be at odds with any sort of divine retribution—”How dare God kill anyone!” (Then again, a rather high percentage of people tend to die at the end of their lives anyway, suggesting it’s just a matter of when God chooses to “kill.”) This tends to be even more the case when involving children. But such a complaint involves more of a problem with the essential worldview reflected in the Bible at large; this is by no means a problematic passage if one is willing to take the worldview reflected in the text and accept God’s authority as judge.

It is also important to note that God is the one who defends himself/his prophet here—no human being is taking into his/her own hands to defend God or himself against others in a violent manner. Elisha’s curse simply marks yet another occasion in which Israel’s rejection of God results in receiving the curses of the covenant, yet another milestone on the downward path towards the final, most serious of covenantal curses promised for disobedience—being scattered among the nations in exile.

114 Comments
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  • Aizar
    Posted at 10:28h, 16 May Reply

    Mr. Jason Staples I just wanted to let you know that I’ve read all of your blogs about the misinterpreted scriptures. Keep doing what you’re doing because these things need to be known since many things are taught in the church incorrectly. God bless you.

    • Tim
      Posted at 11:55h, 31 May Reply

      What a made up bunch of BS. There is no substantiation for any of these claims. To bad you believe in fairy tales that you have to go way way out to justify. Your Bible is trash.

      • Xavier
        Posted at 11:28h, 24 August Reply

        Thanks, Tim. Your carefully thought out response has made me question my faith, and renounce my beliefs entirely.
        Yeah, no. What a sad, sorry little person you are, needing to go on a site that is strictly for Bible verses, and then railing against people for their faith or belief.
        Your personality is trash.

        • zip
          Posted at 03:09h, 24 September Reply

          Yeh, Tim is right. There is no need to justify immoral behaviour. God or not, killing 42 children for verbally insulting you is horrid.

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 10:46h, 24 September

            I don’t think the authors of the text see much difference between God killing children and God waiting until they’re older to kill them of old age. For these authors, God is always the one who ends a life.

      • steve ballow
        Posted at 01:09h, 18 June Reply

        Na, Tim’s actually right.

      • Mr Diyagi
        Posted at 15:12h, 04 December Reply

        Instead lets take the vague explanation of Microbes turning into Microbiologists over millions of years, with NO proof whatsoever: in order to explain how we should LIVE! Atheism is a Religion in itself, stout on insulting other’s beliefs and faiths and ONLY ATTEMPTING to disprove a God you don’t believe in, in the first place, Atheism Needs God to exist!. You have no background to justify a “moral subject with your Moral compass if a moral law isn’t real to you!” You have no point of reference to even say WHAT a God you don’t believe does, is wrong or right. All you can say is it feels uncomfortable. You’re just space matter colliding into itself over time and you have NO purpose whatsoever with Atheism except to explain God’s Already Miraculous Creation. By the way, The Chicken came first!!!!

        • An atheist
          Posted at 10:02h, 23 April Reply

          However you define it, killing 42 children is never right. Would you kill you neighbor’s children to teach their parents to respect you? If you say, or near yes, you are a delusional and probably psychotic bordering evil serial killer (yes, 1 is too much, 42 is plain evil)

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 12:15h, 26 April

            This passage does not include a human killing another human. Everyone will die—from a theistic perspective, there’s no difference to God whether someone dies at 14 or 80. If God is to be censured for the death of a 15 year old, God is equally on the hook for an 80 year old. So from that perspective, your point is nonsense.

        • wayne daugherty
          Posted at 22:00h, 25 April Reply

          You are one serious wackadoodle.

          • wayne daugherty
            Posted at 22:01h, 25 April

            …and yes, that was an ad hominem.

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  • Bildo
    Posted at 17:29h, 10 September Reply

    this is a very fucked up verse, like many others in the “good book”…..justify it all you want, you disgust me

    • private
      Posted at 06:55h, 23 January Reply

      Wow… Nice use of language and good job on completely lacking of an actual argument. I think if there is anything disgusting on this page it’s your use of language. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t even read the page that you are commenting on. Good job.

      • 666
        Posted at 01:06h, 20 February Reply

        OMG it’s just a word get over it. How can a word be any more disgusting than another? That’s retarded.

      • Tim
        Posted at 11:57h, 31 May Reply

        The article lacks an actual argument.

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 12:02h, 12 June Reply

          That’s mainly because it’s not trying to make one. It’s explaining a particular oft-misinterpreted biblical passage, that’s all. The only arguments involve pointing out where the passage is often misunderstood. What you want to do with the passage after you understand it is up to you.

          • Jon
            Posted at 11:27h, 25 March

            Jason, at the beginning there you asserted that the article is not trying to make an argument but you then proceed to inform Tim of the argument that you just stated is not there. I agree with Tim; you are not making an argument, you’re attempting to manipulate the definitions of things to make yourself feel better about believing in something so innately ridiculous. “Oh no they were maybe not young lets linger on minute details in a desperate attempt to alter the entire story. Even though god clearly ripped 42 children asunder in the form of two bears, we can make it sound better. It’s out of context. ” Young juveniles. It’s sad that you even made an attempt to twist that interpretation. It means kids. You’re not intelligent. The end. Fuck you.

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 14:23h, 27 April

            Jon, where in the article does it suggest any sort of apology for the text? Objections about the subject matter are no excuse for being a poor reader. My concern here is that people learn to be better readers. After that, what they choose to do with the text is up to them. But refusing to read well is ignorance at its essence.

  • NowItsEvenWorse
    Posted at 15:34h, 24 October Reply

    Victims of serious emotional and physical abuse often get to the stage where they will justify their captor’s actions, highlighting once again that if there is a god (YHWH), he is an evil, psychopathic entity with very, very low self esteem and rage issues second to none. Elisha being touchy about his baldness is understandable as he is a human, but god being touchy about a bunch of young upstarts, now that speaks volumes about the kind of entity which christians so masochistically wish to prostrate themselves before. We would have to be very afraid of a god like that and worship/respect would only be given out of pure fear, much like a kidnap victim will respect the wishes of the kidnapper if enough violence is dished out. Oh I forgot, he does all this bad shit to us…..but he luvs us?!?! Fortunately there is not a god.

    • Alex Pyun
      Posted at 17:47h, 25 August Reply

      He explained that it is not about baldness. It that they rejected God. In the Old Testament, there was a law. A just God is required to give the punishment. It is not something God wants. And your last statement is just wrong. You cannot prove “there is not a god.”

      • Nick
        Posted at 12:06h, 11 May Reply

        You can’t prove there is, so what’s your point? There is not a god until you can come up with the compelling evidence for there being one. For all the things that may or may not be, we don’t consider them to exist until we see reason for them to be so.
        Funny how indirectly rejecting god can be taken, making fun of a bald man, is somehow to be known as rejecting god just because he was a prophet, so that’s deserving to be mauled by bears? LOL. Nice intellectual gymnastics to protect your psychopath in the sky.

        • Pastor Pete
          Posted at 17:23h, 15 August Reply

          Jesus rose from the dead. There’s your proof. And I call that “proof” because, if you can get out of your own little world and examine the evidence surrounding what happened in 1st Century Judea, you would have to grapple with the facts that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and killed, His followers (cowards that they were) went into hiding for fear of having a similar fate befall them, He was buried in a tomb which (at the behest of His enemies) had elite Roman guards standing watch to prevent anyone from breaking in, SOMETHING happened in which Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb, and His followers suddenly grew cajones and proclaimed Him risen from the dead – not “alive,” as in survived His bloody ordeal, but risen, as in WAS dead, and is alive again. This teaching spread throughout the Mediterranean and Nar East, as far away as India and Africa, even to the Roman colonies in Britain. How do you explain this? If you think about it reasonably, the only plausible explanation, incredulous though it seems, is that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. And if He DID rise from the dead, what does that mean? It means that He is God. And if He is God, then perhaps you should reexamine your so-called “argument.”

          Because of the very nature of the supernatural (as in, it exists beyond what we are able to comprehend or explain), to demand proof of the supernatural is what philosophers call an “empty question,” on par with “could God make a boulder so big that even He couldn’t lift it.” It’s simply nonsensical, and that is why we look to miracles as evidence because they are an in=breaking of the supernatural into our plane of existence.

          Finally, if I can quote from an awesome YouTube video called “Donnell and Connell Meet Richard Dawkins” attached below, “Stop in the name of logic before you break my brain. Placing your failure to properly understand the justice of the Almighty aside for a moment, did you honestly just argue that God doesn’t exist because He’s mean?? Why, if being a jerk made you cease to exist, then every war in human history would have been over the second it started, Rosie O’ Donnell would have disappeared in a puff of smoke in 1998 instead of getting fired from ‘The View’ once every seven minutes, and that jerk who makes those ‘Lutheran Satire’ videos wouldn’t even be able to finish recor==” I’ll add to it by saying every troll, like yourself, would be gone from the face of the planet faster than you can say “South Park.”

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d4FHHf00pY

      • Tim
        Posted at 11:58h, 31 May Reply

        Why don’t you worship Zeus then?

      • mike
        Posted at 08:56h, 16 September Reply

        Can you prove there is?

    • Renlov
      Posted at 14:05h, 30 June Reply

      @NowItsEvenWorse
      Here’s a thought experiment that we modern folks can appreciate…
      Imagine God as a robotics engineer and that humanity is an experimental line of AI robots with free will. The engineer – rather pleased with his creation of autonomous thinking machines – gives the robots a purpose and a set of instructions. However, the robots’ free will allows them to disobey. So, the engineer promises rewards for obedience and punishments for disobedience; at the end of the project, the obedient robots will be preserved and upgraded and the disobedient robots will be scrapped.

      Is the engineer an amoral monster? No, he’s not because the robots are his creation and they are his to do with as he pleases. If you can accept the premise that God is our creator, then we are little more than intelligent biological machines created by Him. He does no wrong in ending our lives and He has the final say in our ultimate fate. Isn’t one of our greatest fears about the future that we might inadvertently create intelligent robots that would rebel against us (their creators)? It’s funny because that’s exactly what we did to God (our creator).

      We are instructed to fear God; however, that’s not the same kind of fear you describe. We should fear the wrath of God’s judgment of our sin more than we fear the harassment and violence of men, and more than we fear the loss of the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of sin. However, God is not an equal that we should judge Him. He is our creator; He has power over our lives and the fate of our souls. We owe Him the respect that any child owes his or her parent as well as the respect that any inferior creature owes to its superior.

      God is not an abusive husband or a kidnapper; He is a benevolent king. Kings are heads of state who rule over the government, and governments punish those who break the law. A king who simply pardons murderers would be a rather unjust ruler. Kings also have every right to punish sedition and treason. That is exactly the crime these kids/teens were committing and they received their punishment. Should they have received such a harsh punishment? Well, that’s debatable; however, we see governments make examples out of people all the time. This was a critical time in which a new authority figure was being introduced to the people, so making an example of these little traitors served to establish Elisha’s in his new position, his appointment by God, and to reassert the authority of God.

      • Kris
        Posted at 00:40h, 23 October Reply

        Your response was very well thought out and I agree.

        • Thomas Miller
          Posted at 07:02h, 08 March Reply

          I see your point. One flaw you didn’t consider, well 2 flaws in my opinion, #1 if I’m the robots creator and I knew they were going to be this screwed up I wouldn’t have created them in the first place. Because I’m GOD I should know this right? So it’s really my fault because I intentionally created them knowing how they would turn out. #2 You said if they disobeyed they would get scrapped. Which in my opinion wouldnt be too bad. But according to the Good Book or the (Horror Book) in which I assume that you read they would burn in the eternal lake of fire forever and never cease to die. That’s really harsh and then you blame them for that degree of punishment when you knew as the (creator) what you were creating before hand. SHAME ON YOU.

      • An atheist
        Posted at 10:13h, 23 April Reply

        Humans are not a robot, and besides, it’s NOT your god who kills humans, it’s humans insisting of gods plan. Never did your god do anything at all! it is all in your head!
        When you torment your creation on the outcome of your creation you are just a fool.

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 12:16h, 26 April Reply

          Stick to the discussion of the passage. In the passage, it is clearly the deity who is responsible for any of the deaths that occurred from the mauling of the bears. Your point is irrelevant and misplaced here. We’re just reading an ancient text, not talking about whatever you’re trying to extend it to.

          • SG
            Posted at 14:22h, 25 September

            was it? or was it Elisha? I believe Elisha was the one to curse them with power from God….but not God himself. Samson killed the Philistines himself… with power from God, Same with Moses striking the stone and causing water to flow showing that God gave him the power instead of God doing it himself due to the fact God was mad Moses did it so thats why moses didnt go to the promise land, Same with Jesus, God gave him power. or lastly the 2 witnesses in Revelations who are given power by God
            This to me, disproves your whole, whats the difference between 80 years and 5 years on Earth to God.
            Ezekiel 33:11
            “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’- Elisha didnt rebuke the young men, he just cursed them.
            Ezekiel 18:32
            For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
            Lamentations 3:32 -33 For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant loving kindness. For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the sons of men.

            If God didnt care about what age a person died then why isnt he just ok with just killing all the bad people since according to you they are gonna die anyway. I mean David was God’s beloved so why should God care about Uriah, Uriah was going to die eventually anyways so why did it matter that David speed that up?

            personally , I place blame on Elisha, only on the fact that Gods prophets were men and imperfect/incredibly flawed. Plus id rather no think of my God this way……..Remember Jonah, Jonah got mad at God because he knew that God would forgive Ninevah – a city filled with easily a couple thousand of those young men. Jonah wanted Ninevah to be destroyed yet unlike Elisha , Jonah gave Ninevah time to listen to his message and repent….this is an empire described for its wickedness and violence and Jonah/God gave them 40 days to repent, how long did those teenagers get? I believe they jeered at him and he cursed them….end of story.

            Compare this story to Luke 9:51-56, when Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem he came to a village that did not welcome him….Do you know what his disciples asked him? they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them…..Jesus rebuked them….but realize in every major translation it does not say….Lord,will you call down fire…instead it was do you want us to call down fire, shall we call the fire……indicating that the disciples had the power to call fire……this Samaritan village was at the end of Jesus life when he was very popular and welcome yet they ignored him which to the disciples is to refuse the father as well, so on your point that the Kids had it coming to them, so did that Samaritan town yet jesus showed mercy and justified it by saying “for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them”

            Also ask yourself, Hosea whole purpose was to describe how Israel was a whore, and rejected God for other gods which is worse? a group of non-Israelite young gentiles jeering at Elisha or the entire nation of Israel turning its back on God? Which is a more deliberate act?, yet even after God said this 1-9 Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God” and after that, God continued railing on Israel by saying Then the LORD said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them.”
            “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.”- God was saying about Israel…..
            He made it clear that his own priests were defiling his temples , yet where are the bear?????? Where is the Soddam and Gomorra ?

            Do you know what happens instead”
            Hosea -I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.”
            Hosea 11-8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused
            God forgives, God forgives these states that have committed the worst crimes against him, yet Elisha couldn’t allow those gentiles a chance at repentance?
            I do find it cold, how you justify the killings, I find it similar to how many other theologians carelessly talk about the killing of the newborns acting as if that was normal or even justified …….killing of the innocent infant, the first born, pride of mother and father due to an oppression that they had nothing to do with, as well as the Jews were a minority among the slave groups so by context their firstborns died as well and once the Israelites resettled in the promise land they had non-Hebrew slaves, that yes were by law to be treated better, yet a nonhebrew could be owned for life and be passed down by family…….and all I can think is that those slaves had no God to come and ransom them…. the Israelites were lucky,

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 14:41h, 04 October

            A few things:

            1) It’s nonsense to blame Elisha for calling down the curse that—from the perspective of the narrator—God himself had already proclaimed.

            2) It’s not comparable to Luke 9:51–56, which doesn’t involve the apostasy of God’s people and the curses of the Torah that results in. It’s more comparable to Acts 5, when Peter confronts Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit and they are both struck dead by God.

            3) You’ve completely missed the point of Hosea, who proclaims that because the people have turned their backs on God, the ENTIRE NATION will be destroyed, with most being wiped out by Assyria and the remainder scattered throughout the world to the point that they will lose their ethnic distinction as God’s people. That’s what Hosea proclaims will happen to the people to whom he is prophesying. It is only after all that happens that God will again restore his people, though the prophet is clear that this will take something of a miracle since the people will no longer be distinct as God’s people once again.

            4) Elisha was not dealing with Gentiles in this passage. He’s dealing with Israelites who have broken covenant. Major difference from the perspective of the text.

            You may find it as cold as you’d like, but the point of this post is to explain the passage as it is written, not to justify or make specific modern theological points.

  • Professor Chaos
    Posted at 14:46h, 07 November Reply

    I don’t see your point. It’s still a disproportionate response. Even the worst verbal abuse and hate speech and slander imaginable could never ever warrant physical violence, especially the kind delivered of she-bears onto 42 people. Who cares how old the priest is and how old the youths are?(Although if you ask me, youths don’t have full beards.) The fact that God cares if you mock him should be a flashing neon sign flashing that god is a whining little girl with an ego problem. And by the way, I blaspheme every chance I get and have never felt the wrath of God. So this story, if anything, teaches me first that God isn’t real, and second, if he was he’d be evil.

    • Alex Pyun
      Posted at 17:51h, 25 August Reply

      I don’t see your point. ANY punishment for the rejection of God would be a disproportionate response to someone who doesn’t believe in God. lol!

    • perryddu
      Posted at 14:35h, 10 January Reply

      Bible defenders quickly find ways to correct those who “misinterpret” passages, no matter how clearly they are stated. “juveniles came out of the city and mocked him” does not mean they mocked him. “Ask, and it shall be given you” does not mean you will be given what you ask for. If it doesn’t fit the narrative then you just misunderstood. You would think the divinely inspired word of god would not need interpretation. My writings often leave the reader wondering what I intended, I would expect more from a supreme being.

      • Jason A. Staples
        Posted at 14:38h, 10 January Reply

        Perhaps it’s because “a supreme being” didn’t write 2 Kings, human beings did. And human beings have transmitted it through the ages and translated it into English.

        That fact doesn’t, however, negate the need to read the text properly and correct misinterpretation.

        • Kjones
          Posted at 15:40h, 12 March Reply

          Matthew 5:44
          But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

          Thank you Jason Staples dont stop its obviously impacting peoples lives although its hard to see because of all the slander but you keep doing what you are doing BROTHER.

    • Regina pendleton
      Posted at 04:14h, 19 September Reply

      Do you believe in bears?

  • peter lindner
    Posted at 23:36h, 21 August Reply

    children call it the way they see it. They don’t hold back to be polite like adults. Elisha was bald because he had a shaved head. He was mourning…17th of tammuz is the beginning of 21 days of mourning ending on the 9th of Av. 21 more days brings you to the end of the year… INGATHERING. Each bear averaged 21 kills for a total of 42. This is also the 127 days (provinces) plus one week feast of King Ahasuerus (Esther 1)…134 days from Passover (Nisan 15). It is also one month after a major feast. Just as Moses and Hezekiah understood that the feast of Tabernacles could be celebrated a month later, this ingathering feast is exactly one month after the true Pentecost which was 102 days after Passover (Elijah called for a captain plus 50=51 to be struck dead twice over for a total of 102). Ingathering is at the turn of the year. Elul is the new year for tithing animals. Ingathering happens a day before this obscure new year. New wine needs to go into new wine skins! peter lindner

  • Alex
    Posted at 00:23h, 07 November Reply

    Dear Jason,

    From this blog, I understand that you are justifying, or at least trying to justify, that God destroys those who oppose him. I have a hard time believing this. Yes, it was wrong for all those people to gather to mock God and his prophet. However, does this justify killing them? When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s directions, were they punished with death? When Jesus was crucified, did God sentence those responsible for His son’s crucifixion to death? You cannot have a God who wants to be in loving relationship (covenant) with you and say that Him killing all those people in the Bible is ok. Please think this over and answer my question when you can Jason. Thanks!

    Sincerely,

    Alex

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 02:16h, 07 November Reply

      Excellent questions, Alex. First of all, I want to make it clear that this “Misunderstanding the Bible” series isn’t really about justifying the various passages under discussion. Rather, the point is to discuss passages that have been misread and misinterpreted and suggest better ways of reading these passages. As for your questions themselves:

      1) Yes, Adam and Eve were punished with death for their disobedience. That’s actually the point of the story. They’re told that if they disobey, they will die, and when they disobey, they are cast out of the garden, cut off from the Tree of Life (the fruit of which presumably would have made them immortal), and ultimately die as promised. Like I said, that’s pretty much the point of the whole story.

      2) Yes, every person responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion (and all those not responsible also) died.

      Ultimately, presuming the existence of God, God is responsible for the death of every human since God could presumably keep everyone from dying were he so to choose. Once that’s understood, the question isn’t really about death or whether it’s “okay” for God to “kill” people (since he does so every day), it’s really about the timing of each individual death. One thing that the biblical authors fundamentally agree upon is the idea that God has the authority to create and to destroy/kill. Human beings, on the other hand, are commanded not to murder one another, as they do not have this authority since they are not God.

      Actually, this notion of God’s authority is foundational to the “turn the other cheek” concept in the Sermon on the Mount, as it rests upon the assumption that God, being just, will ultimately set things right and repay everyone according to what he/she deserves. Given that, people should never repay evil for evil or respond with violence, as doing so only makes them equally ripe for God’s judgment. This isn’t the only concept underlying this teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, but it’s definitely one upon which it all rests. The basic concept is “God will judge justly and has authority to dispense whatever is right, so leave it to him.”

      Finally, the Israelite covenant that you mention actually included the promise that if Israel was unfaithful to the covenant, God would cause the wild animals to attack and kill them. This was part of the “loving relationship (covenant)” spelled out in the Torah. It’s certainly distasteful to us moderns, but it’s internally coherent and we should read it on its own terms if we want to see how they understood the character of the God of Israel.

      Does this help?

      • Alex
        Posted at 02:26h, 07 November Reply

        Thank you very much for answering my questions Jason. This does help me in a way to understand how some things in life work. It’s 12:24 A.M. and my mind is a bit elsewhere so I’m going to re-read your reply again in the morning for it to be ingrained in my mind. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions Jason! Hope you have a great day/night.

        Sincerely,

        Alex Le

  • Edwin North
    Posted at 22:11h, 26 November Reply

    for the exact word of god do you see how a simple paragraph needed so much in apologetics to shoe horn it into being normal? For a book written by illiterate bronze age shepherds for all people it sure is a mess. So either “god” is a poor example of what a deity is to be, or people are really stupid. But hey we can always happily bash our children on the rocks… I bet you have some bullshit apologetics to fix that..now why does the word of god need fixed so much? Tolkien told a very involved make believe tale and he doesn’t have near the trouble being understood

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:04h, 02 December Reply

      Excuse me? Who said we’re talking about “the exact word of god” here? What is the reasoning for this rant?

    • Sharon
      Posted at 00:54h, 27 March Reply

      I find it really offensive that you have such an elitist attitude toward the people who came before us….Why on earth would you think that the people of the bronze age were ignorant and illiterate? If the people of the ages before us were so lame and such a dumber version of the enlightened us, how did we manage to move forward? It is shameful and ridiculously neglectful of the history of human beings to be so close minded and superior thinking. To get from the first ages to now took a whole lot of creativity, ingenuity, and genius. Try picking up a book instead of watching tv for your impression of how we have revolutionized our being. Really you think one or two brilliant minds were enlightened and all the sheeple fell in line generation after generation after generation…..Edwin you are sorely uneducated in your own history, obviously by choice, because you have an opinion….I believe your mind is unable to think true logic because you are self- righteous.

  • Remi
    Posted at 22:53h, 28 April Reply

    I think most people’s “God” is too human, if you will. God said His thoughts/ways are not OURS! We just want to make Him in OUR image! HE MUST adhere to OUR image of Him! WE are “superior!” to God! He MUST be “Good” on OUR terms! Otherwise, He really Isn’t God!! We can’t understand His actions, Him, therefore, HE doesn’t exist! OR, He isn’t actually “Good!” Of course! Then actually He isn’t really GOD! Inherent in the idea of GOD , is a being who is so far superior to us, that we can’t comprehend Him…because HE is GOD! But we humans INSIST on making HIM ‘bend’ to OUR idea of HIM! Sorry God, didn’t like that passage! Didn’t like that story! But it is so interesting to me, that in that book called the Bible, these stories don’t portray GOD in an “acceptable to Humans’ manner! All the UGLY hangs out in the Bible! Humans are SO human there…and God is SO GODLY there…and so many people just don’t like it!! It is SO real! David has a man sent to the front, hoping he will be killed, and takes his wife. They have a child, but the child dies! Why would God allow that in HIS BOOK, if His goal was to please people, make them think “highly of Him?” No, He wants to let us know THE TRUTH! I LOVE the BIble! It is SO REAL!!! And if God wanted (or the writers of the Bible wanted) better “PR” for God, they would have left all that messy, hard-to-accept.deal with stuff OUT!

    • jcoleman2013
      Posted at 11:07h, 30 May Reply

      Well said!..:)…it is amazing ,but understandable, given man’s nature, how people really have such a hard time with the idea of God “judging” these people. If I first recognize that “God is”, and that He created us, not the other way around; then perhaps I can begin to understand that He has a perfect “right” to do with us as He pleases. If He is truly God, and He is, then He knew the Hearts of these people and was/is perfectly justified in what He did…and probably more importantly, He, even though He is perfect and also loving, being God doesn’t need our justification. Skeptics you might want to read Psa. 2..:)..actually you better just start reading the whole Bible since you will have to answer to it….that’s good advice not meant to stir up your hate folks!

  • Jimmy Rage
    Posted at 05:30h, 24 August Reply

    You can choose to believe in God or not. That’s the wonderful thing about having free will. I choose to believe, though I find it difficult to subscribe to the religious structures imposed on us.

    What makes people believe children are not worthy of extreme punishment? Or can do no evil? There are enough stories of children stabbing, raping and robbing people today. Do you believe things were better in “uncivilised” times?

    The view of God as a kind and generous being transcends religions. Unfortunately, too many people seem to have fallen under the impression that He is some kind of sap and everything is a one way street. Much in the way of the Adam and Eve story — where it’s been twisted to portray the protaganists living horrible lives and the Master endlessly persecuting them — these tales have been twisted to paint a picture in which the older generations were at fault and those that came after them and wrote the texts were just and wise.

    At the same time, we should really reconcile the teachings of Jesus with those of prophets from other religions. From these, we can find common threads of teachings for all people of the world that have not been subjected to tampering. Note, the Christians were being persecuted and were outlawed worldwide. The period between BC and AD is not known, neither is the age of Jesus. Even though we have recorded details of the death of Julius Caesar in 14 BC. What happened after Jesus’ death? We know that the temple was sundered. Was no one punished? The tale ends too abruptly, the dates are fudged… How many years of misery and suffering for those that did not fight for the Lord, who betrayed Him?

    One common thread between ALL religions. A Day of Judgment comes. Call it Judgment Day, Kalyug, or whatever. But all questions will be answered, no doubt. 2000 years is not such a long time ago, if you think about it. Maybe 40-50 generations for all of us.

    – Jimmy Rage

  • Jim
    Posted at 14:59h, 01 September Reply

    This is one of the passages that made me question my faith, which was absolutely wonderful that it did.

    The old testament is scripture that, as the apostle Paul said, is “God breathed and valuable for inspiration and knowledge.” (I forget his exact words). The new covenant did away with the old covenant though, as Paul put it, it is slowly disappearing to the point it will be entirely gone (and he said that 2000 years ago.)

    This is the time of the Lord’s favor. This is the time where he wants a covenant of love. People make the mistake of melding the old and new testament (and that’s a very clear mistake, why are the old and new covenants glued together like that? They should be distinctly separate, and people should encourage the knowledge of the two covenants as different.)

    God did NOT want a covenant of love back then. He wanted a covenant of obedience from people who had to kill some seriously distasteful folks. Anyone who ever saw the movie “Road warrior” would understand what modern society would be like if we let people like that run the show. We wouldn’t have a United States of America, we’d have barbaric slave pits and burned offerings to baal. We scoff at the notions of “Primitive people” like that, and nobody wants to live in a world like that. Well…that’s why God had to clean house, and he didn’t just use the Israelites.

    People like Alexander the Great also did. He said he was lead by an angel in his dreams to victory, who looked very similar to Israel’s current king (at the time.) There’s no record of Alexander conquering Israel, because he didn’t. God uses everyone to perform his will, whether or not they are his people, provided they have a good enough heart to want to perform good enough change.

    We look down on the murder of the very same people who would have made our current world look like the mongol empire. Sadly, as much as people hate this truth, some people just had to die. If we never offed hitler, how many innocent people would have suffered and died?

    Yet, this is the new covenant — the time of God’s favor. God would have let hitler convert, repent, and stop his murderous ways (preferably before he even started them!) The new covenant literally means everyone has a chance, whereas before God just laid down the law and did as he willed to stop the leaking of sin into the boat, which would have destroyed the whole world.

    My hard time with my faith was the idea that the old testament contradicted Jesus. I didn’t understand, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t contradict himself. They called Elisha humble, and I yelled “What? He killed 42 children!” They called Moses the most humble man who ever lived, and I yelled “He ordered the death of men, women and children — even animals!” Then you have a sobering realization — maybe back then, that was humility. It’s a very scary realization, and it leads you into realizing God knew what he was doing. God could have easily started a second flood, said “Y’know what? Noah didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.” and just started fresh, leaving everyone to a fate in hell. But he gave up his own Son to be able to save people who basically spit in his face, even Christians who at times judge and doubt him.

    He was willing to adopt us…who he has shown quite clearly he has no problem tearing us to pieces with bears. He would rather sigh at our stupidity and continue to rear us like children in the hopes of us becoming a success in his eyes than treat us like enemies — which formerly we were.

    The two biggest problems that modern churches pose in their sermons are this:

    God loves everyone, which makes him seem contradictory to his love. God does love everyone — in modern times — and because of Jesus. God is very strong and very just. He has no problems wiping those out who defy him. His love is in the fact he’s willing to give us a chance; not that he loves us, yet he’s crazy. Some may view this as stockholm syndrome, but in reality, most people even consider the ‘mindless masses’ as ‘virus like locusts, killing the world.’ We can fathom this and we don’t even know the scope of the damage, yet the bible says God knows every hair on your head, every sparrow. We can’t even fathom how enraged he must be.

    Secondly, the churches preach this weird mish-mosh of the old and new covenant. If the old covenant was black and the new was white, they preach the gray covenant. Beyond this, they do it for selfish reasons. The new testament doesn’t talk about specific tithes. They want money, so they make sure we believe the whole bible as one covenant so we give them the same tithe amounts they used to back then, whereas the new covenant basically calls to “Give what you can.” They want the fear of the old covenant as well as the grace of the new covenant, but John clearly states that love as no place with fear and vice versa. They’re pharisees — by choice — because they’d rather lead a church than preach the genuine truth of the new covenant over-riding the old. As Paul said, “Does this mean we go on willfully sinning? God forbid.” Sin is still bad….but it’s a whole new ballgame where we are given the opportunity to keep trying until we get it.

    Before, we were strangers obeying a landlord. Now we are children obeying a Father. The game has changed, and the biggest schism between believers and nonbelievers is nobody knows how to make sense of the convergence of covenants. Yes — we really ought to look at the old covenant as secondary, look at it like something that, valuable because it is God breathed, does not apply anymore. Not in the sense it used to. In fact, in the new testament, there is repeated warnings for trying to fulfill the law because if you do, you’re bound by the whole of it. Losing my faith was the best thing for my faith that ever happened to me, because now I can have faith in Jesus and the ‘new’ plan God has, as opposed to this pharisaic trickery of modern religion (I call it a cult of Christ — and it is patently absurd and wrong, leading many people to hell and leading many away from Jesus — to the point you will never hear Jesus mentioned more than ‘God’ where both Jesus IS Lord, and he is also the intercessor for our sins — whom we place our hopes.)

    Sorry for the rant…I felt the need to get it out 🙂 I think it’s a message more people need to get out, and I think it will help ease a lot of atheist’s misunderstanding of the bible (we’re not here to please men, but how are we ever going to reach lost souls so long as we do not even know what we’re following ourselves, or treat people who believe differently than us as an enemy? Jesus said to love our enemies, but people cling to the old testament, and thus, fight them still. Thus putting more hopes in Elisha than in Jesus, which is wrong and probably hell-bound.)

    • Bob Lee
      Posted at 04:57h, 23 March Reply

      Athiests don’t misunderstand the bible, they understand that people make things up all the time when they are confused. When people are especially confused they think the stuff the just made up is devinely inspired. The only surprising aspect of this set of facts is that there are still mature adults who think these deluded tales are somehow related to the Devine.

  • Alan
    Posted at 18:08h, 06 March Reply

    I don’t quite understand why people who don’t care for the system of life provided in the Bible feel a need to be so nasty to those who do believe. I would also add that those who do believe should not throw any nastiness towards the unbeliever. God is perfectly willing to let you believe or not believe while you exist during the time when it is possible to have the choice.

  • Why does an offhand comment about baldness condemn forty-two youths to death? | literaryloudmouth
    Posted at 18:49h, 10 October Reply

    […] The youths of Bethel are purposely setting themselves against the Protagonist’s spokesperson (Professor Obvious). In essence, if one mocks the spokesman, one mocks the […]

  • Papapau
    Posted at 05:11h, 19 December Reply

    But when he is the one actually in dire situation, crucifiction, he didn’t poofed to existence those bears. Instead, he won’t on and doubted his self by calling his self, then just died.

    Whatever reinterpretations you do, the bible is still full of stupid loopholes just like any other fairytales that should’ve not been believed by thinking people.

    • A visitor
      Posted at 10:36h, 10 February Reply

      This last comment seems entirely ignorant. it completely ignores the whole premise of Jesus sacrificing himself for the sins of others. I can’t help but wonder why people who don’t know the first thing about the Bible go on forums like this except to simply slander divinity without any real knowledge of the subject matter. I hope that you will sometimes try to read it and try to understand it- it may change your life for the better.

  • Jason Staples Defends Divine Bear Maulings | God is Open
    Posted at 09:51h, 29 January Reply

    […] For full post, click here. […]

  • Moses
    Posted at 03:09h, 10 February Reply

    Great blog Jason. I love your thought out explanations. This is really helpful.as I’m still new on this blog I hope I will be able to find an article about a proper understanding of the sermon of the mount re: the intensification of the law. I am always reminded that Jesus said at the end – he that hears and does implying that it is to be obeyed. Yet the argument that it is impossible is so prevalent in so much church teaching.

    Thanks for sharing your insights!
    M

  • Bob Lee
    Posted at 04:40h, 23 March Reply

    People make up stories all the time and then they repeat them. Jack and Jill went up the hill… Mercury stealing the heard… Zoroaster… Gilgamesh… Noah… Elisha… Yossarian… Harry Potter… Many of these stories are inspired by genius, or idiocy at the same time. But they are all just tales written by smart primates misinterpreted to be anything else. Obviously the bible is an amalgamation of human tales, and obviously most of them are what we now call fiction.

  • prophecyjeremiah29@yahoo.com
    Posted at 15:18h, 17 June Reply

    God didnt do it…elijah did the curse..so yu all stop blaming God on this

  • Maroun
    Posted at 14:48h, 28 September Reply
  • Jason
    Posted at 03:37h, 12 December Reply

    Many of the stories in the Bible were never meant to be taken literally. This is one of them. They are intended to teach spiritual lessons whilst entertaining the audience, and metaphor and humour are tools of the writers of these stories. If some of these stories seem over-the-top and not literal, it’s because that’s the writer’s intention. To either take them too seriously and believe they are literally true, or on the other hand criticise them for nastiness, misses the point the writer was making. See also: Balaam’s donkey.

  • Jason
    Posted at 03:38h, 12 December Reply

    P.S. As a bald man, I was absolutely cheering for the bears.

  • Garrett Stock
    Posted at 11:26h, 17 November Reply

    It’s not that hard to figure out: a group of more than 42 people were following a prophet around and harassing him. Let’s see… When has a group of angry young men ever done something rash and dangerous? Ignore the KKK, the Roman Mob, every war crime, Jihad, and you’ve got several examples in other places where a group of men harassing a minority led to violence. I say they die. God has the right to kill whoever he wants, and killing a few Baal worshippers doesn’t bother me. The world is better off without them.

    • The Lord Is My Shepherd
      Posted at 03:45h, 20 January Reply

      ^This right here! Yes! Forty-two young men? These weren’t a few kids hanging out and having a laugh. This was a mob. My guess is they were there to intimidate Elisha at best and do real bodily harm to him at worst. Think about what they were saying in the context Jason provided as a reference to Elijah’s rapture: “Go up, bald-head!” If they’re telling Elisha to go join Elijah in heaven, that sounds like a death threat if I ever heard one. God sent the bears to defend His prophet from this potentially violent mob, and they did.

      Also, to those of you who seem to think young people are just too innocent to be held accountable for their actions, what would you say about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (the Columbine shooters)? Adam Lanza (the Newtown shooter)? Dzokhar Tsarnaev (one of the Boston marathon bombers)? All young people under 21. You think they didn’t know what they were doing when they were gunning kids down, blowing truly innocent people to bits? Great intentional evil can reside in anyone, and it can take root at a very young age.

  • David Burnett
    Posted at 08:13h, 03 April Reply

    God is better than we think He is!

    To the atheists and to the most devout Christians.

    God is better than we think He is.

    No matter who you are or who you think you are, God is better than we think He is.

    Why 42? Why would there be 42 children? Why would the Bears be female? God is writing this story, right? God does not waste His Word right? Was Jesus wasted? No He certainly was not. God leaves clues that seem like nothing but they end up telling the story. The seemingly insignificant words are the ones that end up being the ones that matter. At least that’s what I have been seeing. Like Mephibosheth (breathing out shame -Hebrew)…..when he fell and became lame. That tells a whole story right there. Like when Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac. God said, …..your son, your only son”. That tells a story of Jesus but it does something else. It omitted Ishmael. God didn’t see Ishmael as Abrahams son. It is the little things that say the most.

    The 42 children is the 42 months that the two witnesses will be here. This is going by moon cycles. There will be 42 new moons.

    The two female bears are Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. The two constellations of bears.

    Ursa comes from the name Ursula. Ursula was a Christian princess. If you have never heard the story, you really should read it. She was martyred (along with 11,000 virgins) and became a Saint in the Catholic Church.

    Side note: Bear in Hebrew is dov.

    Here’s another side note.: The bear has difficulty in giving birth. It has a thick amniotic sack. So it takes a lot of care and a lot of time and a lot of difficulty to bring its Cubs into the world.

    God is telling us something. What? I don’t fully know, but I know that God is better than we think He is. Do you really think that we won’t all be surprised to finally see one day that God is SO MUCH better than our perception of Him is right now? We will all be humbled.

    Glory to God

  • LadyEvil
    Posted at 19:08h, 14 April Reply

    So, it would be wrong to kill children for making fun of baldness, but killing young adults for telling you “Get lost!” is completely justifiable. Good to know.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 16:37h, 15 April Reply

      That seems like a poor reading since no human being kills any other human being in this story.

  • Michael Grenier
    Posted at 05:47h, 15 July Reply

    Quote from – David Burnett
    “The 42 children is the 42 months that the two witnesses will be here. This is going by moon cycles. There will be 42 new moons.
    The two female bears are Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. The two constellations of bears.
    Ursa comes from the name Ursula. Ursula was a Christian princess. If you have never heard the story, you really should read it. She was martyred (along with 11,000 virgins) and became a Saint in the Catholic Church.
    Side note: Bear in Hebrew is dov.

    – Love the conspiracy theory you got going on there Mr Burnett – You almost had a rational thought then failed terribly ..

    And…,most of the comments here are “Good Christians”?
    Quote from – Garrett Stock – another compassionate human being.
    “I say they die. God has the right to kill whoever he wants, and killing a few Baal worshippers doesn’t bother me. The world is better off without them”
    – laughable! But don’t tell prophecyjeremiah29 – he’s in denial with this profound statement.
    “God didnt do it…elijah did the curse..so yu all stop blaming God on this”

    Aha the pièce de résistance …, well that comes from the owner of this website Mr Jason A. Staples.
    Please let me quote. “That seems like a poor reading since no human being kills any other human being in this story.”

    I will translate Mr Jason A. Staples answer so LadyEvil can understand it.
    “Na-Na, Nanny Freakin’ Boo Boo” – go here for source reference on this phraseology. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Na-Na%2C%20Nanny%20Freakin%27%20Boo%20Boo

    I quote Mr Staples – “In addition, if forty two of these young “comedians” were mauled by the bears, exactly how many are we to assume were actually present for this scene of MOCKERY?
    Well said! – the whole fuss is a “mockery” isn’t it – you sound as though you doubt this historic literature.

    Quote – ” no human being kills any other human being in this story.” soooo…, god backs up his homies so back off or god will put a cap in yo ass!! Man doesn’t kill humans – god does!
    or not? – prophecyjeremiah29 just can’t get on board with you on this one –
    “God didnt do it…elijah did the curse..so yu all stop blaming God on this” – Ha, I just can’t get over this. SO it was the CURSE that did it. No one is to blame.

    Efficacy of Blessing and Cursing.

    It is note-worthy that the word “curse” should have numerous synonyms, whereas for “bless” we have only one word. Both “blessing” and “cursing” were founded upon the belief that the individual, the tribe, or the nation could use its relation to the Deity or to the supernatural world for the benefit or the injury of others – Source – http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3369-blessing-and-cursing

    Logic just doesn’t work but BLIND FAITH wins every time.

    So I guess I can tell the ammosexuals to stop cleaning their guns and start cleaning their bibles. because humans don’t kill humans – god does. From the Curse of course.

  • Dan Thomas
    Posted at 16:21h, 19 October Reply

    My God you people kill me. Instead of admitting that this book is made up and patently ridiculous you attempt to twist the actual words written in it in the attempt to make it palatable to the masses you preach to. There is no other interpretation, it means what it says. Some kids made fun of a bald guy and ‘God’ sent two bears to rip them apart. That’s awesome. It’s no difference than any other fairy tale but I love the writer’s use of a vicious animal attack to get his point across. Tell me though. Two bears maul 42 kids? Why didn’t some of them get away? Bears are pretty bad ass but they aren’t going to kill 42 kids simultaneously, some of the kids could have escaped. I’m just sayin.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 18:39h, 27 October Reply

      In your efforts to mock the story, you’ve just demonstrated you’re a bad reader. It says 42 of the youths were mauled. That’s a partitive phrase that implies there were more than 42 youths involved; the story thus implies that some did escape damage.

      Not sure to whom your violent rhetoric is directed anyway. Ensuring the story is read well (better than you seem to be interested in doing) has nothing to do with the story’s historical veracity.

  • Vincho Vaselino
    Posted at 20:43h, 07 November Reply

    Another example of intelligent men trying to make sense of nonsense. Cf. St. Augustine et el

  • SoldierOfYHVH
    Posted at 15:29h, 17 November Reply

    Spoiled children are anything but innocent. They lie, deceive, steal, and bring all sorts of problems upon the irresponsible parents who have raised them. There are those individuals who misinterpret Jesus’ admonition to be innocent like children and believe that children are above punishment from God’s Law. There are some grown men and woman who are pure in heart and mind; this is innocence, while there are spoiled children who are adulterated and impure.
    A person who is under the Holy Spirit’s of Wisdom and Truth does not re-misinterpret a “misinterpretation”. A person governed by the Holy Spirit of Humility certainly wouldn’t engage anti-Christian idiots who came to this site for the thrill of trolling by pushing Christians buttons because he would have nothing to prove. A person who is blessed with the Holy Spirit of Humbleness doesn’t need to be seen, so there would be no pictures of him anywhere, unless, of course, he is seeking gory and admiration (when all glory belongs to YHVH). A person who is beneath the governance of the Holy Spirit of Love and Peace certainly wouldn’t respond to this comment with arrogance or pride because then he would be beneath the influence of the Devil.

    Jesus told us that we need not worry what to say because in that hour, the Holy Spirit would teach us what to say, thereby implying that we would not already know what the answer is. Just because a person is well versed in Bible scripture, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, does not mean that they know everything. Jesus taught many things that were not found in the Torah and the Pharisees and Sadducee hated him for this (“From where do you get this authority, said the Pharisees?”). This is there very reason that so-called Christians cannot silence ‘serious minded’ atheists, and Pagans. The Bible says not to kill and commit adultery, yet King David killed a man to have sex with his wife. One of the greatest kings of Israel came from the union of David and Bathsheba. Samson had a weakness for prostitutes, yet was a judge of YHVH. The only mistake Samson made was revealing his secret to whore; a filthy woman who care for nothing but money and pleasure. These are the kinds of contradictions that atheist and pagans use to attack Biblical credibility all of the time, yet receive no palatable answer except, because it was God’s will. So why did YHVH allow those things He has condemned to take place? Wisdom knows all things, and anything you need to learn, The Holy Spirit will teach you when you need to know it!

    And so called Christians wonder why they are losing the war to pagans/Babylonians/New World Order/Illuminati; hypocrisies full of contradiction that cannot be explained rationally.

  • ANDREAS MAKRIDES
    Posted at 21:32h, 22 November Reply

    “Our Rabbis taught: Elisha was afflicted with three illnesses: one because he stirred up the bears against the children, one because he thrust Gehazi away with both his hands, and one of which he died; as it is said: Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died” (The Babylonian Talmud – Sotah 47a ).

    It seems that even some Rabbis can be more human than some Christian apologists and sophists.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 13:26h, 03 December Reply

      This of course has nothing to do with the blog post you’re commenting on, but thanks for the entirely random comment nonetheless!

  • L. Harms
    Posted at 00:30h, 03 December Reply

    Thank you for a thought provoking blog. I especially appreciate tying this story to the curses described in Leviticus 26. Seldom do teachers or preachers consider the fulfillment of these curses cited on Mount Sinai with the events that befall Israel for failure to observe God’s commands. You have done well putting this unusual narrative in perspective of the overall message of scripture – God wants all men everywhere to be redeemed, but man has the choice to accept redemption or not. Moses pleaded with Israel to choose life through obedience. The only other option is to choose death and destruction. The time of Elisha was a very dark time spiritually and morally for Israel. It is a sad story illuminating the destruction that comes from disobedience.

  • dkdkdkdkdkd
    Posted at 17:51h, 12 December Reply

    Wow. Thank you so much for explaining just what makes this scripture and this book so furvently disgusting and antihuman. I couldn’t have done better myself.

  • gary
    Posted at 03:42h, 21 December Reply

    holy shit…. people like this actually live on the same planet as us and legitimately believe this.. think about that.

  • M Strez
    Posted at 09:30h, 31 December Reply

    You can “contextualize” it all you like but if one of us caused 42 people to be killed for a petty offense, we would find it reprehensible, regardless of our reasons. More jumping through ridiculous hoops, trying to make everything in the bible “right” (if only we knew the “real story”).

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:06h, 02 January Reply

      1) You are assuming that explaining the passage equals “trying to make everything in the bible [sic] ‘right.'” This is mistaken.

      2) Everyone dies. The idea that the deity is somehow especially culpable if someone dies through being mauled by a bear or some other “tragic” end is nonsense.

  • Julian Mazur
    Posted at 21:46h, 01 January Reply

    So why didn’t Jesus Christ call forth two she bears to rip to shreds all the ” immature Men ” who mocked Him in his hometown of Nazareth and elsewhere ?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:08h, 02 January Reply

      That’s a very strange question and completely irrelevant to a good reading of this passage.

  • Jesse The Comedian
    Posted at 14:53h, 11 January Reply

    The human mind can not understand God’s actions. JUST BELIEVE AND STOP DISSCUSSIONS

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 16:50h, 27 January Reply

      Believe what? Perhaps we should discuss that first.

  • Nathan John
    Posted at 14:26h, 27 January Reply

    So you’re conflating murdering rambunctious children for teasing a dude about baldness with allowing a person to die of old age? Sounds a bit flimsy. I’ve looked up explanations for this passage in the Bible and have found 0 satisfactory explanations. I don’t know what I believe faith wise, I think I’d say I’m a Christian (mediocre at best but working on it) but let’s just admit that sometimes we don’t have a clue about some of the stuff in the Bible rather than doing mental gymnastics.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 16:58h, 27 January Reply

      Murder is by definition inapplicable to God. You are making a mistake in distinguishing between “allowing a person to die of old age” and a person dying in any other way. It is not as though God “allows” a an old person to die versus causing the death of another. In each case, God ends the bodily life of the person in question. It’s only a matter of when and how, but ultimately God brings everyone’s life to an end.

      • Nathan John
        Posted at 17:58h, 27 January Reply

        I think the bottom line is do you think it was just to kill 42 people in the name of God. For teasing a bald man??? I don’t think anyone cares so much about the ages or the number of victims or extent of injury so much as the injustice of it. Killing people for saying someone is bald??. It’s a simple question.

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 19:06h, 27 January Reply

          That’s not the bottom line because that’s not what happens in this passage. If it were, it would be a worthwhile question.

          • Nathan John
            Posted at 19:22h, 27 January

            Then why do you think it is such a controversial passage? What DOES happen in this story?

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 21:46h, 01 February

            I suggest reading the blog post above this comment section, the post answers that question.

  • Samuel Clemens
    Posted at 16:31h, 31 January Reply

    Mark Twain once referenced this specific passage:

    “There is this trouble about special providences–namely, there is so often a
    doubt as to which party was intended to be the beneficiary. In the case of the
    children, the bears and the prophet, the bears got more real satisfaction out
    of the episode than the prophet did, because they got the children.”
    — Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar”

    In other words, perhaps these were just two particularly favored bears being rewarded with a mob of children?

  • Mona Haddad
    Posted at 21:48h, 24 February Reply

    I love watching Christians come up with excuses for evil done in the name of God. Who needs Satan right?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 06:49h, 21 March Reply

      Where did you see an example of this and why would you comment about it on my site instead of wherever you saw it?

    • David Burnett
      Posted at 01:46h, 10 July Reply

      Mona Haddad,

      What makes you think that the 42 children (or (unmarried lads) were killed?

      IF they were actually killed, what makes you think that is evil and not justice?

      I think we should discover the meaning of the story before we declare God an evil being who enjoys tearing apart children.

      We don’t know really what is being said, yet. But already, there are people trying to condemn God! How arrogant is that? The truth is that we are all evil, compared to God. We all deserve to not only die but burn in hell for eternity. Why? Because we have transgressed multiple times to an infinitely good God.

      If you reject God, then reject Him. But don’t blame Him when you have done nothing but transgress against Him your whole life!

  • Richard A Munson
    Posted at 09:42h, 03 April Reply

    Wow. The ones who are attacking you are lacking knowledge and need to shut up and listen. Like most people, the attackers look at everything from a modern west viewpoint. You can’t study the Bible from that view. They look at the Word in the descriptive greek view. When we read the Bible we have to understand that it was written to the people of that time not to us now. Written in a way they could understand what God was telling them. They had an ancient near eastern view of the world. They viewed the world in the functional eastern view. For example, a car. Modern westerners looks at a car and describes it. It has wheels, what color it is, and so on. An Ancient near easterner would look at the car and describe it as transportation for people. So, all the attackers don’t even know they do this and it is so sad. I pray they grow in knowledge enough to be saved by Jesus one day! Good Article Jason.

  • Tanner
    Posted at 06:56h, 26 April Reply

    According to Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters, especially if it is a bullshit cult like CrossFit. For he will do kippling pullups down at the ‘box’ while looking like a douchbag and injury himself, or he will watch Greg Glassman videos where the cult leader drinks diet soda and has a pot belly. He will one day realize he had spend thosands of dollars to eat paelo and look at girls who have no breasts.” We pray you find enlightenment and get some sleeve tattoos.

  • Peter Spencer
    Posted at 18:05h, 09 May Reply

    Jason, thank for the insight. I think we should consider the author’s intent, the author’s purpose and audience, when we read. And we should be careful to be aware that we may be injecting our own meaning into the text. Again, thank you for the thoughtful analysis.

    • Nathan John
      Posted at 15:14h, 05 June Reply

      As we inject our own meaning into the entire Bible as well.

  • Randy Tompkins
    Posted at 23:21h, 04 June Reply

    the fool has said in his heart there is no God you cannot reason with a fool because he has no reason and God is a god of reason

  • Randy Tompkins
    Posted at 04:36h, 06 June Reply

    concerning Jason A Staples blog: A Bald Man, Two Bears, & 42 Children Jim/tithes yes Jim tithes are not mentioned in the New Testament per se but I can’t think of a better way to support our church; lights, temperature control, sound equipment, etc.Of course we don’t have to have these things not even a building but they are convenient. However you give, do it with a glad heart. As for the rest, it’s not just about law . . . the Psalms are prayers & thanksgiving & grievances . . . the proverbs are instructions which if followed, will stay you from certain grief & sorrows . . . and Jesus said (John 5:39&40) You search the scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life, but the scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me so that I can give you this eternal life.(NLT) the only scriptures Jesus had where the Old Testament. Jesus also said,”Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man . . . which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52) (KJV). jcoleman – yes God is & God knows our hearts & He will have them in derision (Ps (2:4) The heart is deceitful Above All Things and desperately wicked who can know it? (but the LORD) I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.(Jeremiah 17:9&10) (KJV). Remi – well said, God doesn’t sugarcoat anything; what unredeemed/unrepentant man & woman, refuse to recognize is that all the evil in the world (the curse upon mankind & the earth) is man’s doing, the result of his actions – disobedience/rebellion . . . and this was incited,directed,& cheered by devils – Satan and his lot. Sharon (on Edwin’s ignorance) Thanks for your stance & defense of those who came before; they are often belittled even by our own. Professor Chaos – read the book of Job (it’s a start).
    Renlov & Robots – totally relate (used the same analogy regarding fruit and fall).
    Nick – says,”There is not a god until you can come up with compelling evidence for there being one.” Oh, that’s genius! Wow Nick, you really stumped us there. Stump, as in Nebuchadnezzar’s stump. You may as well say bumblebees can’t fly because science and physics say it’s impossible – gee, there’s your compelling evidence – one of thousands! (Henry Ford & Sons – Mustang) But hey, you’re right; let the Redeemed of the LORD say so . . . and I say so!
    Jason A. Staples – concern it’s for people to become better readers – yes Jason, reading comprehension is invaluable to understanding a text, but that alone will not suffice in understanding God – it takes faith! Without faith it is impossible to please God. You first must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him . . .rightly dividing or rather assembling the word of Truth.
    To ad hominem (wayne daugherty) if you would only adhibit ad hoc the calling of God through Jesus Christ & adhere to His message
    Mr. Diyagi – kudos! Thanks for the very insightful & relevant rebuke.
    And most of all, Thanks to Jason Staples for initiating this discourse. It’s my first time on the blog. Forgive me for not adhering to strict subject matter.
    Xavier – love you & your zeal for God & the Faith. Yes, Tim is sad, but hopefully he’ll become sorry & repent & embrace the one & only God who loves him.
    And really, thanks to everyone who had a comment, regardless the acerbity or brevity. It must have interested you. God got your attention.
    One last thing for Garrett Stock. I’m totally on the same page with you but with tongue – n – cheek. Actually, sometimes I have to bite my tongue because God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) and neither should we . . . that doesn’t mean we should let wickedness run rampant in the streets especially when it’s violent – we should put an end to it!

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 16:14h, 06 June Reply

      Keep in mind that the biblical tithe is to be eaten two out of every three years. That doesn’t help keep the lights on or support the church. The earliest Christians did not teach tithing as a means of support for the church; it is a modern innovation.

  • Randy Tompkins
    Posted at 18:38h, 07 June Reply

    I agree

  • David Burnett
    Posted at 01:39h, 10 July Reply

    I am not an astronomer. I am not a theologian either. But I did read the story. I studied the story and when I got done, I prayed on it. And I looked for answers. I don’t fully understand it but I would like to, and I would like to be of help if it is possible, I discovered a few things. I discovered there are a few other verses about female bears. Specifically, they refer to bears who have lost their cubs. The bears have a very thick ambionoc sack and have great difficulty in giving birth. So when they lose a cub, it is with a lot of grieving and I suppose a lot of anger to anyone who may have interfered with the child birth. If anyone caused the bear to lose her cubs, heaven help that person.

    Also, the scientific name of a bear is ursidae. There was a female Christian saint named Ursula who was a virgin and had many virgins with her when she was martyred. It is a very good story about how she was to marry someone and wanted him to be converted. She went to see the pope to convince him to accompany her to the wedding. They were intercepted and killed.

    Ursa minor and Ursa Major are also two constellations of bears.

    Why were there forty two children? What if the children represented moon cycles. Then it would be forty two Hebrew months, right? Three and a half years. The same amount of time that the Two Witnesses were to prophecy.

  • Michael Badassia
    Posted at 01:06h, 17 July Reply

    Your “God” impregnated Mary without her consent nor her permission, and that by its very definition if RAPE. So i ask you, why do you willingly worship a rapist??? 0_O

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 16:08h, 03 August Reply

      First of all, this comment is irrelevant to the passage in discussion and is inappropriate for any analysis of the text.

      Secondly, the comment is ridiculous and silly. Presuming God exists, every pregnancy is facilitated by God. Thus any woman who gets pregnant when she doesn’t intend to would similarly qualify as raped by God. It’s similar nonsense to the “God is immoral for killing people” argument, which again neglects that if God exists, every death (even death by old age) is governed and ultimately facilitated by God. Once the existence of God is granted, this kind of distinction between “natural” and “divine” causation is problematic.

  • Trevor Daughtery
    Posted at 17:36h, 30 July Reply

    As a theology minor myself, I always find it fascinating when people attempt to justify an unjustifiable bible passage. It’s possible to say, “Yeah, this one just doesn’t make sense nor does it jive with modern moral and ethical standards.” We as Christians don’t do that enough.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 16:13h, 03 August Reply

      I always find it fascinating when people aren’t interested in fully understanding the meaning of a passage of literature and would rather jump to criticism before actually understanding what it says. Criticizing the morality of a passage is perfectly fine, whether a passage of the Bible or a passage in The Lord of the Rings. But one really ought to understand what the passage is saying before one begins to apply critiques to it, otherwise one will simply reveal oneself to be a fool.

  • Scott Brunner
    Posted at 09:58h, 10 August Reply

    The fact that mauling 42 people with bears is acceptable by Christians by any interpretation should terrify us all. This is only one verse of insane cruelty by God and why we should all be worried about Christian dogma.

    Should we mention God killing everyone on earth by drowning them to death? I am sure Lot’s wife would protest her death by pillar of salt which led to Lot and his daughters having incest. This is the good book? The attempt to mask this or explain it away or interpret to something other thanit reads is irresponsible.

    The tired Christian answer of “oh gosh well we don’t know God’s ways” is purely immoral. You do know God’s ways. He kills millions in the Bible.

    According to the Christians and the bible, God created all things remember? This inlcudes the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the devil and sin. The bible never mentions freewill nor does it even imply it. A sick and immorall book the teaching of which to our children should stop. It is harmful.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 08:35h, 13 September Reply

      Actually, according to the Bible, God has killed (or will kill) every human being who has ever or will ever live. So your point is moot to begin with. Presuming the existence of an immortal divine being ultimately in charge over human affairs, the timing of when that being chooses to end a human life is irrelevant.

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