The Curious Incident Of The Boys And The Bears 2 Kings 2 And The Prophetic Authority Of Elisha -- By: Brian P. Irwin
TynBull 67:1 (2016) p. 23
The Curious Incident Of The Boys And The Bears
2 Kings 2 And The Prophetic Authority Of Elisha1
A view of 2 Kings 2 that is commonly encountered regards the cursing of the children of Bethel as a meaningless act that is beneath the dignity of the prophet. This paper argues that the curse uttered by Elisha in 2 Kings 2:24 is a covenant curse based on Leviticus 26:22 and is intended to warn Israel of what lies in store if it disregards the prophetic word. In this it complements the story of the healing of the waters of Jericho (2 Kings 2:19–22) which establishes the corollary principle. The events of 2 Kings 3–8 then illustrate this principle in a variety of contexts both nationally and internationally.
1. Introduction: The Problem Of 2 Kings 2:19–25
The story of Elisha and the bears he unleashes on the mocking children from Bethel is one that has long unsettled interpreters. This story is recounted only here in the Old Testament and unfolds as follows. Earlier in the chapter, Elijah has been taken up to heaven in spectacular fashion. Before leaving, however, he passes his prophetic mantle onto his protégé, Elisha. This seems little consolation, however, and dejected and alone, Elisha makes his way back toward Bethel and the
TynBull 67:1 (2016) p. 24
hill country. Near Bethel, the prophet meets a group of boys2 from the city who ridicule him with the repeated taunt, ‘Go on up, you bald-head!’ The point of the taunt is not entirely clear. It may be a way of saying, ‘Keep moving, we don’t want you around here!’3 or a reference to the activity and ascension of Elijah and a mocking suggestion that if Elisha is indeed his heir, he should act likewise. Given the use of references to ‘going up’ (עלה) and ‘coming down’ in 2 Kings 1–2 it would seem that the latter is most likely. In the previous chapter, Elijah is commanded to ‘go up’ to confront the messengers of the king (2 Kgs 1:3). Later, the prophet ascends a hill and is commanded by the officer to ‘come down’ (2 Kgs 1:9)...
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