The Prophet Elijah And Two Bears Verses Forty Two Children
One of the passages of scripture that I often see skeptics cite, in order to bring charge against the Bible, is the story of Elisha and the forty two children being mauled by two she bears. I do understand that any explanation of this account will not be suffice for some, and for others (who wish to remain skeptics) that see a credible answer, will likely just move on to other passages to keep the charges coming. We must keep in mind that a sound answer is not usually sought anyways, but the opposite. I’m speaking from experience here. Lets read the passage that’s in question (emphasis mine).
(King James Version) 2 Kings 2:23-24 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children (na‛ar) out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children (yeled) of them.
There can be no doubt that this story ends in tragedy but what’s often overlooked is who/what the children were. At a quick reading of this scripture, it seems as if the prophet Elisha maliciously condemned little children (some have said under ten years of age) for simply making fun of him. The unfortunate translating of two Hebrew words into English, both rendered as “children”, don’t quite give us the full scope to their range of meaning. The word na‛ar has been applied to various individuals who were clearly not children at all. Isaac was called na‛ar when he was twenty eight years old.  Joseph was also called na‛ar when he was thirty nine.  There are other passages where this word applies to grown men. The word yeled has similar renderings, so there’s no need for us to continue further in this point.
Even if these were grown men, it still seems to be a harsh act for Elisha to curse them for making fun of him, right? Well, lets look at what was potentially going on here. We can’t truly know for sure since we weren’t there, but there are some clues to what was happening…
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