The Bible in the sophomore book of Kings tells a macabre story of how two bears killed forty-two young lads simply for saying that the man of God Elisha was bald.
This passage has disturbed many a reader, bringing up the question of how a prophet of God could call a deadly curse down upon a group of kids for taunting him about something as insignificant as baldness.
“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and harassed him, chanting, ‘Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!’ He turned around, looked at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the children.” II Kings 2: 23-24
A subject of much controversy, the victims in the episode were not just children but little children. Just because these little children mocked him and he reacted in such a harsh manner is a little too much to stomach for our modern day society.
Staunch Bible critics have a field day mocking God and the Christian faith for this piece of history concerning Elisha, hence, they conclude the God of love in the Bible, in fact, is a cruel God not deserving worship and adoration.
“Many years ago, I had an atheist question me on the passage in II Kings 2:23-24. I’ve sought an answer to that one for a long time, and never could find a satisfactory response,” one person wrote.
Well, a new school of thought has arisen that defends this morbid act. It says that 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 God’s prophet, signalling a rejection of God himself.
The problem is that, rather than receiving the prophet, they tell him to “go up”. 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.
So, accordingly, Elisha’s curse is not simply a case of a temperamental guy getting a 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 God’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 is, 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 will take the worldview reflected in the text and accept God’s authority as a 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 violently.
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.
The champions of this sentiment would cite Galatians 6:7 which says;
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked…”
Regardless, the poetic justice in Elisha’s bizarre encounter with the kids in the Scriptures could be a bit more far-fetched for the newfangled generation to understand, hence we would need a new narrative closer to home.
There cannot be a better case that what recently took place at a church in Zimbabwe.
A short video clip has surfaced online showing a relatively young man catching fire after he and his colleague had a verbal exchange with Prophet Miracle Paul, leader of New Revelations Ministries, during a church service.
In the video, the two visibly inebriated men holding beer pints could be heard arguing with the prophet after he orders them to evacuate the place of worship in a broad-daylight after having instigated chaos at a crusade.
“I told you to go home, you can catch fire to the amusement of the congregants,” warned the charismatic evangelical prophet.
“Go home,” he insisted, “You can flare up. All these congregants will laugh at you. Don’t make me do things that will make me attract famous.”
One of the two inconveniencing men could be heard asking for forgiveness, while the other defiantly asked, “What sort of burning are you talking about,” to which the prophet responded;
“I’m talking about real fire, real flames; right there where you’re standing. These people will laugh at you.”
On the spur of the moment, there is an irrational hysteria among the congregants. They are cheering contumaciously. The prophet’s hype-man, with all his evangelical pizzazz, is heard delightfully saying the guy was burning and as if it was an enjoyable moment, he is encouraging his master to put more fire.
The camera shifts its focus to the car park where the two men were standing… and there are two guys holding a burning jacket.
“If you play with me, you burn,” says the heavily guarded man of the cloth.
You can watch the video below and share what you make of it.
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