Our story, I think, demonstrates Elisha to be quite villainous. His unbelievable pettiness is striking and serves, I think, to paint him darkly in order to criticize the prophetic office. An office, to be sure, which was originally positive but lost that ideal and became destructive and self-serving. No other prophet acts with such violence against their opponents.
See Also: A Response to West
By Jim West
Quartz Hill School of Theology
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Very interesting article! This has always been a troublesome passage for me, and even more troublesome when others have tried to excuse the prophet's actions. No matter the reason - I never could accept it. A critique of the prophetic office makes much sense.
One question, however: the "baldy" comment has often struck me as interesting, because it suggests that the prophet was bald. In the back of my mind, however, was the baldness temporary from mourning his master? Sure - certain mourning customs were forbidden, but it happened. At the risk of sounding like one of those "excusers" (and I am trying not to), I wonder if the author was trying to portray the actions of a mourning prophet over-reacting. If the term "go up" is a double-joke referring both to his earhtly destination and his master's, perhaps it is possible that a referrence to mourning is included in the "bald" comments.
Thanks for the good article - it's good to see this story being interrogated for what it probably was intended to be, rather than as cannon fodder for the too over-zealous.
#1 - Matthew Landis - 03/27/2013 - 12:30
That's a very interesting idea Matthew. Certainly it's worth considering, so thank you.
#2 - Jim - 03/27/2013 - 14:52
Along with the passage being unsettling, it is also mysterious. Why would a solitary animal like a bear attack with another bear? The 42 boys seems excessive too. That's much larger than your typical gang of kids. Perhaps there's some lost meaning to it all.
#3 - Jordan Wilson - 03/31/2013 - 17:51