Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Suddenly, She Bears!

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One of the worst stories of the bible is found in II Kings 2:23-24 I want to do some work on interpreting it in a positive way. it goes like this

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

Many of the passages of the bible that seem violent or unjust put us in defensive-mode exegetically. We start looking for outs. “Maybe it’s a metaphor!” we say. Or perhaps the opposite “Maybe the point is simply to know it happened”. The same questions are asked with Joshua’s conquest, or with Jacob’s two wives. Etc.

6a0133f0b2fdc2970b0177442c0236970dI suspect many ancient readers would take this story at face value, believing this to have actually happened historically, and believing it to be justified on both God’s and Elisha’s part because the kids were evil and deserved it. The sort of skepticism about whether or not stories really happened exactly as described is a later development.

Therefore, while assuming it happened, believing it happened would not have been of special importance to them. The book of Kings repeatedly tells you that if you are looking for complete historical records you should look elsewhere! So the question becomes "What would it mean to ancient readers that this story took place?"

It would mean God is mighty, that Elisha is empowered through Gods and all of God’s prophets by extension are so empowered. It would mean that God and God’s prophets do not abide being mocked.

Throughout Kings, there is a tension between Kings and Prophets. Who has the real power? This passage says Prophets do. Kings may control armies and political structures, but those things are useless against a person who does not need agriculture to eat, because they are fed by ravens, who can fight using obedient wild beasts, for whom the earth itself is subservient.

Kings therefore, had better listen to prophets, or they will see their empires split and their armies fall.

But now that the historic prophets and kings have fallen away, What does that mean to us? How does it impact out lives of faith?

I think the passage still speaks to alternative forms of power. In the age of Eric Snowden and Chelsea Manning, bloggers and street artists can bring politicians to their knees. Police might brutalize young people of color, but young people of color equipped with video cameras and a firm moral backbone can fight back and win. The prophets of our age will not be mocked. They possess the sway of the crowds and the voice of the truth and against them no political or institutional power can stand!

The false ones will fall of course. God is not with them. But if you find yourself on the wrong side of a true prophet. If you find yourself mocking a person speaking truth to power saying "bald and powerless young idiot, give up" well then you had better watch out. You better look behind you. They have more power than you know.

…or something like that.

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Written by RyanGaffney

March 30, 2016 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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