This morning my Seminary class discussed 2 Kings 2. At the end of that chapter are the following verses:
And [Elisha] went up from thence unto Beth-el: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children 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 of them.
That’s it. That’s the whole story. Let me summarize: Some youth mock the prophet for his bald head, he curses them, and a couple of bears rip them apart.
What is the lesson here? The Institute Student Manual quotes a Bible commentary by Adam Clarke (?), which states:
But is it not possible that these forty-two were a set of unlucky young men, who had been employed in the wood, destroying the whelps of these same she-bears, who now pursued them, and tore them to pieces, for the injury they had done? … [T]he bears might be tracing the footsteps of the murderers of their young, and thus came upon them in the midst of their insults, God’s providence ordering these occurrences so as to make this natural effect appear as a Divine cause. If the conjecture be correct, the bears were prepared by their loss to execute the curse of the prophet, and God’s justice guided them to the spot to punish the iniquity that had just been committed.
As I have said before, I am not making this up.
One big problem (or is it an opportunity?) with teaching the Old Testament is that it is filled with bizarre stories like this. And unlike this story, which seems almost cartoonish, some of the stories are disturbingly realistic. For example, last week I was supposed to cover the rape of Tamnar by Amnon, her brother. (2 Samuel 13-14) After pondering this overnight, I decided simply to skip it because I saw no redeeming value in these chapters.
Which leads to my Seminary Thought Question: How are we to understand the notion that “the Bible [is] the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” in light of stories like these?