Q&R: Baldies, Bears & Cursing in God’s name – Brad Jersak
Greetings! How are we to understand the young boys in the book of kings who mocked Elisha’s bald head and were mauled to death by bears. Certainly this could not have come from the Lord. Elisha had cursed them in the name of the Lord when the bears came and mauled them.
You are correct. I think what you are saying is obviously true: CERTAINLY, this could not have come from the Lord. So when he cursed them in the name of the Lord, the violence he called for was not from the Lord.
We know this because when Elijah ‘called down fire from heaven’ to kill the 50 soldiers who came to get him (twice in a row), Jesus rebuked his disciples for suggesting they do the same. He said, “You don’t know what spirit you are of.” In other words, OT acts of death-dealing done in the name of God are not to be identified with the Spirit of Jesus, who is the revelation of God that subordinates other interpretations of the events described.
Why was it written then? Two things come to mind:
1. The narrator’s point of view: Because God let his children tell the story from their perspective, which was often inadequate even by Old Testament standards (“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness”), much less the final revelation in Christ who would say, “You have heard it said____, but I am telling you____.”
2. From the narrator’s agenda: Because the function of these stories was to generate a kind of awe in Elisha’s ministry by reporting dramatic events, miraculous accounts, and prophetic messages. The stories are about enhancing his credibility and authority as a prophet to whom the people needed to listen (very similar to the way the Ananias and Sapphira story fed into Peter’s authority). They saw this as necessary to give the people a prophetic hero who would stand courageously with God against the ungodly kings and, perhaps, encourage faithfulness to God among the people.