Thursday, September 30, 2021

Serpent's Lament

The story of Elisha calling on two she bears to maul 42 kids for making fun of his receding hairline has got to be the weirdest in all of scripture. It warrants only two verses and then the author drops it. A couple of chapters later, Elisha is raising widows from the dead and instructing Naaman to bath himself in the Jordan River--you know, regular prophet stuff.

Why would the author of 2 Kings even include this tidbit? Did he think that future generations would read this and be impressed? There's a reason Paul didn't include it in Hebrews chapter 11, "And by faith did  Elisha kill a bunch of children because he was self-conscious about his looks."

There's a reason we don't sing a verse about Elisha in the Primary song Follow the Prophets, "Elisha was a prophet, he lived in days of old / Stories of forgiveness never would be told / When some children made fun, he knew who to call / Forty-two mocking children, the she-bears did maul."

It's weird stuff, alright. I'm looking forward to that Come, Follow Me lesson!


  1. I've heard this is a reference to Elijah. What's rendered as "Thou Bald Head" would be translated as "Hairless person." Elijah's prophetic "Schtick" was his hairy mantle that he would use to perform miracles. Thus, by calling Elisha "Hairless", the children were insinuating that Elisha had not inherited Elijah's prophetic authority.

    I dunno if I completely buy that, but that's how I was taught to interpret it when we discussed that episode in seminary.