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Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys
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Resolute
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Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

Some have wondered about this account in 2Kings 2:23-25:

"And he proceeded to go up from there to Beth′el. As he was going up on the way, there were small boys that came out from the city and began to jeer him and that kept saying to him: “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” Finally he turned behind him and saw them and called down evil upon them in the name of Jehovah. Then two she-bears came out from the woods and went tearing to pieces forty-two children of their number. And he kept going from there to Mount Car′mel, and from there he returned to Sa·mar′i·a."

On the surface this incident is a gruesome scene that has caused some to question its place in the inspired writings. But what can be learned from an examination of the context?

It appears from the preceding verses that Elisha was residing for a time in Jericho. After he had been there a while the men of the city approached him with a problem. Here's how it reads:

"In time the men of the city said to E·li′sha: “Here, now, the situation of the city is good, just as my master is seeing; but the water is bad, and the land is causing miscarriages.” At that he said: “Fetch me a small new bowl and put salt in it.” So they fetched it for him. Then he went on out to the source of the water and threw salt in it and said: “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘I do make this water healthful. No more will death or any causing of miscarriages result from it.’” And the water continues healed down to this day, according to E·li′sha’s word that he spoke." -- 2 Kings 2:19-22

The bad water was causing death by miscarriages, thus depriving the city of children. Jehovah's prophet healed these waters by God's power. Should not the city be grateful for such a merciful act? Then what happened? Why did this city that had received such a blessing from God allow a mob of children to go out after Elisha?

Mob? Yes, I would say it was a frighteningly large mob! If the she-bears killed 42 of their number, how many were there in total?

Today, we call it swarming.....a relatively new crime and difficult to prosecute. It can result in beatings that have resulted in brain damage and death and by far fewer numbers than Elisha faced. Here is a CBC report of the swarming problem in Canada. No doubt the US has had a similar problem. It has been noted as well that these swarming incidents are not always gang related. They are a relatively new phenomenon.

Quote:
INDEPTH: CRIME
Tumultuous teens
CBC News Online | January 13, 2005

At the funeral of her son less than a month ago, the mother of a teen beaten and stabbed to death by other teens pleaded with youth in Toronto to end their spree of violence. A recent spate of youth violence – brawls, group assaults and the murder of two young people – has erupted in recent weeks in Canada's largest city.

Are these incidents some horrible coincidence or do they reflect a growing trend toward group violence among Canadian teens?

According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Studies, after a record of relative stability, youth violence jumped in 2000. The overall violent crime rate increased 13 per cent between 1993 and 2003, and groups seem to be increasingly involved.

Some have speculated that the rise in violent crime numbers may be a result of aggressive "zero tolerance" strategies enacted by schools, social agencies and other institutions. But still others assert that the statistics reveal merely a partial picture, since they represent only the incidents reported to police.

Swarming

The word "swarm" was first used as a verb in 1380 AD to refer to bees "leaving a hive to start another." Since then, the definition has come a long way, and now refers to a type of group assault that is becoming more and more commonplace.

Although to date there is no legal definition or legislation concerning this particular type of crime, legal experts have identified three common elements of swarmings. They are: (1) actions by a group, (2) against one or several individuals, (3) that incorporate violence, harassment, intimidation and/or the potential for overwhelming force or pressure.

Experts warn that young people may be especially susceptible to participating in swarmings because they have a tendency to identify strongly with their peer group, and are less able to withstand the so-called pack mentality that often takes over when a group attacks. As well, since the youth are sharing responsibility for any heinous acts committed, it makes it easier to carry them out. Essentially, the teens lose a sense of who they are.

There is also evidence to suggest that the larger the crowd that gathers to watch a swarming, the more aggressive the offenders will become. This may make large schools with hundreds of students perfect breeding grounds for group violence.

Swarmings first appeared in Canada in the late 1980s with the rise of youth gangs/groups in major urban centres. The proliferation of gangs during the 1990s across Canada led to increased reporting of gang/group violence.

However, the first case to focus national attention on group violence occurred in 1997, when 14-year-old Reena Virk was beaten and drowned by a group of youth in a Victoria suburb. Six teenage girls were convicted of assault-related charges in connection with the beating. One other teen was convicted of second-degree murder and another awaits her third trial for second-degree murder.

One of the interesting elements of this case was that none of the teens involved claimed gang affiliation. The public realized that swarmings could occur outside of a gang structure. In fact, today, many swarmings are now spontaneous, unorganized or loosely organized. They can happen on streets and buses. Sometimes racism, prejudice or hate of the victim and the group to which he or she belongs are motivating factors. Other times, no motivation for the attack seems to exist at all.

It's difficult to determine the frequency with which swarmings are happening, because statistics for violent crime in Canada are collected on the basis of age, gender and the crime committed, rather than on group involvement. However, the Metro Toronto police reported an average of 6.7 swarmings a day in Toronto in 1999.

In the U.S., there has been wider statistical analysis of group assaults. One American finding from 1997 that stands out is that most (46.4 per cent) group crimes were committed by offenders between the ages of 12 and 20, as well as a fair amount (10.6 per cent) by those aged 21-29. The Canadian experience would seem to mirror these numbers.

Two well-known cases that galvanized public outcry on group violence both involved victims and attackers who were youth.

In June 1999, Jonathan Wamback, 15, was brutally beaten by teens in a park in Newmarket, Ont. He spent three months in a coma and suffered permanent brain damage. His parents have gone on to champion tougher laws for youth offenders.

In November of the same year, another 15-year-old boy, Dmitri (Matti) Baranovski, was kicked and beaten after he and his friends were confronted by a group of teenagers who wanted cigarettes and money. He died of his injuries in hospital the next day.

Despite the absence of statistical evidence in Canada, some courts have taken judicial notice of increased incidents of swarmings. For instance, in R. vs. J.M., the B.C. provincial court found in 1995 that "this type of 'gang mentality' on public transport or at multi or single transit exchanges such as sky train stations is becoming so common it is frightening. One only has to sit in these courts but for a short time to see this offence on a regular basis."

Taxing

"Taxing" is a new term that is being used more frequently to describe teen swarmings involving robbery. Teens are surrounded by a group of other teens and intimidated into giving up money or valuables. A recent survey for Quebec's Public Security Department indicated that more than half the elementary and secondary students in the province have been affected by taxing.

What is being done

Communities are trying to stop the frequency of such violence with drop-in programs and increased police sweeps in malls and parking lots. Despite the increased vigilance, some police officers say that only about 30 per cent of swarmings result in charges, and that only 10 per cent of swarmings are reported at all.

In 2003, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) replaced the Young Offenders Act, aiming to emphasize the rehabilitation and re-entry of a young offender into society.

The Canadian Safe Schools Network was also established to train students not to stand by silently when a swarming occurs. It designed a new interactive video game called Cool Heads in the Zone that presents six violent scenarios that let players act as the bully, the victim or the bystander, to see what happens when they choose to get involved, or to do nothing. The game has been bought by every elementary school in the Toronto District School Board, and in schools in Peterborough and Niagara Falls, Ont.

The question of 'why'

Everything from violent video games to permissive parenting to the decline of religion has been offered to explain why an alarming number of teens are engaging in vicious behaviour.

The Wamback family circulated a petition in 2000 calling for mandatory counselling and tougher sentences for violent youth offenders to combat the violence.

It's difficult to pinpoint a single cause, and likely a myriad number of causes are to blame.


So, is it possible to conclude that the she-bear incident involved swarming by a huge mob of Jericho's children? And that Elisha was calling on Jehovah for help in dealing with it?

I also think there was a strong element of justice involved. Here Elisha had spared the parents of Jericho the pain and loss of offspring due to miscarriages. And how was he repaid? In a time and culture where hospitality toward strangers was a prominent feature this incident was shocking. Not because two she-bears killed 42 members of a mob, but shocking because the adults allowed it.

What do you all think? :scratchhead: Before you judge, just for a moment put yourself in Elisha's position. You are alone and being followed by a mob of shouting, jeering young people. The climb up the road from Jericho is not an easy one. It is the same road where the good Samaritan found an Israelite man who had been beaten, robbed and left for dead. Would you feel some dread?:shocked:

submitted for meditation,

Rez


When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one… – Edmund Burke
08-06-2010 06:12 PM
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Melancholymuse
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RE: Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

I actually researched this bible account late last year, and discovered some interesting stuff:

This passage is referenced at 2 Kings 2:23-25, and reads:

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" 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 youths. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria. (NIV)

This passage is a victim of mistranslation amongst the various bible versions. Let me explain this:

Where this is mentioning "youths", other translations use these words:

"little children" (King James Version)
"some boys" (Contemporary English Version)
"some youths" (New King James Version)
"young lads" (American Standard Version)
"young fellows" (New International Readers' Version)
"little youths" (Young's Literal Translation)
"group of boys" (New Living Translation)
"young [maturing and accountable] boys" (Amplified Bible)

...you get the point. Various translations can make this sound like very young children, teenagers, or even young adults, depending on the words used.

It is worth noting that in ancient Jewish society, a male was considered to be a young boy until he reached the age of thirty (this is why Jesus Christ did not get baptized until that age -- Luke 3:23). According to the original Hebrew wording, the phrase used was "neurim qetannim ", which actually means "young men". This would mean that the youngest ones in the crowd would still be at least teenagers, if not older. This type of phrasing was also used at Genesis 22:12 in relation to Isaac (who was at least 20 years old, if you study the chronology of events), and Joseph (who was seventeen years old) (Genesis 37:2), and in reference to the army troops mentioned at 1 Kings 20:14-15. You can check this with any Hebrew interlinear text. Two of which you can find online at:
http://www.scripture4all.org/
http://www.hebrewoldtestament.com/index.htm

Also, I'd like to bring attention to the footnote in the Amplified Bible:

This incident has long been misunderstood because the Hebrew word "naar" was translated "little boys." That these characteristic juvenile delinquents were old enough to be fully accountable is obvious from the use of the word elsewhere. For example, it was used by David of his son Solomon and translated "young and inexperienced," when Solomon was a father (I Chron. 22:5; cf. I Kings 14:21 and II Chron. 9:30 ). It was used of Joseph when he was seventeen (Gen. 37:2). In fact, not less than seventy times in the King James Version this word "naar" is translated "young man" or "young men."

It is also worth noting that this incident took place at the city of Bethel. Although the city's name means "House of God", the inhabitants at this time were heavy into Baal worship. These Baal worshippers sacrificed their children to this false god, performed ritualistic orgies, and committed other, equally heinous sins. King Jeroboam encouraged the worship of false gods, even making Bethel the capitol of idolatrous worship (1 Kings 12:27- 13:1). Bethel became so corrupt that the prophets began calling it Beth Aven (House of Wickedness) (Hosea 5:8).

So this sets up the scene:
A large gang of young men from a terribly corrupt city is coming out to start trouble with Elisha -- they certainly weren't coming to give him a friendly greeting. Plainly, they were showing utter disrespect and contempt for God's holy prophet; which is tantamount to showing utter disrespect and contempt for God's Word. Now, God had previously warned his people that if anyone showed hostility towards His Word, they would experience punishment times seven, as well as being taken by wild animals (Leviticus 26:21-22). Realize that if Elisha had been wrong in his assessment of the gang, God would never have sent the two bears out to maul them -- that's not who God is (Psalms 7:9, 19:9, Luke 9:54-55). Because there are several accounts throughout scripture in which people ridiculed prophets and nothing major happened, this account shows that more than a mere mocking was in the making.

What makes this situation worse, is the fact that Elisha had just previously provided a miracle to the people by restoring their cursed water supply (shared by Jericho and Bethel) (2 Kings 2:19-22) ! In other words, after witnessing this miracle, they had the nerve to instigate trouble with Elisha. This was no mere slap in the face; that was outright denial of God's worthiness for appreciation and worship.

So what we have is a gang of forty-two corrupt young men coming out to haze Elisha, even after he did the city a huge favor. Because there was a large number of them, it is safe to assume this was intended to escalate into something serious. Elisha called down a curse upon them, most likely as a matter of self-defense, and God took care of the situation before Elisha could be harmed.

Clearly, this was not a case of little boys being victimized by a cruel prophet.


Zeal for your house will consume me -- John 2:17 (HCSB)
08-07-2010 12:49 AM
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Resolute
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RE: Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

Hey Tami :wave:

Always glad to get your input you scholastic thing you! :grad:

Thanks for the discussion of these lads' possible ages because it could make a difference as to how this passage is viewed.

What do you get from the wording "42 of their number". Did it seem to you that there was possibly an even bigger mob?

I appreciate that you stated that this incident took place outside of Bethel rather than Jericho. It was not absolutely clear to me as to which city was responsible for this outrage against God's prophet. My own sense from the wording:

"Then he went up from there (Jericho) to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, "Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!"" (NASB)

....is that the incident took place while Elisha was in transit from Jericho to Bethel. The fact that Elisha turned around and saw this mob following him seemed to indicate that they came out of Jericho behind Elisha...thus belonging to Jericho.

But I'd have no big problem with these youths coming out of Bethel given the state of that city and the fact that they shared the water supply.

I wish it was possible to cut and paste from the interlinear scripture analyzer since it is such a good resource with its Strongs notes, etc. Maybe they'll make that possible some day.:)

Thanks again, Tami:thumbsup:
Rez:siskiss:


When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one… – Edmund Burke
08-07-2010 12:15 PM
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Willa
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RE: Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

Good and interesting stuff Rez and Tami - thanks for posting your research!

Yes, it makes sense that these weren't harmless little children. God knew their intent towards His prophet wasn't harmless either.

:thumbsup:


:heartbeat: You are my friends! I don't think it just by chance, but by God's Grand Design, that He has guided both our steps... to let your paths cross mine. :heartbeat:
08-07-2010 12:16 PM
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Seraphim
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RE: Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

Its a great shame that this is yet another example of bad translational treatment. The worse part is that mistakes like this, and others, probably goes some way in explaining why some Christians are so harsh in their judgemental attitude toward others. We all know the kind. Those preachers and pasters who say God caused hurricanes and 9/11 because of the unrighteous non believers and all that. They take no account of the children killed and affected by such things. This was good research as it helps vindicate Gods character from many who claim to follow him.

02-18-2011 07:16 AM
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ablebodiedman
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RE: Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

Rez,

So imagine if an event very similar was published in a newspaper today.

What would the newspaper headlines say and how would the readership react?

I am certain an event like that would be headline news in mainstream media.

Headline:

Two bears maul 42 young people.



In Christ

abe


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02-18-2011 01:37 PM
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Seraphim
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RE: Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

These days though Abe, things like that don`t normally happen at the holy command of a prophet. In fact even Jesus never did anything like that, so Christian claims of the same are very suspect. Indeed most claims one does hear along such lines are successfully debunked.

02-18-2011 02:28 PM
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Melancholymuse
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RE: Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

Changed my post because:

Whoops -- I already posted my thoughts on this topic previously, LOL!


Zeal for your house will consume me -- John 2:17 (HCSB)
02-18-2011 09:50 PM
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ablebodiedman
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RE: Elisha, the she-bears and the 42 boys

Seraphim Wrote:
These days though Abe, things like that don`t normally happen at the holy command of a prophet. In fact even Jesus never did anything like that, so Christian claims of the same are very suspect. Indeed most claims one does hear along such lines are successfully debunked.


Seraphim,

I expect that the debunkers will imagine they have successfully debunked everything right up to the end.

2 Peter 3:3-4
For YOU know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires 4 and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”


In Christ

abe


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02-18-2011 11:06 PM
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