2 Kings 2:23-25 Passage makes it hard to defend God as being a loving God


I am having a hard time with an Atheist I know who says that a loving God would not condone murder. And to be honest, I am finding myself agreeing with his side of things. His case in point that the God of the OT is not a loving God is in the passage concerning the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings...

23 He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" 24 And then he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and thence returned to Samaria.

How in the world can I defend God as being a loving God when He answers a curse prayer by having 42 small innocent boys killed by she-bears who tore them apart? Please don't tell me that the OT has alot of stuff that's hard to understand and that I should just move along. It's stuff like this that makes it hard for me to not waiver in my faith.

Any insights would be appreciated. Thanks.

God bless


Well first the Hebrew word in that context can actually mean a man anywhere from being a young boy to being a grown man. In this context, for Elisha to curse them using the name of the Lord on little children would very well be way too extreme.

Also, their mocking doesn't represent a childish mocking. They said to "Go up" which was an insult reflecting how Elijah before him had "gone up" so to speak and not representing a child's insult which would have been simpler and not so much of a jab at him. So, these were a mob of 42 (there were probably more as this is only the number who were attacked) men who may have ranged anywhere between children to middle age who were mocking the Prophet of God. So, Elisha cursed them and God probably sent the bears because they would scare off the rest of the group, demonstrate that Elisha was a prophet who was not to be mocked, and because it was a right punishment for the situation (as all sin warants the punishment of death, we are lucky to live even a second after we sin).


Catholics don’t use individual passages as the basis for moral decisions or theological/doctrinal arguments. We have to look at the passage in it’s context. We look at the entire story.

Israel had just been split into two nations. Formerly there were twelve tribes, but ten succeeded from the nation to form their own nation. In the process, they completely abandoned God and all of his commandment. They completely abandoned temple worship, and would in fact, eventually dissapear into oblivion.

Previously, Solomon had been a very wise king, but also a very harsh king. He didn’t get all that wealth and all those wives and build the temple by sitting around doing nothing. He drove his people hard, and made them work. Solomon was a stern taskmaster. When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam promised to be an even harsher taskmaster, saying, “My father chastized you with whips, I will chasize you with scorpions” and insisting that his own pinky finger was larger than his father Solomon’s genitalia. I’m not kidding. Look it up.

So the ten northern tribes basically told him to go screw himself. The split off and formed their own nation - Israel - while the tribe of Judah and Benjamin formed the nation of Judah. And the king of the northern nation of Israel set up two golden calves to worship, one of which was in Bethel where the bear incident took place.

Elisha had just taken on the mantle of Elijah and so had probably taken a nazarite vow and shaved his head. He was effectively consecrated to God. That is why the kids taunted him with, calling him “Baldy.” And the Israelite people of Bethel were mixed in with pagans who worshipped other gods, including the god Molech. Many parents sacrificed their children to Molech. Children were often forced into cult prostition and incest was common. This is why Moses had so many commandments about this type of behavior in Leviticus.

So the bottom line is that some pagan kids who’s parents were likely to prostitute or sacrifice, these disrespected the most prominent prophet in Israel/Judah and God’s own mesenger. If these kids wern’t sacrificed to Molech or turned into boy prostitutes, then they would have grown up to be pagans who did the same to their own kids. Elisha cursed them. God did the rest.

Remember that Elijah and Elisha were in “Enemy territory.” They were prophets who preached to the rebellious northern tribes of Israel. They preached Gods’ word to the ten northern tribes who had turned from the rightful king placed over them by God They had abandoned temple worship and started worshipping all kinds of gods… They had completely turned from God and rejected God. The ten tribes of the north would eventually be taken it exile by Babylon and dissapear into oblivion as they took on the customs and religion of their captors.

God is a loving God. But God establishes covenants with those he loves, and every covenant comes with conditions. We are under one such covenant now. We have to keep up our end of the agreement. Covenants come with blessings for those who keep their end of the agreement, but also with curses if we don’t stay true to the agreement. We are under the covenant of Christ’s blood, and there are blessings and curses associated with that, heaven and hell. The covenant God made with Moses was for blessing and life, or curse and death. That’s what the kids got. That’s what the ten tribes got. They knew the covenant and that they were breaking it.

And the implications for breaking the covenant now are more than just being attacked by bears. The curse is eternity in Hell. We are still under covenant. That has not changed. God is a loving God, but that there are consequences for our own actions has not changed.



You also have to look at this with your 'OT Jew' glasses. From our perspective, in our cushy society, this makes no sense... but I believe God dealt with people differently back then because they didn't understand anything BUT violence.

If God had simply ignored the situation it's very likely something terrible could have happened to Elijah... and if God had merely chastised these people rather then have them killed things could have been even worse for Elijah. God dealt with them the way He had to. We have to believe that this was the best course of action because we believe God knows all and can see into the hearts of men.

Remember that when Elijah walked the earth it was a far less civilized and far more violent world that he walked in then the one we walk in. More extreme actions were necessary to speak to men back then.

Just my two cents.


They were being naughty, so God called them home early.

There are much worse things than death. I don't see this as inconsistent with a loving God, even if it seems a little extreme from our view.


[quote="TempleofTheSoul, post:1, topic:265502"]

Any insights would be appreciated.


I bet you've read the ridiculous responses by now. Welcome aboard.


[quote="TimothyH, post:3, topic:265502"]
Catholics don't use individual passages as the basis for moral decisions or theological/doctrinal arguments. We have to look at the passage in it's context. We look at the entire story.



I know that Catholic's are not like Bible thumpers ready with verses on the attack. We tend to take a verse in context. That is why I posted here so that others (such as yourself) could help put the passage in context.

I really appreciate how you laid everything out for me. As much as I read and re-read Chapter 2 it just wasn't clicking with me. But your explanation has removed the veil over my eyes. And for that I am very grateful. That's why I love coming to CAF. :)

I'd also like to thank the rest of you for your posts. I wish I knew all the biblical languages so that I can understand the wording in particular passages better but I am not an intellectual giant by any means.

Thank you Heuchler for pointing out that in the Hebrew the word for "small boys" could mean a young to old man. If it was a mob of young men against Elisha then it makes the whole passage much clearer and not so troubling.

God bless


[quote="sharptiger999, post:6, topic:265502"]
I bet you've read the ridiculous responses by now. Welcome aboard.


Wow, real charitable response there.

What about our responses do you not agree with? Perhaps you could discuss with us instead of simply dismissing and making fun of our ideas straight out?

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