Atheists do their best to make the God of the Bible seem to be a heartless, ruthless, barbaric, evil God. We have reviewed many of their attempts over the years. Recently an example cited in an atheist blog demonstrates the difficulties that occur when an old translation is read carelessly. The story is in 2 Kings 2:23-24. The King James translation tells us that as the prophet Elisha was walking a group of “little children came out of the city” and mocked him ridiculing his bald head. According to verse 24 Elisha “cursed them in the name of the Lord” and two bears came out of the woods and tore up 42 of them. If you stop at this point, you could think that the God who caused this was heartless, ruthless, barbaric, and evil. Why should God be so vindictive when all the children were doing is making fun of an old bald preacher?
The truth is that God is not any of those things. The Hebrew word translated “little children” in the King James Version of the Bible is also used to describe Joseph when he was 17 and Joshua when he served in the tabernacle. It is also used to describe David when he fought Goliath and Solomon in 1 Kings 3:7, even though he was married. We aren’t talking about a bunch of six-year-olds, but rather a large group of young warrior-like juveniles who could have done great harm to Elisha. The city they were coming from was Bethel which was a center of idolatry in Israel. In 2 Kings 10:29 we read that Jeroboam established golden calf worship in Bethel. In this story, 42 young thugs come out to attack a prophet of God. That is a far cry from innocent children making fun of an old man. Another important fact in this story is what the young men are saying, “go up you baldhead,” is not about Elisha’s hair line. In verse 11 Elijah was taken up into heaven, and Elisha was left to carry on. In verse 3 the pagan prophets had jeered Elisha because his mentor was going to leave him. They said, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?” They were saying he would be powerless because Elijah who gave him his authority would be gone.
The rest of the story is that Elisha showed his authority by using the abilities given him by God including miraculously purifying the water from the spring at Jericho. Whenever there is a biblical event that looks foolish or contradictory, we need to examine it more closely. We need to consider who wrote the account, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of the day would have understood it. If you do that, you will find that the Bible is a true, factual, and logical guide that we can rely on. We also learn that the God of the Bible is patient and shows His wrath only when humans refuse to accept anything else.
–John N. Clayton © 2017