Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Elisha and the two bears

Tagged by Lingamish on the bad boys and the bears. No one beats James McGrath on this one.

I remember being scared of bears when I was a boy. And I may well be again if I meet one in the wild. Though a few years ago we snapped lovely pictures of a family of albino black bears on a trip near Prince Rupert. Those are the spirit bears of the North West here in BC.

David asks -

  • You’ve been asked to teach or preach on this passage.
  • What would you say?
Well - first I have to read it. That may take a while. Along with Bruggemann, Ker is throwing Kings at me saying - why are you so sluggish!

Here he is - coming from Jericho ...
וַיַּעַל מִשָּׁם בֵּית־אֵל
וְהוּא עֹלֶה בַדֶּרֶךְ
וּנְעָרִים קְטַנִּים יָצְאוּ מִן־הָעִיר
וַיִּתְקַלְּסוּ־בֹו וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֹו
עֲלֵה קֵרֵחַ
עֲלֵה קֵרֵחַ

And he ascended from there to Beth-el
and here he was ascending along the way
and young lads emerge from the city
and mock him and say to him
ascend baldy
ascend baldy

It begins with a word which in the hiphil is used of offering. So it is part of the overall envelope of Job (1:5, 42:8). It is a common verb - used 23 times in the psalms encompassing God's ascension, and the question - who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord. But used four times in this verse together with a rare verb meaning, I suppose, mock. And who are these street kids? Are they wishing him a blessing? Bottoms up, as it were.

It is a very odd story. Next verse
וַיִּפֶן אַֽחֲרָיו וַיִּרְאֵם
וַיְקַלְלֵם בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה
וַתֵּצֶאנָה שְׁתַּיִם דֻּבִּים מִן־הַיַּעַר
וַתְּבַקַּעְנָה מֵהֶם אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁנֵי יְלָדִים
So he turned back and glared at them
and cursed them in the name of יְהוָה
and two bears emerged from the thicket
and rent 42 of the lads among them

And then off he went to Carmel and Samaria - and no one sued him for abuse of privilege. It is difficult to take this as a nice story.

Going along a little further with this morphological search engine, I find two more places in TNK where ascend and baldy עלה and קרח are used together (try it - it's a challenge): Numbers 16:27, Maybe the kids were accusing him or being like Korah? And Isaiah 15:2 - yes there is baldness there and a going up also.


David Ker said...

Very interesting stuff about "ascend."

Bob MacDonald said...

Thanks for the tag David - it is good to be in touch again.