Monday, October 25, 2010

Who Cares About She-Bears?

I've been wanting to do a post like this for a while now, and after hearing about this twice today and finding a funny video, I had to make a post. In the MTC, missionary training center for non-mormon readers, some of my 'classmates' asked one of the teachers about the meaning of the she-bears story to which he replied, "every week new missionaries ask about the she-bears. I want to make a shirt that says 'Who care 'bout she-bears?' Seriously guys, you should be spending your time studying the lessons, etc...."

Well, I care 'bout the she-bears, and I have some theories as to the reasons for the story, here it is:

2 Kings Chapter 2
2:23 And he [Elisha]went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
2:24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Funny story right?
So my first idea was, "Well, gee, don't make fun of the Lord's anointed or he'll fu**ing rip your head off!" Seems reasonable enough. Elisha was a prophet, the kids were obviously not very good kids, probably came from broken homes without a father present, and they made fun of him. He's the prophet, the mouthpiece of the Lord, er LORD, so don't make fun of him. This is one of those extreme examples to warn us petty normal human folks.

But then I got to thinking and I thought, "Well, maybe Elisha is just a pussy." I mean, before him we had Elijah running around, and he was a total bad-@$$. He was the hero facing off against the evil sorceress and sex-fiend Jezebel and conniving Ahab. These two are some of the most evil and successful badguys in the Bible, Jezebel nearly wiped out the whole religion. And even when Elijah had 500 of her prophets killed she went on the rampage. Sad part is Elijah never finished them off, but that's a story for another time. The point, Elijah stopped the rain for a long time, Elisha made an axe float, Elijah killed 500 prophets of Baal, Elisha killed 42 kids cause they called him bald-head. Obviously Elisha had self-esteem issues.

But then I got to thinking, "Maybe, just maybe, the Lord is bald and was offended?" Now, it's a stretch, but the word that jumps out the most in the scripture is LORD, probably cause the typist put it in all caps. So I thought, well the scriptures are always supposed to be related to Jesus, and in Mormondom the 'LORD' of the OT is Jesus, so it's about him. So maybe Jesus is balding and was offended and wanted to make an example out of those kids. You know, like how the police have to make an example out of someone. Doesn't always work very well, didn't with Paris Hilton.

But then I got to thinking, "Maybe it doesn't actually mean what it says it means." So let's take it bit by bit. It says they were 'children' and that sounds like poor little kids getting eaten. Certainly two big angry mother bears could take down 42 kids, especially if the kids were cripples and couldn't get away, or just stupid and didn't understand the meaning of run away in all directions so only a few get caught. However, I'm in my twenties but I'm the child of someone. My parents are the children of their parents. So maybe these 42 'children' were actually some old people who couldn't run away anymore and were just making fun of Elisha cause they grew up together. Cause all prophets are old guys, that's a scientific fact.

And what does 'tare' mean? Definitions all focus around weighing things, like a car with no passengers in it. So maybe the she-bears were just weighing the 42 kids, like some kind of thought game or something. Oh, wait, tare could be tear which means to rip apart. Hmm ... let's skip that.

My favorite picture of the bunch, the kids looks so sad. Very unfortunate. However, since they were teasing a prophet they deserve the daily Darwin award.

Second, this picture was right at the top. I didn't realize 'she-bears' in Google image search would bring up so many 'she bears all' pictures.


  1. Yup, there's one of three or four stories in the Bible where I throw up my hands and say "they got it wrong". My other favorite is in Acts 5 where God kills Ananias and Sapphira for not giving all of their property to the church. You'll get no defense from me on those. It is interesting to note, however, that the OT stories like these are about establishing the Israelite god as superior to Canaanite gods. Considering that Kings/Chronicles (they're basically repeats of each other) are about the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, these sorts of stories make sense from a sociopolitical perspective. Which is not to say that they're moral, just that the OT has a political agenda that sneaks in from time to time.

  2. Lol, yeah, this is one where I threw my hands up even when I believed it all. I just had to do a funny post on it, I view most of the early stories as myth or folklore for the Jews to have a cool history. To be honest, and I think I've said it before, I think the story of Elijah and Elisha with Ahab, Jezebel, and their kids, and then the finale with Jehu, is a great story.

  3. I suppose it's worth saying for those who don't know me that I am not a believer in any traditional sense. I do not accept the Bible as inerrant or think Jesus was divine in any unique sense. The notion of an atonement resonates with me emotionally but is intellectually revolting when I consider what it says about God that it was necessary. Traditional trinitarianism actually handles this much better than the Mormon notion of three separate members of the Godhead. I say this to point out that I am not defending the Bible for theological reasons.

    The only reason that I defend the Bible is because it is the basis of Western society, and I find Western society to be a decent place. To say that the Bible is indecent is a bit ridiculous when our notions of decency have strong Biblical roots. I'm more than happy to concede serious flaws, anachronisms, ancient cultural influences, etc. My biggest concern is that secular societies do not seem to be sustainable in the long term. When faith declines government steps in to fill the void and you are left with social democracies like Sweden. Now Sweden, as Joey is quick to point out, is a pretty decent place. I would point out in response that Sweden does not feel any obligation better the human condition. Sweden does nothing to fight oppressive foreign regimes, Swedes do not give charity, and do not reproduce themselves in sustainable numbers. If this is the future that atheism promises it is a pretty bleak one, particularly when you look at the birth rates of the more religiously devout. I don't want the world of my grandchildren to be inherited by Protestant fundamentalists, radical Islamists, and isolationist Orthodox Jews. I think we've had enough history to state confidently that secularism is not an effective counter to bad religious ideology. The only way to fight bad religion is with good religion.

  4. Yes, the birth-rate problem is definitely an issue, and atheists do not donate as much time and money to charity as good religious people, but surveys don't find a 'significant statistical' difference, though there is a difference. I'm still torn fighting oppressive regimes ... well, no. I think North Korea's government should be crushed, but America has a way of being imperialistic and colonial with it's 'takeovers', I'll use Cuba and Hawaii as my examples.

    When I use Sweden as a good example I mainly mean that they have taken a step beyond the Bible in their morals, where sex is okay, but inequality due to gender or race is not. They have some good things going on, partially cultural too, but I don't think any one country in the world is a combination of all the 'good' things we 'should' be.

  5. My Mormon BIL and FIL like to bring up this story a lot. Reminds me of the legends of missionaries "dusting the dirt from their shoes" and causing death and destruction. Mormons have an overdeveloped sense of vengeance?

  6. Uh, given the history of the church they have a level of vengeance, yes, but I'd say more of a martyr complex than anything. I still have a martyr complex to some degree, and I think it mainly comes from being raised in the church. I think I should probably do a little post on that.

  7. I loved this post... :-D Very nice J-dog!

  8. Well, you have to wonder, If the LORD didn't actually inspire two bears to kill 42 kids, then what is this story based on? Did 42 kids actually die in the woods, and this was some story to ease people's pain? Not very easing. It seems more likely that there were a bunch of trouble-making kids, who the prophet ordered drug out into the woods and massacred, and then said it was two she-bears. This isn't like the Book of Mormon.

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