This question came in, back in 1999::
Anyway, I'd enjoy hearing your take on this, even if it does take
you months to answer it.
I did answer it back then (4 page answer), but have just now done a massive rewrite / update, with the below outline.
Table of Contents – New Version
· History of Bethel
· YHWHistic ‘sons of prophets’ group
· Overview of sequence
o Final trip to Jericho for Elijah
o Ascension of Elijah and Elisha’s accession
o Sending of ‘sons of prophets’ to look for Elijah
o Elisha heals the waters of Jericho
· Initial notes on our passage
o Possible travel paths/roads
o Features of the roads and various stages of the trip
o How did the group coming out of Bethel know it was Elisha (if they did)?
o How would they have known Elisha was bald, if he was?
· Uncertainties in understanding our passage
o Timing of the mob
o How did they get BEHIND Elisha without him seeing them?
o Sequence in the bear attacks
· A prophet in the ANE: What did that mean back then?
o Prophets and Kings
o Prophets as Messengers
o Treaties, Messengers, and Honor/Shame Relations
· A Prophet in YHWH’s Israel: What did that mean back then?
· All of these ANE norms/protocols show up in Hebrew kings and prophets interactions
· So, how was Elisha treated by those in power?
· What was the makeup of the group that came out of Bethel?
o What kind of children were around to do something like this?
o What kind of people lived in the city that these people came out from?
o How did they spend their time / what were their occupations?
o What was the economic situation and how did Jeroboam impact that?
o Who had enough leisure time for participating in this event?
· What did those terms normally refer to, and with what age ranges?
o Collection of all data and analysis of each of the relevant words
§ The Qa and Qo words (qatan and qaton)
§ The Na’ar word
§ The Yeled word
§ Na’ar and Yeled together
o Special discussion: Carolyn Leeb’s work
· What was the distribution of ages of the people called by these terms?
· Establishing the meaning of our Na’ar word:
o Impact of Qatan (and not Qaton)
o Historical setting for a group of [N]
· Actions of the [N]
o First action: Coming out of the city
§ Road description and capacity
§ Going through the woods
§ Forests were dangerous
§ More so than military enemies
§ YHWH will render woods safe in the future
§ YHWH would protect good covenant citizen from beasts
§ But a last-resort penalty would involve beasts and roads
§ This was in common with the ANE
§ Animals were dangerous on ROADs as well as forests
o Second Action: Scorn
§ Our word is rare and not used for ‘normal’ levels of scorn/disdain
§ Our word is shocking in its repudiation and devaluation of authority
o Third action: chanting ‘go up, baldy’
§ Both parts are somewhat unclear in meaning
· The consequences of their actions
o Three actions of Elisha
o Elisha turns around
o Elisha saw them
o Elisha utters some curse
§ Curses and oaths: Mosaic and ANE
§ Who could speak in the name of the Lord
§ The role of discretion on the part of the proxy
o Two actions of the bears
§ Type of bear and typical behavior
§ What would trigger aggressive attacks?
§ What the text does NOT say about the bear attacks
v What the ‘tore’ word means at base
v What verbs are used for animal attacks (and our word in there)
· But why weren’t they killed?
· Seeing the structure of the text and its argument
· The major omission – for the future.
I hope this helps... thx, g