The link above is an article recently published by Christianity today discussing the strange biblical passage in 2 Kings 2:23-25. In the story, Elisha travels to Bethel. On his way, a group of young men mock him and his faith. In retaliation, Elisha curses the young men in the name of the Lord, which causes them to be mauled and killed by bears.
Such a passage probably strikes a chord within most of us. It obliviously does not seem like a justified instant of killing. Thus, I find it quite odd that the article’s author wishes to provide a defense of the killing as he does in the article.
Noting that the group of men were really closer to 17 than 6 years old and that this was an instance of idol worship doesn’t seem like a good reason for feeding them to wild beasts. The article attempts at an explanation for the odd and immoral passage, but it fails to provide adequate justification.
It seems unlikely that the God revealed in Jesus, who commands us to turn the other cheek, would kill people in vengeance for mocking him.
Justifications of this nature for violent passages in the Bible are an unfortunate occurrence within modern Christianity, such as when apologists say that the real victims of the Canaanites massacre were the Israelites who had to kill innocent children. Are the true victims of today’s story the bears?
I’m not arguing against Christianity (I myself am a Christian). But trite explanations of difficult and violent passages do not help the task of presenting Christianity to the rest of the world. And perhaps even worse, such casual dismissals of violence can influence Christians into being cozy with violence in our world. For example, many Christians still support the death penalty because it occurred in the Old Testament.
Finding a means to reconcile the image of God taught by Jesus with certain passages in the Old Testament is certainly an important and difficult task. And we must avoid weak answers as this author does.
For a more robust understanding of reconciling difficult passages in the bible, you can check out this lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5CkCGR9YI4